Now, bigger is definitively better again when it comes to houses. In these postlockdown times, home buyers seem desperate for more space, whether for a big yard, a dedicated home office or two, maybe a homeschooling area, home gym, or an extra bedroom or three. Palatial abodes are topping most buyers’ wish lists.
Not long ago, it seemed just about everyone was obsessed with the tiny-home trend. So cute! So teensy! People were wondering: Just how small can a home get while still being cool and remotely functional? Well, we may never find out. Because, as with many things in the past year, the coronavirus pandemic has turned the “less is more” mentality on its head.
Even the long derided McMansion—those oversized, column-bedecked, architecturally confused totems of the ostentatious ’80s and ’90s—are ultrahot again. It’s true!
Large homes, clocking in at 4,000 square feet and up, were selling faster in more than 70% of the 150 largest metro areas in February compared with the same month last year. The realtor.com® data team set out to find which metropolitan areas have the highest percentage of supersized residences up for sale, so buyers can revel in all that extra square footage.
We looked at the 150 largest metros with the highest percentage of single-family homes measuring 4,000 square feet and more on the market in February. (For perspective, the average square footage of a new single-family home was 2,500 in 2020, according to U.S. Census data.) We also limited our list to one metro per state. Metros include the main city and surrounding towns, suburbs, and smaller urban areas.
One massive caveat: There’s no way to separate large, tasteful homes from the more garish McMansions in our data. They’re all part of the burgeoning mammoth-home mix! Tread carefully.
So which are America’s housing markets with the biggest cribs, and why? Let’s take a look.
1. Provo, UT
More people are flocking to Provo, UT, and they’re looking for large homes with mountain views.(Getty Images)
Median list price for homes 4,000 square feet and above: $1.04 million
Less than an hour from Salt Lake City, Provo has experienced a tech boom in recent years. It’s little surprise that, with remote work having become the norm for many white-collar workers, more are deciding to make the move from the West Coast to this lower-priced metro.
For example, the median home price was $1.2 million in Silicon Valley’s San Jose, CA, in February and $599,000 in Salt Lake City compared with $541,950 in Provo. Hey, if you can work from anywhere, why not save some dough?
The area’s large Mormon population is also spurring demand for larger homes. Mormons tend to have more children than other religious groups in the U.S., according to a 2015 Pew Research Center report—an average of 3.4 children, compared with 2.1 for all Americans. After a year of living in close quarters, many of these families are clamoring for some extra breathing room.
While inventory is tight, prospective buyers can snag this seven-bed, 3.5-bath manse in the Foothill Park neighborhood for $819,900. It boasts a grand master bedroom with an attached office for people who just need to shut the door and get to work with limited distractions.
Median list price for homes 4,000 square feet and above: $2.7 million
The Bridgeport metro area, which includes tony Fairfield County, has long attracted financiers and corporate executives seeking massive abodes. That’s due to the area’s close proximity to New York City.
However, after the 2008 financial crisis, demand for excessive homes waned and many languished on the market. Recovery in the high-end market had been slow here before COVID-19, according to Elizabeth Casey, a local Realtor who’s with William Raveis Real Estate. Today, she has far more buyers than there are houses for sale.
“Basically with the pandemic, suddenly everyone is home and a lot of people realize their home was just too small,” Casey says. “If you have a family of five that’s going to be home 24/7, you’re going to need a bigger house.”
Where exactly buyers are looking depends largely on their budget. For the few who can afford them, Greenwich and Darien are among the most desirable towns in the metro. Other towns like Fairfield have easy train access to Manhattan, nearby beaches, and a wider range of home prices and sizes.
For those looking to spend less, Casey says a home that goes for $2 million in Fairfield would be about $1 million in nearby Trumbull, which offers larger yards and great schools.
But no matter where home buyers are looking, pools seem to be atop everyone’s wish list. And with pool companies booked through the summer, nearly every home with a pool sells quickly, no matter the interior.
“You can fix a kitchen,” Casey says. “But you’re not putting in a pool in this year.”
3. Denver, CO
Median list price for homes 4,000 square feet and above: $1.4 million
Like Provo, Denver is another tech hub that’s been growing in recent years.
Demand for large homes was steady before the pandemic, says Jenny Usaj, co-owner of Usaj Realty in downtown Denver. But in recent months, a combination of factors has led to bidding wars and properties coming on and off the market at a head-spinning pace.
“Interest rates are low, people saved up for a whole year—whether they meant to or not—and people just need more space,” Usaj says.
Buyers are looking at Denver proper, but with prices rising quickly, suburbs like Lakewood, Golden, and Littleton are becoming hot spots. One of the must-haves are those Rocky Mountain views, especially for people making the move from other places like California.
In terms of amenities, size matters more than style nowadays. Buyers here are most focused on renovated homes with enough space to accommodate their career and lifestyle needs.
“One of my clients said that everyone now needs 1,000 square feet per person,” Usaj says.
With that math, a family of four would need a 4,000-square-foot home. At least.
If you’re ready to make the move, check out this Tuscan-style villa with four bedrooms, four bathrooms, and a dedicated office space for $1.6 million.
People who would usually commute to Washington, DC, are expanding their home searches to the suburbs.(Getty Images)
Median list price for homes 4,000 square feet and above: $1.8 million
The Washington, DC, metro area is a large one, comprising parts of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. Many residents were commuters before the pandemic. But now with the ability for many workers to go remote, the distance to the city center isn’t quite as important, says home builder Mark Stahl, of Stahl Homes in Virginia.
