“The Incredible Shrinking Yard”: Growing McMansions Are Increasingly Devouring Backyards

America’s obsession with the ever-growing McMansion, combined with a perpetual lack of funding for said McMansion, has resulted a unique phenomenon which Trulia has dubbed “The Incredible Shrinking Yard.”  Analyzing public records to compare residential lot sizes to home footprints, Trulia says that homes built over the past two years occupy a staggering 25% of the land on which they sit, compared to roughly half that amount in 1975. 

Here are some of Trulia’s key findings:

  • Nationally, single family homes occupy 17.4% of the lots on which they sit, regardless of the year they were built.


  • Homes built since 2015 occupy 25% of the land on which they sit, while homes built in 1975 occupy just 13.9%. This is being driven by a combination of lots shrinking by 36.2% and home footprints growing by 15.2% size.


  • Meanwhile, some of the oldest homes in the country, built in the early 1800s, occupy less than 5.0% of the large lots they are built on. The last time lot usage was nearly as high as it is now was during the early 1900s.


  • Don’t mind the neighbors? Single family homes in places like Philadelphia, and San Francisco, which are both geographically small but dense, have the highest lot utilization at 57.7%, and 44.2%, respectively.


  • Want plenty of yard space? Head to New England. Three Connecticut metro areas, Worcester, Mass., Hartford, Conn., and Bridgeport, Conn. make up the places with the smallest amount of house occupying lot space, at less than 7.5%.


  • While most metro areas have seen lot usage grow since the mid-70s, with Oakland, Calif., and Miami seeing the largest upward swings, six metros have bucked the trend with San Francisco, Memphis, and Long Island, N.Y. moving toward less lot usage.

When national home price growth charts start to look like an Amazon stock chart, despite the fact that wage growth remains non-existent, but you know your family of 4 can never find a way to survive in a house even an inch smaller than 4,000 square feet, it only makes sense that lawn sizes would have to shrink to keep purchase prices somewhat ‘reasonable’…and by reasonable, of course we mean below FHA lending limits so that those McMansions can be purchased with minimal money down and backstopped by the American taxpayer.

As Trulia notes, since the mid-70s, when the proportion of lots used by new construction hit a national low of 13.6%, it climbed 11.3 percentage points to 25% of the lot of homes built in 2015 or later. Most metro areas have seen lot usage grow similarly. Oakland, Miami, and Indianapolis have seen the largest upward swing in lot usage, with homes built after 2015 occupying 25.6, 24.9, and 20.3 percentage points more, respectively, of the lots they are built on than they did in the mid-70s.

Meanwhile, 7 of the 95 metro areas analyzed by Trulia managed to buck the trend, with San Francisco, Memphis, Tenn., and Long Island, N.Y. actually seeing a 12.9, 11.6, and 6.0 percentage point decrease, respectively, in the percent of lot usage by homes constructed after 2015 when compared with homes built in the mid-70s.


With that, here’s a helpful chart depicted just how small the ‘American Dream’ has become in your neck of the woods:

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