11 charts that show how American houses have changed since the 1970s

TRD New York /
Jun.June 05, 2016 10:26 AM

Houses have been getting bigger and fancier for the last several decades, and we have the charts to prove it. Every year, the Census Bureau releases data on the characteristics of newly constructed homes, and they recently released info on houses built in 2015.

We decided to take a look at how different aspects of newly completed single family houses have changed over the last several decades.

The number of bedrooms in single-family houses has tended to increase. In 2015, about 47 percent of newly built houses had four or more bedrooms.


The number of bathrooms has also tended to go up. About 38 percent of houses completed in 2015 had at least three bathrooms.


Houses have been getting taller. About 55 percent of houses completed in 2015 have at least two stories, compared to just 23 percent in 1973.


The floor area of houses has also increased over the years. The median house built in 2015 had an area of about 2,467 square feet, about 62 percent larger than the median in 1973 of 1,525 square feet.


As houses have gotten bigger, so have garages. The overwhelming majority of houses now have a garage big enough for at least two cars, while back in the ’70s there was more of a mix.


Air conditioning has become much more common. Just under half of new houses in 1973 had air conditioning, while by 2015 about 93 percent did.


Most houses built since the ’70s have forced-air heating systems, but since the turn of the century or so, heat pumps have become more popular.


Nearly all homes are heated with either gas or electricity, and the balance between those two has shifted over the years.


Fireplaces had a big moment in the 1980s: In 1989, about 2/3 of newly built houses had at least one fireplace. By 2015, that had fallen to just under half of new homes.


While brick and stucco have maintained their modest popularity as external wall materials, wood has fallen out of favor, replaced by other materials, mostly vinyl siding and fiber cement.


Basements and crawl spaces have become less common since the ’70s, while slab foundations have become more popular.


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