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Home Sizes, Suburban Shift Seen Increasing as COVID Offshoot

WASHINGTON, DC — Single-family home sizes are reportedly rising as an offshoot of the COVID-19 pandemic, reversing a recent trend toward downsizing, as homeowners are seeking additional residential space for a wider range of purposes, particularly teleworking and school-related activities.

At the same time, trade association officials are reporting a continued shift in new residential construction away from urban areas to lower-density, lower-cost suburban markets.

According to the latest analysis by the National Association of Home Builders, the median size of a newly built single-family home increased to 2,297 sq. ft., while the average size for new single-family homes increased to 2,540 sq. ft.

Since Great Recession lows, home sizes rose between 2009 to 2015 as entry-level new construction was constrained, according to the NAHB. In contrast, home sizes declined between 2016 and 2020, as more starter homes were developed, the NAHB said.

“Going forward, we expect home size to increase again, given a shift in consumer preferences for more space due to the increased use and roles of homes in the post-COVID-19 environment,” said Robert Dietz, chief economist for the Washington, DC-based NAHB.

The NAHB also reported that residential construction continued its yearlong shift toward the suburbs and lower-cost markets, a trend that’s especially pronounced within the multifamily sector.

According to the association’s latest Home Building Geography Index (HBGI), multifamily residential construction posted a 14.3% gain in small metro core and suburban areas during the second quarter of 2021, while large metro areas experienced a 0.5% decline for multifamily building activity.

“The trend of construction shifting from high-density metro areas to more affordable regions, which accelerated at the beginning of the pandemic, appears to be continuing,” said NAHB Chairman Chuck Fowke.

“There’s a marked increase in new apartment construction outside large metro areas, as people have greater flexibility to live and work in more affordable markets,” added Robert Dietz, chief economist for the NAHB.

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