Armchair Builder

Want to Build an “Average” Home? The New Census Numbers Explored

One in Every Three Homes Built Has Vinyl Siding

Have you wondered what the details look like for the new homes we are currently building in the U.S.?  A great resource for finding out the specifics are the latest census numbers which were released earlier this month.  Take a look below at some of the highlights from the latest numbers for new single-family homes built in 2011.

Square Footage

The average square footage of new single family homes completed has gone from 2367 square feet to 2504 square feet over the last three years.  At first glance, we would say Americans are wanting bigger houses in general.  It is possible, however, that a larger majority of the people building homes most recently have a higher net worth (they have the cash to spend even during a still recovering economy).  If this is the case, this group would skew the averages a bit as they tend to build bigger homes.

Exterior Siding Material

A third of all new single-family homes sold in the U.S. last year had vinyl siding.  Vinyl siding still remains the most affordable option and is relatively maintenance free.  If you are thinking of building or buying an existing home with vinyl siding, check out out video on melting siding before you sign to avoid some hassles.

Air Conditioning

88% of all single-family homes completed in the U.S. in 2011 had air conditioning.  Why wouldn’t all of them have air conditioning you say?  Obviously there are some homes being built in the most northern locations or higher elevations that may rarely need air conditioning.  Builders are also working on green initiatives that enhance the natural cooling process to save energy.  Careful placement of windows, eves, and house orientation can make a huge difference in comfort levels in a home without air conditioning.

Another reason that 12% of new homes did not get air conditioning could be that some builders make this an option to prevent from over pricing the homes they build.  It can cost $3000-$5000 to add air conditioning to a new home.  This can push the price just out of reach for a young family just because of the air conditioning costs.   By adding the rough-ins, air conditioning can be added in the future with little extra costs.

One in Every Two Homes Built Were on Slab Foundations

Foundation Type

Just over half (53%) of all new single-family homes completed in 2011 were on a slab (as opposed to a basement or crawl).  A slab is typically a more affordable option than a basement and is pretty standard in certain parts of the country like Florida or Hawaii.


The average lot size for new single-family homes sold was 16,663 square feet or a little over a third of an acre.

Average Price Per Square Foot

Builders are frequently asked how much this or that new home would cost to build.  One way to get a rough indication of cost is to look at the average price per square foot for new homes being built.  According to the Census Bureau, the average sales price per square foot for 2011 was $83.38.

If you would like more details about the latest census numbers, check out the Characteristics of New Housing published by the United States Census Bureau.


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