You may have already heard or read stories about this, but there's more than just anecdotal evidence to suggest that demand for big homes is making a comeback in the United States.
According to a recent report from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), which cited data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average size of newly built homes has increased every year since hitting a post-recession floor of 2,362 square feet in 2009. The average size of homes built in 2013 was reportedly more than 300 square feet larger compared to four years earlier, and about 50 percent larger than the average in 1973.
It follows logically that the average sale price for new homes is also rising. The NAHB reported that this figure reached $318,000 in 2013, up almost 30 percent from $248,000 in 2009. The New York Times looked at these trends and suggested that they are being driven by an improving economy. Demand for high value residential properties is "being driven by the move-up buyer, the luxury buyer."
The NAHB noted that first-time home buyers continue to buy smaller, more modestly priced homes. However, these buyers comprise a smaller share of the market today, due to lenders' tightening credit standards and more stringent regulations on mortgages. One economist who spoke to the Times explained that "those who have strong incomes, secure jobs, their stock portfolio is doing well — they are able to buy whatever they want. And what they are buying is larger houses."
With a greater share of demand coming from buyers looking to purchase larger, more expensive homes, builders are logically working to align the supply with those buyer preferences.
Today's buyers looking for more features, not just more space
The NAHB notes that contemporary home buyers are interested in more than just super-sized versions of standard homes. Instead, the demand for large houses is being driven by consumers' desire for features that will provide a comfortable — and functional — space for a growing family.
As a result, the three-bedroom home, long a standard in the U.S. housing market, may be on its way out as larger homes gain favor among buyers. According to the NAHB, houses with at least four bedrooms accounted for 48 percent of new construction last year, up from 34 percent in 2009.
Buyers are seeking upgrades in other areas as well. The proportion of new homes with at least three full bathrooms was 35 percent, up from 23 percent in 2010. Meanwhile, 22 percent of new houses included garages built to accommodate at least three cars, up from 16 percent in 2010.
Larger homes with more features demand more insurance coverage
In the event of a disaster, the precise cost of rebuilding a residential property will be determined by the specific features of the structure, not just its size. For instance, having to reconstruct an elaborate plumbing system to connect multiple bathrooms located in different parts of a large house will likely be more costly than simply rebuilding a few extra bedrooms. For this reason, insurance carriers need to put an emphasis on how they calculate replacement costs to ensure that they are providing an adequate amount of coverage for insured structures.
If the replacement cost estimate for a structure is not accurate, a homeowner may not be able to fully rebuild their house after a disaster without covering certain costs out of their own pocket. With buyers gravitating toward larger, more expensive homes that have a unique mix of features, accurately estimating replacement costs may be more challenging, if the estimator tools that are used have limitations on the size or value of the home.
Insurers need property valuation software that they can depend on to produce accurate values for any type of residential property, from smaller, older homes with a limited range of features to newer, larger structures that are "fully loaded."
e2Value's patented, web-based estimator allows insurers to meet all of their residential property valuation needs within a single program. Our solution uses a standardized approach to calculating replacement costs to consistently produce accurate values, but is customizable so that it can be integrated with existing systems and workflow.