Builders responded to buyer preferences by constructing smaller single-family homes in 2009, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) announced this week.

The average size of a completed home dropped by almost 100 square feet from its 2,521 square foot peak of 2007, according to data the association gleaned from the U.S. Census Bureau. Home size had been rising for nearly three decades before 2007, the association said, and in 2008 home size stayed "essentially flat" before dropping last year.

In a statement, David Crowe, the association’s chief economist, said the size of new homes also fell in the recession of the early 1980s.

"The decline of the early 1980s turned out to be temporary, but this time the decline is related to phenomena such as an increased share of first-time homebuyers, a desire to keep energy costs down, smaller amounts of equity in existing homes to roll into the next home, tighter credit standards and less focus on the investment component of buying a home," Crowe said.

"Many of these tendencies are likely to persist and continue affecting the new home market for an extended period."

During the housing boom, when many people were buying homes as big as they could could get them, the proportion of new single-story homes fell to 43 percent (in 2006). That figure rose to 47 percent last year, while homes with two or more stories fell to 53 percent from 57 percent in 2006.

Last year’s share of single-story homes was still lower, however, than the 67 percent of such homes in 1973, when the U.S. Census Bureau began tracking such details.

In keeping with the smaller size of homes, home configurations also changed. The share of homes with four bedrooms or more fell to 34 percent from a 39 percent peak in 2005. At the same time, three-bedroom homes rose to 53 percent of new homes, from 49 percent in 2005.

The share of home with three or more bathrooms fell to 24 percent last year, from 28 percent the year before. The number of homes with 2.5 baths has stayed the same for three straight years at 31 percent, the association said. Meanwhile, those with two bathrooms rose to 37 percent last year, from 35 percent in 2008. Homes with fewer than two bathrooms have made up less than 10 percent of new homes for more than a decade, the association said.

Preferences for garage size varied regionally. Most new single-family homes, 62 percent, had two-car garages, but three-car garages were mostly found in the Midwest (30 percent of such homes) and the West (26 percent). Only 11 percent of such homes in the Northeast and the South had three-car garages, the association said.


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