Why do people buy McMansions?

Some people like extra living space, others like to show off. Buying a McMansion appeals to both types of buyers.

wheredidalltheheloccashgo2For years urban planners worked to change public attitudes toward smaller houses near public transit stops. The tiny home movement ties into the revulsion many people feel for the ostentation and excess of large houses, particularly those with little or no architectural merit. Despite the efforts of urban planners and tine-home advocates, most Americans still believe bigger is better.

I recently noted that new homes over the next decade will be smaller, not because people want smaller homes, but because younger and less affluent buyers will dominate new home sales. The trend toward smaller homes isn’t a reflection of changing taste, it’s a reflection of changing budgets.

Many people bought McMansions during the housing bubble because the more they paid for a house, the more they expected to make on home price appreciation over time. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way for many.

Here’s Why You’re Lucky You Don’t Own a McMansion

Martha C. White Aug. 24, 2016how_far_underwater

McMansions might be one of the most ostentatious signs of wealth a person can buy, but they don’t necessarily show financial smarts. In fact, data shows that McMansions are actually horrible investments.

Real estate site found that McMansion resale values are in the gutter, with price premiums dropping more than 80% in some parts of the country.

This is easy to verify here in Southern California as well. Most of the new construction during the housing mania was McMansions in Riverside County and San Bernardino County. The resale value of these properties in the hinterlands plummeted, and efforts to reflate the bubble has failed in these areas so far.

According to Bloomberg, Trulia looked at price appreciation of McMansion-sized homes — those with footprints of 3,000 to 5,000 square feet — over the peak of the real estate market, ending just before the Great Recession in 2007. They then tracked what happened to the value of those homes.

The results looks as unpleasant as those in-your-face three-car garages and ridiculous architectural flourishes: “The additional cash that buyers should be willing to part with to get a McMansion fell in 85 of the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas,” Bloomberg said. People who paid a bundle for their McMansion at the peak of the market now have huge homes that didn’t retain that additional value — that is, if they haven’t lost them entirely to foreclosure by now.

vacant_hinterlandsStrategic default was rampant in these areas. Many buyers were overextended and really couldn’t afford the properties, but many others walked away because they could see price recovery in their lifetimes was hopeless.

There are several possible reasons for this, Bloomberg said: There’s more demand for smaller, more modest starter homes as a huge wave of millennials reaches home-buying age, and McMansions that were slapped together in a hurry at the peak of the market don’t have the kind of quality construction to command sky-high prices.

There’s also the distinct possibility that would-be McMansion buyers are now acknowledging what the rest of us have known all along: They’re just really, really ugly.


The reporter is not alone in her assessment of McMansions.

Hate McMansions? There’s a Website for That

By Erik Gunther | Sep 2, 2016yardwork

You’ve seen them. We’ve seen them. They sprout up nationwide like high-priced kudzu and loom over neighborhoods with their oh-so-abundant attributes—corny columns, mismatched windows, and construction that buts right up to the property line. The term of non-endearment for these big, unlovable houses? McMansions, of course. …

Q: We’ve grappled with this one for a long time here at®. McMansions are like the classic definition of obscenity—”I know when I see it”—but we’ve never come up with a concrete definition for them. So how do you really define a McMansion?

A: Many attempts have been made to quantify the McMansion, and I think the obscenity analogy is spot on. It’s a large house (larger than 3,000 square feet), designed without consideration of architectural history or basic principles of good design. They’re built cheaply and without concern for the landscape around them, leading to the trope of the giant house on the tiny lot.

superadequacySouthern California has many big houses on tiny lots. This is more a function of the value of land than a desire for McMansions. Many new neighborhoods in Irvine are criticized for oversized houses on undersized lots, but it doesn’t stop people from buying them. Fortunately, most Irvine houses are well designed, and although they may be too large for the lot, they aren’t true McMansions.

Worst of McMansions

If you love to hate the ugly houses that became ubiquitous before (and after) the bubble burst you’ve come to the right place. Be sure to check out McMansions 101! Got a question or comment? Contact me at [email protected]

This is an excellent website. Often when new bloggers hit the scene, they have 20 or 30 great posts, then they’ve exhausted their pent-up writing content, and they grope for more to write about. I hope that doesn’t happen to this site. The writer obviously has a great grasp of the subject matter and an interesting style. For example:

McMansions 101: Dormers

No, a dormer is not someone who lives in a dorm. Basically, a dormer is a structure that projects from the roof mass and has its own roof, windows, and sometimes walls.

Dormers can be placed into three structural categories: roof dormer, wall dormer, and insetdormer.


The walls of a dormer are often referred to as “cheek” walls by builders. The windows in a dormer are commonly referred to as “glazing.” Dormers have the same roofing styles and variety as regular roofs:


The guidelines for dormer dos and don’ts are so simple, but apparently not simple enough:

Dormer Dos:

1.) Dormers should always be proportional to the mass of the roof and the masses of the facade walls.
2.) Dormers should be vertically aligned to the windows on the front elevation.
3.) Multiple dormers should be spaced evenly. Too many dormers results in a cluttered roofline,too few makes them look like an afterthought.
4.) Dormers should be the same architectural style and should use the same materials as the rest of the elevation.

Dormer Don’t #1: Dormers are too big


Dormer Don’t #2: Dormers are too tall


Dormer Don’t #3: Dormers are too small


Dormer Don’t #4: Dormers are too short


There is plenty more to enjoy on this site.

McMansions be gone!

People will always want large houses. No amount of public relations, urban planner propaganda, or rejection of consumerism is going to change that.

All that I ask is that people designing and building these large homes don’t create such awful monstrosities.


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