A three-bedroom, two-story, single-family house with two bathrooms, central air-conditioning, a gas furnace and working fireplace on a 17,590 square-foot lot. Those were the characteristics of the typical new home of the 496,000 built in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. With baby boomers now becoming empty nesters, new homes are shrinking—down to 2,392 square feet from 2,438 in 2009. The average sales price was $272,900, up from $270,900 in 2009 but a steep drop from previous years when new homes sold for $292,600 in 2008 and $313,600 in 2007.
Split level homes, popular in the 1970s, accounted for only one percent of the homes built in 2010. Two stories were preferred to one, separated by five percentage points: 52 to 47. Fifty-two was also the percentage of homes with three bedrooms; only a third of those built had four. The number of bathrooms tended to go up along with the number of bedrooms but most homes had two to two-and-a-half. A few vestiges of excess remained from better days—17 percent of the homes had garages that held three cars or more and five percent had two or more fireplaces (49 percent had one).
Almost every home built in the South had central air conditioning (one percent did not) but the national average for central air now stands at 88 percent. The primary type of heating system was a warm-air furnace, which was installed in 56 percent of homes. Of those, 86 percent used gas, 13 percent used electricity and only one percent used oil.
Of the homes built with something other than a warm-air furnace, 38 percent had heat pumps. That’s a technology that fared well in Consumer Reports tests. We found great potential for energy savings from water heaters that use a heat pump to draw heat from the air to heat water. One tested model by A.O Smith delivered an annual savings of 59 percent over conventional electric water heaters. Solar water heaters also showed a lot of potential in our tests, with one model by Eagle Sun delivering an average 55 percent savings. But new homes built with solar capabilities comprised a very small percentage in 2010.
You can read the full report on the website of the U.S. Census Bureau.
—Mary H.J. Farrell