Houses Get Small (Sort Of) In Response to Recession


Wall Street Journal

Is it just the economy or is there a real change going on? Michael Phillips writes in the Wall Street Journal about how builders are offering smaller houses than they have in years. The Scarlett O'Hara stairs and two storey halls are out, and the plans are simpler, square-er, and way more efficient. Some might say that it is simply a response to the economy; as one commenter said " In a down economy smaller houses sell, and in a good economy bigger houses sell. Unless we have all become rabid anti-materialists this is just a phase."

But perhaps there are bigger changes afoot.

For one thing, the compared to the "before" house, the "after" house has a lot few jogs and less surface area, a lot less floor area to heat, no two storey spaces and a much simpler structure. But it still has a killer master suite and the other bedrooms are not that much smaller. All the stuff that was there for show is gone, but it is a much more sensible house, on a smaller lot so they can pack them in at higher density. Neither house has a traditional living room, but now the dining room has sensibly been dropped as well. As one purchaser of a downsized model noted:

"There's a lot more that comes with those McMansions. There's a lot more cleaning. There's a lot more heating, a lot more cooling."

Their builder thinks that the changes will last a long time.

Wieland [homes] believes the market downshift reflects "a fundamental change in the way people are going to want to live," and not just a reaction to scarce credit and insecure jobs, said F. David Durham, senior vice president. "We're not waiting for things to return to the way they were."


Wall Street Journal

And for the life of me, I never understood why people loved these expensive, fall-inducing space-wasters of stairs.

There is a fundamental change going on in the housing market, it is not just a phase. People historically borrowed as much as they could and bought as much as they could, on the assumption that the values would never go down. That kind of borrowing and lending is over; we are back to real down payments and mortgage loans tied to income. Curved stairs are suddenly superfluous. Smaller, greener, more efficient homes are the new normal.

Tags: Housing Industry | Living With Less