USA

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Condo Apartment Building in Miami

The Miami real estate market is continuing to perform well, matching its 2013 performance despite increased supply thanks to strong demand. Median and average (mean) house sale prices continued to rise, according to the Miami Association of Realtors.

In the third quarter for 2014, the median sales price for homes in Miami-Dade County was $250,000, an increase of 8.7% on last year, while the median sales price for condominiums rose by 3.5% to $289,000. These latest increases mark the 11th consecutive quarter of price growth in the Miami market for both types of property,

Liza Mendez, chairman of the MAR, said, ‘the Miami real estate market continues to attract the attention of both domestic and foreign buyers, fuelling solid growth and creating opportunities for both buyers and sellers.’

‘While there is more supply available than a year ago, there is still strong demand, and the growth of supply, new listings, sales and prices is more moderate, resulting in a more balanced market,’ Ms. Mendez continued.

Statewide, the median sales price for single family homes was up 4% across Florida form the same time a year ago, according to the latest data from Florida Realtor. The median sales price for condominiums in Florida was up 6.9% compared with the same quarter last year, reaching $139,000.

The average sales price for single family homes and condominiums in Miami Dade county increased 14.9% to $438,431 and 3.8% to $341,927 respectively.

Sales have decreased since last year, however. In the third quarter of this year sales fell across Miami-Dade county by an average of 5% year on year, though that doesn’t necessarily imply a typical ‘price up, sales down’ situation, because the comparison period, the third quarter of 2013, saw record sales activity that was universally agreed to be an unsustainable blip. The majority of the decrease in sales is accounted for by a sharp fall in condominium sales: while single family home sales actually rose 0.2%, condominium sales dropped 9% year on year.

Francisco Angulo, residential president of the MAR, said, ‘in Miami, market performance continues to vary greatly depending on location, property type, price range and other factors.’

‘While in most cases increased supply is offering buyers more choices and less pressure, others are still experiencing significant competition and bidding wars,’ Mr. Angulo went on.

At the current sales pace, Miami has inventory for 5.7 months of single family homes and 8.1 months of condominiums. Compared to the third quarter of 2013, the supply has increased by 13.5% and 33.6% respectively, partly a result of falling condominium sales. A balanced market between vendors and buyers is usually said to mean between six and nine months of inventory, meaning that while the condominium market is becoming a little too buyer-friendly, single family homes remain something of a seller’s market.

Miami’s situation as a favourite US retirement location and a target of choice for foreign investors means that it sees a far higher than average number of cash sales, Since demand shows no sign of slowing for single family homes, the property market in Miami is likely to remain buoyant into the new year and beyond.

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Las Vegas

New data from the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors (GLVAR) indicates that the median house price in Southern Nevada increased only slightly last month as fewer homes were sold.

GLVAR reported that the median price of single-family homes sold in September this year was $202,500, up 1.3% from $200,000 in July and August, and up 12.5% from a year ago. Meanwhile, the median price of condominiums and towhouses in September went down slightly, by 0.7% from $105,000 in August to $104,250 in September. While month-on-month rises may have slowed, though, prices are still 9.7% up from a year ago.

The president of GLVAR, Heidi Kasama, said, ‘Our housing prices went up slightly last month, but they haven’t really changed much these past few months.’ Our market is entering a more stable time, with inventory levels increasing slightly and price increases moderating. Overall, I still think this is a great time for buyers to enter the market.’

Ms. Kasama also pointed out that GLVAR’s median local house price remains well below the peak for Southern Nevada property prices, in June 2006, when the median price was $315,000 – yet prices are also significantly above the rock-bottom $118,000 median of January 2012 too, meaning a more stable market. It’s also a good market for investors – median house prices rose by 24% year-on-year in 2012 and 2013.

However, stock is running down. GLVAR said the total number of existing homes, condominiums and townhouses sold in September was 2,982, down from 3,120 in August and from 3,259 in September of 2013. Kasama said local home sales are running about 12% behind last year’s figures. In fact stock is running so low that it may be destabilizing the market: there’s about enough housing stock in Southern Nevada to support current sales for four months. REALTORS® considers that a six-month supply is a sign of a balanced market.

