Have you checked out HSH's new Home Value Tracker? See what's happening with home values in more than 400 metro areas!

Have you checked out HSH's new Home Value Tracker? See what's happening with home values in more than 400 metro areas!

Is Your House the "Typical American Home"?

typical-houseDo you live in a typical American home? Do you want to? Or do you aspire to something better? Or perhaps you'd prefer something more modest: one that's more sustainable for both the environment and your pocket.

See mortgage rates for typical and unique homes

Typically unique

Of course, every home is unique, including yours. Even if you just bought one in a developer's tract, yours will have characteristics none of the others share. To start with, its plot shape and size will likely be different. And, if you bought off-plan or during construction, maybe you chose some or all of the finishes.

And you'll slowly stamp this home with your own décor and furnishings. Even if it didn't start out that way, your place is going to end up a unique reflection of you.

But that doesn't mean it can't be typical, too. How does your property compare with the average American home? Read on to find out.

Related: Is it Better to Buy a New or Used Home?

Average home size in the US

In 1973, the median new single-family house was just 1,525 square feet, according to the US Census Bureau. By 2010, it had grown to 2,169 square feet. And, by 2018, it had bloated to 2,435 square feet. Who in 1973 would have believed that a newly built typical American home would be 60% bigger than theirs in 45 years?

There's another even more startling factor to take into account. Statista.com claims the average household in 1973 comprised 3.01 people, meaning the home offered 507 square feet per person. But by 2018, that household had shrunk to 2.53 people. And each had 962 square feet to stretch out.

Why the extra space?

There may be an obesity epidemic. But 962 square feet of living space each? There are other factors in play here.

We've changed what we want from homes. And many see size as the biggest luxury a house can deliver. Finished basements as guest suites are no longer rare. Many want a study or home office -- often matching his-n-hers. Your master suite is nothing if it's not huge. Your walk-in closet today might be bigger than the bedroom you had as a child. And it's not a master "suite" without its own adjoining bathroom.

Then there are the man caves, she sheds, and bonus rooms -- open space, often on a second floor or wing, where kids can play, work or watch TV without being a nuisance. Ah, the joys of modern parenting.

Average home price in the US

You may have barely noticed the ballooning size of homes. But higher home prices have certainly claimed your attention.

The median sales price of existing (not newly built) homes was $274,500 in December 2019, according to research by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The US Census says the price for new homes was $29,900 in 1973.

Higher home prices through inflation... and much, much more

But then, a median family's income was just $12,050 in 1973, while it was $73,965 in 2018, again based on Census data. And it's likely even higher now.

Still, incomes rose only about 600% between 1973 and 2018, but home prices spiked over 900%. Much of that increase in the average home price in the US is due to the increased size of homes.

The table below shows that the price per square foot of the typical home didn't increase by much more than annual income did -- 582% vs 509%. So we pay more because we buy larger houses.

1973 2018 Change
Income $12,050 $73,965 614%
Home Price $29,900 $274,500 918%
Size 1,525 2,435 160%
Price / Sq Ft $20 $114 582%

But there is still a 73% home value difference unaccounted for. But it's likely the extra demands we put on our houses. Yesterday's "luxury" amenities (en-suite baths, laundry rooms, and home offices) are standard stuff these days. Not to mention smart appliances, home security, landscape architecture and other gee-whiz features. We pay for that.

And some of the increase can likely be attributed to population growth, increased demand in areas that are already built out, and concentrations of high paying jobs (like software development) in areas with limited housing opportunities.

Popular home features

So what are those amenities, features and technologies that so many look for in a new home? The US Census listed the percentage of 2018's 840,000 new homes having these popular features:

  • Air conditioning 783,000 (93%)
  • Four or more bedrooms 376,000 (45%)
  • Three or more bathrooms 306,000 (36%)
  • Deck, porch or patio outside: 771,000 (92%)
  • Used gas as the main fuel for heating 503,000 (60%)
  • Full or partial basement 213,000 (25%)

Other popular home features for recent buyers include laundry rooms, garages with storage space, hardwood floors, walk-in pantries and exterior lighting. Another increasingly desirable item on the list is an energy-efficient home.

Do you have all or some of those? At last, you have a yardstick. So you can answer that burning question: Is yours a typical American home?

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