Money Property Mansion madness: Why bigger isn’t always better

Mansion madness: Why bigger isn’t always better

big houses
Experts say the causal relationship between household size and property size seems to have diminished. Photo: Getty
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We knew we were in trouble when the size of the excavation next door spanned the width of the Taj Mahal.

Four years later the brick palace was finished, complete with an underground carpark.

It now sits high on our humble hillside road, flipping the bird to the rest of the 1950s weatherboards who sit shivering in its sneering shadow.

But what still astounds me every morning when I am greeted by its shouty presence is why, when the family that occupy it barely numbers four?

What are they doing in there? Why do they need all that space? Why do I never see the little brats outside playing?

According to Professor Richard Reed, the chair of Property and Real Estate at Deakin University, there is a curious inversion sweeping the suburbs.

Where once there would be a noticeable causal relationship between household size and property size, now there doesn’t seem to be a logical connection.

“We see this phenomena reflected in the strong demand for new four-bedroom houses while there is a marked resistance for the smaller two-bedroom houses, even though today’s families are much smaller with few or no children,” he says.

The desire for instant luxury and the demand for media rooms, studies, powder rooms and extra master bedrooms are all creeping into developers’ floor-plan template.

“It’s because the priorities of many of today’s home owners and renters have changed from their parents, who were willing to make large sacrifices and also didn’t have additional financial pressure on their disposable income,” Reed says.

But when it comes to buying within a budget, Reed says “changes to stamp duty, for example, will not have a positive effect on prices as the winners will be property developers and builders who will benefit from higher demand for larger houses.

“The removal of the stamp duty cost will also encourage households to borrow more money for larger houses as they can now afford it.”

Housing experts repeatedly say the most important trigger for changing this bigger-is-better mindset would be to educate households about the benefits of ownership and how it could become affordable to most households if we simply settled for smaller first buys.

Buying an apartment or a townhouses simply to get into the market is a good idea.

And putting up with cramped living conditions for a period of time is not the end of world – in fact, we all surprise ourselves when it comes to adaptability.

But, as Reed cautions, living in a credit society where it is acceptable to borrow large amounts of money at low interest rates is seen as normal for Generation X and Y.

And it’s hard, if not impossible, to imagine this type of mindset being reversed.

Living in this manner might be manageable now with the present record-low interest rates. But given we are now on the upward turn in the property cycle, housing affordability will only decrease over time.