Townhouses Trump McMansions As New Hot Property

When it comes to home size, American homebuyers are finally deciding that less really is more. They are cutting back on options and reducing square footage. More incredibly, they're buying townhouses instead of McMansions.

I about flipped when I got wind of a new development under construction in tony University Park here in Dallas. University Park is home to Southern Methodist University, the Bush Library, and so many McMansions that the National Trust for Historic Preservation included the Park Cities as an endangered community undergoing an accelerated amount of teardowns for years in a row.

The new development that sent me for smelling salts is The Courtyards at Normandy, a townhome community that plans the largest home to be no larger than 3,300 square feet, and most around 2,500.

Every home will be high-quality new construction under a million dollars, in a close-in municipality known for excellent schools and safety. The location is minutes from local Dallas airports and downtown amenities.

And the whole development is surrounded by 6,000-square-foot-plus McMansions.

The median size of homes purchased in the U.S. in 2008 was 1,825 square feet. For first-time buyers, it is 1,580 square feet, according to the National Association of Realtors. The U.S.
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Census Bureau reported the size of new homes fell to 2,135 square feet from 2,300 earlier in the decade.

Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, has said that consumers no longer want spaces devoted to single purposes, such as media rooms for watching videos and game rooms for shooting pool. Even people who have media rooms apparently don't like them: In a community of 4,500 square foot homes homes loaded with media rooms, Gold Class Theaters took Allen, Texas by storm when it opened last May. The theater offers orange ultra suede seats, plush blankets and pillows on a posturepedic-perfect reclining chaise. Interiors resemble a G-5, and $80 bottles of wine are served with first run films with a personal attendant at your beck/call.

The point: Why build these rooms when you'd rather go out anyhow? Requests are also in for rooms with shared uses. Studies that can double as guest rooms -- no more formal living and dining rooms. After all, everyone always ends up in the kitchen and family room, right?

The trend seems to be picking up. Cleveland Real Estate agent Scott Phillips says a McMansion was a "trophy -- a house with five or six bedrooms and that media room when you only needed two". A majority of the homes Phillips sells these days are less than 1,700 square feet.

This could be happening for several reasons: People are becoming more green. or environmentally conscious. Or they want to live within their means now that energy and other costs, like taxes, are going up.

Phillips also says Ohio buyers want to move closer to a city's core urban area, even whole families. Rural areas are just shrinking, especially in West Texas. A growing number of Texas counties now have fewer than 1,000 people, leaving vast stretches empty.
For one Cleveland homebuyer, a three-story townhome has everything she could need: energy efficiency, new appliances, a view of Lake Erie, and an 8-minute commute to work.

Like The Courtyard at Normandy, ten years ago, this neighborhood did not exist, and the homes would have been over shadowed by the McMansions all around. But Realtors say we can expect to see many more townhome and multifamily developments cropping up instead of McMansions.

"The Courtyards is a lock and go kind of place, " says Dallas Realtor Jonathan Rosen with Briggs Freeman/Sotheby's. "It's perfect for the single mother or empty nester, or anyone who wants to live near the amenities but just doesn't want to be burdened by all that extra space."

Candy Evans is an award-winning, Dallas-based real estate reporter, blogger, and social media consultant. She's the gal who brought House Porn to the Bible Belt! Read more at Send story ideas and tips to

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