Distressed sales have been falling for the last two years, according to GVLAR. That trend has continued in September when GLVAR reported that 10.4% of all sales were ‘short sales’ – where a lender allows the sale of a distressed property for less than is owed on the mortgage. That’s down from 11.5% in August, and straight bank-owned sales were also down, to 8.8% from August’s 8.9%.

Part of the decline in sales in Southern Nevada is a result of uncertainty in the market as to whether Congress will vote to extend the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, which expired on December 31, 2013. If Congress doesn’t reenact the law and make it retroactive to January 1 2014, there will be an unexpected and significant tax hit for anyone who completed a short sale in 2014, a consideration which is understandably subduing the market in that area.

Another consideration is that the real estate market in Southern Nevada appears to be shifting bases. In September, the monthly total value of real estate transactions was down 11.3% for homes – but it rose 16.8% from August on condominiums and townhouses.

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The narrative we’re used to hearing is pretty simple. Whether the fault lies with an economy that doesn’t provide young people with opportunities or with a lazy, entitled generation that doesn’t know how to save and can’t live without superfast wi-fi, takeout coffee with cinnamon in it and pop tarts for breakfast is a matter of personal opinion, but the facts are very clear. Generation Y – the generation that’s now between 18 and 33 – aren’t moving out of their parents’ houses to form households of their own.

That’s a problem for them – at 18, the basement room looks pretty sweet, but by 30 you’re not so impressive or impressed – and a problem for parents who were looking forward to an empty nest and find themselves sharing staid family homes with their adult children. But it’s a massive problem for the property market in America and in Britain, too, where the same trend is present. Simply put, your country needs YOU – to buy a house, and millennials aren’t cooperating.

Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at Realtor.com, sums up: ‘the story line has been that millennials are not forming households, they’re living with mom and dad.’ But Mr. Smoke points out that that isn’t where they want to stay, if the numbers are anything to go by. In July this year, more than a third of people between 25 and 34 used a mobile device to look at real estate data. That leads him to the opinion that millennials are planning their next move – even if it’s their first – and reaching for the natural tool of their generation, mobile internet, to research the market and learn their options.

That impression is backed up by data from elsewhere. Millennials might be staying with their parents for now, but it’s not the plan – according to a recent Redfin survey, 92% of 25-34-year-olds who don’t currently have a home want to buy one in the future. And they have pretty clear ideas about what they want, according to Nela Richardson, Redfin’s chief economist.

That’s important because we can expect millennials to one day comprise the majority of the housing market, as their parents stop buying and younger people with less income and different interests can’t buy as much market share. The wants and needs of the ‘baby boom’ generation shaped the American housing market for decades, and millennials, says Ms. Richardson, will do the same. Mr. Smoke agrees, and points out that there are 87 million millennials in the USA – compared with 75 million boomers.

Amenity-rich urban environments are currently the big draws for millennial renters, the segment of the population that has a say about where it lives. All the clichés are in place, like coffee shops and bars, but so are some eminently practical, down-to-earth considerations like walking to work and proximity to transportation. Ms. Richardson thinks that when millennials come to buy homes, they’ll transfer this amenity-rich lifestyle right along, and she foresees a suburbia transfigured by millennial preferences. But there’s another alternative. What if millennials are the generation that repopulates American cities – and what if the same happens in the UK and Europe?

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San Francisco

The number of US homeowners underwater on their mortgages is falling, but not as fast as prices are rising. That’s the news from real estate firm Zillow, who released data showing that around 8.7m homeowners were holding negative equity. That’s about 17% of US homeowners, but the trend is encouraging in that it’s down from 18.8% in the first quarter of 2014 and 23.8% a year ago.

The data also showed that the ‘effective negative equity rate,’ defined as the number of homeowners who have less that 20% equity in their home, fell to 34.8% in the second quarter, down from 36.9% in the first quarter of this year and 41.9% last year.

‘Effective negative equity’ is a term that covers people who technically don’t have negative equity, but who have to deal with many of its consequences, since they have so little equity they struggle to afford to move house or cover the costs of purchasing a new property.

