Homes are bigger, cooler - East Valley Tribune: Business

Homes are bigger, cooler

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Posted: Tuesday, July 4, 2006 5:36 am | Updated: 4:26 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

New homes are larger than ever, newly released statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show. There are more bedrooms, more bathrooms and more floor space.

At the same time, home lots are getting smaller, decks and bricks are less popular, and the use of central air conditioning has gone from 46 percent to 89 percent of homes in the last three decades, the numbers show.

The new data on housing characteristics show the median size of a new home was at a record high of 2,227 square feet in 2005, up from 2,140 square feet the year earlier. Homes in the Northeast are the largest with median of 2,339 square feet followed by the South at 2,269 square feet.

Larger homes are being built on smaller lots. The Census data shows lots with median size of 8,500 square feet today, down from 10,000 square feet in 1990.

John Wainwright, a partner at Scottsdale-based Calvis Wyant Luxury Homes, said lots are still large in most of the areas the company is building.

“In north Scottsdale, we’re building on five-acre lots,” he said. “The developer probably would have preferred to do one-acre lots but because of zoning, the city of Scottsdale or whatever, they’re five-acre lots. Some of them also are in areas like up in the McDowell Mountains where even though you own five acres, you’re only allowed to use an acre of it. The rest is . . . natural area open space.”

In Paradise Valley, the lots are more uniform in size because the town has been platted for some time, Wainwright said. While there are occasional lot splits, lots are generally an acre or more, he said.

Increasing land values have Calvis Wyant building bigger homes, Wainwright said.

“The consumer does look at what the price per foot of a house is going to be and inevitably as you get bigger . . . you can amortize the cost of all those things over more square footage,” he said. So, “it’s probably people want a little bigger house, but it’s also the marketplace being unwilling to accept a certain price per foot of a house. We’re perfectly capable of building smaller houses, but the consumer is not willing to pay that premium for the smaller house.”

The census numbers show stucco and vinyl siding have become more popular through the years and the use of brick and wood has decreased. Vinyl siding is now the most-used wall exterior.

Brick exteriors on newly built homes declined from 32 percent to 20 percent of the market between 1975 and 2005, while wood exteriors declined from 36 percent to 7 percent.

Brick is still popular as an exterior material in many areas, said Jerry Howard, executive vice president and CEO of National Association of Home Builders. But primarily because of the high cost of labor, builders have increasingly limited its use to the front of the home.

“We do have some homes up in our Silverleaf Community (north Scottsdale) that have a brick veneer, but it’s built with wood,” said Cammie Gasser, director or marketing at Scottsdale-based Camelot Homes.

More than half of all newly built single-family homes in 2004 had nine-foot or higher ceilings on the first floor, up from an estimated 15 percent of homes 30 years ago.

The government data shows just over one quarter of newly constructed homes, or 26 percent, were built with three or more bathrooms, up from an estimated 5 percent three decades ago. Homes built with 1 1 /2 bathrooms or fewer has declined from 41 percent to just 4 percent over the past 30 years.

The largest percentage of new homes are still built with three bedrooms, but the portion of homes built with four or more bedrooms has risen steadily from 21 percent in 1975 to 39 percent in 2005.

Gasser said the one of the construction trends in the Valley has been a change in floor plans to include great rooms, or the combining of family rooms and kitchens.

“The majority of our plans have gone away from having a formal dining, living room,” she said. “Historically everyone seems to congregate in the kitchen. No matter what party you have, people just live there. People are generally eating in front of the TV and your kids hang out on the couch so it really just makes it a lot more functional.”

Garages are getting larger. Census data collected since 1991 indicates that the percentage of homes built with garages for three or more cars has doubled, from 10 percent in 1991 to 20 percent in 2005.

For more than a decade, there has been a growing national trend toward porches and patios in new-home designs and a decline in the share of homes built with decks.

Front patios are making a comeback in the Valley, as well, Gasser said.

“A lot of that stems from a number of master-planned communities that really asked the builders to design their plans in the hopes of allowing more social interaction between the neighbors,” she said.

By the numbers

FIREPLACES: The proportion of new homes built with at least one fireplace has barely increased over the past three decades, going from 52 percent to 55 percent.

OUTDOOR FEATURES: Between 1992 and 2005, the proportion of newly built homes with patios increased from 37 percent to 46 percent, while the proportion of new homes with porches rose from 42 percent to 53 percent. Over the same time frame, the share of homes built with decks declined from 37 percent to 27 percent.

NUMBER OF STORIES: The proportion of one-story newly built homes has declined from 65 percent in 1975 to 44 percent in 2005. Meanwhile, the proportion of newly built homes with two or more stories has increased from 23 percent to 55 percent.

CENTRAL AIR: Between 1975 and 2005, the percentage of homes built with central air conditioning went from 46 percent to 89 percent.

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