9 ways new homes have changed since the 1970s

Construction of houses has evolved as homeowners' needs change and technology advances.

By MSN Real Estate partner May 21, 2014 9:25AM

© CorbisBy Andy Kiesz, Business Insider


A big part of the American Dream for many people involves going out and building your perfect home. However, what the perfect home looks like has changed over time.


The Census Bureau provides information on different characteristics of newly built houses from the 1970s to 2012. We looked at how those characteristics have changed over the past few decades.


Houses are getting taller, with an increasing share of new houses having at least two stories. Split-level houses, while popular in the mid-20th century, have all but vanished.

Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from U.S. Census Bureau

Houses are also getting more bedrooms. The share of houses built in 2012 with at least four bedrooms reached 41 percent, nearing the 46 percent of new houses with three bedrooms:

Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from U.S. Census Bureau

Going along with the themes of bigger and more, in every year since 1998, a majority of new houses were built with at least 2.5 bathrooms:

Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from U.S. Census Bureau

Basements, on the other hand, have been going out of style. Since 2002, a majority of new houses have been built with a slab-style or other foundation, without a basement or a crawlspace:

Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from U.S. Census Bureau

Exterior wall materials have dramatically changed over the past few decades. In 1973, 65 percent of newly built houses had wood or brick exteriors. In 2012, only 30 percent of new houses had these traditional exteriors. About a third of houses in 2012 were built with vinyl siding:

Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from U.S. Census Bureau

Central air conditioning has gone from being a rarity outside the South to being nearly ubiquitous:

Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from U.S. Census Bureau

Along those lines, heat pumps, which can double as heating and air conditioning systems, have become somewhat more common in recent years, although warm-air furnaces are still the most common method of heating a house:

Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from U.S. Census Bureau

Fireplaces rose in popularity throughout the 1980s, with about two-thirds of new houses built in 1990 having at least one. Since 2010 however, less than half of newly built houses come with this amenity:

Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from U.S. Census Bureau

All these bedrooms, bathrooms, fireplaces and air conditioning units have more and more space to fit into. Aside from a short dip from 2007 to 2009 in the wake of the housing bubble and financial crisis, houses have been getting bigger since the 1970s:

Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from U.S. Census Bureau

Chart data via Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from U.S. Census Bureau


More from Business Insider




Jun 4, 2014 6:15PM
Home construction is very dependent on climate, building codes and materials. Location and land values enter into square foot pricing. Land costs are higher nearer metropolitan cities. Services will increase home prices as well as taxes. The size of homes can be misleading because some high square foot homes are only 3 or 4 bedrooms with 5 or more bathrooms. Main issue in a home is what do you need. Above bedrooms, bathrooms, living room and kitchen, what other areas do you need. I would think our general (within 10 mile radius) area is like most areas of the country with 750 square foot condos up to 15,000 square foot 10 car garage single family homes.

Well, they caught me there. I built this house back 10 years ago. 2 floors, 2 AC units, 5 bedrooms, second floor porch (southern colonial style), and a small 1000 foot building off to the side made from cinder block.

I turned the house so that it faces east to get maximum light inside the house and parked it in the middle of six acres of woods so dense, I cannot see another human being (or house). There are deer in the woods, fox, and a host of other animals. I leave them alone, but a bear... I will shoot it cold.

Jun 4, 2014 12:13PM
I am well beyond worrying about what anybody thinks about the house I live in.  If I was to build a house today, it would be small by today's standards.  Around 1000 sq. ft. is big enough for me if there is additional storage space.  I also think that some things have been overdone, like open concept everywhere, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors etc.  Too much open concept sometimes leaves you with almost no interior walls for furniture or artwork.  I like having some walls.  Granite countertops are expensive and require too much maintenance and care.  I prefer either quartz or concrete countertops  Stainless steel appliances tend to scratch easily, though the finish has been made more durable in recent years.  I would choose white appliances and colorize with other accessories.  Colored appliances can be difficult to match if one of them fails.  Hardwood floors are expensive, hard, noisy, slippery, and cold.  Give me carpet any day, especially in a cold climate or when there is living space in a basement below the floor.  I also don't want a wood-burning fireplace, though a gas fireplace insert can be nice.  Overall, I'm looking for less work, not more.  The house is for my enjoyment and shelter, not to make anyone else jealous.
Jun 4, 2014 6:48AM
They forgot shag carpet, a staple of the '70's!  LOL!
Jun 4, 2014 5:49AM
I liked this article it's very informative on the direction that housing has gone. it surprised me the low number of homes with wood siding. properly installed and painted wood can look much better than vinyl.  
Jun 4, 2014 4:42AM
They forgot one important thing. Any new home built from the early 90's on with exposed wood on the outside will rot in a short period of time even if you paint it every few years.
May 22, 2014 4:16AM
The mortage company's now have the boot that leaves the Obama brand on your hind end as they drop kick you out the door. But say not to worry you get food stamps and a free cell phone inscribed vote D for change.
May 22, 2014 2:35AM
The heat pump ratio should still be much higher.  It's stupid to put in a new AC versus the minor premium for a heat pump.  They are virtually the same piece of equipment except a heat pump includes a reversing valve so the unit can be used to pump heat into the house instead of just out of it.  The upgrade cost is very minor, but paying it allows you to use the unit throughout the year versus summers only.  They are also very cost effective to use for heating in spring and fall, though if you live in the north you may still want another heating system to supplement the heat pump during the coldest days of winter.
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Powered by



Find local plumbers, electricians, contractors and more.