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Sizing up Australian homes

Sizing up Australian homes

Aussie houses are getting smaller but apartments are getting bigger and more plentiful, according to a major CommSec report.

Australian houses are the smallest they’ve been in 17 years but are still among the world’s largest, CommSec research has found.

According to CommSec’s annual Home Size Trends Report, which sourced data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the average size of a freestanding Australian house built in 2018/19 was around 229 square metres, the smallest average house size since 2001/02.

In contrast, Aussie apartments are getting bigger. The report found the average new apartment grew by 3.2% over the past years to around 129m2.

With houses and apartments combined, the average new Australian home built in 2018/19 was 189m2, up 1.2m2 over the year from 22-year lows.

Despite the shrinking trend, however, only the US is, only average, building larger houses and apartments than Australia.

“Seven years ago, Aussies were building the biggest detached (freestanding) houses in the world. But in the period since, Aussie home buyers have embraced apartments as well as smaller houses on smaller lot sizes,” said CommSec Chief Economist, Craig James.

“There are still McMansions being built, but there are fewer of them.”

Apartments account for 41% of all new homes built today, the report says, compared with around just 27% eight years ago. James credited the growing demand for apartment living to “Generation Y, Millennials, ‘down-sizers’ and small families [wanting] to live closer to work, cafes, restaurants, shopping and airports and… giving up living space for better proximity to the desirable amenities”.

State by state, Victorians built the largest new homes in 2018/19 with an average floor area of 212.5m2, very closely followed by WA. The smallest new homes can be found in the ACT and NSW, although interestingly Territorians in the nation’s capital, while building the smallest apartments, are also concurrently building the largest freestanding houses.

All new homes built in 2018/19
Average floor area

State/Territory Square metres % change on year
NSW 163.5 0.3
Victoria 212.5 5.1
Queensland 190.5 0.0
South Australia 180.0 -1.2
Western Australia 212.3 -2.2
Tasmania 175.0 0.6
Northern Territory 176.8 2.5
ACT 158.0 8.2
AUSTRALIA 189.0 1.2

Source: ABS, CommSec

James also noted that “the standard of fit-out today is far superior with higher quality kitchens, bathrooms, floor coverings and inclusions like air-conditioners”.

According to ABS statistics, an average of 2.45 people are living in Australian dwellings, down from 2.8 in 1991.

“Clearly the changes in housing demand and supply, and the differences across the country, have major implications for builders, developers, investors, building material companies, financiers and all levels of Government,” said James.

“With the average number of people in homes falling and population rising, there is on-going need for a greater number of smaller homes to be built.”