CommSec’s latest Home Size Report revealed that Australia is once again building the biggest houses in the world, ahead of the United States.
The average new house built in Australia in 2019-20 was 235.8 square metres, up 2.9 per cent on the year, and the biggest increase in 11 years.
On the other hand, US houses built over the 2019 calendar year fell for the fourth year, down 3 per cent to 233.1 square metres.
The report, which draws on data commissioned by CommSec from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and tracks home size over time and details the average size of new houses and apartments built over the last financial year, revealed that the size of the average Australian apartment has also grown over the past year, lifting 6 per cent and hitting a decade high of 136.8 square metres.
CommSec chief economist Craig James said Australian home buyers had been building progressively smaller houses on average before last year, including apartments, and smaller houses on smaller land.
“So, while Aussies built bigger homes over the past year, the big question is whether the decade-long downtrend in home size has ended. And COVID-19 may play a big role in answering that question,” Mr James said.
“Government-imposed lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 virus have prompted more Aussies to re-assess their housing needs. With more time spent at home for both leisure and work, some Aussies are looking for bigger homes. Others are coming to the belief that the layout of their home needs changing.”
However, the report showed that even before COVID-19, Australian home builders had been indicating their preference for slightly bigger homes, with apartment sizes lifting for the past two years, and house size lifting in 2019-20, but only after falling the previous year to 17-year lows.
COVID-19 and home building
Mr James said the trends in the sizes and styles of homes have been changing over the past decade, and COVID-19 “is throwing another element into the mix”.
“More Aussies could embrace working from home in a bigger way, opting to move away from apartments in, or near the CBD, in preference for a larger home in a regional or suburban ‘lifestyle’ area,” Mr James said.
According to Mr James, this demand for bigger or “better” homes has implications for home builders, trades, building materials, homeware stores, electrical stores and housing fit-outs, including kitchen and bathroom fixtures and fittings.
“The trends in home size have enormous implications for retailers and builders. It is also clear that a raft of government agencies and businesses, especially those that are reliant upon or housing-focused, will need to be agile in monitoring the new housing trends,” Mr James concluded.
The ACT built the biggest houses in Australia, with the average floor area of a house built totalling 256.3 square metres in 2019-20, ahead of Victoria (250.3 square metres) and Western Australia (232.5 square metres). The smallest new houses were built in Tasmania at only 179 square metres.
The report also found that of all homes built in 2019-20, the average floor area was biggest in Western Australia (218.5 square metres), followed by Victoria (217.0 square metres).
In terms of other dwellings such as townhouses and apartments, Victoria had the biggest dwellings (155 square metres), followed by Western Australia (150.5 square metres), South Australia (149.8 square metres), and Northern Territory (145.3 square metres).
The smallest other dwellings were found in Tasmania (132.5 square metres) and NSW (121.3 square metres).
[Related: Aussie refinancers opt for split mortgage]
Malavika Santhebennur is the features editor on the mortgages titles at Momentum Media.
Before joining the team in 2019, Malavika held roles with Money Management and Benchmark Media. She has been writing about financial services for the past six years.