New analysis tracks housing starts in nonmetropolitan areas. From 2011 to 2017, single-family housing starts in these areas grew 40 percent, versus 97 percent growth for total single-family homes started.
Nonmetro single-family starts in the U.S. totaled 79,000 in 2017, out of 848,000 total starts. According to the National Association of Home Builders' analysis, home building in nonmetro areas is distinctive for having a "relatively high" share of custom homes built on the homeowner's land, including both contractor and owner built homes. The average size of a single-family home in a nonmetro in 2017 was 2,148 square feet, versus 2,639 within metropolitan areas.
The term rural, at least as used by the Federal Government, means something entirely different—territory outside of densely settled urban areas that tend to be much smaller than entire counties. The map below shows metropolitan areas in shades of blue, and urban areas in dark colors. So the dark blue is urban territory inside metros, and the dark maroon is urban territory outside of metros. Urban areas outside of metros appear as very fine dots that may be difficult to see without magnifying the image. It is easy to see, however, that the vast majority of land in the U.S. is rural. As the light blue shows, there is a lot of rural territory even within metropolitan areas.