Why New Homes Have Small Yards

backyard with grass

There are many reasons why new homes have small backyards, and also some logical benefits to them. Whether you take care of your own lawn or hire someone to do the job, you’ll save a lot of time and money on a mini yard. Besides, it is much easier to supervise children in a small yard.

New homes have small yards because homes keep on getting built. Thus, the median lot size shrinks, and the lot size no longer matters for homebuyers, especially since homes are still expensive. Developers are coping with shrinking lawns to compensate for the bigger houses in smaller lots.

In this article, we’ll tackle the four major reasons why new homes have small yards, as well as the approximate footprint of a single house today, the percentage of homebuyers that are disinterested in a lot size, the average cost of a lot for a family home, and the recent preferences of homeowners when constructing a house.


Homes Are Built Bigger

As the U.S. turned to an industrial economy, the approximate median footprint of a single-family home has grown to about 2,113 sq. ft., while the average lot size dropped to 8,940 sq. ft. in 2015. That resulted in a high “lot usage” of 25% for houses instead of green space.

Moreover, the average lot size has fallen by over one-third since 1975 and houses have become 15% bigger in the meantime due to the increase in size of homes previously built on a certain site.

There were 79,200 teardowns in 2016 against 55,200 in 2015, according to the National Association of Homebuilders. The association assumes that the trend will endure as the housing stock ages and the demand for inner suburban regions expands.

Briefly, many people like to live in a single-family home and have their own yard with some space between themselves and their neighbors. In fact, studies state that even dwellers in a city prefer a more traditional American living to large homes with yards.

More often, developers are coping with shrinking lawns to compensate for the bigger houses within smaller lots. Landscapers are catering to the tastes of homeowners with small lawns, creating lawnmowers with smaller cutting widths that can cover small yards more simply than standard mowers.


The Median Lot Size Is Scarce

Based on the U.S. Census Bureau, the median size of a lot for new construction in 2018 was 8,982 sq. ft., or around one-fifth of an acre, while in 2009, it was about 10,994 sq. ft., or one-fourth of an acre. That square footage fell 18.3 % in average size.

The shrinking median lot size widely affects home construction within smaller lots. A decade ago, 28% of all sold single-family detached homes were set on lots under 0.16 acres, and 19% were occupying between 0.16 and 0.25 acres.

However, looking at single-family detached spec homes in 2018, the median lot size in New England is more than twice as large as the national median. Wherein, the region is famous for strict local zoning regulations that usually require very low densities. Therefore, it’s nothing new that half of the single-family detached spec homes started in New England are constructed on vast parts of the largest lots in the nation.

The Pacific part, where densities are high and developed land is scarce, offers the smallest lots, with only half of the lots being under 0.14 acres. The neighboring mountain section also accounts for lots smaller than a national median of 0.17 acres.

However, these numbers are limited to single-family detached speculatively built homes. Custom homes constructed on the owner’s land, with either the owner or builder serving as the general contractor, don’t involve the job of a professional land developer subdividing a property.

Thus, in the case of custom homes, lots refer to the owner’s land area instead of lots in the traditional sense. However, the SOC reports that lot sizes for custom homes likely have larger lots. The median lot size of custom single-family detached homes started in 2018 is around one acre.

Whereas, the National Association of Home Builders reports that the average cost of a lot for a single-family home is $85,139. For builders, it’s already a hefty investment inland. Land costs keep rising in large part because of the shortage of cheap, buildable lots.

Land plays a great role in the home buying experience. The lot is around one-fourth of the sale price of a single-family home, which means a smaller lot widely decreases the price of a living area.


If it’s your first time to own a yard, there are a lot of things that you need to know if you want to keep it green and healthy. From regular mowing and watering to aerating the soil once in a while, you have quite a bit of new chores that you need to do. To help you with this task, here is our complete guide to yard maintenance for new homeowners


Lot Size No Longer Matters

Apart from land cost, there’s been a change in buyers’ preferences related to the lot size, particularly among older Americans.

A 2018 NAHB survey revealed that 22% of home buyers had no requirement for minimum lot size, while 9% wanted at least one-eighth of an acre, and 18% preferred at least one-fourth of an acre. Generally, size didn’t matter that much for nearly half of the buyers.

But baby boomers and seniors show even less concern regarding the size of a lot. Indeed, the NAHB survey found that more than one-fourth of older buyers had no requirements regarding the minimum lot size. It also shows that those people like small lots because they have less interest in doing yard work.

Further analyzing the survey’s results, we found out that 40% of all buyers said they are willing to settle for a smaller lot to buy an affordable new home. That number was around 30% in NAHB’s 2003 survey.

Yet, it doesn’t mean that homebuyers who choose smaller lots want to make sacrifices regarding the size of their homes.


Homes Are Still Expensive

When there’s more demand for housing, it logically costs more than in a down market. Thus, as more buyers start looking for homes, the prices rise. Since 2009, land prices have almost doubled, nearly going back to their prices in 2006, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“When home prices appreciate at a fast pace, the land value increases even faster, which, in turn, increases the cost of homes higher. In order to lessen the high cost of the land value, home builders reduce the size of the lots to bring the cost of the new home down and so they can price these homes at a reasonable level,” states CoreLogic, a source of property data and analytics.

Besides, research conducted by Trulia in 2017 found that homes built in 2015 occupied 25% of the land on their certain place, while homes constructed in 1975 occupied only 14%. That is due to the shrinking of lot sizes by 36%, while home sizes grew by 15%. The approach of smaller lots and bigger houses results in shrinking yard space.

“Americans want both space and convenience, yet the land available approximately near to job centers is expensive. This approach of larger homes and smaller lots shows the understanding between what builders can profitably construct and what consumers can actually buy,” said Svenja Gudell, chief economist for real estate platform Zillow, in 2015.



Backyards are getting smaller as Americans switch preferences for larger houses. But, having small yards doesn’t mean that it cannot be functional and pleasing. However, if you have a big family and like to spend time outdoors, you’ll aspire for a bigger space. Fortunately, we were able to outline the basic reasons why today, homes come with smaller lawns than they did decades ago.

If you want to have a house with a big backyard, expect that you will have to pay more for this kind of property and that it will take you quite some time to find the house of your dreams. As we have stated in this article, the norm today is big houses with small yards. If you don’t have your own land to build your house in, you need to expect that most of the houses that you will see in the market today have these dimensions and that your future home might share these measurements, too.

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