Less for more: Why Australians are moving towards smaller homes

It used to be the case that “bigger is better” was the catchphrase in the Australian property market, but new trends are showing that’s no longer the case. In fact, Australians seem to have come to the conclusion that good things come in small packages.

Australians are increasingly looking for their homes to become sanctuaries from the busy world around them — but only if they can be close to their neighbours and get access to amenities.

Stockland’s recently released 2020 Property Survey highlighted the fact that 60% of respondents would forgo a traditional large backyard for a smaller home with less outdoor space, if it meant they felt more connected to neighbours and close to parks and community green spaces. This reflects the increasing trend towards low-maintenance homes that offer buyers more than just space for 2.4 kids and the pets.

It’s not just the developers that are noting this trend through. The 2020 McGrath Report said that we would increasingly see a “move to minimalism”, resulting in smaller homes that were easier to maintain. Furthermore, they also brought to light the fact that more and more people are looking to live in apartments or townhouses, as these homes offer them exactly the lifestyle they’re looking for at far more affordable prices. However, that’s not the only reason people are moving, according to McGrath.

“Demographics are driving the move towards more affordable, minimalist homes. Two megatrends – the ageing population and the shrinking family, mean fewer people per Australian residence,” property expert John McGrath said. In other words, there’s no need for a big home when there’s only two or three of you.

“Increasingly time poor homeowners want more flexibility and lower maintenance properties to suit their busy lifestyles. Many people don’t have time to mow lawns or clean large residences anymore.”

According to data from the CommSec Economic Insights 2018 report, the land size of Australian homes grew by 30 per cent in the 30 years to 2018, however the average size of our homes (houses and apartments combined equal 186.3sq m) is now the smallest it’s been in more than two decades.

Because of our modified mindset around our household foot print, our communities are changing shape. McCrindle Research reports that in Sydney and Melbourne two-thirds of all new housing approvals are for high and medium density properties, rather than the traditional detached homes of the past. The growing focus on environmental impacts is also helping the push towards smaller houses, apartments and townhouses.

“This densification is creating walkable communities, multi-use areas where people live, work and play in a more localised space, and of course increased access to transit and transport hubs,” said social demographer Mark McCrindle in a recent Homes of the Future blog.

Written: 22 February 2020

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