WASHINGTON - Today's newly built homes are substantially larger and many more have central air conditioning than their predecessors of 30 years ago, according to annual data on new home characteristics released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

"Between 1975 and 2005, the portion of new homes built with central air conditioning has risen 43 percent, while the portion of homes built with fewer than two bathrooms has fallen from 41 percent to just 4 percent," noted Jerry Howard, chief executive officer of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). "Meanwhile, the share of newly built homes with four or more bedrooms has risen steadily from 21 percent 30 years ago to just shy of 40 percent last year."

The statistics provide a snapshot of changing aspects of home design over the past 30 years, including the continued expansion of new home size through 2005. The average floor area in a newly built home last year reached an all-time high of 2,434 square feet - up from an average 2,349 square feet in 2004 and just 1,645 square feet in 1975. The Northeast had the largest average new home size for any region last year, at 2,556 square feet. New homes in the Midwest had the smallest square footage, with an average of 2,310 square feet.

The data also show evidence of the increasing popularity of heat pumps versus conventional warm air furnaces, particularly in the South. Overall, warm air furnaces remain the most popular heating systems in the U.S. - accounting for 67 percent of the new homes market in 2005, down from 72 percent of the market back in 1975. The decline in that market appears entirely due to construction practices in the South, where use of warm air furnaces fell from 82 percent of new homes to 47 percent over the past 30 years, and where heat pumps now command over half the market (53 percent).

Other data revealed in the Census Bureau report include the following:

Central Air Conditioning

  • Between 1975 and 2005, the percentage of homes built with a/c went from 46 percent to 89 percent.

  • 100 percent of newly built homes in the South came with central a/c in 2005.


  • The proportion of new homes built with at least one fireplace has barely increased over the past three decades, going from 52 percent to 55 percent.

    Number of Stories

  • The proportion of one-story newly built homes has declined from 65 percent in 1975 to 44 percent in 2005.

  • Meanwhile, the proportion of newly built homes with two or more stories has increased from 23 percent to 55 percent.

  • The use of "split level" designs has been virtually eliminated, having gone from 12 percent of the new homes market in 1975 to less than 1 percent in 2005.

    The Census Bureau report "Characteristics of New Housing 2005" is available online at www.census.gov/const/www/charindex.html. Additional breakouts of this data and other trends researched by NAHB are available at www.nahb.org/constructionstats under "Selected Characteristics of New Housing."

    Publication date: 07/03/2006