Is the McMansion trend breaking? Has it broken. The Wall Street Journal seems to think so.
The WSJ defines a "McMansion" as a house larger than 5000 square feet with 4 or more bedrooms. We might add that it has a gratuitous scalen and a quality of forced (and therefore unsuccessful) grandeur. McMansions often look like they are making status claims beyond their due.
To use the phrase just used by the woman sitting beside me on the brown line of Chicago’s transit system, the one with "Funno" tattooed in Spencerian script on her neck in line with her adam’s apple, McMansions are often, but not always, found in "uppity-ass neighborhoods." The Wall Street Journal also notes that "McMansion" is often used in a derisive way to describe any house larger than the speaker’s own.
There are nearly 3.2 million homes in the US that are 4000 square feet or larger. This figure is up 11% since the last survey in 2001.
The WSJ speculates that there at least 6 factors driving the McMansion downturn.
1) the overall slump in the housing marketing.
2) the rise in heating and cooling costs.
3) the jump in interest rates.
4) that fact that boomers are moving to smaller quarters.
5) the fact that the next cohort is marrying later and having smaller families.
6) the fact some people now prefer higher quality contruction to bigger spaces.
But the WSJ doesn’t seem much interested in the cultural drivers of this development, and there are several candidates here:
7) Susanka’s "small house" movement.
8) new models of the family, family interaction, family solidarity.
9) the possibility that the BoBo sensibility described by David Brooks may have "gone wide."
10) the possibility that the larger trend towards conspicuous consumption, so robust these last 20 years, may now be receding.
Someone should be investigating. If any of the factors 7 through 10 are germane, we are in for some very interesting changes in culture and economy.
Fletcher, June. 2006. The McMansion Glut. Wall Street Journal. June 16, 2006., pp. W1, W8.
McCracken, Grant. 2006. Homeyness. Culture and Consumption II. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.