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Many Say Goodbye to McMansions

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  • Many Say Goodbye to McMansions

    Many Say Goodbye to McMansions

    By AMY HOAKThese days, a bigger home isn't always a better one: Recent research suggests that homes being built today are getting smaller.
    The average size of homes started in the third quarter of 2008 was 2,438 square feet, down from 2,629 square feet in the second quarter, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Similarly, the median size of homes started in the third quarter was 2,090, down from 2,291. The statistics confirm what the housing industry has suspected for a while.
    "We've been hearing for a long time, 'Why is the home size not declining?' " said Gopal Ahluwalia, vice president of economic research for the National Association of Home Builders. He spoke about the trend at the International Builders' Show, held in Las Vegas last week. Anecdotally, he had heard smaller homes were being built as housing prices tumbled and the economy began to weaken. Still, "we never had data to back it up," he said.
    Gayle Butler, editor-in-chief of Better Homes and Gardens, said that for many homeowners, it is not so much a matter of downsizing as "right-sizing," giving up big homes with unused space and buying a home that better fits their needs.
    "Either by necessity or choice, they're willing to take a step back from the McMansions," she said at the Builders' Show. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the magazine, 32% of participants said they expected their new home to be either somewhat smaller or much smaller then the one they already live in, she said. The magazine's online study involved 733 potential new-home buyers.
    Builders are responding to those consumer desires. According to the National Association of Home Builders, 88% of builders surveyed in January said they are building or planning to build a larger share of smaller homes. Eighty-nine percent said they're planning on building more lower-priced models.
    As homes get smaller, home-owners are seeking to economize with the space they do have. Ms. Butler said she is seeing more interest in "Wii-sized spaces" -- family rooms that are flexible enough to accommodate a variety of activities, from video games to fitness systems. Outdoor kitchens and entertaining areas also continue to rise in popularity, she said.

    "There's one way to find out if a man is honest-ask him. If he says 'yes,' you know he is a crook." Groucho Marx