Median Lot Size Decreases To Less Than One-Fifth Of An Acre

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The median lot size peaked at 10,000 square feet in 1995 and has dipped since then

September 01, 2016

Builders are having to make do with considerably less space.

NAHB Eye on Housing found, through the Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction (SOC), that the median lot of a new single-family detached home sold in 2015 has decreased to less than 8,600 square feet. The figure, a little less than one-fifth of an acre, is the lowest since the data has been tracked.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median lot size peaked at 10,000 square feet in 1995 and has dipped since then, except for a short return to a median of 9,500 square feet in 2007.

The change in density can be attributed to high land prices, cautious post-recession business practices, and homeowner desire to live in a pedestrian-friendly, close-knit community.

Broken down by region, lots in the Pacific (0.15 acres), West South Central (0.16), and Mountain (0.17) zones are all less than the median lot size of 0.19 acres; South Atlantic (0.20), Middle Atlantic (0.20), West North Central (0.22), and East North Central (0.24) are a hair above. The East South Central zone, which includes Mississippi and Tennessee, has a bit more room at 0.30 acres.

Larger lot sizes have some downsides. New England (0.51 median lot size) has kept its traditionally strict zoning laws, but state representatives are trying to change that. In June, the Massachusetts’ Senate passed the Comprehensive Zoning Reform bill to reduce sprawl, preserve forests and farmland, and build more homes with walkable neighborhoods.

While lot sizes are decreasing, homes are getting larger. According to Q4 2015 data from the NAHB, a new single-family home has 2,446 square feet of floor space. In 1995, the median house size was 1,920 square feet.

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