Saturday, November 11, 2006

Schadenfreude With Facts and Figures

Even though we in Marin don't have many of what I think of as "McMansions" it still gets me thinking of all those supposedly "green" 5000 sq ft+ houses on acres of Marin hill tops with their non-native landscaping... Anyway, below is an edited-for-my-personal-standards-of-decency version of the article; you can find the original here.

McMansions Are For McIdiots

November 10th, 2006

Is anyone else as gleefully excited by the housing bubble burst as I am? I mean far be it for me to delight in the misfortune of others, but—

Ah, who am I kidding? I revel in the misfortune of others (especially if those on the receiving end are well deserved morons) and this real estate crash is punishing fiscal idiots left and right. Trends like this are how I know there’s justice in the world.

One of my favorite things to do is to go to open houses for the many, many McMansions in the area. Often, I am the only one to show up and the strained, panicked look on the realtors’ face pleases me to no end. They actually think I’m dumb enough to buy one of those dumps!

When are people going to realize square footage is not indicative of a nice house, but instead, a hindrance? What is the point of a dinette and a formal dining room? How many times a year do you actually use the formal one? Once on Christmas and once on Thanksgiving? What about a den and a great room? I’m sure you get... tons of use out of that great room, don’t you? How about a four bedroom house when you only have 2 kids? I bet that’s useful, huh? Three and a half baths? How often does everyone in your house need to use the restroom at the same time? Sunroom? Library? Playroom? Two offices? Three car garage and only two cars?

All ridiculous status symbols disguised as sound investments. I hope your neighbors are... [thanking you big time]... considering how much you’ve paid for the address, buddy.

If you need further proof that owning a McMansion is financial suicide, try the following experiment. You will need:

Measuring Tape
Debit card

1. First, calculate the total cost of living in a house of your size including mortgage, taxes, electricity, insurance, and gas. This is number A.

2. Using your measuring tape figure out the square footage of all the rooms in your house that are not in use daily. Subtract this from the total square footage of your house.

3. Now, using your telephone, call and find out the total cost to own a house that is the smaller square footage. Include the mortgage, tax, average gas and electric bills. This is number B.

4. Again, use your calculator to subtract number B from number A. Write down the dollar amount.

5. Now, go to an ATM and using your debit card, withdraw the dollar amount you calculated in step 4.

6. Bring the money home and put it in your kitchen sink. Using the lighter, set it all on fire. You heard me right. Set all that money on fire.

Oh. You don’t want to do that? Why not? You’re doing it now every...[fricking]... month.

Don’t stop there; you’re not finished yet! Now you’ve got to calculate the cost of furniture to put in all those rooms you never use. Go ahead and set that money on fire, please. Oh, and the pictures on the walls and the window...[fricking]...treatments? That’s right, into the fire pit with that money, too.

Feel good about that McMansion yet? I guess now is not a good time to remind you that even rooms that you never use still need periodically cleaned, dusted and vacuumed. I’ll let you just calculate that little inconvenience all on your own.

The icing on cake is that people who didn’t calculate the full cost of their status symbol before putting themselves into debt are now forced to sell in a market where houses like theirs are sitting empty because savvy homeowners want no part of them.

I guess the neighbors...[didn't thank you well enough] after all.

Thanks to the reader who sent this in.


Blogger Camille Roy said...

I don't understand the appeal of huge houses. I don't want the fuss, the furniture budget, the bills, the cleaning outlays. Yuck!

Nov 16, 2006, 10:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 3 or 4 person family with 3 or 4 bathrooms has bothered me the most. It makes Americans seem very anal and wierd that they can't share a bathroom.

How bizarre are those children going to be when they grow up?

But it will help I guess when they get turned into 2 or 3 family homes.

These places will go the way of the huge Victorians- if they last that long.

Nov 16, 2006, 11:27:00 PM  
Blogger marine_explorer said...

These places will go the way of the huge Victorians- if they last that long.

Interesting analogy. I've seen a lot of victorians that appear large externally, but their interior space usage is poor. History repeats itself, and I hope we'll enter a more practical phase.

A while back, I sat down and calculated how much space two people actually need to live, and decided we could live reasonably well with only 1500 sqft. From there began a discussion of how much space we "might need", such as separate offices for both of us, plus a few guest rooms and an extra bath. Now I understand how people get mired in the escalation of living space, but I agree with Camille--I simply don't want the extra expense and inconvenience.

Nov 17, 2006, 12:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How else can lard-arsed amercans be expected to maintain their isolation unless they live in huge multi-room houses?!

Nov 17, 2006, 3:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm one of those McIdiots that bought a McMansion.

The house has way too much space, and I didn't think that we would use it all. But it's surprising how we have found a good purpose for every room.

The 3-car garage is a great example. We can now store all of the usual "garage stuff" in the garage and still park our two cars in it.

It's also great having "his and her offices." We both work at home a lot, and now we don't have to coordinate our work schedules, share a computer, a desk, etc. That's been a major, intangible benefit.

The cost for heating and cooling hasn't changed much because we're thrifty about those kinds of things. We don't turn on the heater or air conditioner until we really, really have to.

The major problem has been routine cleaning. We don't have maid service, so the dust is beginning to pile up. But then the dust piled up at the old, smaller house too.

Nov 19, 2006, 8:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the huge Victorians were huge partly for another purpose -- bigger families. The weird thing in America is that houses have gotten bigger even as household size has declined. There's a lot of empty space in those places to shuffle around in.

Okay, so if a mcmansion is too big, what's the right size for the good life?

I've been thinking about this a fair amount, because I've been building a tiny house. I spoke to one prominent architect and asked him why houses of 1500-1700 square feet kept popping up for certain applications. That was the size of a tightly designed 3-bedroom house with two bathrooms, he indicated.

That's suitable for say, a family of four. It works out to about 400 square feet per person. Which seems about right to me. A very tightly designed granny flat is about 400 square feet. My current house is about 800 and is perfect for a couple to live in. Since there's only one (big) bedroom, it actually feels roomy.

If the design is good, it can easily make up for reduction in size. McMansions are the opposite: high quantity, low quality. Kind of the Big Gulp of housing.

Nov 21, 2006, 1:35:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Terms of Use: The purpose of the Marin Real Estate Bubble weblog (located at URL and henceforth referred to as “MREB” or “this site”) is to present and discuss information relating to real estate and the real estate industry in general (locally, state-wide, nationally, and internationally) as it pertains to the thesis that recent real estate related activity is properly characterized as a “speculative mania” or a “bubble”. MREB is a non-profit, community site that depends on community participation and feedback. While MREB administrators do strive to confirm all information presented here and qualify all doubtful items, the information presented at MREB is neither definitive nor should it be construed as professional advice. All information published on MREB is provided “as is” without warranty of any kind and the administrators of this site shall not be liable for any direct or indirect damages arising out of use of this site. This site is moderated by MREB administrators and the MREB administrators reserve the right to edit, remove, or refuse postings that are off-topic, defamatory, libelous, offensive, or otherwise deemed inappropriate by MREB administrators. You should consult a finance professional before making any decisions based on information found on this site.

The contributors to this site may, from time to time, hold short (or long) positions in mentioned and related companies.