America's Homes Get Bigger and Better

ByABC News via GMA logo
December 27, 2005, 8:32 AM

Dec. 27, 2005 — -- The size of the average American family has shrunk over the last three decades, but perhaps surprisingly, the average family home has ballooned in size.

The average single family home was 2,349 square feet in 2004, compared to 1,695 square feet in 1974. The size of the kitchen alone has doubled to nearly 300 square feet. Ground-floor ceilings have grown by more than a foot, and bedrooms are now an average of 12 feet by 12 feet, compared to 9 feet by 10 feet 30 years ago.

That's more home for less people. Today's average family size is 2.6 people. Then, it was 3.1 people.

Another trend: Living rooms are shrinking or even disappearing -- being replaced by family or media rooms.

"There's more money around," said Barbara Corcoran, a New York-based real estate agent and "Good Morning America's" real estate correspondent. "People are more vested in where they live. The houses that are driving the housing prices and sizes way up are the ego homes, though. The really rich people."

Bigger and better seem to be the way to go in housing these days. The percentage of homes costing $1 million has doubled since the 1970s, and the sale of those homes has increased at a rate of 500 percent.

Homeowners are gravitating toward supersize windows and doors. Corcoran said that a laundry room was the most desired home amenity. People also want walk-in pantries, his and hers showers, home offices, and media rooms.

"Many of the baby boomers are inheriting a lot of money from their parents and can afford more expensive, larger homes," Corcoran said. "People are also adding more lavish amenities to their homes."

"They're also doing semi-custom space, which is somewhere between custom and pre-built," she said. "Like rolling the dining room into the kitchen as a grand room."

Many people are designing their own homes. Corcoran said there were certain things to avoid in order to make selling the home easier. For example, stay away from features that are too personalized -- like a disco in the basement or a life-size chessboard in the back yard.

"There are so many McMansions or condos that can't resell because they are too personalized," Corcoran said. "Stay away from too much ornate detailing."

She also said not to eliminate too many bedrooms because people judge a home based on how many bedrooms it has. People also are looking for nice light, which is associated with a happy life, Corcoran said. She said to avoid dark colors.

Corcoran said luxury condos were transforming the downtown areas of many cities, making them more vibrant and welcoming. Many young families are moving back to cities -- tearing down 10-year-old lots and building giant homes that reach upward, not outward.

"We enjoyed a fat, juicy, real estate market lately," she said. "But it goes both ways. When I'm buying, I like to think like a reseller."