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Survey: New homes smaller, greener

By: Denise M. Champagne//March 16, 2011

Survey: New homes smaller, greener

By: Denise M. Champagne//March 16, 2011//

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iStock image used with permission.

The houses of the future — at least for the next five years — are going to continue a current trend of being smaller and greener. The smaller-size homes, according to a recent study by the National Association of Home Builders, are changing the ways homeowners use space.

The traditional living room, for instance, is being replaced with an open great room, combining dining, kitchen and living areas.

“McMansions, as they called them through the mid- and late-90s, have kind of gone off to the wayside,” said Rick Herman, executive vice president of Rochester Home Builders’ Association Inc. “There are still some big homes, but they are fewer. They’re reshifting and resizing that space.”

He said another trend is using more “bonus” space such as lower levels (formerly called basements) where couples may add a bedroom and a small bathroom for their grandchildren.

“I think people’s lifestyles have changed,” Herman said. “My lifestyle has changed over the last 10 years. I’m looking at doing things smaller. As I get older, I don’t want the upkeep of the house.”

Data from the Census Bureau indicates that the average size of single-family homes peaked in 2007 at 2,521 square feet and have declined to 2,377 square feet in 2010. Locally, Craig Antonelli, president of Antonelli Construction LLC in Perinton, said the average size of homes was about 2,300 in 2006 and 2,100 in 2009.

“People are getting less square footage, but there are more amenities in them,” he said. “They would rather spend the money on the interior finishes and sacrifice a little bit of square footage.”

As an example, he said people may be shrinking the size of their homes, but they are spending money on quality cabinets, granite countertops and higher-end appliances.

Antonelli said the trend follows a declining household size, as well as empty-nesters downsizing their lifestyles with little use for over-sized bedrooms.

“The great room and the open floor plan is extremely popular,” he said. “People like to have their kitchen and great room connected because that’s where the majority of the entertainment is. The new designs are typically wide open so it flows together.”

According to the NAHB survey, 74 percent of the respondents indicated single-family homes will get smaller. Another 65 percent said they will have more green features, while 29 percent indicated there will be more technology.

Antonelli finds the Rochester area follows that trend somewhat. He’s seeing more pre-wiring and cables being incorporated in home building for security systems, central vacuums or sound systems — some of which are added at a later date.

He said people are also downsizing as they become more focused on energy.

“It will cost the homeowner less to heat and cool a smaller home than a larger home,” he said. “People are still spending the same amount of money to be more energy conscious.”

Antonelli, who is RHBA’s immediate past chairman for 2010, said energy efficiency is also realized in different types of insulation, heaters, water tanks, windows and appliances.

He expects current trends to continue for the next four or five years.

“Then we’ll see where the economy takes us and see where we are in five years,” he said. “It’s all cyclical.”

Herman said Rochester homebuyers are incorporating some green features, but that the trend hasn’t really taken off as much as builders thought it might have. He said he doesn’t know if that is because Rochester is so conservative or what, but that many vendors and suppliers are offering green products.

“The demand isn’t there,” Herman said. “Part of it is an education process to the public, letting them know what is out there.”

He said there are rebates available, but many consumers only want to do bits and pieces toward making their homes green and are not eligible for the rebates.

Herman, who was in Washington, D.C., for the National Association of Home Builders legislative conference, said attendees were told Wednesday morning that the housing market will see a good 2011, but won’t really bounce back until the first quarter of 2012.

“Rochester is a little bit different than that and the reason being is we don’t have the foreclosures in Rochester,” Herman said. “Nor do we have the excess inventory. Rochester is the old ‘steady Eddie.’ Rochester is going to continue to be flatlined. There’s nothing wrong with being flatlined in the economic arena we’ve been in in the last couple of years. We’re very confident that we’ve made it over the worst of the worst.”

Results of the survey are detailed in a report, “The New Home in 2015,” available on the association’s website at or at

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