For over three decades, the National Association of REALTORS® has collected data on the size of homes purchased, most notably the square feet of detached single family homes, in its flagship Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers report. Since 1981, the median size of homes purchased has increased rapidly in the first decade and then remained relatively similar and steady over the last 15 years.
Single-family homes have been the number one type of home purchased across the country over the decades. In 2016, detached single-family homes accounted for 83 percent of the share of total homes purchased by all buyers. In 1981, buyers purchased detached single-family homes that were a median of 1,700 square feet. In 1985, the size dipped to 1,650 square feet, the lowest recorded in over three decades of the report. The size increased back up to a median of 1,793 square feet in 1987 and saw a huge jump to a median of 2,000 square feet in 1993.
Throughout the majority of the 2000’s, the median size for detached single-family homes hovered around 1,920 to 1,940 square feet. With the rise in the share of first-time home buyers due to government-sponsored first-time home buyer tax credit, the median home size for detached single-family homes fell in 2010 to 1,850 square feet but bounced back up to 2,000 square feet in 2011 where it remained for five years before hitting 1,950 in 2016.
The median size for all homes purchased had a similar trajectory over the course of the last 30 years. In 1987, the median size for all homes was 1,720 square feet and climbed steadily to 2,000 square feet by 1995. From 2003 to 2009, the median size of all homes purchased remained roughly the same between 1,800 and 1,882 square feet. That median size also took a dip in 2010 corresponding to market conditions to its lowest point in recent years of 1,780 square feet, but climbed back up to 1,900 square feet in 2011 where it remained until 2016, with the only exception of it dropping to 1,870 in 2014 for one year only.
To follow this series as we discuss the findings of 35 years of profile data, check out the hashtag #NARHBSat35 on your social channels. NAR Research will be releasing trend line data since 1981 to celebrate 35 years of home buyer and seller demographic research.