The cycle of negative equity, failure to keep up with payments and risk of repossession brings undervalued properties onto the market, depressing prices and damaging the industry, apart from the human cost. But right now the trend seems to be in the opposite direction: prices are rising, and have risen steadily this year.

In future, the national negative equity rate is expected to fall to 14.9% by the end of the second quarter of 2015, according to Zillow’s Negative Equity Forecast.

However that’s likely to look a little different on the ground as, like prices, growth and sales, it can be expected to vary city to city.

Right now, Atlanta has 28.9% of its homeowners underwater, and Las Vegas has 27.4%. In Chicago, 27.1% of homeowners were facing negative equity at the end of the second quarter. Beating the odds at the other end of the scale, San Jose has 4.6% homeowner negative equity, 8.2% of San Francisco homeowners and 8.3% of Austin homeowners are underwater. These figures probably reflect long term trends.

There are key generational differences as well as geographical ones. Approximately 42.6% of ‘generation X’ (35-49 year-olds) homeowners are underwater; compare that with 15.3% of millennial homeowners, an age group considered to mean about 20 to 34, and 31.1% of ‘Baby Boomers’ aged 50 to 64.

Zillow’s chief economist Stan Humphries says, ‘on the surface, the housing recession did not overtly impact millenials’ housing wealth to the degree it did generation X and the Baby Boomers, as most millenials were too young to have purchased a home during the bubble years. But as this generation begins to consider buying homes, they’re entering a market still very much in recovery and far from anyone’s definition of normal.’

Traditionally, you’d expect homeowners in different age groups to be essentially on different steps of an escalator: get a little older, make a little more, move to a nicer house. But if the age group above you is mired in negative equity, they can’t afford to put their homes on the market. That means that millenials will struggle to step up until gen-X homeowners move on – and they can’t afford to. This effect partly explains the low figure for negative equity among millenials, who can’t move into the affordable starter homes that gen-Xers can’t afford to move out of.

As Mr. Humphries says, ‘Because so many homes are still in negative equity or are effectively underwater, the inventory of homes for sale is severely constrained,… and millennials don’t have the resources to compete with cash offers or engage in bidding wars.’

America’s housing market is still struggling to right itself, but while so many homeowners are underwater that return to normality is still some distance off.

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Condo Apartment Building in Miami

The Miami real estate market, long one of the USA’s most robust, continued to see rising prices in the second quarter of 2014, according to the latest estate agents’ report. The data, from the Miami Association of Realtors, shows a strong demand overall, but particularly good markets for single-family homes priced between $200, 000 and $400, 000.

The median sales price for a Miami-Dade County home was $245, 000 in 2014’s second quarter, showing a jump of 8.9% compared to last year. Meanwhile, the prices of condominiums rose by 5.6% year-on-year to $190, 000.

The market has seen prices increase for ten consecutive quarters now, and performance has been strong for both single-family homes and condominiums.

What’s behind the Miami area’s booming real estate market is demand from both domestic and overseas buyers, meaning there’s always more demand.

‘While supply is growing and creating more balance between buyers and sellers, inventory in certain price points and market segments remains tight, particularly of single family homes,’ observed Liza Mendez, chairwoman of the board of MAR.

Across Florida, prices are rising and the real estate market is robust. The median sales price for a single family home across Florida rose by 5.3% year-on-year to $180, 000, while for condos it rose 10.1% to $142, 000.

In Miami-Dade county, meanwhile, the focus on Ms. Mendez’ price points is clear. While the increase in inventory sold in the second quarter of 2014 was negligible at 0.9%, that is in comparison with Q2 2013 which showed record sales activity. Zoom in, and the figures tell a slightly different story.

Sales that don’t appear to have moved much actually shifted in two opposite directions simultaneously. Sales of single family homes rose significantly – by 4.9% – while sales of condominiums decreased by 5.2%, despite rising condominium prices. That trade-off – rising prices, falling sales, or vice versa – is what you’d expect to see in a stable market. By contrast, prices and sales rising at once shows strong growth. It’s the market in single family homes that’s really booming in Miami.

