From 1978 through 2015, the median size of the single-family home increased every year until it peaked at 2,467 square feet, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Then, in 2016, that number began to shrink, albeit ever so slightly.
So, are we finally coming to our senses about McMansions?
Of course, owning a big house has long been a key component of the American Dream — you know you’ve arrived when you have columns, an indoor pool and a theater room — but, in reality, it’s all usually a huge waste of space, according to a study cited by Steve Adcock on the Get Rich Slowly blog.
A research team affiliated with UCLA studied American families and where they spend most of their time while inside their homes. The results were fascinating, but really not all that surprising. Here’s one representative example:
As you can see, most square footage is wasted as people tend to gather around the kitchen and the television, while avoiding the dining room and porch.
“The findings were not pretty. In fact, they helped prove how little we use our big homes for things other than clutter,” Adcock said. “Most families don’t use large areas of their homes — which means they’ve essentially wasted money on space they don’t need.”
And Adcock knows a thing or two about utilizing space.
Like the family in the illustration above, he used to spend all of his time hanging out in the kitchen and family room in his 1,600-square-foot home. Now, after managing to retire from his full-time gig at the age of 35, he lives his version of the American Dream in an Airstream trailer with his wife.
His takeaway: Forget the standard realtor advice that you should “buy as big of a house as you can afford.”
Instead, buy as much house as you need. “More does not automatically equal better,” he said. “More simply means more.”
Written by Shawn Langlois. An editor and writer for MarketWatch in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @slangwise.