McMansion, R.I.P.

by Will Smith

McMansion, R.I.P.

As the economy recedes, energy prices fluctuate, and consumer products become ever greener, it seems that the era of the McMansion may be over. The U.S. Census Bureau has released statistics confirming what many had already predicted: Americans are buying smaller homes. Both the average and median size of homes on which construction started in the third quarter of last year declined.

The average size dropped over seven percent from 2,629 square feet to 2,438, while the median size dropped almost nine percent from 2,291 square feet to 2,090. “This is the first time we have seen such a significant decline,” Gopal Ahluwalia, vice president for research at the National Association of Homebuilders, told The Washington Post.

The trend isn’t surprising. Bigger houses are more expensive, and those consumers that are in the market for new homes these days are likely being conservative with what they spend. Furthermore, big houses cost more to maintain over the long term. Lastly, the McMansion has become a symbol of the overreaching, credit-fueled excess of the housing bubble. In these dire economic times, even those who can legitimately afford a big house may opt for something less opulent. Much as the gas-guzzling SUV fell out of favor with consumers as it disagreed with their wallets and their increasing environmental consciousness, the McMansion has lost favor for both economic and philosophical reasons.

The question is, what will happen to the thousands of McMansions that were built over the last decade but which are now foreclosed upon, unsold, or otherwise uninhabited? One provocative theory from The Atlantic speculates that the McMansion neighborhoods of yesterday could devolve into the slums of tomorrow.

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/mcmansion_rip/486


  1. ET said at 4:43 pm on Wednesday January 28, 2009:

    I am sure the McMansions will do OK. Of course we have a glut of the stupid things so building new ones is definitely not a good business decision.

    And can I say the house in the picture for this post is incredibly ugly.

  1. Helena Handbasket said at 5:26 pm on Friday January 30, 2009:

    McMansions were the brain child of the housing industry, ever competing to sell fancier houses for what seemed like not that much money.  But then housing got out of control, prices went thru the roof and for no reason but that the industry could continue to find people uneducated enough to swallow the hype.  These houses are all show and no substance.  Take away the crown moulding, granite, and other curly-Q’s and frills and you have a typical shoddy tract house with the usual construction shortcuts and yes, even code violations.  Add to that the fraudulently inflated appraisals, and often predatory or fraudulent lending to get people into $500,000, a million, or more mortgages they could not possibly repay, and you have an economic disaster.  At best, financial disaster for the “owners.”  I bet most of these were purchased using the builder’s lender, title company, sales agent, etc too.

    I agree they’ll be the slums of tomorrow, if they last long enough.  Another possibility, if any are built well enough to last a few decades, is they’ll be turned into apartments or duplexes at least, much as large Victorian houses were.  A house that size is simply too expensive and impractical for one family to maintain and pay for.  They were duped by the housing industry’s puffing, and now all of us taxpayers are being told we have to pay for the housing industry bailout.  Makes you wonder if those “nuts” who hide out in the Idaho wilderness and refuse to pay taxes might be the smart ones.

  1. Andrew Stegmaier said at 9:41 pm on Friday January 30, 2009:

    Hooray! People are getting poorer! Let’s celebrate!

  1. Free Joomla Templates said at 2:29 pm on Tuesday February 3, 2009:

    “the McMansion neighborhoods of yesterday could devolve into the slums of tomorrow.”

    That seems particularly unlikely.  They are still going to sell because they represent someone’s dream home.  Plus even if those travesties sell for 1M each instead of the 2M or 3M that is more common you will have buyers lined up around the block

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