Australians built bigger apartments over the past year, reflecting the pandemic-driven shift in preferences for larger living spaces.

CommSec's Annual Home Size Report 2020/2021 showed the average size of apartments completed over the past year reached an 11-year high of 138.3sqm, up 0.4% annually.

In contrast, the size of a free-standing house averaged 229.3sqm on average, which represent a 2.9% decline from a seven-year high.

Overall, the size of homes built over the past year, including houses and apartments, averaged 195.8sqm, which is down from the six-year high set in 2019.

Where the biggest homes are

ACT had the biggest houses over the year, with sizes averaging 259.3sqm.

Meanwhile, Victoria built the largest apartments, which span around an average of 156.8sqm.

However, Western Australia had the highest combined average size for both homes at 214.8sqm.

Historical data show Australians built the biggest homes in 2009/2010, when the average home size peaked at 218.6sqm.

At around the same time, homes in the United States also reached their size peak.

"After falling from 2010 to 2012, home size in both the US and Australia broadly trended sideways in the past eight years," the report said.

"While homes haven’t been getting much bigger in recent years, they are still notably larger than those built by previous generations."

In fact, detached homes in Australia are 24% bigger than the house built 30 years ago while new homes, which include apartments, are 14% bigger.

Factors driving the changes in home sizes

Still, the report said several factors are behind the decreasing size of detached house in both the US and Australia.

"Various reasons include increased focus on sustainability, desire for low-maintenance homes, smaller lot sizes, fewer people per home, affordability, a desire for proximity to inner cities, and energy costs," the report said.

The report noted that while the COVID-19 pandemic might have influenced the sizes of homes recently, it remains relatively early to tell whether it had a lasting impact.

"The experience with Covid-19 has certainly caused more families to look for bigger homes and caused others to add extra rooms to existing homes," it said.

"More Aussies want to achieve a situation where family members are able to live, work and relax at home. No doubt, builders and architects have been quick to respond to the new demands by families."

Before the pandemic, many Australian households prefer to live in apartments.

Apartment sizes have reached their record lows in 2017/2018.

"The conclusion that many Aussies appear to have reached is that apartments became too small to be truly comfortable and practical," the report said.

In the current setting, trends of building butler’s pantries, storages for boots, coats and wet clothing, and home theatres provide more families justification to build bigger homes.

"The big question is whether Aussies continue to embrace working from home, opting to move away from apartments in, or near the CBD, in preference for a larger home in a regional or suburban ‘lifestyle’ area," the report said.

"Or it may be just a case that bigger apartments will be sought – either close to capital cities or in the suburbs."

Photo by Francesca Tosolini on Unsplash.