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When it comes to home size, U.S. no longer in lead

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis January 19, 2010 07:00 AM

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Here's another national crisis in the making - we are losing our lead when it comes to having the largest homes in the world.

No, it's not China that is serving up this latest humiliation, but rather pesky Australia, which, judging from the headlines Down Under, appears to be relishing this national victory.

"Aussie homes biggest in the world," shouts a headline from the Herald Sun.

While the average size of new homes in the U.S. has fallen to 2,065 square feet, it has ballooned to practically McMansion-style levels in the Australian state of New South Wales, where it now tops 2,800 square feet.

I guess it's just time to roll out a new tax credit for buyers of McMansions.

Seriously, it remains to be seen whether this trend has legs. The bad economy is surely playing a big part here, with builders scrambling to roll out smaller, more compact home designs to meet current budgets - and tastes.

But can it really hurt American homeowners to start thinking about whether bigger is always better?

Maybe Australia will become the new McMansion capital of the world. What an honor. But the average new home in the U.S. is nearly three times what folks in the United Kingdom are using to living in and almost twice the space of the average house in the Netherlands.

How much space do you really need? Is the monster garage or "great room" really necessary? Even in more modestly sized homes, there are often rooms and space that at times may be more for show than actual use.

When it comes to getting used to smaller homes, Boston area homeowners surely have an advantage.

High home prices and building costs have forced many of us in the Boston area to make a virtue out of necessity, myself included. My wife and I recently completed an addition to our Natick fixer-upper that boosted the total size to something over 1,800 square feet.

It feels like a palace compared to the just under 1,200 square feet we were making do with before, but it's still smaller than the average.

Enough of my preaching. What's your take?

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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