South Charlotte

UNCC Urban Institute study shows bigger homes still popular

New construction homes in Mecklenburg County, including in Ballantyne, are getting bigger, a new study from UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute found.

Despite media reports that there’s an apartment and condominium boom among millennials and that people are moving into smaller homes, the percentage of total housing stock with four or more bedrooms increased between 2000 and 2013, and the percentage of one-bedroom homes decreased, said Chuck McShane, a researcher at the institute’s PlanCharlotte.org.

“This still shows that although the recession slowed down the growth of homes, it did not stop that trend,” said McShane, who is in UNC Charlotte’s doctoral program for public policy.

“I definitely think there’s this perception about all these apartments going up, but perhaps that hasn’t really translated. Or at least, there’s a simultaneous trend going on in the suburbs, where homes are getting bigger.”

McShane referenced 2000 U.S. Census data, along with 2007 and 2013 numbers based on estimates from the Census’ American Community Survey sample.

According to his study, one-bedroom homes in Mecklenburg County increased from 37,586 to 44,173 between 2000 and 2013. But they actually decreased in percentage of total occupied housing units, from 12.8 to 10.8 percent.

Meanwhile, three bedroom Mecklenburg County homes increased from 110,260 to 157,010, or from 37.6 percent to 38.2 percent of total occupied units.

And five-bedroom Mecklenburg County homes increased from 8,867 to 20,789, or from 3 percent to 5.10 percent.

“Eyeballing this map of average square feet of single family homes only, it’s pretty clear that the southeast Charlotte wedge from uptown to Myers Park to Ballantyne has a high concentration of above-average-sized homes,” he said.

Ballantyne real estate agent Kathy Smith, who works for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolinas Realty, said she’s noticed more homebuyers gravitating toward larger new homes.

She credited that partly to the influx of Northerners to the area.

“People coming from the northeast part of the country can’t believe what their money can buy down here,” she said. “It’s like they hit the jackpot.”

Smith said changes in family arrangements have also drawn people to want bigger homes.

“It used to be where they would shove two or three kids in a bedroom growing up. Now every child needs their own room, and in some cases they need their own room plus a playroom,” she said.

Tom Palmer, a homebuilder who started Tom Palmer Homes, said another reason people want bigger homes is because they want an extra room for an office, as well as a bonus room.

“We’re a country where people have a lot of stuff, and they need a lot of space,” he said. “I think there was a trend where homes were going smaller, but it didn’t surprise me that there wasn’t any staying power.”

Still, Palmer said he has seen fewer 8,000- to 9,000-square-foot homes. He said the highest demand is for 3,000- to 5,000-square-foot homes.

The institute’s McShane said the most dramatic increase in home sizes in the area was in Union County. He attributed that at least partly to Mecklenburg County’s growth. He said the area has traditionally grown toward the southeast.

“The earliest suburbanization of the city has been toward the southeast, and that’s continued over the years,” he said.

In Union County, the number of five-plus bedroom homes increased from 1,274 in 2000 to an estimated 8,762 in 2013. That’s about a 587 percent increase, McShane said.

Raw numbers show an estimated net gain of 28,991 housing units in Union County between 2000 and 2013, with more than 25 percent of those homes including five bedrooms. In 2013, 11.7 percent of all housing units in the county had five or more bedrooms.

McShane said the most surprising observation from his study was that the percentage of studio and one-bedroom units declined. Two bedroom units also declined in Mecklenburg County as a percentage of total housing units.

Smith, the real estate agent, said there are two forces on the local housing market. She said while there may be more young people wanting to move to a small apartment in the city or more retirees looking to downsize, there are just as many young families who are planning ahead for a growing family and transplants who want to get a big property because their money goes further in the South.

“I think you’ve got a couple of things going on simultaneously,” she said. “It depends on where you are in your life cycle.”

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