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The Problem with McMansions

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August 28, 2019

There was a time when a behemoth house was a status symbol, and in many ways it still is. It’s a sign of wealth – a reflection of success in the same way a luxury sports car or 40-foot yacht is. The trouble is that in today’s economy, where younger people have less wealth than the older generations and the divide between the haves and have-nots is growing, these homes are monuments to another time.

There’s also the shift in family size. Many young couples today are having fewer children, or opting for a child-free lifestyle, eliminating the need for a large home.

A McMansion can be defined as a mass-produced, oversized house with a lack of craftmanship. While these rose in popularity over a few decades, they still exist, which will certainly cause some problems as the older generation ages out of them. Let’s dive into a few of them.

Too big to sell

The traditional homebuying lifecycle often begins with a starter home, transitions into a larger home, plateaus at a “forever” home, then descends to a downsized dwelling. The issue for those who bought or built a giant home as their long-term residence is that when they’re ready to downsize to a luxury townhome or condo, there are few buyers out there looking for that much house.

Essentially, when they do sell their McMansion, they’re unlikely to get the return they expected when they moved in. McMansions are not a retirement plan like they once were. As discussed above, young people either can’t afford these types of houses or simply don’t want them.

Outdated

Many McMansions built in the ’80s, ’90s and early 2000s followed a formula, and that was to cram as many architectural styles as possible into one house. You’ll often see turrets, small unused balconies, columns, multi-level roofs, archways, vast front yards, concrete hardscaping and more. It’s a lot. This style doesn’t seem to translate into this decade, where home designs are more purposeful, cohesive, modern and minimalistic.

Today, we focus on doing more with less – being efficient and comfortable. These ostentatious McMansions include a lot of wasted space, are expensive to keep (heating, cooling, maintenance, etc.), and don’t really reflect the values of many hardworking Canadians today.

Location

When you think about this style of home, where are they usually located? Suburban and rural communities. Since most jobs are in urban areas and many younger workers prefer to live where they work, or at least live near transit to commute, the location of these homes is not ideal.

Even those who can afford them are opting for high-end condos or luxury urban townhomes to enjoy a better sense of community, as McMansions tend to be built in gated communities or residential neighbourhoods away from amenities in a service desert. Again, this is the antithesis of where we are headed as a society. A remote or closed-off community isn’t necessarily what people want these days, making them a hard sell.

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