Rudy Niño (September 20, 1998)
If the average car driving on the road was 34 years old, many would need major repairs, most would need to be adapted to fit the current styles and consumer trends, and all would need additional options if they are to offer the latest breakthroughs in comfort and technology. Homes are no different. The median year in which the nation's existing homes were built is 1964. Americans' tastes in homes have changed considerably over the last quarter of a century, and the biggest difference is in space. The average home size has risen from between 1400 and 1500 square feet then, to more than 2000 square feet now. Since much of the remodeling industry is driven by the need for more space, it is no coincidence that remodeling reached an all time high of $115 billion at the end of 1996. Kitchens and baths are the biggest recipients of the trend toward increased space. Convenience is the key word for kitchens. Additional counter space, pantry space, and cabinet space are all big selling points. Items such as microwave ovens and garbage disposals which were once luxuries are now standard features. Bathrooms have become a luxury gauge for judging the overall amenities of a home. At the beginning of this decade, 44 percent of new single family homes had at least 2 1/2 baths. Just four years earlier, that number was only 29 percent. Bathroom remodels can be everything from a simple tile job to adding a hot tub. About three-quarters of all houses sold are existing as opposed to new. The problem that many buyers face is that they like the neighborhoods and the affordability of those houses built in the early sixties, but they also want the same features found in new homes such as additional storage space, more natural light, and modern appliances. Few of the houses built 34 years ago had walk-in closets or an informal "family" room. Back then, most of the closets were nominally sized and it was more common for the "rec" room to be a converted garage. With the age of the median American home being over three decades, it is not surprising that the increase in the remodeling industry during recent years is due to the maintenance and repair portion of the industry. The aging of the American home, like other issues of the remodeling industry, varies according to region. The newer homes are in the south and west of the nation, and the older homes are in the Midwest and even more so in the Northeast. While the overall median construction date of the American home is 1964, the median in the West is 1968 and the South is 1969. The median for the Midwest is 1958, and the median for the Northeast is 1951. The housing tastes of Americans have changed significantly since 1964. By the number of older houses that are constantly being sold and the constant increase in the number of remodeling projects, it is apparent that many Americans are attracted to the older homes with the intention of adapting them to modern conveniences and styles.
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