How Big Should Your Next Home Be?

How big? It’s one of the first things that might come to mind when buying a new home. You likely already know that home sizes in the U.S. increased considerably since the middle of the 20th century. We can bemoan “McMansions” until the cows come home (the term generally connotates poor taste). But the fact is even the most tasteful of homes are built much larger today than they were in previous decades.

That doesn’t mean that bigger is always better. The most important thing is to find a home that suits your needs and your style. But knowing what’s trending in the real estate market will give you an idea of what’s out there for you to explore.

How Big Are Homes Being Built Right Now?

To get an idea of what’s trending in terms of home size, let’s first look at new construction. The latest and most reliable national data comes from the Census Bureau. They report that the average square footage for newly started, single family homes in the Western United States in 2020 was 2,453. That’s about on par for the numbers for 2019, and a decrease from 2018 and 2017. But not by much – a difference of less than 100 square feet. This indicates that home sizes in our region are relatively stable.

This information, however, only gives an idea of home sizes throughout the entire Western region, and only through 2020. So to get a snapshot of what’s going on in Portland specifically, we looked at square footage for currently listed newly constructed, single family homes on We took an average of 50 listings on, filtering out outliers like huge luxury mansions.

Our survey of PortlandHomesForSale came up with an average square footage of 2,696, with a median not too far below at 2,607. Now, the data collected from this is not exhaustive the way that the Census Bureau’s is – think of it more as a poll. But it does suggest that newly constructed homes in Portland may be slightly larger than the regional average.

Will Covid-19 Affect Home Size in Portland?

With families trying to stay closer together, employees still working from home, and everyone feeling a little cooped up, it’s reasonable to expect that folks might want a little more space these days. While inner Portland remains in-demand, there’s no doubt that its suburbs are booming too. And even before the pandemic, Portlanders have been clamoring for more ADUs, whether to rent or to house family.

But it still remains to be seen how exactly Covid-19 will affect home size in Portland. We’ll have a better idea once Census Bureau data becomes available next year. That being said, understanding how recessions affect home size could give us some clues as to what to expect.

According to the National Home Builders Association, home sizes commonly fall during a recession as people feel they need to tighten the belt. But once the economy gets going again, you’ll often see a spike. The following graph illustrates this clearly – home sizes hit a big low around 2008-2009, only to spike again.


However, a slow decline in average floor area since about 2016 may indicate that the market is correcting itself to an overreaction. And yes, 2020 was certainly a difficult year for many. But we think it’s less likely that we’ll see a huge drop in home size. Those with the means to buy, in fact, likely will want larger and more versatile spaces. And now that folks are getting back to work, we could potentially see the first in home size in the coming months since 2016.

So How Big Should Your Next Home Be?

While it’s great to keep abreast of what the market is up to, the answer to this question is highly individual. The right square footage for your next home depends on your personal budget, needs, and lifestyle. In order to sort through those, we recommend you ask yourself the following three questions.

1. What Can My Budget Get Me?

So you’ve settled on a budget. Let’s see what’s available for you! According to the listings at PortlandHomesForSale, homes listed for under $400k hover around 1,000 to 2,000 square feet. For homes listed for $400k to $600k, you’re generally looking at 2,000 to 3,000 square feet. And once you hit $600k to $800k, you’ll start to see homes ranging from 3,000 to 4,000 square feet.

Keep in mind, this is a general rule of thumb, and there are exceptions. For example, you might buy a fixer – and there are programs to help you do that – and get more square feet for less cash.

2. How Large Is My Household?

Sometimes you’ll come across articles that recommend a certain number of square footage per person. In reality, that’s a highly subjective way to look at the situation. Different people feel comfortable in different size spaces. But what you’ll want to think about is the number of bedrooms. On the lower end of the price spectrum (under 400k), you’ll find mostly 2-3 bedroom homes. Once you hit the mid-range going up, homes are more likely to have 4+ bedrooms.

Another thing to consider is ADU potential, especially for anyone thinking about multi-generational living. We recommend checking out the VestorFilter™ on PortlandHomesForSale that allows you to specifically search for homes with separate living quarters.

3. How Much How Do I Want to Handle?

Having a ton of space isn’t for everyone. For one thing, maintenance of a larger home means more costs in the long run. When figuring out your budget, you’ll want to take that cost into account, along with higher property taxes. (Any good home search engine should factor in the estimated property taxes for you, so take a look). But you’ll also want to think about how much house you actually want to manage – there’s the cleaning, for example! One 2018 study out of UCLA found that folks in larger homes tended not to use their extra spaces, keeping mostly to bedrooms, kitchen, and family room. So it is possible to live in a smaller space and be perfectly content!

On the other hand, there’s no denying that the pandemic has changed our relationship to space. It’s understandable to want a larger yard, more storage space for hobbies, a home office, you name it. The National Association of Realtors recently predicted that some of the most trending new spaces will be quarantine stations, recording studios, and pre-fabricated “flex sheds”! So think about what this year has meant to you, and if you’d like to translate what you’ve learned into the home of your dreams.

How to Decide on the Right Size Home for You

Asking the above question is the first step towards finding the right home size for you and your household. But the next step is to actually get into a space and check it out. The more properties you see, the better feel for the square footage you’ll get. When you’re ready to make that jump our top 1% sellers agents and our top 1% buyers’ agents are always available help you out!

April 26, 2021

Stephen FitzMaurice

Stephen FitzMaurice, Realtor is a top 5% real estate agent in the U.S. A Principal Broker in Oregon, Managing Broker in Washington, he has been licensed since 2003 for residential real estate sales. Call his team in Oregon at 503-714-1111 or in Washington at 360-345-3833.

4% max to sell a home in Portland and SW Washington.
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