Americans, Homes and the ‘Goldilocks' Factor

Mike Sorohan msorohan@mba.org

March 02, 2017

When it comes to their homes, Americans want bigger--except when they want smaller.

"Americans are a lot like Goldilocks," according to a new survey conducted on behalf of Trulia, San Francisco. "They're looking for a place that feels ‘just right' and in most cases want a home that's a different size than the one they're living in now."

The survey, conducted for Trulia by Harris Poll, asked Americans about the space they live in and their ideal home size. The results--even as U.S. home sizes continue to get bigger--was a lot of dissatisfaction.

Key survey findings:

--Most Americans aren't satisfied with their current home size. Less than one-third (32 percent) would choose a home the same size as the one they're currently living in if they decided to move in a year. That number drops to 29 percent of households when asked what they would need in 10 years.

--Bigger homes are not always the key to satisfaction. Of those currently living in homes larger than 2,000 square feet, more would choose a smaller home than the one they're living in than a larger one if they decide to move this year (60.6 percent vs. 39.4 percent).

--For those currently living in homes sized 2,001-2,600 square feet, more than 6 percent more Americans would move into a smaller home compared to a larger home (52.1 percent vs. 49.1 percent), and the share wanting to downsize as home sizes decrease. Of those currently living in homes sized 2,601-3,200 square feet, 35 percent more households would move into a smaller home than larger one (67.4 percent vs. 32.7 percent). For those living in the largest homes--more than 3,200 square feet--41 percent more households would like a smaller abode than a larger one (70.3 percent vs 29.7 percent).

--Even after controlling for size of current home, age matters. Many more boomers (ages 55+) want to downsize than upsize (36 percent vs. 23 percent); most Millennials, ages 18-34, want to go big (46 percent).

--The breakpoint of when more households prefer to downsize than upsize is around an annual household income of $150,000. For those making under $150,000, the desire to upsize is large with 65 percent saying they would move into a larger home if they had to move this year. On the other hand, 53 percent of those making over $150,000 would actually move into a smaller one.

--In general, young Americans want to upsize while older Americans are looking for smaller abodes if they decided to move this year. Those under the age of 56 would much prefer to move into larger homes than smaller ones if they decided to move this year. Thirty-three percent more Millennials would want to move into a larger home than what they're currently living in than a smaller one (46 percent vs. 13 percent), while 47 percent and 18 percent more of those aged 35-44 and 45-54, respectively, would choose a larger home if they decided to move this year (57 percent vs. 10 percent; 38 percent vs. 20 percent).

--On the other hand, those over 55 are looking to downsize: 7 percent and 20 percent more of those aged 55-64 and over 65, respectively, would prefer a smaller abode rather than a larger one if they decided to move this year (28 percent vs. 35 percent; 18 percent vs. 38 percent). For the older folks, the difference is even more pronounced when asked what size home they would need in 10 years' time. For those aged 55-64, the share who want to downsize jumps to 34 percent from 7 percent, and for those over 65, it jumps from 20 percent to 40 percent.

"What does all of this say about home size preferences in the U.S.?" said Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist with Trulia. "For one, many Americans are living in a world of home size mismatch...The key to satisfaction, it seems, may be a swap of homes between these two generations."

The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Trulia from February 1-3among 2,1 75 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. It can be accessed at https://www.trulia.com/blog/trends/home-size-survey-march-16/.

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