March 18, 2011 11:13 am
RISMEDIA, March 18, 2011-One of the victims of the housing bubble is the McMansion. Yes, they are still being built, but despite the great benefit of the mortgage interest deduction to high income homeowners, other factors are slowing their proliferation. Chief among them are growing doubts about the long-term home appreciation potential and the owners' increased risk of finding themselves much further underwater should another housing downturn occur. The economy is a significant factor as well. Not only are new home buyers opting for smaller homes, but more homeowners are choosing to remodel instead of buying a larger home.
The result is a trend towards "rightsizing" new homes-making them big enough and well enough equipped, but not going overboard just to impress the neighbors. The same factors are affecting remodeling projects and home decorating options. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), after growing in square footage for nearly 30 years, the average square footage of single-family homes is now declining. The average size of a single-family home in the United States peaked at 2,521 square feet in 2007. A 2009 U.S. Census bureau study found it had shrunk an average of 2,438 square feet. NAHB attributes the decline "to phenomena such as an increased share of first-time home buyers, a desire to keep energy costs down, smaller amounts of equity in existing homes to roll into the next home, tighter credit standards and less focus on the investment component of buying a home. Many of these tendencies are likely to persist and continue affecting the new home market for an extended period." NAHB also noted that fewer bedrooms and bathrooms are being built and that the several decade trend toward multilevel houses shifted back in the direction of single level homes last year. The American Homeowners Foundation believes that these trends are also being driven to some degree by the growing number of retiring/downsizing baby boomers.
Several trends are noticeable in both new homes and remodeling projects. "More bang for the buck" is the priority for more and more homeowners. This is also reflected in more careful thought about just how big the kitchen/bath/family room/deck really needs to be. Not every room gets the full luxury treatment. You can save thousands of dollars by focusing on effective space design and using less expensive components, such as cabinets or countertops. Despite the cutbacks on size and cost, some types of home investments continue to grow. The percentage of new homes and remodeling projects incorporating Energy Star appliances continues to increase, even though homeowners may not opt for the most expensive model. Available federal tax credits for home energy efficiency enhancements such as insulated windows, etc. (set to expire at the end of this year) are also helping to shore up homeowner spending in this area.
More homeowners are choosing to redecorate rather than remodel for many of the same reasons. Many small rooms in older homes can be made to seem larger and be made easier to live in through skillful redecorating.
There are many ways to use color, furniture selection and placement, and other alternatives to make a room seem larger. Traditional ways to achieve that objective are to use mirrors and white/light colored walls, while avoiding bold patterns, drapes that block window light, bulky furniture and clutter. Glass topped kitchen or coffee tables and/or desks occupy less visual space and are also good for small rooms. Eliminating knickknacks and/or consolidating them to a single display area will also help. You can often get away with one bold patterned object in a small room if it is balanced by solids or smaller and muted patterns. Similarly, a large overstuffed chair may not make a small room feel more confined if it replaces two smaller ones. Built-ins such as Murphy beds, bookshelves, window seats, shallow cabinets etc. can maximize space utilization and may also improve the room design.
Courtesy of the American Homeowners Foundation and the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance, www.AmericanHomeowners.org.
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