Since the housing crash of 2008, there’s been a lot of talk about Americans downsizing. Some sang the praises of tiny houses. Millennials, some said, are rejecting lawns and large homes for apartments in the city. Some went as far as to predict McMansion-filled suburbs turning to slums. Meanwhile, recently released U.S. Census estimates show, Charlotte area homes only got bigger since 2000.
And though the recession might have slowed the trend for larger homes, it did not reverse it. In Mecklenburg and five surrounding counties, the percentage of homes with four or more bedrooms increased between 2000 and 2013, while the percentage of one-bedroom homes declined, according to the American Community Survey one-year estimates released last month. In Union County, for instance, the percentage of homes with four or more bedrooms almost doubled.
Source: American Community Survey, U.S. Census
The larger-house trend was most noticeable in Union County (southeast of Charlotte's home county, Mecklenburg, see map right), where the percentage of housing units with four or more bedrooms went from 17.8 percent in 2000 to 35.4 percent. The largest homes, those with five or more bedrooms, now make up 11.7 percent of Union County’s housing stock. Cabarrus County also saw steep growth in the share of four- and five-bedroom homes, going from 14.9 percent of housing units in 2000 to 25.2 percent in 2013. Homes with five or more bedrooms now make up 7.1 percent of Cabarrus’ housing stock, compared with 2 percent in 2000.
Local Realtors say a number of factors have lead to larger home sizes, including the general growth of the Charlotte metro area, and new norms for living arrangements.
"Families don't put two kids in the same bedroom any more, and most people want that bonus room," says Maren Brisson-Kuester, president-elect of the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association. "Those five-bedroom homes - nine out of 10 are four bedrooms with a bonus room."
Even in Mecklenburg County, where condos and apartments are rising at a fast pace near uptown Charlotte, the trend is for larger homes. The percentage of housing units that were studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units fell, while three-, four- and five-plus-bedroom units rose between 2000 and 2007. The rise in larger houses was not as steep in Mecklenburg as in Union – the percentage of homes with five or more bedrooms increased from 3 percent to 5.1 percent, for instance.
"With the apartment buildings, what you're seeing is two different populations," says Joe Rempson, president of the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association. "The 25- to 35-year-old age group, the young professionals, those people are looking to live closer to the city in apartments. The homes being built for families are still larger."