Bye-Bye Mini Mansion PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lisa Alexander   

Every decade since WWII we saw a different style of house being built.  In the 1950’s we saw the Cape Cods and the planned communities of Levittown.  In the 60’s it was the one story three-bedroom ranch.   In the 70’s we saw the funky split-levels and the bi-levels.  In the 80’s it was the large Colonials, and since the 1990’s we got larger still with the mini-mansions or McMansions as they are also referred to.

The days of the oversized, wasteful and expensive mini-mansions are coming to an end. The spawn of the ever-increasing home size was driven by an advancing economy and the growth process of the baby boomers.  As the double income baby boomers advanced in their careers and age and made more and more money they bought more things and needed room to keep them these things.

As the boomers now are entering their retirement years they are starting to get rid of the “things” that cost them money, time and maintenance for stuff they hardly use anymore.   This includes their over-sized, expensive energy guzzling homes.

Studies done by both NAR, (National Association of Realtors) and NAHB, (National Association of Home Builders) show that baby boomers are scaling down and buying smaller homes with smaller yards.  Surveys show that these buyers want one level living with perhaps just one or two small bedrooms upstairs for visits from the grandchildren.  They are looking to simplify their life with just one common room and a flowing open floor plan with an eat-in-kitchen instead of a formal dining and living room.

What I found really interesting is that reports from both NAR & NAHB show that baby boomers want just one bedroom, the master, on the first floor and so they have no steps to negotiate on a daily basis, but yet they all wanted a place for a stair master!   As we all know most stair masters end up not getting used very much, except maybe to hang clothes on.  Stairs that you need to use to get from A to B everyday sound like a more likely scenario that you will at least get some exercise daily.

If you look at the reality of the situation this all makes sense to prepare for a day when the homeowner may need the assistance of a walker or even a wheel chair.  Some homes are now being designed with just that thought in mind.  Hiring a good architect who specialized in what is called “Accessibility”, can design a home that looks like the average home but has some features in it that are wheelchair friendly, such as lowered light switches and some lower counter spaces.   With proper design and placement the house will look and function normally now and in the future, and will meet and easily adjust to the needs of the elderly.   This can help keep people in their homes longer rather than having to move into an assisted living facility.

The rising energy costs and strains we’ve put on our environment over the years are another strong factor when considering downsizing.   Mini Mansions are giving way to space and energy efficient “green” homes that are healthier for it’s inhabitants and for the planet.  It costs a lot to heat and cool the mini mansions as well as to keep up with all the maintenance both inside and out, including the unnatural landscaping.   People these days would rather spend their time and money on hobbies and activities they enjoy rather than being a weekend slave to their home.

According to NAR’s latest list of what’s in and what’s out, the large energy wasting two-story foyers are out along with granite counter tops.  In my book they’ve been out for years.  As a realtor I’m so tired of seeing granite counters and having a seller tell me their house is worth more because of them when every other house on the block has granite too.   Although granite is a natural product, it does require maintenance.   You need to seal it every year.  It also has a porous surface which means it holds on to germs and bacteria.  It can withstand a lot of heat but they have been known to crack.   When they crack you have to replace the whole piece.   Mother nature does not give a warranty.

 I much prefer the natural quartz composite counter tops.  Like granite they are natural, but they are made from crushed quartz pieces.  They come in many different colors and patterns.  They are easy to maintain.   No sealing is required and they are resistant to bacteria and germs.  They are a composite of natural and man-made materials and therefore come with a warranty…but are far more durable than granite to start with.  They handle heat and abuse much better than granite and they are cheaper too!!

 As for the two-story entrance ways….well heat rises…who want to pay for all that heat hanging up at the ceiling no one can reach.   It’s a waste of energy, money and space for something someone sees for a few seconds before walking into the rest of the house.

 According to NAR the toughest houses to sell right now are these large expensive energy guzzling mini mansions.  Although there will always be a small niche market for these homes, statistics show that they stay on the market the longest and dollar for dollar have the poorest rate of return on the resale.

 Besides baby boomers downsizing, their adult children are too.   They’ve seen both their parents working hard over the years to afford and maintain these oversized homes and yards.  Research shows that the next generation of homebuyers now entering the market are learning lessons from their parents.   The X and Y generation would rather spend their weekends enjoying themselves and their young children rather than doing yard work.  They are trying to be more responsible in living healthier and better quality lives and protecting the environment. They are spending less money on heating their homes and trying to put more money away for their own retirement.  Sounds like they are learning from the mistakes made before them so they can have a Better Life and Home and Planet for future !!!!!


First Published in “Connections Magazine”