The Australian Home Is Now the Smallest It Has Been in 22 Years

Julian Fadini | July 19, 2018

A heavenly destination for housing, Australia is witnessing a trend that’s as surprising as it is indicative of its changing population. Home to modern as well as quaint real estate, the country is in the midst of an interesting turn of its housing tide: its homes are getting smaller. In fact, houses down under are smaller now than they have been in the past 22 years! For instance, the average free-standing house was 230.8 square metres in 2017-18, 0.9 percent smaller than what it was the previous year. Surprising? Not if you consider Australia’s recent population trends.

The population across our continent has grown and changed in many ways. From 16 million, three decades ago, to 23 million now, our numbers have increased, mainly as a result of immigration. But the small size of the average Aussie home today isn’t just an outcome of population growth. Fewer Australians are marrying and having children, and our incomes have increased, along with real estate rates. While back in 1984, a full-time employee would earn about $19,000 a year and purchase a place within $150,000, today, we earn over $73,000 annually, but an average home in the city commands a price tag of around $520,000.

The recent housing trend was reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, commissioned by CommSec; the latter’s chief economist, Craig James, added that one contributing factor to the situation is the fact that we’re seeing a “rise in the number of apartments being built”. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Australian apartments today make up 46 percent of all new homes built, while eight years ago, this number stood at just 27 percent.

But while there are a number of other factors that seem to have contributed to the shrinking size of our apartments, James had a slightly more interesting insight to offer:

“We can point to a lot of things, like the global financial crisis, as being a change in people's mentality. People are wanting to live more simply … You've got Baby Boomers, as well as Millennials and Gen Y, which have got this preference for smaller accommodation, perhaps closer to city centres, whether it's regional cities or whether it's capital cities.”

So, whether it is geography, convenience, finance, or another reason, more Australians are opting for compact dwelling alternatives. But despite this, some of our locales still boast houses that are significant in terms of size. The Australian reports that our homes are still almost 30 percent bigger than they were 30 years ago and that they are the second biggest in the world, behind those in the US. And as for Victoria, its homes were recorded as being the biggest in any state or territory on the continent this past financial year. Homes there pack a good 244.8 square metres and are followed, in size, by residences in ACT, Western Australia, and Queensland. It is also worth noting that the newer homes that are being built are also superior, with better kitchens, bathrooms, floors, and inclusions such as air-conditioners.

Finally, does all of this affect the property scene in our country? Well, as James says,

“The changes in housing demand and supply and the differences across the country have major implications for builders, developers, investors, building material companies, financiers, and all levels of government.”

The trend also brings to light the fact that there are fewer people per household today. Then there’s the fact that the focus is shifting from free-standing structures to apartments. Also, building completions have been hitting record highs or are at least hovering in that zone.

So, with its McMansions growing fewer and its apartments getting smaller, Australia’s housing landscape is undergoing a change that demands the attention of residents. And as 2019 knocks on the door, it will be interesting to see what new trend our living spaces witness as the year progresses.