Post-pandemic, many people’s homes have become a safe haven for more than just sleeping, eating, and spending time with family. Living spaces now serve as gyms, office spaces, study areas, and more. Many single-family homes have three or four bedrooms, making them more accommodating during the pandemic, but most apartments have only gotten smaller in recent years.

    A new study from StorageCafe, a nationwide storage space marketplace, investigates the details behind different types of living spaces. The study shows how the average size of newly built American homes has evolved during the past decade.

    Single-Family Homes Have More Bedrooms

    Single-family homeowners often find it much easier to adapt to work-from-home situations than apartment dwellers. According to U.S. Census data, the average size of a single-family residence built in 2019 in the U.S. was 2,611 square feet, which is 143 square feet more than in 2010.

    New apartments, on the other hand, followed the opposite trend, losing about 90 square feet from 2010 to 2019. Apartments built in 2010 encompassed 1,245 square feet on average, while units built in 2019 averaged only 1,156 square feet. The decrease in average apartment size over the past decade may mean working from home is more challenging when you’re a renter rather than a homeowner. More bedrooms allow homeowners to have dedicated spaces for home offices and other remote activities, while many apartments only have studio or single-bedroom layouts.

    More single-family homes have three or four-plus bedrooms, making them more adaptable during the pandemic.

    Bedroom distribution also indicates a preference for big-home living, with three and four-plus bedrooms making up 89% of new single-family construction. The proportion of new single-family residences with four or more bedrooms increased from 35% in 2010 to 43% in 2019. 

    Having additional bedrooms provides more flexibility for homeowners to convert space to fit their preferences, but it can also be much more expensive. On the other end of the spectrum, renters in studio and one-bedroom apartments typically don’t have the option to renovate space or convert it to fit their home office needs.

    While this may be good news if you can afford a big house, the trend towards increasing home sizes and decreasing apartment sizes also indicates there might be a lack of starter homes for young families who remain renters for longer periods. The decrease in apartment sizes combined with the increase in larger single-family homes presents a challenge for first-time homebuyers looking for an affordable entry point. 

    Simply put: smaller, affordable homes are not being built at the same rate as large single-family homes. This drives up costs and locks renters out of the housing market. However, if you do find a deal on a bigger home, consider hiring national movers to help you with your move to your new living situation.

    Big Homes in Chicago, Small Seattle Apartments

    Chicago ranks first among the country’s 20 biggest cities in the size of newly built houses. The appeal of these large homes includes flexibility, resale value, and amenities. The average size of a house built in Chicago in 2019 was 3,300 square feet, making it 916 square feet bigger than the average home constructed in 2010. The large size provides ample space for homeowners to carve out dedicated home offices and workout areas.

    Seattle apartment dwellers have tight space, according to the study. 

    Denver, in contrast, is building the smallest houses among the 20 cities. The average size of a single-family home built there in 2019 was 2,056 square feet, almost 200 square feet smaller than homes built in 2010.

    While Denver homes are still spacious compared to most apartments, the downward trend in square footage could limit your flexibility as a homeowner. For example, smaller bedrooms may not accommodate both a bed and a desk for remote work.

    Jacksonville, FL has the largest size for new apartments, averaging 987 square feet per apartment in 2019. However, the city is on a downward trend, coming in at 93 square feet smaller than its apartments built in 2010. Despite having the biggest apartments among the 20 cities, Jacksonville’s decrease in average apartment size over time mirrors the national trend. No matter where you rent, you’re likely to have less living space now compared to a decade ago.

    Seattle apartment dwellers prove to be pressed for space, with apartments built in 2019 averaging just 676 square feet each, which is 86 square feet smaller than homes built there in 2010. With less than 700 square feet on average, Seattle renters will likely struggle to create dedicated space for activities within their apartments.

    Today’s Homeowner Tips

    The reduction in apartment sizes over the past decade makes working from home more difficult than ever in a small rental unit. Consider using affordable moving truck rentals if relocating to find more space is a viable financial option.

    So, Is Apartment Living Better for Work-From-Home Lifestyles?

    The answer to this depends on your needs. Renters without extra bedrooms will likely need to get creative with space when working remotely, but apartment living can provide cost savings that offset the smaller square footage. Professional moving costs are also important to consider, as moving more belongings into a home can add to expenses.

    While large single-family homes offer more flexibility, they also have higher maintenance costs than apartments. Homeowners are responsible for repairs, renovations, property taxes, and utility bills on top of the cost of the home. As a former mover myself, I can attest to the fact that size increases in your home can often amount to price increases across the board. These basic expenses are covered by landlords in apartments, but apartment dwellers trade available space for convenience and greater affordability. Evaluate your at-home workspace needs against your budget to decide if renting or buying is better aligned with your situation.

    FAQs About Apartment Sizes

    How much space do I need to work from home?

    Ideally, you need 100 to 200 square feet of dedicated workspace for your home office. This provides room for a desk, chair, computer equipment, storage, and plenty of space to spread out. If you can’t dedicate an entire room as a home office, look for an open corner or section of your apartment that can accommodate basic home office needs.

    What if my apartment is too small for a home office?

    Consider working remotely from a coffee shop, library, or coworking space a few days per week. Working from a public space gives you a change of environment while allowing you to better use the limited space in your apartment. Many coffee shops offer free Wi-Fi and comfortable seating, so it can make for a pleasant work experience.

    Should I move to get more space?

    Moving solely for extra square footage may not make financial sense. Carefully weigh the rent increase against how much your productivity and comfort will improve. Improving space efficiency in your current apartment might be a better and more affordable way to meet your needs. However, if you can comfortably afford a larger rental and will use the space often, an upgrade could be worthwhile. Professional movers that specialize in small moves can assist with moving your belongings.

    Further Reading

    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Mitchell Layton

    Mitchell Layton

    Mitchell Layton is a former professional mover who currently lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mitchell spent years packing and moving for REAL Rock N Roll Movers, a commercial and residential moving company based in Los Angeles that’s primarily staffed with up-and-coming musicians. That gave him plenty of experience navigating box trucks up and down the winding streets of LA. In addition to moving hundreds of happy customers into new homes and apartments all across Southern California, Mitchell has also performed corporate moves on company lots for Nickelodeon, Warner Bros, Universal Studios, Paramount, and more. After pouring blood, sweat, and tears into his profession, Mitchell has all the helpful tips you need for your next move.

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    photo of Lee Ann Merrill

    Lee Ann Merrill

    Chicago-based Lee Ann Merrill has decades of experience writing and editing across a wide range of technical and scientific subjects. Her love of DIY, gardening, and making led her to the realm of creating and honing quality content for homeowners. When she's not working on her craft, you can find her exploring her city by bike and plotting international adventures.

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