The newest publication from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is well worth reading –


What I found especially noteworthy and useful as both a sales tool and a strategic marketing element were the following facts:

  1. Although the average price per square foot of new homes has risen from just over $20.00/s.f. in 1974 to a little over $115.00/s.f. as of the end of last year, in inflation adjusted dollars the current cost per square foot is actually less than it was 40 years ago;
  1. The average new home size increased from just over 1,600 square feet in 1974 to slightly over 2,700 square feet at the end of 2014, a gain of more than two-thirds.  But as the average household size has declined from just under 3 person in 1974 to approximately 2.5 person in 2014, the average home size on a “per occupant” basis person has increased by 92%;
  1. As new homes have become increasing larger, even at the same effective cost (on a square foot basis), housing affordability has decreased by 50% as incomes have not kept pace with the actual rising prices.

sold!A major challenge for the housing industry if it wishes to continue to grow and prosper is the need to overcome the gap in affordability, especially for the first time buyers.  That will necessitate targeting a broader market segment than is currently being served;  a market with price sensitivity issues necessitating more cost-effective construction practices combined with smaller home sizes that still provide the essential design, functionality, utility and special features and benefits that today’s knowledgeable and sophisticated home buyers desire.  And that would, to a great extent, take us back to where our industry was in the 1960s and 1970s.

But that’s just my opinion!

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Brabara BillingslySitting at breakfast this morning at our local bagel shop I noticed a new couple in the restaurant and, at first glance, the woman appeared to be the spitting image of June Cleaver.  June Evelyn Bronson Cleaver, as played by Barbara Billingsley, was a principal character in the American television sitcom Leave It to Beaver which aired in the early years of broadcast TV over 50 years ago.  June and her husband, Ward, are often invoked as the archetypal suburban parents of the 1950s with two sons, Wally and “The Beaver”, ages twelve and seven (“almost eight”).  The episodes followed the escapades of Wally and Beaver and usually ended with a moral lesson delivered to the boys, but also often included reminders of childhood and minor lessons for the parents through the adventures of their boys – dull subject matter by today’s standards.

In the 1950s when I was ten years old and originally watched the series I recall that June Cleaver’s appearance was pleasant enough for an “older” woman but certainly nothing memorable. What led to an epiphany this morning was that looking at this woman now my thought was that she was very attractive which caused me to reflect on the realization that one’s perception is situational and, in this case, can change significantly with age or time.

Our family was blessed with the recent arrival of a new grandson and of course my wife and I flew up to see him and his parents.  When we returned home our family and friends asked to see pictures and inquired who he resembled and, as my wife was reaching in her purse for her phone, and as I have always been an advocate of honesty, I am afraid that I may have offended or at least greatly surprised several friends when I responded that, at least to me, my new grandson did not resemble another family member and, as with most newborns, he was simply not very attractive. 

This past week a homebuilder client was similarly upset when, in response to his question of what could be improved with his new homes, I replied that more attractive designs would help.

With our grandson, what a difference a few months made as he is turned into a little person and is really very, very cute.  Thanks to smart phones we are updated almost daily with pictures and videos and, being as impartial as possible for a grandfather, I believe that he could probably supplant the Gerber baby on their labels. 

On the other hand and unfortunately for my builder client, weeks, months or years will not make those homes more attractive.  I am not suggesting that these homes were repulsive and relegated to the realm of HomeVestors of America (you’ve probably seen the billboards – big black and yellow signs proclaiming “We Buy Ugly Houses”) but merely that they were simply plain, lacking any distinctive and superior flair or visual appeal.  Continue reading