I read in the paper yesterday that now that the US economy is recovering, the size of newly built homes is growing again. It said that new homes now average over 2200 square feet, but I can tell you that around here (Dallas), that's a relatively modest starter house. The vast majority seem to be well in excess of 3000 feet. For families with kids this might make sense, but not for empty nesters (and there are a lot of us).
Build 'em big. Build a lot of 'em.
I haven't built a home smaller than 5500 square feet in years. Right now I'm adding on to a 6300 square footer I built 2 years ago ^ , bringing it up to around 9000 feet. I can't imagine living in a house that large. It just isn't my thing. (But of course, if they're intent on giving their hard earned money to a builder, it might as well be me. ;)
I had a large(-ish) home myself a few years ago, but with the recession of '08 approaching I knew that its value was only going to drop, so I bailed when I could and did fairly well.
The main reason I bailed, however, was because I was tired of paying all the property taxes, the insurance, the utilities, the maintenance, the yard upkeep, the cleaning, etc. I was getting no satisfaction from ownership, and in fact it was an albatross around my neck.
I began thinking about it and realized we actually only used about 1300 square feet, the rest just being space that was never used. All that hassle wasn't worth it to my teeny ego. Or maybe I'm just lazy? (Full disclosure.)
We rented a 2 bed-2 bath apartment* in a nice area and found it to be plenty big enough....after getting rid of everything we knew we were never going to use again. Before long we realized even that was too much (the spare bedroom became a catch-all junk room) so we downsized again to a one bedroom apartment. The peace of mind knowing that I have virtually no chores to do around the house/apt is very liberating.
This would do just fine.
But now here's the crazy part: I sometimes think it would be nice to build another home for K and me. I could make it state-of-the-art, energy efficient, super durable, etc, but I would want absolutely no more than 1,000 square feet, and there's the rub. No city around here will allow a home to be built that small.
Why, you ask? (Go ahead, ask.) Because the cities like all the property tax $$$$ big houses bring in. Screw what the people want, this is what the cities want. The tail is wagging the dog.
So the next time you hear some bureaucrat from the Department of Overpaid Gubment Employment preach that we need to preserve water and power, use less everything, recycle more, live smarter and such, remind them of this hypocrisy.
* Sometime I should write about my downsizing experience.