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Mar 23, 2009 -- Size of the average new American home declining

For years, the size of the average American home has been getting larger and larger while family size has been declining.

But now USA TODAY reports an abrupt change. As of last year, the average size of a new home was roughly 15% smaller than it was the year before. The square footage dropped from 2,629 to 2,343, according to Census data.

Americans have reached a point where they're saying, "Do we really need that many bedrooms?"

Of course, our spending has been reduced in so many areas. But the pivotal expense in our lives still remains housing. Having housing expenses that are too large can really eat up your budget. It can put a big crimp in your lifestyle: You can't build any reserve savings, you can't afford to send your children to private school, you can't put money aside for your children's college, etc.

Simply put, buying too much house is an unproductive use of American capital in Clark's estimation. This is not, however, a knock on builders. And of course, this message is not for everyone. Some people desire a bigger house; it's absolutely key to them -- and if they can afford it, so be it.

Unfortunately, Clark won't be able to answer any questions submitted via commenting. If you have a question, please try posting it to our message boards.

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What others are saying

  • Smaller Homes
    I built a smaller home four years ago after my spouse passed away. When I built, I put in some high end details such as geo thermal, nine foot ceilings and hardwood flooring. Most people who enter my 1600 square foot home are envious and I love the fact that I just paid off my mortgage at 37 years old. Not only was my mortgage less than $400, but my utility bills average less than $100 a month.

    I am in the real estate industry and have seen mansions with no furniture, $15,000 homes with $30,000 cars in the drive and so on. I have the great comfort of knowing that my home is ALL mine and that I will be able to afford to live there no matter what.
  • Medium House
    My wife and I live in a medium sized house, 2,500 sq ft. We have the means to go larger, but instead we have put in an inground pool lanscaped with flagstone to create a little oasis in the backyard. I just turned 30 and have a 15 year mortgage to pay off and never plan to move. My house is my kingdom and I'll improve upon it as years pass.
  • smaller houses
    My husband i have lived in a smaller house for 20+ years while watching houses get bigger and bigger. We did build two additions and have renovated the entire house over the years. Our one child has grown up and moved out. We now have a house with everything we need or want AND have enough money to travel or do whatever we want. It's a personality thing. A lot of people feel richer living in their expensive houses. I feel rich living in what I want and not being HOUSE POOR. To each his own as long as I don't have to pay for it as in bailout.
  • Yea, I'll keep my mansion
    I've lived in tiny houses all my life until we bought our 4500 footer 4 years ago.. quality of life is worth every penny. We drive cheap cars to make sense of it where as so many teeny house owners drive new cars. I think we are smarter...
  • smaller house
    My wife and I started out 30 years ago in the same house we now occupy. I did some remodeling and built an addition, ( I saved to do this), to bring it up to 1600 sq. feet. We raised 4 children in the house. It was a tight fit at times but nobody is worse for it. Best of all I burned the mortgage 10 years ago. The kids have moved on and the house is plenty big for two.
  • Smaller House
    I've always lived in a house that is less than 2000 sq ft and that is more than enough room for me. Sure we could have moved up in size but we were always taught to only buy what we could afford, and a smaller house is what we could we could afford a larger house and don't want it...we like the freedom of being debt free and wouldn't trade it for anything.
  • Smaller houses
    When we continued living in our "small" house with our three children, our friends didn't understand why not buy a bigger home? We were envious of their beautiful big homes. However, we didn't want to be strapped into a higher house payment and be stressed over it. It kept us from having more stuff unnecessarily. Main thing was we weren't mortgage poor. It was less for me to clean too! We are still in the smaller home and now with the kids gone my husband and I have acquired "extra" room so it is like we have a bigger home now! We've made an office and a workout room in the two vacant bedrooms! And our mortgage is just about paid off!
  • Smaller spaces not so bad?
    I grew up having my brother as a roommate for quite awhile, in a smaller sized house. I think it forced me to learn how live with someone, and many many years later, I've gotten along with all of my roommates. If you live in a house, even a small one, you can always send the kids outside which is where my brother and I went. I wonder what parents did with all that "free time"...
  • Learning to live with our stuff
    Many of us who are 40+ probably grew up in small houses and managed to survive - somewhere along the way many have believed they needed a workout room, two living rooms, movie room etc.. We have avoided this trap even though many of our friends have not. If your "stuff" does not fit in your house then take a look at your "stuff" after xmas we all go through our closets and manage to find bags of clothes no longer worn that we happily donate - we will stay in our small ranch house for as long as I can forsee
  • Smaller House
    My husband and I are in our late 20's with 2 young boys. We live in a 1100 square foot house in the city. When our second son was born we felt like we were sitting on top of each other because off all our stuff and not a lot of space. We tried to figure out how to move "up", (we even put our house on the market) but we decided that freedom from debt and also the freedom to travel was more important than having more space. We are working our way out of debt and throwing and giving stuff away to fit in our house and discovering that without all our stuff that we "need" we fit really well! Just to let you know so many of our friends the same age are deciding to to the same thing, so mindsets are changing!
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