Australia is no longer home to the largest 'McMansions' in the world

Photo by Don Kelsen/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Australia is no longer building the largest houses in the world, according to new research from Commsec – losing a title it’s held for two decades.

According to the study, using data supplied by the ABS, the average floor area of a newly-built detached Australian home stood at 231 square metres last financial year. In comparison, based data from the US Census Bureau, the average size of a detached American house built last year grew to 249.6 square metres – the largest size on record.

So Australia is no longer number one when it comes to building ‘”McMansions”, which according to Wikipedia, is a term generally used to denote a new, or recent, multi-story house of no clear architectural style, which prizes superficial appearance, and sheer size, over quality.

But is this just a US v Australia battle?

“Unfortunately there is no central reference source for the size of homes across the globe,” said Craig James, chief economist at Commsec.

“Still, when we last looked at this issue in 2013, Australia and the US were building the biggest homes in the developed world. And now it seems to be clear that the US has pushed ahead in building even bigger homes while the size of new homes built in Australia have plateaued in recent years.”

The chart below, from Commsec, shows the changing of the baton between Australia and the US in terms of new home sizes:

While Australia is no longer building the biggest houses in the world, they are still far larger than in the past, and compared to other developed nations, says James.

“The average new house built in Australia is still 10% bigger than 20 years ago and in fact over 30% bigger than 30 years ago,” he says.

“European homes are far smaller than in the US or Australia, New Zealand homes are 7% smaller than Australia, and latest data suggests that Canadian homes are around 10% smaller than in Australia.”

So we’re still pretty big, particularly in Victoria.

According to the report, Victorians are building the biggest houses in Australia, ahead of Queensland and New South Wales.

This table from Commsec shows the average size of a newly built house across the country, looking at not only square meterage but also year-on-year growth.

Increased cost, not only for existing houses but also for land, along with a preference for smaller-sized housing and declining household size, goes someway to explaining the moderation in Australia’s average house size seen in recent years.

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