Americans Are Buying Smaller Homes as Prices Skyrocket

Americans Are Buying Smaller Homes as Prices Skyrocket


With sky-high prices and rising mortgage rates, each square foot of space costs more than ever before. Buyers are compromising by turning to smaller homes.

Americans are buying smaller homes than they were at the height of the pandemic. The typical U.S. home that went under contract in March was 1,720 square feet, down 1.8% from 1,751 square feet the same time last year and roughly the same size as the homes that were selling just before the pandemic began. 

The data in this report is from Redfin’s weekly housing-market data. In the first paragraph of this report, “March” refers to the four weeks ending April 10, 2022. To determine the typical size of homes people are buying nationwide, we looked at the median square footage of homes that went under contract during the relevant time periods in all of the metros tracked by Redfin. 

“Buyers are purchasing smaller homes because usually the bigger the home, the more expensive it is,” said Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather. “Even though we’re starting to see signs the housing market is cooling down, it’s still difficult for buyers on a budget to find everything they’re looking for in a home. That’s because there’s still a very limited supply of homes for sale, along with sky-high prices for the ones that are on the market and rising mortgage rates. If buyers don’t want to compromise on location, they probably need to settle for a smaller home.”

Home prices have skyrocketed over the last year with the pandemic-driven boom in homebuyer demand, making each square foot of space cost more than ever before. The median U.S. home-sale price increased 17.3% year over year in March to an all-time high of $413,000 and the median price per square foot increased 20.1% to a record $230. Rapidly rising mortgage rates are exacerbating high housing costs, with the typical monthly mortgage payment on the median-priced home up 35% from a year ago.

Homebuyers are also turning back to condos after demand for them plummeted at the onset of the pandemic. The comeback of condos, which are typically smaller than single-family homes, is one factor in the shrinking square footage of homes that are selling. Additionally, buyers have started to value shared amenities and walkable neighborhoods once again–and the return of in-person work and school means they don’t need as much space.

Americans started buying bigger homes when the pandemic started as people sought more space for remote work, homeschooling and social distancing. The typical home that sold was 1,713 square feet in the four weeks ending March 15, 2020, just before the pandemic started impacting the housing market. It then rose quickly to a peak of 1,791 square feet, the biggest since at least 2015, in June 2020. 

Dana Anderson

Dana Anderson

As a data journalist at Redfin, Dana Anderson writes about the numbers behind real estate trends. Redfin is a full-service real estate brokerage that uses modern technology to make clients smarter and faster. For more information about working with a Redfin real estate agent to buy or sell a home, visit our Why Redfin page.

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