The Evolution of the American Home Since 1900

In Homeowners by Doug Phelps

Our homes have greatly changed over time. Have you ever wondered how much? Here’s a quick look at the past 116 years.

1900s – Bathroom, what bathroom? Outhouses and earth closets handled “it.”

1910s – Electricity was increasingly retrofitted to existing city homes.

1920s – Electricity is in most all homes (farm communities would wait another 10 years), as well as a detached garage. The “breakfast nook” explodes onto the market.

1930s – Fireplaces lose popularity. Heating source advances to “forced-air” (electric fan), coal-based systems. Coved ceilings and arched doorways become a signature architectural trait.

1940s – The national average house cost is $2,938, and is about 1,000 square feet. Half of all homes have an inside full bathroom combo of a bathtub, toilet, and sink. Attached garages appear on the scene.

1950s – Cookie-cutter track homes fill the needs of the post-war housing (and population!) boom, and the average size home increases to 1,100 square feet and costs $7,354. Most new homes are one-story and called a “ranch”, with wall-to-wall carpeting.

1960s – The national average home price rises to $11,900. Vaulted ceilings and exposed brick become common features.

1970s – Size jumps to 1,500 square feet and the national average price is $17,000. Twenty percent of homes have a laundry room and 66% have central air conditioning.

1980s – Homes now cost $47,200 on average across the country, and are almost 1,600 sf. Finished basements peak in popularity, as do carpeted bathrooms and wall-to-wall mirrors.

1990s – Size increases to 1,905 sf and the cost rises to about $79,100. Fireplaces return to popularity, kitchen size increases, and walk-in closets become prevalent.

2000s – A national average of $119,600 gets families 2,266 sf. Hardwood floors begin to replace carpet (or were uncovered and finished again after having carpet installed on top), and new home builders are installing larger windows and skylights.

2010s – In response to the “great recession”, national average home sizes decrease for the first time in 100 years, to 2,169 sf. But prices continue to rise to $272,900. Open floor plans are increasingly popular.

Today, 2016 – The average new home size has rebounded to about 2,670 sf, with an average price of $355,800.

In a recent national survey, 65% of 22,000 homebuyers surveyed said they’d be willing to spend more for a home with smart-home technology, such as interior and exterior security cameras, network-connected appliances, doorbells with text alerts, smart air filtration vents, and more.

What’s in store for the future? One thing is for sure: our homes will continue to evolve.