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Australian home sizes shrink to 20-year low

CommSec Home Size Trends Report

A new CommSec report has found Aussie homes are getting smaller but are still among the biggest in the world.

Australian homes are the smallest they've been in two decades, according to CommSec's Home Size Trends Report.

Analysing data specially commissioned from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the report found the average floor size of an Aussie dwelling (combining houses and apartments) is around 190 square metres, down 2.7% over the past 12 months and the smallest since 1997.

But despite this, Australian homes remain on average almost the biggest in the world, second only to the US on 204.3sqm. Not surprisingly, space-restricted and apartment-rich Hong Kong has the smallest average home floor size of just 43.6sqm.

Why are homes getting smaller?

CommSec attributes the shrinking trend to the increased prevalence of apartments, particularly in the eastern capitals, with around half of all new residential buildings being units. And while there are more apartments they're getting smaller too, shrinking from an average floor size of 140sqm over the 2004-09 period to 130sqm in 2017.

But although more apartments means smaller floor sizes overall, Australian detached and freestanding homes are actually getting bigger. The report found the average new house built during the 2017 financial year was more than 233sqm, the largest in four years and more than 11% bigger than 20 years ago. 

"Aussies are still building some of the biggest detached houses in the world. In fact the size of the average new house has grown slightly over the past two years," said CommSec Chief Economist, Craig James.

"But the average house size isn’t reaching new highs, having peaked around six years ago. There are still McMansions being built, but there are fewer of them."

James also noted an increasing demand for semi-detached and townhouses as well as apartments in desirable areas of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, which is also helping to push down average floor sizes.

“Generation Y, millennial couples and small families want to live closer to work, cafes, restaurants, shopping and airports and are giving up living space for better proximity to these desirable amenities,” he said.

State by state

Victorians are building the biggest houses in Australia, with an average floor size of almost 243sqm, just ahead of WA. The smallest houses can be found in Tasmania (195.5sqm on average). 

"In the past year the average size of houses built in both South Australia and Western Australia has lifted," said James. "In fact, SA built the biggest homes on records going back 30 years. And on average, WA houses built in 2016/17 were just short of record highs for the state."

Northern Territorians enjoy the largest apartments at 154.5sqm, just nudging out SA. At the other end, average ACT apartments are a compact 95.8sqm.

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as financial product advice. Commonwealth Securities Limited ABN 60 067 254 399 AFSL 238814 (CommSec) is a wholly owned but non-guaranteed subsidiary of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 AFSL 234945 and a Participant of the ASX Group and Chi-X Australia.