BAM Key Details:
- StorageCafe published a report ranking the 50 largest U.S. cities by spacious living potential, based mainly on median sizes for homes and residential lots.
- Raleigh, NC, leads the nation for spacious living with its generously sized homes and lots, while Milwaukee, WI, has the largest median home size, and Nashville, TN, sits at number one for median lot size.
- Philadelphia, PA, and Chicago, IL, top the list of the ten worst cities for spacious living potential.
Where does a buyer have to go to enjoy more living space—indoor and outdoor?
Before the COVID pandemic brought nationwide lockdowns, folks were fine with smaller homes, as long as they could live within an easy commute from work. Then 2020 hit, and after people were stuck in their homes for days, the craving for more space changed the buyer landscape.
One of the ways we adapted to the new normal was with remote work. And now, even after some have returned to the office, at least part-time, larger homes and yards have held onto their appeal, with many buyers relocating to up-size their living space.
With that in mind, the folks at StorageCafe set out to find the best cities for spacious living potential, based on median home size and median lot size, along with other factors that make these metros both attractive and (relatively) affordable.
Its report shares the biggest takeaways from their research, and we’re highlighting them here so you can share the information with your clients, whether you’re seeing more people coming, leaving, or staying put.
One region, in particular, is leading the country in spacious living potential.
Median home and lot sizes have been on a downward trend
Across the U.S., median sizes for both homes and residential lots have been more or less flat or on a general downward trend over the past ten years. Meanwhile, home prices, overall, have continued to climb.
Nationwide, the median square footage for a single family home is around 2,299—down 4% from 2013 to 2022. As for home lots, square footage has shrunken by 8% to 8,891 in the same time period.
At the same time, the typical price of a new single family home has climbed 70% to an all-time high of roughly $457,000.
Smaller spaces dominate in land-strapped Northeast and pricey West Coast hubs
If we look at city-level data, it becomes more obvious where smaller spaces are the norm—and where buyers can go if they’re looking for a more spacious place to call home.
The amount of square footage per dollar in land-strapped markets like Philadelphia, PA, and pricey West Coast metros like Los Angeles has seen significant shrinkage over the past 10 years.
Lots in Philly are down 43% in size compared to 10 years earlier. And the average home in Los Angeles, CA—with a median 1,576 square feet of interior space on a 6,900 square foot lot—now costs over $1 million, which is twice what it would have cost a decade prior.
Away from those East and West Coast hubs, though, the odds of finding a home with significantly more interior and outdoor space go way up.
And of the top 10 cities ranked for their spacious living potential, seven of those are in the South.
Southern cities take the lead in spacious living potential
StorageCafe ranked the 50 largest U.S. metros on the combined metric of their median home size and median residential lot size. They also considered factors like home prices, commute times, neighborhood safety, and median household incomes to assess the desirability and accessibility of each city for home seekers in search of bigger spaces.
Seven out of the top ten cities are in the South, with two North Carolina cities in the top three:
- Raleigh, NC
- Atlanta, GA
- Charlotte, NC
And you might think the West Coast would be nowhere on the list, but a couple of mid-sized California cities—Bakersfield and Fresno—also made the top ten.
The top 10 cities for spacious living potential:
- Raleigh, NC (Home size: 1,950 square feet — Lot size: 10,450 square feet)
- Atlanta, GA (Home: 1,950 — Lot: 11,560)
- Charlotte, NC (Home: 1,900 — Lot: 10,600)
- Omaha, NE (Home: 2,430 — Lot: 8,450)
- Nashville, TN (Home: 1,830 — Lot: 11,810)
- Austin, TX (Home: 2,020 — Lot: 8,620)
- Jacksonville, FL (Home: 1,820 — Lot: 9,100)
- Bakersfield, CA (Home: 1,910 — Lot: 7,840)
- Fresno, CA (Home: 1,870 — Lot: 7,970)
- Tulsa, OK (Home: 1,670 — Lot: 8,770)
Here are a few other interesting details:
- A typical home in Raleigh takes up just 18% of the lot, leaving plenty of yard space for family activities and entertaining
- Nashville, TN, is the king of private outdoor space, with a median lot size of 11,810 sq ft
- Milwaukee, WI, takes the lead for home size, with a median square footage of 2.450.
Only four of the 50 cities analyzed have a median home size over 2,000 square feet:
- Milwaukee, WI
- Omaha, NE
- Austin, TX
- Miami, FL
Five cities have residential lot sizes of over 10,000 square feet:
- Nashville, TN (11,813)
- Atlanta, GA (11,560)
- Louisville, KY (10,890)
- Charlotte, NC (10,600)
- Raleigh, NC (10,450)
Bucking the national trend, Raleigh, NC, has experienced growth in its median home size. Its biggest homes were built in the past ten years (2013 to 2022) with a median size of 2,400 square feet—23% more spacious than Raleigh’s overall median. But while interior space has grown, residential lot size has dropped by one-third to a median of about 7,000 square feet.
That said, Raleigh’s new home market is seeing steady growth, with over 13,600 building permits issued in the last decade, making it the 22nd most active market for single family construction in the country.
Raleigh also offers its residents safe neighborhoods, an average 24-minute commute time, and a favorable home-price-to-household-income ratio.
Second on the list for spacious living potential, Atlanta, GA, also saw its median single family home size grow to 2,500 square feet. And while Atlanta still ranks second on the list for median residential lot size, that has also declined by almost 50% compared to the city’s overall median.
The reason for the lot shrinkage is mainly the massive influx of new Atlanta residents. Because, as it happens, available land suitable for construction is finite. And it’s getting harder to come by.
This is why we’re seeing a steady climb in Atlanta’s median home price, which has now reached $425,898—up 17% from a decade ago.
Philadelphia and Chicago top the list of the 10 worst cities for spacious living
Now we come to the cities that have earned the dubious distinction of being the worst in the country for spacious living. And Philadelphia and Chicago top the list with a median lot size of under 2,000 square feet.
Rounding out the top five are Detroit (MI), Portland (OR), and Virginia Beach (VA).
Denver, CO, ranking at number eight, has the biggest median lot size at 5,860 square feet. Its median home size, at 1,430 square feet, puts it at a little over the average for the list.
Portland, OR, has the smallest median home size at 1,070 square feet, combined with the second-largest lot size at 5,230.
Read the full StorageCafe report for more details.
Takeaways for real estate agents
Every appointment with a buyer is a chance to get some clarity on what a potential client really wants in a home—as well as on what they’ve experienced with the buying process up until that moment.
Learn as much as you can about their desires and pain points, as well as what challenges they’ve faced so far, so you can avoid becoming yet another source of frustration for them.
Be the reason they’re forever glad they didn’t hang up.