In a world grappling with record-breaking heat waves, unexpected disruptions in global food supply chains, and the perplexing notion of extraterrestrial encounters, the escalating cost of living and the increase in home price per square foot still stands as a tangible concern.
We’ve already found that soaring home prices are connected to exceeding inflation rates and the surge in homelessness. Now, we examine if Americans are actually paying more for more space and how the price per square foot of homes has evolved over time.
By analyzing evolving price-per-square-foot metrics, we discern how affordability has shifted over time, drawing parallels with the 2007-2008 financial crisis and highlighting the drastic difference between now and the 1980s. Our research aims to provide insights into the relationship between housing costs and the size of homes Americans can actually afford.
We analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Realtor.com. Prices and square footage are based on the most recent, comprehensive national data, which is from 2022. For the 50 most-populous metros, we used data through June 2023.
Price per Square Foot Statistics 👣
- The median sale price per square foot for new single-family homes across the U.S. has increased 368% since 1980 — from $41 to $192. Jump to section👇
- The median square footage of new single-family homes in the U.S. increased 52% from 1980 to 2022 — from 1,650 square feet to 2,383 square feet.👇
- Adjusting for inflation, the median sale price per square foot for new single-family homes in the U.S. has increased 32% since 1980 — from $146 to $192.👇
- Compared to 2008, home buyers today face an 85% higher median sale price per square foot for houses.👇
- In the past five years, Providence, Rhode Island, has seen the biggest increase in median square footage (11%).👇
- Cleveland is the least expensive city based on the price per square foot ($133 per square foot).👇
- The most expensive city based on the price per square foot is San Jose, California ($845).👇
- The most expensive ZIP code by price per square foot is Point Reyes Station, California ($20,677), located just outside the San Francisco Bay Area. For comparison, the Bay Area has a price per square foot of $705 per square foot.👇
Home price per square foot in Phoenix
• Homes in Phoenix saw a price per square feet increase of 62% over the past five years.
• The median price per square foot in Phoenix has increased from $162 to $263 since 2018 – compared to Baltimore, which saw the smallest increase (13%).
• Phoenix homes have the 16th-highest price per square foot out of the 50 biggest U.S. metros. Cleveland is the least expensive city based on the price per square foot at just $133.
Median Square Footage of New Single-Family Homes in the U.S. (1980-2022)
Last year, we reported that the median square footage of new single-family homes increased as the average number of people per household slightly decreased since 1980. Now, the average number of people per household has slightly increased from 2.51 people to 2.6 people. This may be because of higher living costs over the past year, leading to more shared housing.
According to international standards, a residence is considered a single-family home if it’s at least 120 square feet. For comparison, the average American has ample space. The median square footage of a new single-family home in 2022 was 2,383 square feet. In 1980, it was 1,650 square feet.
That averages to about 916 square feet per person in 2022. It’s less than the square footage per person in 2021, which was 949 square feet, but more than what Americans in 1980 experienced — 569 square feet per person.
However, some ZIP codes are so expensive in terms of the price per square foot that the typical square footage is below 600 square feet, while home prices are over $1 million.
Median Sale Price of New Single Family-Homes Not Adjusted for Inflation (1980-2022)
The landscape for new single-family homes in 2022 revealed significant shifts in size and price. The median square footage in 2022 was 2,383 with a median price of $457,800. That comes out to about $192 per square foot or 368% more than the price per square foot in 1980 ($41).
Compared to 1980, the median square footage has expanded just 52%, while the median sale price has surged by an astonishing 609% during the same period. The median sale price in 1980 was just $64,600, or about $41 per square foot.
This disparity highlights a staggering reality: The rise in the median sale price has outpaced the increase in the median square footage by a striking 1,075% since 1980. This divide has further widened in recent years, with the rise in the median sale price surpassing the growth in the median square footage by 1,574% since 2020 and by 1,234% since 2022.