‘As the Miami real estate market continues to normalize and perform in a healthy manner, there are increased opportunities for all types of buyers. While inventory is still limited depending on the area and price range, buyers generally have more to choose from and prices remain at affordable 2003 levels,’ says Francisco Angulo, residential president of MAR.

At the current pace of sales, inventory for single family homes stands at 5.5 months and that or condominiums at 7.8 months. Compared to the second quarter of 2013, inventory has risen by significant amounts – 13.5% for single family homes, 33.6% for condominiums. When inventory, sales and prices rise at the same time, that’s a sure sign of boom times; meanwhile some of the additional increase in condominium inventory may be a result of falling sales in that sector, traditionally one of Miami’s strongest.

Sales that were all cash fell slightly, indicating an increase in purchases that stretched the buyer’s finances – homes or living in, not investments. That’s another good sign for the Miami real estate market.

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New York USA

In the mid-20th century many of the richest Americans high-tailed it out of cities and into sprawling suburbs where they could have huge homes and a bit of insulation from rising urban crime.

But these days, some of the country’s biggest movers and shakers choose to live right in the heart of the metropolis.  And for good reason – being in the city, as opposed to the burbs, gives you a shorter work commute and easy access to the best shopping, dining and culture money can buy.

Here, we take a look at a few of the wealthiest and most interesting urban enclaves in the country’s biggest cities and explore a little about what makes them so special.

New York – Tribeca

  • Average Household Income: $173,178
  • Average Monthly Rent: $5,165 
  • Average Home List Price:  $4,250,000

This famed, lower Manhattan neighborhood got its name from its shape and location below Canal Street – Triangle Below Canal = Tribeca. Like many now fashionable urban areas, Tribeca has its roots as an industrial corridor turned hip artist mecca turned high-end residential zone.  These days it’s one of the most fashionable city neighborhoods in the world, which is quite well reflected in the fact that it’s also home to many NYC-dwelling celebrities.

 But it’s not just hip – it’s also truly a great place to live.  Tribeca claims the status as the city’s safest neighborhood and boasts wonderful schools, excellent public transportation access and impeccably rehabbed historic buildings.

San Francisco – Pacific Heights

  • Average Household Income:  $129,248
  • Average Monthly Rent: $3,992
  • Average Home List Price: $1,595,000

San Fran has the reputation of being one of the country’s most expensive cities to live, and it’s easy to see why.  Besides being the center of a new tech boom, it offers residents gorgeous Pacific views, moderate weather and diverse cultural attractions.  Pacific Heights residents enjoy some of the most scenic views in all of the city and they’re willing to pay for them.

Unlike the many apartment buildings in urban hotspots like Tribeca, this San Francisco neighborhood is characterized by homes in the Victorian, Chateau and Mission Revival style.  The area is also home to beautiful parks with panoramic views of the city and bay, high-end shopping, and neighbors like Nicholas Cage and Danielle Steel.

Chicago – The Gold Coast

  • Average Household Income:  $137,839
  • Average Monthly Rent: $3,319
  • Average Home List Price:  $2,024,940

The Windy City’s historic lakeside neighborhood was built by the wealthiest Chicago families in the late 1800s and mostly stays true to its roots even today.  After the Great Chicago Fire wiped out huge swaths of the city in 1871, men like millionaire Potter Palmer set to establishing a new enclave for the city’s high society set.

Today, the aptly-named Gold Coast still enjoys a prime location between The Loop and Lake Michigan.  And it still contains some of the most historic and beautiful residential structures in the city, which are a mix of high rises, row houses and mansions.  Given the fact that the whole neighborhood is on the National Registry of Historic Places and the plethora of high-end shopping and dining in the area, there’s no reason to think that Gold Coast properties will decrease in value any time soon.

Georgetown – Washington D.C.

  • Average Household Income:  $127,197
  • Average Monthly Rent: $3,350
  • Average Home List Price:  $1,195,000

For the most powerful and well-to-do residents of our nation’s capital, Georgetown is a highly desirable address.  Georgetown residents pay a premium for its position along the Potomac and for the knowledge that historic neighbors include Thomas Jefferson and JFK.  Because this now urban neighborhood was once, in fact, its own city that predated D.C. itself, there’s still a decidedly colonial vibe that draws history buffs.

