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Why the McMansion Isn't Really Back

Joe Cortright criticizes reports linking high median new home sizes to a renewed demand for McMansions. The market for single-family homes, he argues, locks out buyers of modest means. Only the well-off are buying.
August 21, 2015, 6am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Paul Sableman

A piece for City Observatory takes issue with those who claim "that the 'death of the McMansion' has been highly exaggerated." [...] "A closer reading shows that the apparent surge in McMansions is actually a bit of a statistical mirage. These analysts have overlooked a key limitation of the reported data."

From the article: "It's actually the case that American homes are only getting bigger if one believes that people living in multi-family housing either aren't Americans or don't have homes. [...] The only reason these big houses have increased as a share of total new housing is because the market for affordable, smaller single family homes has done even worse."

After the recession, the single-family market never recovered. Instead, "multi-family housing now makes up 40 percent of new home starts, up from 20 percent a decade ago. If we recalculated the median new home size including both multi- and single-family homes, the increase in the McMansion share would look much smaller." Additional data demonstrates that even among the rich, ownership of large homes is trending downward. 

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Published on Monday, August 3, 2015 in City Observatory City Commentary
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