The McMansion is (finally) falling out of fashion?


On Yahoo finance today, the feature article in the real estate section is on a topic that I have always loved to hate: the McMansion. Any inner-city dweller worth his/her salt has to loathe the McMansion on principle, after all. They’re big (wait, huge) and grandiose and impressive, sure. That and they’re brand new (I have to admit I’m jealous when visiting friends in brand new houses whose doors and windows all open and close effortly, without the nudging and jiggling sometimes required in a 100+ year old house). But they’re also soooooo close together, crammed onto lots in character-less new subdivisions, and the building materials always seem slightly cheap to me. I have a feeling that they will not age quite as well as their Victorian predecessors. They seem a bit ostentatious and over the top to me, kind of like the gold lamé of housing.

My opinions aside, this article says that the McMansion is losing popularity due to a number of factors:

  • increased utility/energy costs (those great rooms with their huge ceilings cost a lot to heat)
  • rising property taxes
  • rising interest rates
  • investment trends (real estate isn’t seen as the investment golden opportunity that it once was)

While real estate investing was enjoying its day in the sun, many people purchased larger homes as an alternative to investing in the stock market:

“We know that, beginning right around the latter part of 2003 and 2004, there was a fairly dramatic increase in the number of people who bought real estate as an investment,” says Lawler. “There are two ways that an individual can increase their investment in real estate: buy a rental property or just buy a bigger home. Most people want to invest in real estate but not everyone wants to be a landlord.”

But now it’s not looked upon in quite the same way, and general tastes seem to be changing:

Ahluwalia recently polled 50 select architects for an NAHB study, “The Home of the Future.” The consensus was that America’s new home aesthetic emphasizes upgraded amenities (premium countertops, hardwood floors, heated flooring, Sub-Zero refrigerators), increased functionality (larger and more garages, multiuse rooms), higher ceilings and improved light (more windows, recessed lighting), all in a footprint of about 2,400 square feet.

“Previously, more people were saying, ‘We want space. We’ll add the features later on.’ Now, a lot of people are saying, ‘We want features.’ That is the main difference,” says Ahluwalia.

Even with all of this, however, I don’t think that the McMansions are going away anytime soon. As long as there is still a market for Hummers and designer handbags, there will still be a market for oversized and showy houses that are too close together…


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