By Alison Rice
Conducted every two years by the U.S. Census Bureau, the American Housing Survey collects all sorts of information on the country’s housing stock, from the size and amenities of a home or apartment to details on the number of people who live there and why they chose that particular place as their living quarters. The 2011 survey covers 115 million housing units, which includes both owner-occupied homes and renters.
he survey results provide an ongoing statistical portrait of the typical American home, which has a median size of 1,800 square feet and was built in 1974. New homes tended to be larger than that, with a median size of 2,200 square feet. That tends to translate into more rooms as well; 74% of newer homes had three or more bedrooms compared to 64% of older homes, and 83% of newer homes had two or more bathrooms, compared to 52% of older homes.
But the most interesting data for new-home builders are deep in the survey, where the Census gathered information on how the country’s 3.5 million “recent movers” found their home and what mattered the most to them in the decision. In some areas, those answers and priorities varied significantly between recent movers overall and the 311,000 recent movers who purchased a house built within the past four years.
Here are a handful of the most relevant ways these newer home buyers revealed themselves to be different from recent home buyers overall:
Less successful usage of Realtor.com for home buying research: 17% of all recent movers found their home through online listing service Realtor.com versus 10% for those who chose new construction.
More usage of the daily newspaper for real estate information: While 3% of all recent movers found their home through a daily newspaper, 5% of new construction homeowners did.
More importance placed on room layout and design: A whopping 49% of newer construction buyers said room layout and design was critical in their choice of their current home, versus 33% of recent movers overall. This was in fact the most important factor in new-home buyers’ decision, above financial reasons, construction quality, size, appearance, yard, and “all reasons being equal,” with 24% saying room layout and design was their main reason in choosing their home. That is very different from recent movers overall, who ranked financial reasons (22%) as their main reason in their home choice, followed by “all reported reasons equal” (18%) and then room layout and design (14%).
More emphasis on kitchens in the home decision: Everyone says kitchens sell homes, and they’re right, especially where new homes are concerned. While just 9% of recent movers overall said the kitchen was a factor in their current home choice, 16% of buyers in newer construction did.
More interest in construction quality: Just 15% of recent movers overall said the quality of a home’s construction was a factor in their home choice versus 29% of new-home buyers.
For more information from the American Housing Survey, including detailed tables, please visit the U.S. Census Bureau and American FactFinder.