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They’ve been called McMansions, Starter Castles, Garage Mahals and Faux Chateaus but here’s the latest thing you can call them — History.
In the past few years, there have been an increasing number of references made to the “McMansion glut” and the “McMansion backlash,” as more towns pass ordinances against garishly large homes, which are generally over 3,000 square feet and built very close together. What sets a McMansion apart from a regular mansion, according to Wikipedia, are a few characteristics: They’re tacky, they lack a definitive style and they have a “displeasingly jumbled appearance.”
Just 9 percent of the people surveyed by Trulia said their ideal home size was over 3,200 square feet. Meanwhile, more than one-third said their ideal size was under 2,000 feet. “That’s something that would’ve been unbelievable just a few years back,” said Pete Flint, CEO and co-founder of Trulia. “Americans are moving away from McMansions.”
“McMansions just look and feel out of place today, given the more cautious environment everyone’s living in,” said Paul Bishop, vice president of research for the National Association of Realtors. And homebuilders are heeding the call: In a survey of builders last year, nine out of 10 said they planned to build smaller or lower-priced homes.
For a little historical context, 1,200 square feet was the average home size in America in the 1960s. That grew to 1,710 square feet in the 1980s and 2,330 square feet in the 2000s. What’s more, many in the real-estate business say they think this trend of downsizing, or “right-sizing,” as Flint likes to call it, is here to stay. “This is absolutely a long-term effect,” he said. “Think of families with small children who’ve been foreclosed upon … When these teenagers are in a position to buy a home, they won’t want to go through these experiences they saw their parents go through.”
Luckily, people are starting to get creative: A film collective in Seattle has taken over a 10,000-square foot McMansion there, using it for both living and work space. They turned a wine closet into an editing room and tossed a green screen in the garage. And in a suburb of San Diego, one couple turned a former McMansion into a home for autistic adults. The demise of the McMansion has stirred a growing chorus of murmurs in the real-estate community about the possibility that it may force a dramatic redesign of the suburban McMansion tracts into mini-towns of their own, turning these icons of excess into more practical spaces like offices, banks, grocery stores and movie theaters.