Every week we seem to hear of a new development or trend to come about as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – and one seems set to impact the housing market for the foreseeable future.
You see, after years of house sizes shrinking, and of Aussies favouring low-maintenance homes with petite yards smaller footprints, new homes are getting bigger again.
It comes about as part of a general “rethink” of living arrangements, according to CommSec chief economist Craig James, who says that in recent years, home builders had been overseeing progressively smaller houses on average.
During 2018-19, the CommSec Home Size Trends Report confirms that the average house built was the smallest in almost two decades.
That trend appears to be flipping, however, with the 2020 CommSec report confirming that the average size of a newly built house in Australia in 2019-20 is 235.8m2 – up 2.9 per cent on the previous year.
Newly built apartments also increased in size, with the average new apartment hitting a decade-high of 136.8 square metres, up 6 per cent year-on-year.
“Before last year, Aussie home buyers had been building progressively smaller houses on average. Aussies had embraced apartments as well as smaller houses on smaller lot sizes. In fact, the size of the average house built last year (2018/19) was the smallest in 17 years,” James says.
“So while Aussies built bigger homes over the past year, the big question is whether the decade-long downtrend in home size has ended? COVID-19 may play a big role in answering that question.”
The CommSec Home Trends report shows that even before COVID-19, Australian homebuilders were indicating their preference for slightly bigger homes, James says.
However, government-imposed lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic “have prompted more Aussies to re-assess their housing needs”.
“With more time spent at home for both leisure and work, some Aussies are looking for bigger homes. Others are coming to the belief that the layout of their home needs changing,” he says.
Which state is leading the pack?
Interesting, the state-by-state breakdown of home building trends reveals some interesting trends relevant to different markets.
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While NSW leads the pack in terms of the percentage change, it's the ACT where homes are the biggest – and in the Northern Territory, things are moving in the complete opposite of the national trend:
|Houses built in 2019/20
Average floor area
|State or territory||Square metres||Yr on Yr change|
|New South Wales||235.0||6%|
|Australian Capital Territory||256.3||2.2%|
|Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics; CommSec|
Australians are building the biggest houses in the world, ahead of even the US, the report found.
So what does all of this mean for you as a property investor?
As always, it’s important to be aware of shifting trends and insights related to real estate.
For many years there’s been a noticeable shift away from big homes on big, high-maintenance quarter-acre blogs, with people (in inner cities in particular) preferring low-maintenance living.
After the pandemic forced many of us inside for weeks or months on end, with working from home become a “new normal”, it’s prompting everyone to reassess their lifestyles and their homes.
But will this be a lasting change? It could be too soon to tell.
Over the next year or so as we settle into our post-COVID-19 – or more accurately, “living with COVID-19” – world, it will become clearer whether demand for bigger homes is a trend that is here to stay.
“More Aussies could embrace working from home in a bigger way, opting to move away from apartments in, or near the CBD, in preference for a larger home in a regional or suburban ‘lifestyle’ area,” James adds.
“There have always been shifting trends in the sizes and styles of homes over the past decade and COVID-19 is throwing another element into the mix.”