Houses are getting smaller again — which is going to make many Americans happier.
Americans faced with high mortgage rates and a shortage of affordable homes for sale are opting for new, smaller homes that do not have dining rooms, living rooms, spare bedrooms and even bathtubs, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Builders are building smaller homes partly to give cost-constrained buyers a more affordable option.
But it’s mostly because it’s the only way home builders can turn a reasonable profit, thanks to the high cost of construction materials, which have skyrocketed in the past few years.
Home sizes sure have soared since I was a kid in the 1970s.
According to the U.S. Census, in 1972 the average home was 1,660 square feet.
In the 1990s, with the era of the “McMansion” in full swing, no small number of homes exceeded 4,000 square feet — homes so unnecessarily big you need to hail an Uber to get from the living room to the kitchen.
The American home continued to grow until it peaked in 2015 at an average of 2,467 square feet, but now it’s fast heading back to 1972 numbers, which offers some good news.
In my experience, a modest-sized home generates more closeness and happiness among its family members.
The suburban house I grew up in was all of 1,500 square feet. Built in 1964, it was a rectangular four-bedroom box with a red-brick façade on the bottom and white aluminum siding on the top.
It also had only one full bathroom that, by 1973, had to be shared by me, my parents and all five of my sisters!
Thankfully, my parents had just enough money to add a master bedroom and bath on the first floor, which, to them, was Heaven on Earth.
Still, the house was modest in size and it forced the eight of us to live together — there was simply no way to avoid each other.
In those days we couldn’t just take our smart phones to our distant bedrooms and lock the rest of the family out.
During the 34 years my parents lived there the front door was never locked and friends and relatives came and went at all hours.
We had a million birthday parties and family gatherings there. Every emotion under the sun — love, anger, joy, sadness — took place there.
Many nights after dinner my sisters and parents sat packed into our tight little kitchen around a giant table, laughing and sharing stories.
Never once did we feel our home was small.
Interestingly, according to Business Insider, the only reason home sizes continued to grow after the 2008 housing collapse was that many people who had a lot of home equity, good jobs and excellent credit had the financial qualifications to meet stringent lending requirements.
By 2015, however, as younger people who lacked such credentials began buying homes, smaller homes were all they could afford.
And now, with the highest interest rates in years and a shortage of affordable homes on the market, builders are going small.
The Journal cited one builder in South Carolina who said that buyers are happily buying homes between 1,500 and 1,700 square feet.
In my opinion, they will find more happiness in their smaller homes than they ever would in a much larger one.
The modest-sized house I grew up in was a mansion by the measures that really count.
Copyright 2023 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, which features pet advice he’s learning from his beloved Labrador, Thurber, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at [email protected].