Not only is it closer to downtown D.C. than many of the city’s other popular residential areas, but it’s perfectly restored row houses and cobblestone streets make it feel like a charming throwback to times gone by.  These days, though, the area is most renowned for its staggering selection of boutiques, bars and restaurants that draw admirers from all over the city.

Back Bay – Boston

  • Average Household Income: $134,605
  • Average Monthly Rent: $2,700
  • Average Home List Price:  $1,250,000

Bean Town’s Back Bay is not expensive for no reason; it’s a beautifully well-preserved 1800’s neighborhood whose planning was inspired by the mid-19th century renovation of Paris.  While much of the rest of old Boston is characterized by windy, narrow streets, Back Bay’s streets are wide, lined with trees and laid out in a neat grid.

The picturesque streets are full of 3 and 4 story Victorian brownstones that surely incite envy in residents visiting from other neighborhoods.  Many of these historic residences have been divided up into apartments, but for the truly high rollers, there are a few that remain intact and can be purchased as single-family homes.

For those who purposely seek out the crème de la crème when it comes to neighborhoods, these are excellent choices.  The best part is, unlike many wealthy suburban outposts that spring up overnight, these urban pockets offer residents a storied past and wonderfully unique character.

In the right city spot, a high rent or mortgage gets you more than nice digs – it comes with a little piece of history as well.

Author Bio:  Noah Tennant is a real estate writer and the Owner of Chicago Apartment Leasing Group, a company that helps renters find the best Chicago apartments the city has to offer. Noah is dedicated to providing both his clients and readers become more savvy renters. For more, click here and follow him on Google +.

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Homes for sale in usa

According to the California Association of Realtors, home buying in the USA is more influenced by social media than ever before. The CAR’s ‘2014 survey of California Home Buyers’ report shows that more US home buyers are turning to social media for guidance than ever before.

CAR said more than three quarters of home buyers used social media in their home search, a radical rise from the 2011 figure of 52%. Buyers said they primarily used social for social purposes – 44% used it to ask friends for suggestions or advice, and the same number used it to obtain neighbourhood information, while 42% viewed their agents’ Facebook profile pages.

Add in the figures on mobile tech use and it’s obvious that the way people buy property is subject to the same paradigm shift that has affected other purchases. Mobile technology was used in 91% of home purchases at some point, with buyers saying they used mobile to search for comparable home prices in 78% of cases, to search for homes in 45% of cases and to take photos of homes and amenities in 43% of cases.

As social media use increased, direct use of the intenet in the form of search engines declined. This decline was also rapid and radical: in 2013, 68% of buyers Googled theri agent. In 2014, 50% did. The difference is thought to be accounted for by buyers using Facebook as a search engine, and agents’ Facebook profile pages like websites.

While the housing market has become more social it’s also become more competitive: more than 9 in 10 buyers made one or more offer, and the average number of offers made per buyer was 3.6% in 2014 so far, as against 3.0% in 2013. And buyers viewed more houses, too: on average buyers viewed 20 homes in 2014, as against 10 in 2013.

After all that extra shopping, you’d hope buyers would be pleased with their houses – but that’s not the story. Only 50% were satisfied with their purchases, down from two thirds in 2013. Nearly half of all buyers said they felt they had ‘settled’ for their homes.

Perhaps the timing of their purchase decisions was motivated by the way they felt about the market. Buyers saw this as a good time to buy. 54% of buyers cited price decreases as a major reason for buying, and 29% pointed to low interest rates, while 17% mentioned favourable financing and pricing; on the other hand, 81% of buyers believed that prices would rise within 5 years and 60% saw prices rising within a year.

If California’s new Facebook generation of real estate buyers is correct, the market in California could be poised for a boom – partly fuelled by their purchases. But what does the method of purchase have to say for the rest of us?

