Australians are now building bigger homes for the first time in 11 years

A new report has revealed that Australian homes are now on par with the US as the largest in the world. This is in defiance of the trends towards smaller homes that has been observed over the last 10 or so years.

The new findings come from data provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and compiled by CommSec, showing the average new house built in 2019-20 was 235.8 sqm, up 2.9% — the biggest increase in 11 years. By contrast, the average size of a new, single-family house built in the US was 233.1 sqm, down 2.9% on the year prior.

Across the country, the only place to record a fall in house size over the 2019-20 period was the Northern Territory. New South Wales lead the house growth trend with a 6% size increase, although the ACT remained the home of large houses with the average of the region being 256.3 sqm (up 2.2% from last period, followed by Victoria at 250.3 sqm. The smallest new houses were built in Tasmania, while the biggest townhouses and apartments were in Victoria, followed by Western Australia.

Houses built in 2019-20

StateSquare metres% change on year
South Australia204.53.3%
Western Australia232.53.1%
Northern Territory189.5-5.4%
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, CommSec

The move towards larger houses has surprised some analysts as during 2018-19, the average house built was the smallest in 17 years. However, it’s likely that the move for bigger houses was driven in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the many government-funded schemes given homebuilders and renovators slightly more money than usual – money which they have evidently used to make their home a little larger. Recent experiences with quaratines and lockdowns have also incentivised buyers to look for homes with plenty of space for each individual living in it. Trends to butler’s pantries, mud rooms (storage for boots, coats and wet clothing) and home theatres have also given more families justification to build bigger homes.

Apartment sized have similarly increased since 2018. The average apartment increased by 6% over 2019-20, growing to a decade high of 136.8 sqm. Apartment sizes, which hit a 22-year low in 2017/18 before a slight increase in home size in 2018/19, have now lifted for the past two years.

Apartments built in 2019-20

StateSquare metres% change on year
South Australia149.87.5%
Western Australia150.5-3.4%
Northern Territory145.34.7%
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, CommSec

Overall, the average new home — both houses and apartments — built over the year was 195.8 sqm, up by 3% over the year to a six-year high.

While Australians are once again building the biggest houses in the world, when the sizes of houses and apartments are combined, the US is still larger overall, with an average size of 197.4 sqm versus 195.8 sqm in Australia. The size of the average new house in both Australia and the US is around 235 sqm.

Do you think the trend for larger homes will continue? Or do you think that post-COVID-19, we’ll be back at looking for smaller homes? Let us know in the comments below.

Written: 25 November 2020

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