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Thirty Years of Home Building Trends
Jun 16, 2006
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Today's newly built homes in the U.S. are substantially larger and have more amenities than their predecessors 30 years ago, according to annual data on new-home characteristics released by the U.S. Census Department.

"Between 1975 and 2005, the portion of new homes built with central air-conditioning has risen 43 percent, while the portion of homes built with fewer than two bathrooms has fallen from 41 percent to just 4 percent," said Jerry Howard, chief executive officer of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). "The share of newly built homes with four or more bedrooms has risen steadily from 21 percent 30 years ago to just shy of 40 percent last year."

The statistics and NAHB research show continued expansion of new-home size. The average floor area in a new home in 2005 in the U.S. reached an all-time high of 2,434 square feet - up from an average 2,349 square feet in 2004 and 1,645 square feet in 1975.

Heat Pumps and Furnaces
The data shows evidence of increasing popularity of heat pumps versus conventional warm air furnaces, particularly in the South. Overall, warm air furnaces remain the most popular heating systems in the U.S. - accounting for 67 percent of the new-homes market in 2005, down from 72 percent of the market back in 1975. NAHB said the decline in that market appears entirely due to construction practices in the South, where use of warm air furnaces fell from 82 percent of new homes to 47 percent over the past 30 years. Heat pumps now command over half the market (53 percent).

Lot Sizes
Lot sizes have shrunk over the years. Census data shows lots dropped from a median of about 10,000 square feet in 1990 to 8,500 square feet now.

Central Air-Conditioning
Between 1975 and 2005, the percentage of homes built with air-conditioning went from 46 percent to 89 percent, and 100 percent of newly built homes in the South came with central air-conditioning in 2005.

The proportion of new homes built with at least one fireplace has barely increased in 30 years, from 52 percent to 55 percent.

Outdoor Features
Statistics from as far back as 1992 indicate a trend toward including porches and/or patios in new-home designs and a smaller share of homes built with decks. Between 1992 and 2005, the proportion of newly built homes with patios increased from 37 percent to 46 percent, while the proportion of new homes with porches rose from 42 percent to 53 percent. In the same timeframe, the share of homes built with decks declined from 37 percent to 27 percent.

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