Are Australian properties getting smaller?

By: Sarah Tayler: February 21, 2019, Updated: February 21, 2019

According to research by CommSec in 2017, Australian properties are getting smaller. They reported the average new property size (houses and apartments) has fallen to just 189.8 square metres. In 2016/17 the size of new freestanding houses built in Queensland reportedly dropped 4.4%, but according to Metricon’s Design Director, Adrian Popple, that’s not what they have been seeing.

“The average home size for detached homes hasn’t varied too much. It is from 210 – 230sqm, as an average for a single storey, and 325 – 370sqm as an average for a high-set home,” Adrian told PropertyMash. “However, in saying that we are seeing a trend for alternate styles of accommodation such as dual occupancies, granny flats etc, which will drive down the average size of a home.”

“The demand for people wanting mansion-sized homes is still very strong, especially in the knockdown new build segment. Reduced land sizes in new housing estates is also driving the development of smaller, more compact home designs, with a focus on affordability,” said Adrian. Another factor which is thought to play a role in the overall average property size getting smaller is the increase in new apartments being built, which is now 47% off all new residentail property built in Australia.

Although new property in Australia is thought to be getting smaller, our homes are still bigger than most other counties, with only America’s McMansions coming in 8% larger than Australia. The size of freestanding homes in Australia is thought to have peaked six years ago, however, even with the size downturn, freestanding homes being built now are still 30% bigger than 30 years ago.

State by state, Tasmania are building the smallest houses (195.5sqm), compared to Victoria, who are building the largest houses (242.2sqm). While in apartments, ACT have the smallest at a compact 95.8sqm, compared to the Northern Territory, who are building the largest apartments at 154.5sqm.

Which areas of the house are going to be affected?

“Obviously something has to give when reducing the size of a home,” said Adrian. “We tend to reduce the overall size proportionally so the home is functional. Some specific areas that tend to be reduced are garages, laundries and a separate toilet.” One thing that has become more popular in both new apartments and new homes is the multi-purpose room (MPR). No longer afforded the luxury of a separate dining room, office, kids’ playroom, or guest bedroom — the MPR can be transformed at the drop of a hat with sliding walls, concealed storage, and carefully chosen furniture.

The question on everyone’s mind at this point, is what is the benefit of a smaller home? Well, that’s a slightly grey area.

Pros and cons of building a smaller property

PROS

In terms of money, the maintenance, upkeep and bills for a smaller property will cost you less. You will also be able to choose a smaller block of land, which could mean you can afford to buy in a more desirable location.

CONS

On the flip side, it is not actually any cheaper to build a smaller house, per square metre. The most costly parts of building a new home tend to be bathrooms and kitchens, and although these might be more compact in a smaller house, you still have to buy all the same appliances etc. According to Adrian, the cost per square metre to build your compact house might actually be more than a standard size.

“Interestingly, the price per square metre gets higher, the smaller the home,” Adrian reported. “That’s driven mainly by what is included in an average home. Wet areas are the costliest areas of the home and they don’t tend to be taken out as the home gets smaller. Overall though, long term running costs and maintenance would be less for a smaller home.”

The other downside is space, whether it is one less bedroom, or a smaller kitchen, those square metres have got to come from somewhere.

What does this mean for the Queensland property market?

The good news is, on the whole, it should be more affordable. With a smaller block of land, lower maintenance costs, and — although the cost per square metre to build might be higher — you don’t have to pay for as many square metres, so you should come out on top in terms of cost. Not to mention a smaller home requires less furnishings. As home designs are getting smarter, although it might be compact, your new home shouldn’t feel small.

Designer by Metricon Metro 31 compact new home designs
Designer by Metricon Metro 31: compact 31sqm floor plan ideal for narrow blocks (just 10.5m wide. Image by Metricon.
Designer by Metricon Metro 31 compact new home designs
Designer by Metricon Metro 31: compact 31sqm floor plan ideal for narrow blocks (just 10.5m wide. Image by Metricon.
Designer by Metricon Metro 31 compact new home designs
Designer by Metricon Metro 31: compact 31sqm floor plan ideal for narrow blocks (just 10.5m wide. Image by Metricon.
Designer by Metricon Metro 31 compact new home designs
Designer by Metricon Metro 31: compact 31sqm floor plan ideal for narrow blocks (just 10.5m wide. Image by Metricon.
Designer by Metricon Metro 31 compact new home designs
Designer by Metricon Metro 31 compact new home designs
Designer by Metricon Metro 31 compact new home designs
Designer by Metricon Metro 31 compact new home designs

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