It’s always been your dream to start a family in the perfect single-family home. As you dive deep into your local housing market, you begin comparing lot sizes. You’re curious what the average single-family lot size is so you can determine whether that’s suitable for your family. What is the most common size?
The most common lot size for single-family homes is 8,177 square feet as of 2019. The size of lots has shrunk, as a decade prior, in 2009, the average lot size was 10,944 square feet. The combination of land shortages and higher asking prices for homes has led to the lot size decrease.
In this guide, we’ll discuss more what the average single-family lot size looks like now compared to how it did in the past. We’ll also talk a lot more about the factors that influence average house lot size today, so make sure you keep reading!
The New Common Lot Size for a Single-Family Home
For many people, the goal is to move from an apartment or a starter home to a sizable single-family home. Yet your chance for a truly sizable single-family home seems to have come several decades too late.
Eye on Housing, a blog run by the National Association of Home Builders or NAHB, paints a dismal picture of the steady decline in single-family lot sizes over the decades.
Back in 1992, the median lot size was a cool 10,000 square feet for a single-family home. By 1998, the square footage was already under 9,500 square feet, and the decline has continued since then.
Sure, in 2007, the square footage of a single-family home bounced back to 9,500 square feet for the first time since the late 1990s after dwindling under 9,000 square feet for much of the 2000s.
That was a minor spike though, and ultimately one that was short-lived.
So that brings us to the 2010s. By 2018, the median size of a single-family lot was 8,982 square feet. In 2019, the number dropped even lower to 8,177 square feet.
And that’s where we are at current. Likely due to COVID-19, there hasn’t been any further data on the common lot size of single-family homes since 2019. We’re sure the numbers-crunching will resume soon enough though, and that when it does, the average lot size could be under 8,000 square feet.
Why Are Lot Sizes Decreasing?
Now, don’t get us wrong, 8,000 square feet is plenty substantial for a single family. It’s more than enough space for a home with several bathrooms and bedrooms as well as a full kitchen and generously-sized living area. The home would have room for both a big, green front yard and a backyard.
Lot sizes throughout America are shrinking though, and here are three reasons why.
American is an industrialist nation. If there’s land to build on, you can bet our country has done it. This is often to the detriment of forests and other natural land sources.
Our country is only so big. Eventually, the time was going to come where there just wasn’t any land left to build on. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re pretty much at that point.
According to a 2021 article on CNBC, from 2012 to 2021, up to 12.3 million households developed across the US. In that same nine-year span, only seven million single-family homes were erected.
That’s a significant shortage of homes. CNBC notes that the rate of construction on single-family homes is as slow as it was in 1995.
This becomes more unfortunate considering that in late 2020 and into 2021, the country experienced a housing boom. More people want homes, but there simply isn’t enough land for teams to build homes for everyone who is interested in one.
With less land to go around, it makes sense that the average single-family home square footage would continually shrink. If a neighborhood has 200,000 square feet of space and each house is 8,000 square feet, there’s room for 25 homes. If each lot is 10,000 square feet, then only 20 homes could be built.
Reduced Priority on Acreage
It also happens that around this time, homebuyers have become less obsessed with how many acres of land they have.
NAHB, in 2018, surveyed homebuyer preferences. According to the survey results, 22 percent of the respondents didn’t have any demands for a lot size when looking for a home. Eighteen percent of buyers were interested in single-family homes on a fourth of an acre, and nine percent wanted a home with an eighth of an acre of space.
Seniors and baby boomers, although not the primary housing market, seems to have fueled this trend. This might have been because in their older age, doing outdoor house maintenance such as yard work might prove too challenging for them.
Regardless, this trend is now in full swing, to the point where even younger homebuyers are not that picky about the square footage of their single-family homes.
Higher Asking Prices
This population of homebuyers’ agreeableness over smaller lot sizes could have a lot to do with the skyrocketing prices of new homes.
Although home prices vary significantly depending on where in the country you live, what’s very clear is that, in the US, the average home price keeps increasing. Investing and financial resource DQYDJ put together the median home price in the US from 1953 through August 2021.
You can comb through all the numbers if you want, but we’ll stick to more recent data. In August 1990, the average price of a home was $98,224.16. By August 2000, average home prices had increased to $137,710.
