Downsized America: Homebuyers Look for Less

"The people who seem to be buying homes now are people who were priced out of the market before, such as younger first-time homebuyers," he said. "They'll find whatever is cheap on the market, and those tend to be smaller homes."

The trend towards building smaller homes started even before the height of the housing crisis, McIlwain said. To bring home prices down to an affordable level, developers began building on much smaller lots and eventually began building smaller homes. In designing space-efficient homes, many have turned to open space set-ups, where areas like the dining room and kitchen are not separated.

"This next generation of home buyers is much more sensitive about energy use and energy prices," he said. "They're going to ask, 'Why buy a bigger house than we need when we can't afford it, it's expensive to run and it takes a lot of time to take care of?'"

Even after the recession, McIlwain expects homebuyers to continue to prefer a smaller pad.

"The days of McMansions are over," he said. "There will still be some built but by and large we already have enough McMansions to satisfy the demand."

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