California is one of the most tech-savvy places on earth. It’s home to Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and more. Are a disproportionate number of buyers looking to Twitter and Facebook because they’re in the most silicon-dense region of the planet, or is this a worldwide trend?

Investors in China have been moving into social media, using it to connect with agents across the globe and buy houses in Houston or their own Colorado acres sight unseen, relying on social media at every step of the purchase. But they’re in a specially constrained situation too: most of us can spend our money where we like, unlike Chinese investors who face strict governmental regulation, but we don’t as much of it to spend as the overseas investors who put $1.1 billion worth of transactions through social in the last six months of 2013.

The likelihood is that we’ll see social integrated into web and local searching, but with its unique mix of professionals and friends, and its emphasis on responsiveness and connectivity, social media is likely to become much more important to property sales and purchases over the next few years.

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California

The California Association of Realtors (CAR) has released data showing that the majority of sales in California are by voluntary, rather than distressed, vendors. The organisation said higher home values had continued to fuel more equity sales, which have stayed above 80% of closings for the past 11 months. However, pending home sales fell in May as investors pulled out of a market characterised by rising prices.

While the market in California has been getting healthier for a long time, the rise in May to 89% of closings saw equity sales up 12% on May 2013 after 22 straight months of increase.

At the same time, though, home sales as a whole actually fell slightly, according to the CAR. It’s probable that the reduction in results from investors reducing exposure to a market with rising prices. The median house price was up in May 2014 both month-on-month and year-on-year for the third consecutive month, and is higher now than it was in 2007. The picture is complicated by the fact that while sales as a whole fell, sales of already-existing homes rose, by 4.9% month-on-month. That’s a jump to 4.89 million sales, beating out experts’ predictions of a rise to 4.75 million and hitting the highest number since August 2011.

The figures seem to be revealing a market rich in vendors but relatively poor in developers, where housing building has slowed and a supply squeeze has begun to nip sales growth. As a result, there are buyers, but few investors. Steve Brown, of the National Association of Realtors, said, ‘the temporary pause in rising interest rates and more homes for sale is good news, especially for first-time buyers.’

This rising price trend has put pressure on sales. The statewide price has risen year-on-year for the last 27 months and there have been 23 straight months of double-digit annual gains; ‘prices are still nearly 12% higher than a year ago, which is presenting affordability challenges to homebuyers,’ explains Lesley Appleton-Young, CAR Vice President and Chief Economist.

The other squeeze on California’s housing sales is undersupply. Great news for vendors and a sweet sound to the ears of owners who have struggled with negative equity prior to being pushed back above water by a contracting market, it’s not great news for the market as a whole. As Ms. Appleton-Young says, ‘though housing inventory is up from last year, it’s still half of what is considered normal, with some of it being overprices. A tempering in home prices and the recent drop in mortgage rates, however, should help spark the market in the upcoming months.’

The LA times reported that economists predicted that the slowdown in price growth, coupled with cooling sales in some areas, ‘doesn’t foreshadow a decline in values, but signals more sustainable growth.’

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The American market is showing strong growth right now: sales climbed at the beginning of the year and began to level off in the last couple of months, with 2013 showing the best sales growth since 2006 and the upward trend in prices predicted to slow over the next two years. That’s a good thing, according to Mark Goldman, a real estate expert at San Diego State University, California. ‘It should be measured,’ Mr Goldman told Reuters. ‘We don’t want to go back to stupid money.’

At first glance, the swelling prices we’ve seen over the past few years – 12.4% on prices year-on-year to March 2014 – have inflated more than the housing market.

It looks like they’ve also pumped up the size of the American home, which is now an average of 2, 598 feet – 873 square feet larger than in 1983, and 200 square feet larger than at the peak of the housing bubble.

The Census Bureau’s figures, released earlier this month, show a story that, when you look closer, looks absolutely disconnected from the market. Homes got bigger in good years and bad. They got bigger across the country. They got bigger, whatever else happened, so that in the 10 years from 1983 to 1993 they grew by almost 400 feet on average.

