Saturday, April 23, 2011

Is America Finally Downsizing When It Comes to Housing?

Are the days of brand-new McMansions over? Housing stats make the rest of the country sound a lot like Flint.

David Streitfeld of The New York Times reports:

Sales of new single-family homes in February were down more than 80 percent from the 2005 peak, far exceeding the 28 percent drop in existing home sales. New single-family sales are now lower than at any point since the data was first collected in 1963, when the nation had 120 million fewer residents.

Builders and analysts say a long-term shift in behavior seems to be under way. Instead of wanting the biggest and the newest, even if it requires a long commute, buyers now demand something smaller, cheaper and, thanks to $4-a-gallon gas, as close to their jobs as possible. That often means buying a home out of foreclosure from a bank.

Four out of 10 sales of existing homes are foreclosures or otherwise distressed properties.


  1. I don't really understand the point of new housing. We have an excess around most of the country now. On top of that, new houses are rarely interesting and are made from inferior materials. Most homes I've been inside that were built post-1960 seem hollow and rather cheap in comparison to the older homes I've been into in Flint. Seeing people buy these up and fix them is absolutely great.

  2. The reason Pontiac isn't any worse than it is, is that they have built all those new houses in suburbs around it. Flint would be better off with a ring of that kind around it. That kind of development has renewed older cities around the nation. Now the mantra is small houses and old houses?

    I do agree there is a huge amount of wasted space in McMansions. There are houses that look as imposing as the Dort House did on the outside, and when you get inside, its all bridges and ceilings up to the second floor. There would be scarcely half the square footage that you would expect. And that takes a lot to heat, light, and clean.

    The other thing about McMansions is that they often have a "mother-in-law" suite, and many times, three or four generations of a family living there. Kids that spent eight years getting their Bachelor's degree literally live in their parents' finished basement, complete with bedrooms, full kitchens, and baths, often with their small children. So it's not like McMansions have just two empty nesters living there.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at