Do ya really need that mudroom?

Dream homes not so dreamy anymore as builders scale back

By Kim Peterson Nov 17, 2009 4:29PM
Homes of the Rich  © CorbisLuxury home builders are changing their thinking as the lingering recession cuts deeply into their business.

Now, people want to buy homes that are smaller and simpler, the builders tell The Wall Street Journal. The average size of a new house has dropped to 2,392 square feet from a peak of 2,507 square feet in 2007.

So builders like Wieland Homes & Neighborhoods tell the Journal that they're cutting corners -- even on some of their fanciest models.

Private theaters and Jacuzzis are getting axed. So are fireplaces and mudrooms.

Other builders are going smaller as well. But one builder, Toll Brothers (TOL), tells the Journal that although luxury customers are more hesitant, when they do buy they still want the best.

Is the move to downscale a permanent thing? Some homebuilders think so. We may look back at this decade as a time of excess and financial stupidity, and maybe the too-big-for-no-reason homes of this era could come to represent that image.

In reflective moments, Wieland officials wonder if the builders simply fell in love with the idea of creating giant houses loaded with cherry cabinets, body-spray showers and built-in wine coolers. Builders built them because they could; buyers bought them because they could.

The desire for less is "a fundamental change in the way people are going to want to live," one Wieland executive tells the Journal. "We're not waiting for things to return to the way they were."

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