August 25, 2005

HOW ELSE ARE YOU GOING TO FIT FIVE 52" TV'S? (via Michael Herdegen):

Die, die, monster home! Die!: Homes are bigger than ever. Now there's a backlash against the 'mansionization' of America. (Les Christie, 8/18/05, CNN/Money)

The American home is getting bigger. And fatter. And, to some, uglier. Now, towns are fighting back.

Chevy Chase, Md., an upscale suburb of Washington, recently announced a six-month moratorium on home construction to make time to examine how to deal with the proliferation of oversized single-family houses.

Call them what you will -- starter castles, McMansions, monster homes -- these houses have become increasingly visible in metropolitan landscapes. Many residents hate them. [...]

Are these new homes really so gargantuan that they should attract such fear and loathing?

Back in 1950, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the average new house clocked in at 963 square feet. By 1970, that figure had swollen to 1,500 square feet.

Today's average: 2,400 square feet. One in five are more than 3,000 square feet.

Oddly, as houses expanded, the number of household members shrank, from 3.1 people in 1971 to 2.6 people today. The average building-lot size contracted also, to about 8,000 square feet from 9,000 in the 1980s.

So you're getting bigger houses on smaller lots with fewer people living in them.


Always amusing when people think their grandparents had "an easier time providing the exact same lifestyle."

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 25, 2005 3:51 PM
Comments

Which is how the modern American family can easily get by on one income - all they have to do is live a 1950s lifestyle.

If they were to do so, they'd have a lot more left over at the end of the month than the average '50s family.

The real cost of food, automobiles, appliances, and electronics have all decreased since the '50s, and the real mean wage has increased over the same time period.

Actually, it's not even necessary to live like the 50s.

All of my siblings get by on one income, all of them have large families by late 20th century American standards, none of them make more than middle class money, and none of 'em live in small houses.

Which is why Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi's The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers & Fathers Are Going Broke is so puzzling to me.

(Also: interview).

I don't know anyone in a situation like that, nor anyone who'd be foolish enough to put themselves in such a position.

Maybe Utah's just very different from the rest of America.

Also: BrothersJudd Blog: WELL, SURE IF THEY DIDN'T HAVE TO PAY RENT ... touches on both this topic, and the wrangling that we're currently doing over whether buying condos in Southern Florida is a good idea.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 25, 2005 11:29 PM

Which is how the modern American family can easily get by on one income - all they have to do is live a 1950s lifestyle.

If they were to do so, they'd have a lot more left over at the end of the month than the average '50s family.

The real cost of food, automobiles, appliances, and electronics have all decreased since the '50s, and the real mean wage has increased over the same time period.

Actually, it's not even necessary to live like the 50s.

All of my siblings get by on one income, all of them have large families by late 20th century American standards, none of them make more than middle class money, and none of 'em live in small houses.

Which is why Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi's The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers & Fathers Are Going Broke is so puzzling to me.

(Also: interview).

I don't know anyone in a situation like that, nor anyone who'd be foolish enough to put themselves in such a position.

Maybe Utah's just very different from the rest of America.

Also: BrothersJudd Blog: WELL, SURE IF THEY DIDN'T HAVE TO PAY RENT ... touches on both this topic, and the wrangling that we're currently doing over whether buying condos in Southern Florida is a good idea.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 25, 2005 11:30 PM

Agreed,

I live in an older home built in the '50s. Building a similar house today would cost (relatively) little money, though it would have no resale value. I'm all for bigger houses, though I'm thinking '70s big (without the horrible esthetics), not late '90s big.

Michael: You live in Utah? I thought you were a Canadian. We live in Richfield, though I am itching to get out of the land of the great pyramids so that may change soon.

Posted by: Jason Johnson at August 25, 2005 11:37 PM

This is exactly what I tell my students. The reason both their parents have to work is because they live in a 4000 sq foot house, with big screen televsions, personal computers, stereos, and mini-refrigerators in every room, and brand new car for each person in the garage.

Fifty years earlier, their grandparents squeezed themselves and five kids into a 1200 sq foot house, with one dial phone, a B&W television, and a single, modest American-made car. They rarely ate out, they had never heard of credit cards, and they belived in that quaint value thrift.

So, of course you grandmother didn't have to go to work.

Posted by: H.D. Miller at August 26, 2005 12:02 AM

Jason Johnson:

Well, I did live in Canada, as a toddler, but I'm not Canadian.

South SLC, Riverton, is where I'm based.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 26, 2005 2:08 AM

There's actually land where you can still build a home in Chevy Chase, Md.? They must be putting them in the north end of Rock Creek Park.

Posted by: John at August 26, 2005 9:10 AM

I've read that in some neighborhoods in the Dallas area people are buying 3000 square foot homes built in the 1980's, tearing them down and building 5000-6000 square foot homes on the lot.

David Brooks commented on this trend in Bobos in Paradise. Conspicuous consumption is not going primarily into extravagant extras like yachts and sports cars anymore, it is going into the supersizing of necessities in the home, including oversized industrial quality appliances in the kitchen and tricked-out bathrooms. My neighbor refurbished his home recently, and he put in tile warmers underneath the bathroom floor, heated towel racks and a large shower "room".

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 26, 2005 9:34 AM

Robert:

In my neighborhood (and OJ's old one) in Chicago, developers are no longer really interested in the standard 25'x125' foot lots: they want a minimum of two. Several streets over there are houses that span three to five lots. It is likely that no more than three or four people live in any of these homes.

There is nothing I can do to make my fairly modest 2,500 sq. ft. frame house - rehabbed in the mid eighties - increase in value. I am negotiating to tear in down and build a new brick home at the maximum 5,200 sq. ft. allowed by zoning. Anything smaller and I would be throwing money away.

Posted by: Rick T. at August 26, 2005 10:32 AM

John;

I have inlaws who live in the north Chicago burbs, which have long since filled, but what happens is a devloper buys an existing home and lot, tears it down, and replaces it with a much larger home on the same lot. Residents complain about how close this makes the houses but it's no worse than the house I lived in in Pittsburgh and those were build around 1910 or so. What Mr. Duquette describes in Dallas is something I've seen first hand going on in Chicago.

It's an import from Silicon Valley in California, where the cost of the land is vastly larger than the construction cost of a house, so it's not unreasonable to tear down the house you just bought and build a new one just like you want. The same phenomenon is now occurring in places like Chevy Chase and old Chicago burbs and, I'm sure, other places around the nation.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at August 26, 2005 5:19 PM
« STATEHOOD IS THE STRATEGY: | Main | THE BEST THEY HAVE TO OFFER: »