Let’s review nine years of home pricing data per DQYDJ, with each annual price taken in August of that year:
- 2012 – $180,971.17
- 2013 – $194,167.48
- 2014 – $202,731.15
- 2015 – $213,130.58
- 2016 – $225,654.10
- 2017 – $240,234.44
- 2018 – $254,785.95
- 2019 – $267,001.91
- 2020 – $289,377.02
- 2021 – $342,855.68
Yes, back in 1990, you could buy a new single-family home for under six figures. By 2013, the average price of a new home was nearly $200k. By 2021, the price jumped way over $300k.
Since house prices continue to rise, a smaller home is naturally going to be less expensive than a larger one. It’s no wonder homebuyers aren’t all that picky about acreage!
How Much Space Do You Need for a Single-Family Home?
This information has all been incredibly eye-opening for you. You might have retooled your homebuying plans a little since. Precisely how much room does a single family need to live comfortably? Is it really 8,000 square feet or can you get away with less space?
You can likely downsize quite significantly, as we touched on. Although it will vary for everyone, a home that’s 2,000 square feet as a baseline should suffice for a family. The average person needs at least 400 square feet to themselves to live comfortably, and a 2,000-square-foot home would afford that.
Building a home at that size would cost $147,000 to $436,000, says Pennsylvania homebuilder Southdown Homes.
Tips for Finding Your Perfect Home
Whether that single-family home you want is only 2,000 square feet or closer to 10,000 square feet, it’s out there waiting for you. Here are some tips to help you find it.
Decide Which Features Are Must-Haves
You don’t want to walk into the homebuying process with too rigid of a house ideal in your head. When you do, then you can see many potentially great homes with blinders on just because they don’t meet your very high standards.
Instead of envisioning whether your home will have a brick or wood exterior or whether the shutters will be robin’s egg blue or pale yellow, think about other must-haves.
For example, how many bedrooms should the home have? How many bathrooms? If you do a lot of cooking, then you’ll want a large kitchen. If you have lots of stuff, a garage or basement is a must for storing it all.
Besides the must-haves, make a list of the nice-to-haves as well. For instance, a fireplace would be nice to have, but you can live without it. That’s also true of a swimming pool, a rec room, or a home gym.
Know What You Can Afford
As you get deeper into the homebuying process, you’ll work with a mortgage lender. Through the lender, you’ll know how much you can reasonably afford for a house.
Our recommendation? Look for houses within that price range as well as slightly lower and slightly higher. Yes, that’s right, we said slightly higher. Some home sellers are willing to negotiate prices if you come in with a fair offer.
That said, slightly over means a home that costs maybe $10,000 more than what you said you could afford, not $50,000 or $75,000. Remember, once you commit to owning a home, you have to pay a mortgage every month.
If you can’t afford the house’s asking price, then you likely can’t afford the mortgage either.
Look at as Many Houses as You Can
Pictures are great, videos are better, but nothing replaces the experience of walking through a house and seeing all its nooks and crannies. Schedule open houses and tours as often as you can, even for homes that didn’t get you all that jazzed when you saw them online.
Sometimes, photos don’t do a house justice. You could walk into a house and see that it’s so much better than the photos made it look. In some cases, it can indeed look worse, which happens. At least after the tour, you can cross that house off the list and move on.
Find an Awesome Realtor
Your realtor will be your best friend as you seek your ideal single-family home. They’ll recommend homes for you, schedule your tours, and guide you through the buying process (which is helpful if you’ve never done it before).
Find a realtor you get along well with, as you’re going to spend a lot of time with them in the weeks and months to come.
Be Prepared for Disappointments
You might fall in love with a house only to find out later that it has too many expensive issues for you to put in an offer. In some cases, you might get outbid by another hungry homebuyer. These things will happen.
Try not to get too emotionally attached to a house (which we know is easier said than done), as that makes it easier to steel yourself against the rejections and disappointments that will crop up. At the very least, remind yourself that this wasn’t the home for you, or it would have worked out.
Always Get an Inspection
You found a great house and your offer was approved. Everything’s gravy, right? Not so fast. You must get an inspection done no matter how great a home appears.
An untrained eye can’t detect a home’s potential issues, and sometimes, you get so enamored with a home that you don’t even notice its flaws.
Hire a professional inspector to go through the house. No home is going to be perfect, but if the house has more issues than you can afford to fix, or if the home has severe foundational problems, you might want to think twice about proceeding with the deal.
A single-family home lot is about 8,000 square feet as of 2019. Although that’s the most recent data, history indicates that into the 2020s, the size of the average lot will continue to shrink. This isn’t always such a bad thing, as a smaller lot means the cost of your home will be more affordable!