Aussie homes are getting smaller

The average floor size of an Australian home (inclusive of houses and apartments) has fallen to a 20-year low, according to a study conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for CommSec.

The average size of new homes is now 189.8 square metres (m²), down 2.7% over the past year and the smallest since 1997.

“The smaller home size reflects the increased building of apartments (around half of all new building is apartments). But Australians are also still building big free-standing houses,” CommSec said. “The average new house built in 2016/17 was 233.3 square metres, the biggest in four years and more than 11 per cent bigger than 20 years ago. In fact the average house built today is over 30 per cent bigger than 30 years ago (the 1986/87 financial year).”

Not only are houses built over the past year bigger than in previous decades, but the standard fit-out in contemporary homes has improved, with quality kitchens, bathrooms, and floor coverings, as well as attractive inclusions like air-conditioners.

Victorians are building the largest houses in the country: In 2016-17, the average floor area of houses in the state was 242.8m², followed by Western Australia (242.5m²), NSW (230.0m²), and Queensland (227.3m²).

The smallest new houses are being constructed in Tasmania (195.5m²) and the ACT (197.0m²).

When it comes to global rankings, the United States still builds the biggest houses in the world (204.3m²), followed by Australia (189.8 m²), New Zealand (178.3m²), and Turkey (151.1m²).

Household sizes have also evolved, with the number of people per dwelling rising from 2006 to 2013. “Children were staying home longer with their parents – no doubt the cost of homes and rising rents being key influences, CommSec said. “With the ageing population, more generations were choosing to stick together in the one dwelling – a trend that is a consequence of the increased size and quality of homes.

“New migrants also chose to stay with family or friends. And given the increased preference to attend universities and colleges, Generation Y was forced to share accommodation and save longer to buy a home.”

However, since 2014, the number of people per dwelling has once again begun to drop, according to quarterly data from the ABS. “Lower interest rates and the increased supply of cheaper apartments (compared with houses) have prompted older couples to down-size. More Generation Y have been looking to move out of home and take ownership of accommodation more appropriate to their needs.”