The average size of an American home is on the rise. According to census data, the average new home is around 2500 square feet, which is roughly 50% more area than the average 1970’s era home. Houses of today often have larger rooms than houses of the past. They also typically have an extra bedroom and bathroom.
This expansion has come at a cost: The American lawn.
The first diagram below shows what the average house looked like in 1978, when it measured 1,650 square feet and sat on 0.22 acres. The second shows its counterpart from 2015. As homes have grown larger, the lots they’re built on have actually gotten smaller—average area is down 13 percent since 1978, to 0.19 acres. That might not seem like a lot, but after adjusting for houses’ bigger footprints, it appears the median yard has shrunk by more than 26 percent, and now stands at just 0.14 acres, a substantial reduction.
What are the reasons for this shift? The main reason is simple. When Americans are faced with a choice of a bigger house or a bigger lawn, most will select the larger house. Although our culture wants to have it all, the shrinking lawn becomes an economic compromise. Adding square footage to a home causes the price to skyrocket. That leaves the lawn to take the size hit, and buyers can have larger houses by making the difference up with lower land costs for smaller lots.
Many buyers are also selecting smaller lots for less yard maintenance. Large lots require a significant amount of time and energy to keep them maintained to many HOA standards. They also require more watering, which is another added expense. If you don’t have a green thumb or an active interest in landscaping, you may have to pay to hire someone to care for the yard for you.
Landscape is an important component of your home inspection, and these trends are evident. We’ve heard clients reminisce about how (in the homes of their youth) they could throw a baseball and never be in danger of hitting the house next door. We’ve also heard clients express joy about how much more time they will have to do things they enjoy now that they are not caring for such an expansive lawn. Many people are also citing environmental issues as their desire for less turf-grass.
What is your take on the shrinking lawn?