Pandemic Turns Tables on Trend Towards Smaller Homes

Australian homes are now on par with the US as the largest in the world, a CommSec report reveals.

New findings through data provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the average new house built in 2019-20 was 235.8sq m, up 2.9 per cent—the biggest increase in 11 years.

By contrast, the average size of a new, single-family house built in the US was 233.1sq m, down 2.9 per cent on the year prior.

The CommSec Home Size Trends report shows houses in the ACT were the biggest in the country at 256.3sq m, followed by Victoria at 250.3sq m and 235sq m for homes across NSW.

The smallest new houses were built in Tasmania, while the biggest townhouses and apartments were in Victoria, followed by Western Australia.

CommSec chief economist Craig James said in recent years home buyers had been building progressively smaller houses on average, noting that during 2018-19, the average house built was the smallest in 17 years.

Houses built in 2019-20

StateSquare metres% change on year
South Australia204.53.3%
Western Australia232.53.1%
Northern Territory189.5-5.4%

^ Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, CommSec

“The size of the average house in both Australia has been falling for various reasons,” James said.

“[These include] the increased focus on sustainability; desire for low-maintenance homes; smaller lot sizes; fewer people per home; affordability; a desire for proximity to inner cities and energy costs.”

The seven-year trend of building progressively smaller homes on average has now reversed, as people spend more time in their homes, due to government-imposed restrictions designed to limit the spread of Covid-19.

“The recent experience with Covid-19 has certainly caused more families to look for bigger homes and caused others to add extra rooms to existing home,” James said.

“Recent trends to butler’s pantries, mud rooms (storage for boots, coats and wet clothing) and home theatres have given more families justification to build bigger homes.”

The size of the average new apartment lifted 6 percent over the past year, hitting a decade high of 136.8 square metres.

Apartment sizes, which hit a 22-year low in 2017/18 before a slight increase in home size in 2018/19, have now lifted for the past two years.

The decade-high figure for apartment sizes still sits 5 per cent below the high of 143sq m in 2004/05.

Apartments built in 2019-20

StateSquare metres% change on year
South Australia149.87.5%
Western Australia150.5-3.4%
Northern Territory145.34.7%

^ Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, CommSec

Overall, the average new home—both houses and apartments—built over the year was 195.8sq m, up by 3 per cent over the year to a six-year high.

While Australians are once again building the biggest houses in the world, when the sizes of houses and apartments are combined, the US is still larger overall, with an average size of 197.4sq m versus 195.8sq m in Australia.

The size of the average new house in both Australia and the US is around 235sq m.

The average new home in New Zealand was 157.4sq m while in Canada the average size of a new house was 221.1sq m and the average new home was 141.2sq m.

“The big question is whether the decade-long downtrend in home size has ended,” James said.

“Even before Covid-19, Australian home builders were indicating their preference for slightly bigger homes.

“Apartment size has now lifted for the past two years, however, house size lifted in 2019/20 but after falling the previous year to 17-year lows.”

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Article originally posted at: https://theurbandeveloper.com/articles/commsec-abs-australian-houses-largest-world