“There’s no longer this need for a five-minute commute or a 10-minute commute, or to be a metro stop away from your office,” Stahl explains.
Because of this, potential buyers are expanding their home search to the outer suburbs like Herndon, VA, and Frederick, MD. However, that doesn’t mean they want to be completely removed from the city. With limited inventory and space, people are buying smaller homes built in the 1950s and 1960s with the express purpose of tearing them down and putting up larger ones.
Styles have changed, though, since the McMansion boom of the 1990s, and Stahl says he’s incorporating softer features like gables and front porches into new builds. What hasn’t changed, he says, is nearly all of his clients are looking to build as big as they can on the lot they have. Some buyers are even eschewing yards and garages in favor of more living space.
Median list price for homes 4,000 square feet and above: $8.2 million
Similar to Bridgeport, CT, Santa Barbara is known as an enclave for the ultrawealthy. (Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have put down roots in the community of Montecito.) Mansions are simply de rigueur.
Sales have been strongest in the luxury market, according to analysis done by Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Montecito. In the fourth quarter, the number of sold homes more than doubled in Montecito and equally fancy Hope Ranch, both in Santa Barbara County.
For those who aren’t afraid to drop a few mil, you can snag a move-in-ready, four-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom home complete with pool, putting green, and separate guest wing for everyone who’s going to want to come visit, for $4.4 million.
Families are looking to upgrade while young professionals able to work remotely are returning to Indianapolis, IN.(Getty Images)
Median list price for homes 4,000 square feet and above: $691,750
It was a seller’s market in Indianapolis before the pandemic hit and the health crisis exacerbated it, says real estate agent Dan O’Brien, of Trueblood Real Estate.
Families in the area are looking to upgrade, while an influx of younger people who can suddenly work remotely are returning to the Midwest from larger cities so they can be closer to family.
While those groups may not seem to have much in common, one thing is for sure: They both want more square footage.
“For lower property taxes and with low mortgage rates, [millennials from out of state] can get a house of the same caliber for a quarter of the price,” O’Brien says. That’s particularly true if they’re moving back from one of the nation’s most expensive parts of the country, like the San Francisco Bay Area.
Demand is highest in Hamilton County, IN, where, again, space is key. Young couples are putting a priority on each partner getting an office space.
Check out this massive three-bed, 2.5-bath ranch in Fishers, IN, complete with an executive office and an impressive basement that’s just itching to be turned into a home workout area.
7. Boston, MA
Median list price for homes 4,000 square feet and above: $2.2 million
In the Boston area, once high-in-demand townhomes are struggling to sell as buyers look for more space.
Because of travel restrictions, more people are making their homes do triple duty: as home, office/school, and vacation retreat, says Gary Kaufman of Keller Williams Realty in the Boston suburb of Needham, MA. He has a home under contract that has an indoor golf simulator and a refrigerated ice rink.
Still, Kaufman says buyers are prioritizing square footage over extravagance.
“The McMansion trend was really about showing off, keeping up with the Joneses,” Kaufman says. “Because of COVID, it’s now more about getting that space.”
Kaufman’s clients are looking just about anywhere they can find large homes, but he says the MetroWest area, about 20 minutes from downtown Boston, is most popular. It includes the suburbs of Needham, Wellesley, and Newton.
8. Atlanta, GA
Atlanta has long been home to large houses thanks to its sprawling suburbs.(Getty Images)
Median list price for homes 4,000 square feet and above: $985,000
The Atlanta metro area has always been associated with large homes, thanks to its sprawling suburbs. Lately though, it’s difficult to keep them on the market—and bidding wars have ensued on some of the biggest places. A surge of out-of-state buyers used to eye-popping prices aren’t blinking at properties that are expensive for the area.
“Atlanta has always had a healthy appetite for these bigger, grandiose homes in certain areas,” says real estate broker Tim Hur, of Point Honors and Associates. “But now I think it’s been exacerbated because people are doing better in the stock market, they’re working from home, and they need that space.”
Gated communities and developments near golf courses have been very much in demand.
Check out this massive new build with six bedrooms, 5.5 baths, and a finished basement, conveniently located near Ansley Golf Club.
9. Miami, FL
Median list price for homes 4,000 square feet and above: $3.5 million
Business is booming in Miami’s luxury real estate market, with out-of-staters flocking south for lower taxes and toastier weather. While the number of international buyers hasn’t quite bounced back due to travel restrictions, buyers from hubs like New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio are more than making up the difference, according to real estate agent Jim Norton, of Coldwell Banker Global Luxury.
Families with three or four children are looking for five-bedroom homes, usually with the intention of turning at least one of the bedrooms into an office space.
Clients looking for larger homes are buying in places including Weston, Coral Springs, and South Miami. These homes can sell for anywhere from $850,000 to $2 million on average, depending on the neighborhood and amenities.
If more space is what you’re after, check out this massive home in Weston, complete with five bedrooms, a dedicated office space, and 5.5 baths.
10. Reno, NV
Median list price for homes 4,000 square feet and above: $3.3 million
Thanks to its low cost of living and temperate weather, Reno has become a haven for retirees in recent years. A couple of months into the pandemic, though, things began to change, says real estate broker Erika Lamb, of Welcome Home Reno Real Estate & Property Management.
With more people working from home and Reno’s close proximity to San Francisco, tech workers have been flooding the market for large properties that provide access to skiing or Lake Tahoe. Renters are also looking for micro-mansions to call home.
High-end buyers tend to prefer homes near golf courses that have mountain views.
“With so many working from home, the homes with views seem to bring a sense of peace to those buyers,” Lamb says.