Photo and design by R ARCHITECTURE via Unsplash

When the pandemic began, many Americans quickly realized that working remotely without a dedicated home office was not going to cut it. While some made do by converting an unused closet into a workstation, others decided it was time to purchase a new home with additional square footage. 

According to a recently published survey by realtor.com and HarrisX, the top motivating factor among buyers who plan to purchase a home in the next 12 months is the need for more living space. Seventeen percent of respondents said they are looking for larger homes that offer multi-functional spaces. 

With so much anecdotal and data-backed evidence pointing to a desire for bigger homes, the Census Bureau’s annual 2020 characteristics of new housing report reveals some surprising information about the actual size of homes that were completed and sold last year.

The median size of a completed single-family home measured 2,261 square feet in 2020, down from 2,467 square feet in 2015. Floorplans have been shrinking since 2017, but the average home size in 2020 was still 4.2 percent larger than in 2010, and 9.9 percent larger than in 2000 — challenging the belief that McMansions died with the recession.

Until recently, new single-family homes were marketed to wealthier buyers seeking expansive living spaces and a turnkey experience. But due to the country’s shortage of 3.8 million homes, builders have shifted their focus to Millennial first-time buyers, who have entered their prime household formation years. As these buyers tend to have smaller budgets, housing footprints have been adjusted accordingly. 

The Census Bureau notes that out of the 912,000 single-family homes that were completed in 2020, 95.4 percent included air conditioning. This is to be expected given that some of the most active markets for single-family home construction are in Sunbelt states like Texas, Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina.

About ten percent of completed new homes had two bedrooms or less, while 44 percent had four or more bedrooms. Over a third of homes featured three-plus bathrooms and only 3.2 percent had one-and-a-half bathrooms or fewer.

While multi-story homes were once considered a luxury, many of today’s homebuyers prefer the convenience of single-story living. Less than half (45 percent) of homes completed in 2020 had two stories, down from the share in the early 2010s.

The pandemic also increased Americans’ appetite for outdoor space as 33.6 percent of homes came with a patio and porch. Merely 7.8 percent of newly completed homes had no outdoor features at all.

The vast majority (81 percent) of the 822,000 single-family homes that were sold in 2020 were detached homes. Only 83,000 were attached models. The median sales price of a new single-family home was $336,900 — 69.3 percent of purchases were financed with a mortgage, while an additional 37,000 newly sold homes were all-cash deals. The typical new home spanned 2,333 square feet and just over 40 percent had three bedrooms.

To read the full report from the Census Bureau, click here.

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