So are Americans just gripped by an urge to build huge houses, or is something else going on? And how does this square with the stories we’re used to hearing about the unreachable prices in New York and other cities, or the people cannily learning to adapt to their 120-square-foot apartments by parking their bikes on the wall and storing their books in custom shelving under the furniture?

One reason is simply that the rich have got richer since the financial crash. ‘If you had a lot of money in the stock market,’ explains Stephen Melman, director of Economic Services for the National Association of Home Builders, ‘it has doubled since 2009.’ At the same time, the housing market has grown – but the rest of the economy hasn’t. There’s been significant income stagnation and in some cases incomes have actually fallen in real terms.

The result of all this is that first-time buyers, a major source of demand for smaller homes, make up less of the housing market than before. Sales of 1, 400 square feet and under homes accounted for 9% of homes built in 2005 and just 4% in 2013-14. The reduction in smaller homes has skewed the average.

At the opposite end of the market, those who did have a lot of money invested have been looking around for places to spend it, and homes have always been a major soak for spare capital. Extremely large homes, of 4, 000 feet and up, accounted for over 9% of new homes in 2013-14; in 2009, they represented just 6.6% of builds.

Homes which are merely large, defined as between 3, 000 and 4, 000 feet, made up 21.7% of builds in 2013, up from 15.6% in 2005.

Between these two trends, the jump in average size is easily explained. Throw in the fact that the American average is further influenced by the ‘McMansion’ developments that went up during the easy-money pre-2008 years and you have the whole story.

If you’re looking for a home to buy in America, then, this isn’t necessarily good news. It doesn’t show that your dollar buys you more house now – if anything, the opposite. Smaller homes are still available, and the less-buoyant market might leave you with routes in, but with demand contracting to meet falling supply there might not be many bargains left amongst the villas.

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Igloo

Standing 180 miles out of Anchorage on the George Park Highway is a former luxury hotel, currently on sale for $300, 000 (£217, 000), and its current owner sees it being converted into a restaurant or hotel by its buyer.

So far, so normal.  But there is a unique selling point to this building – or a unique not-selling point, depending on your point of view.

It’s an 80-foot rubber igloo.

The structure, made of polyurethane stretched over a wooden frame, is only inspired by Inuit igloos, it’s not actually made of ice.  But the former Igloo City Hotel is likely to attract the more adventurous buyer.

The current owner, Brad Fisher, bought it in 1996 and thinks it has great potential (for someone else), pointing to its enviable location, passing trade and great views.  It dates to the 1970s when it was built as a motorway rest stop.  More recent years have seen it become a tourist attraction in its own right, as the fascination with the macabre meets the lure of the kitch…

The process of conversion could be expensive, though, as the Igloo Hotel is authentically freezing: there’s no electricity or heat.  Not only is there no electricity inside the building: there’s none nearby.  To supply it, you’d need to build a new substation.

In fact, the Igloo has always been a bit of a white elephant.  It never really opened in the 1970s, and the inside remains structurally incomplete as well as lacking in that Alaskan essential, heating.  It’s been extensively vandalised too, including having fireworks set off inside it.

As much as it sounds like it’s dead in the water, there actually is some method in Bob Fisher’s madness.

The Igloo has stunning views of snowy mountains and beautiful alpine meadows and is on the route out to the six-million-acre Denali National Park, home to the tallest mountain in North America and temporary accommodation to half a million tourists every year.  It’s a great area to see moose, wolves, beaver, wild foxes and grizzly bears.  It’s right next to prime snowmobiling and hiking territory.  And the hotel already has a loyal tourist following.  So yes, you could make something out of it.

You’d need deep pockets, though.  In addition to getting the building actually finished and attached to the grid, you’d need to spend an unknown amount on making sure it’s up to code, including some that didn’t exist when it was built.  The price seems a little steep for what is essentially half a rubber ball but it comes with 38 acres of prime Alaskan land, which is expensive, desirable and saleable.  A buyer might want to do on a larger scale what Mr. Fisher did – run a separate business on the land next to it.  Until 2005, Mr. Fisher operated hut rentals and a petrol station in the grounds of the hotel.  So maybe an enterprising, hiking and outdoors friendly business person could make the Igloo cool again. Fancy it?