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Bigger Isn’t Necessarily Better
RE/MAX Genesis
Wednesday, May 7, 2008 • Posted May 6, 2008 10:00 PM

Call it what you want—”McMansion,” “starter castle,” “monster home,” even “Garage Mahal.” The nicknames vary. But according to a study by Robert Lang of Virginia Tech University and Karen Danielson of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), “the new ‘supersized American dream’ includes fully loaded SUVs and, yes, monster houses.” Is it true that everything is bigger in Texas? And if so, what is driving this super-sized demand?

The average size of a typical new home in 1950 was 1,000 square feet, not including the garage. Apparently, Americans didn’t need that luxury or—more likely—didn’t own Hummers. By 2000, the average home size had jumped to 2,265 square feet with at least a two-car garage—in some cases, three or four. But while Texans are demanding larger homes, the lots they sit on are actually shrinking. Between 1987 and 2002, average lot size decreased almost seven percent. As homes increase in size, there is little room left for back yards, decks or landscaping. These smaller lots are promoted by developers and city planners who argue that they encourage more efficient land use.

McMansions became popular in the 1980s to fill a gap for consumers looking to purchase something in between the tract home and the upscale, custom home. While “McMansion” carries negative connotations, don’t let the name fool you. Some advocates see these larger homes as a benefit to communities. These mega-homes are springing up in older neighborhoods, contributing to revitalization by replacing obsolete housing. The use of existing infrastructures may also slow urban sprawl. From a consumer standpoint, these properties offer impressive space and hi-tech features, including en suite bathrooms with home spas, computerized lighting systems, and the latest wiring throughout. But as with most trends, a counter trend is emerging.

Driven in large part by best-selling author Sarah Susanka, a new approach to homebuilding and residential architecture is taking form—”build better, not bigger.” These smaller homes employ creative design and visual features, smart use of space, and quality details, which come together “to nurture the lives within,” says Susanka. But you’re the one who will ultimately live there, so you must decide what size home works for you.

Super-size me

As you may well know, there are many reasons to choose a larger home. Many new homes today come equipped with multiple-car garages, wrap-around porches, formal entrance, and dramatic exterior lighting. The rooms are typically large and bathrooms proliferate. The kitchen will likely come complete with an island bar, digital stainless steel appliances, and a breakfast nook—not to mention the formal dining area just around the corner. The hallways are expansive hallways and the ceilings unreachable. If you have a large family, frequent overnight guests or just enjoy spacious living, a house like this may be for you. But when shopping for that larger home, don’t forget to consider basic upkeep, costs of heating and cooling, and your initial budget. Some buyers spend all of their money on sheer volume, leaving no funds for attractive details that add to the home’s overall appeal and give it its character.

Downsize me

Some of you may think that downsizing means giving something up. Granted, you are giving up space, but you may find it to be just that—space. Today’s smaller homes are carefully designed to create intimate appeal and maximize space. Newer, smaller homes typically offer simple maintenance, built-in storage, and mudrooms for families with young children. These smaller, luxury homes are also energy-efficient and cost much less to heat and cool. But before you buy or build small, make sure you look ahead. If you buy a smaller home that fits your life just right today but plan to have kids (or more kids) in the future, you may have to make a choice between adding on or moving into a larger home.

There’s a number of factors to consider when buying a home, including where to live, how much to pay, and how big to buy. Big or small—both have benefits. You must choose which ones are more important to you. For help finding a home that fits your needs, talk to your Texas Realtor. For information on other real estate trends, I invite you to visit TexasRealEstate.com.

For services, contact RE/MAX Genesis at 830-833-2000 or lightfoot@moment.net.

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