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The Most Easily Misinterpreted Chart on the Future of the Housing Market

The Most Easily Misinterpreted Chart on the Future of the Housing Market
Reuters

The super-sized single family home was the touchstone of the housing boom in the early and mid 2000s. But when new home building peaked and the market started to tumble toward the end of the decade, the big house became the emblem for what went wrong: too many people being given too many loans for too-big houses that were too far beyond their means.

So it wasn't totally surprising that ever since 2006, the average size of new homes started shrinking. According to the latest survey results from the American Institute of Architects, however, bigger homes are coming back.

The increase is modest, but significant. In 2011, 5.1 percent of respondents (in this case, architects representing 500 firms across the country) reported increases in the square footage of the houses they were designing. In the first quarter of 2012, about 7.7 percent are reporting increases. That's up from the lowest point in recent years, 2.7 percent in 2010, but a distant height from a peak of 42 percent in 2005.

For the AIA and architects in general, this is good news. The profession had been hit hard by the housing bust: no building means no designing, and smaller buildings means smaller checks to architects from their clients. Bigger houses mean more work and more money.

Still, it's important to keep in mind that these results are not necessarily evidence of a larger economic recovery. The graph above may merely reflect a combination of historically low interest rates and the tastes of the American population who can still afford to hire an architect to design a new home for them: the richest among us.

Photo credit: Mike Blake / Reuters

Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for The Atlantic Cities. He lives in Los Angeles. All posts »

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