Friday, February 1, 2008

What is a McMansion?

I’ll have a McMansion and some fries!
By Marc Miller, Vice President/Sales Executive at ServiceLinklp/A Fidelity National Financial Company

Although I admire their supreme architecture and overwhelming appearance, I keep driving by these big monsters wondering, “who are these people”. Among the many terms that would be fitting to label these huge homes with, I have discovered one that seems to describe them perfectly…“McMansion”. Can’t you just see that image in your mind?

A 2002 study by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) found that the size of homes have been growing in the United States by leaps and bounds. In 1987, the size of an average new home was 1900 square feet. By 2001, the living space had increased by 20 percent to an average of 2,300 square feet. The percentage of new homes larger than 3,000 square feet has almost doubled, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 1988, 11 percent of new homes constructed exceeded 3,000 square feet. By 2003, this number had grown some 20 percent. And according to a report by Pulte Homes, the average new home is growing by 150 to 200 square feet ever few years!

Ready for the next puzzling piece? Average household size is down from 3.11 (don’t ask) in 1970 to 2.59 in 2000, according to the Census Bureau. Not only is the household shrinking but the lot sizes are as well. Between 1987 and 2002, lot size has decreased by 6.5% to 16,454 square feet. Someone is going to advertise this as a niche indeed!

Are there any controls? In Texas, regulators focus on controlling infill development to ensure a proper fit within an existing neighborhood. I will call them McMansion regulations, but they are commonly referred to as conservation districts. One of the more popular areas in Dallas is the M Streets Conservation District. These regulations are intended to protect the existing architectural and cultural attributes of the neighborhood and to control construction and remodeling. Welcome to tear down city.

Why is this happening? Probably because it’s the best of both worlds. First, new homes in established neighborhoods close to the heart of the city attract the cool urban professional. These areas point to the American sense of identity and a statement of prosperity. And secondly, these larger “resort” style homes make a statement to the reclusive nature of the baby boomer. After all the stress of the day making those big bucks we like to retreat to our sanctuaries (home) and enjoy a good glass of wine while we sit in our Jacuzzi watching the flat screen on today’s market review. Over the holidays, I had the opportunity to be in some of these McMansions. Talk about reclusive, I kept thinking…if I just hide up here, I could live in the house for two weeks before they ever found me and charged me rent!

You have heard “everything’s bigger in Texas”. It’s true, especially in the new home market. Your homework assignment this week is to note as you drive around the metro area the condition of the homes in your favorite old neighborhoods AND the amount of remodeling or new homes that are under construction. Those empty lots and/or older homes in the area just might be the next candidate for mcsomething!

Marc Miller is Vice President/Sales Executive at ServiceLinklp/A Fidelity National Financial Company You can contact him at