The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Thursday, October 30, 2003
What our Houses Say about Us
I found this quote on The Ooze blog. It is from the book Affluenza:

"Take houses for example. The average size of a new home is now more than double what it was in the 1950s, while families are smaller. LaNita Wacker, who owns Dream House Reality in Seattle, has been selling homes for more than a quarter century. She takes us on a drive through the neighborhoods near her office to explain whats happened.

She shows us houses built during every decade since World War II and describes how they've gotten bigger and bigger. Right after World War II, Wacker points out, 750 square feet was the norm (in Levittown, for example). "Then in the '50s," she says, "they added 200 square feet, so 950 was the norm." By the 60s, 1,100 square feet was typical, and by the '70s, 1350. Now it's 2,300.

LaNita Wacker started selling homes in 1972, "right about the time we moved from a single bath to the demand for a double bath." Two-car garages came in then too, and by the late '80s many homes were being built with three-car garages. That's 600-900 square feet of garage space alone, "as much square footage as an entire family used in the early '50s." Wacker says. "It would house an entire family. But we have aquired a lot of stuff to store."

To drive the point home, Wacker takes us by a huge home with a four car garage. Expensive cars and a boat are parked outside. The owner comes out wondering why LaNita is so interested in his place. "I own Dream House Realty," she says "And yours is a dream house." "It was built to the specifications of charming wife," the man replies with a laugh. "So why four garages?" asks LaNita. "It's probably because of storage," the man replies, explaining that the garages are filled with family possessions. "You never have enough storage so you can never have enough garages," he adds cheerfully. LaNita asks if he has children. "They're gone now," he replies. "It's just me and the wife."

The four-car garage is an exception, no doubt. But everyone expects larger homes now." A master bedroom in the 1950s would be about 130 square feet." explains Wacker, "Now, in even moderately priced homes, you're talking about maybe 300 square feet devoted to the master bedroom."

In recent years more than ever, homes have become a symbol of conspicuous consumption, as beneficiaries of the recent stock market boom and unparalleled economic expansion have begun, in many communities, to buy real estate, bulldoze existing (and perfectly functional) homes and replace them with the megahouses of 10,000 square feet and more. "Starter castles," some have named them. Others call them "Monster Homes."