Well, it hasn’t happened—at least not yet. And it probably won’t as long as lenders keep a tight grip on their wallets, according to figures reported recently at the annual convention of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in Orlando.
Through the first half of last year, the typical newly built single-family house measured 2,522 square feet (234.3 sq m), according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s 141 square feet (13.1 sq m) larger—the equivalent of a full 14-by-10-square-foot (1.3 by 0.9 sq m) secondary bedroom in some houses, a living room in others—than the 2,381 square feet (221.2 sq m) recorded in 2010. And it’s 18 square feet (1.6 sq m) larger than the record 2,504 square feet (232.6 sq m) counted in 2007.
That means that even as builders were putting up the fewest houses since World War II last year, they also were erecting the largest ones—with more bedrooms, bathrooms, and finished basements than ever before.
Why more instead of less? First-time buyers—the purchasers who tend to go for smaller, less expensive houses with fewer features and amenities—were largely ignored by homebuilders in favor of people moving up to their second, third, and fourth houses, explains Rose Quint, a research specialist at the NAHB.