From the Washington Post:
If there’s anything that typifies the boom times before the Great Recession, it is the McMansion. These sprawling houses proliferated around the country in the 2000s, as banks shelled out easy credit to fuel a housing bacchanalia they thought would never die.
McMansions became the ultimate symbol of living beyond one’s means. Unlike your standard mansion, McMansions aren’t just large – they are tackily so. Looming over too-small lots, these cookie-cutter houses are often decked out with ersatz details, like chandeliers and foam-filled columns. While their features mean they can command a decent price, many of these houses are shoddily built.
During the recession, their construction ground to a halt. Today, McMansions are not exactly cool, especially compared with the exposed-brick urban lofts young people today will pay exorbitant prices for. But with the recent recovery of the housing market, they are coming back anyway.
As Americans have started building and flipping houses again, they are once again buying McMansions. Since 2009, construction of these homes has steadily trended upward, data from Zillow, a real estate website, shows. The median home value of McMansions is also rising, at a pace that eclipses the value of the median American home.
Many casual onlookers have forecast the death of the suburbs in recent years, especially as younger renters and buyers turn an eye to city centers. Skylar Olsen, a senior economist at Zillow, says that young people today have far more interest in living in urban environments. “That’s where jobs had been growing fastest over the course of this economic recovery over the past five years,” says Olsen.
Yet younger people who are starting families are still moving to the suburbs for more room, she says. About half of all millennials that purchased a home last year did so in the suburbs, according to Zillow data.
Their decision is also supported by cheap energy costs, which make it affordable to commute. in mid-June, the nationwide average price of regular gasoline was $2.32 a gallon. Like the McMansion and the pickup in the housing market, it’s another source of deja vu. After remaining elevated for years, oil prices are now roughly the same as they were June 2000, when adjusted for inflation.
Kate Wagner, an architecture critic, wishes America would have learned its lesson about McMansions the first time around. She spends her free time tearing apart their architectural anachronisms on her blog, McMansion Hell.