Are Home Sizes Finally Done Shrinking?

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

shrinking-homeThe trend of the shrinking home size may finally be leveling off, according to the latest Home Design Trends Survey by the American Institute of Architects.

Since 2005, architects have increasingly reported home sizes on the decline as the sluggish economy prompted more home owners to desire smaller homes with lower maintenance and upkeep costs. But the downsizing trend is showing a few indications that it may be coming to an end.

In the first quarter of 2010, nearly 60 percent of the architects surveyed in AIA’s Home Design Trends Survey reported home sizes declining. Fast forward to the first quarter of 2011 and that number now has dropped to 52 percent, while 5 percent of architects are now reporting an increase in home sizes. Home sizes in the upper-end of the market, in particular, appear to be stabilizing ahead of more affordable entry-level homes.

“While this doesn’t suggest that home sizes are suddenly and dramatically increasing, it does indicate that the pace of decline has slowed,” writes AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker in the report. “Until home prices begin to accelerate, it is unlikely that homes sizes and volumes will show significant gains.” (What are you seeing in your market? Take our poll!)

This follows on the heels of an AIA home design trends survey earlier this year that showed nearly a quarter of architects reported the size of kitchens was increasing after years of being downsized. More home owners were showing a desire for larger kitchens to accommodate special function areas, such as larger pantry spaces, recharging stations for electronics, and “great rooms” (an integration of the kitchen with the family living space).

Open Layouts, Accessibility in Demand

These “great rooms” that are incorporated into an overall open space layout in a home is another design priority that continues to grow in popularity.

“With more pressure on space in the home, interest has grown in designing homes with more open space that gives the household more programmatic flexibility,” says Baker in the latest AIA survey. As more home owners look to keep homes affordable in the weak housing market, they are showing a stronger preference for simpler, informal, open layouts with flexible floor plans. On the other hand, formal spaces–such as living rooms–are continuing to lose favor.

The survey also found that more home owners are showing a greater concern about accessibility issues in a home and want to be able to stay in a home as they grow older. As such, a single-floor home design is favored by most households with accessibility concerns.

Overall, the AIA survey found that business conditions for architects is showing improvement, posting its highest billings score since mid-2007, as more home owners show a stronger desire to invest in their homes once again.


What are you finding in your market? Is the downsizing trend with home sizes showing signs of reversing?

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

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  1. I believe that the trends in home designs have certainly been in the right direction. Gradually eliminating the formal areas such as the dining room and living room have been the result of how American families prefer to live in their homes. For the most part this reflects a preference for closer family activities and an appreciation for togetherness. Not only has this been the result of our social develoment, but it also leads to accomodate healthier habits of cooking and eating at home as well as the economics of more efficient living spaces. While a 10,000 square foot home may have an awe spiring appeal, in practical terms it is rather wasteful and cold for a family or 4 regardless of how much they entertain. This realization and the economic of today has led to house designs that still enjoy opulence but on a much smaller scale.