How big is a house? Average house size by country

How much is enough

How big is your house?  Is it big enough? Is there an optimum amount of floor space per person?  This post takes a look at average house sizes around the world and asks how much space is enough.

Last month the New York Times published a piece about Graham Hill’s 420 square-foot (39 square-metre) apartment in which he argued that having less space and less stuff can create room in your life for more important things.

From a carbon emissions point of view you got the feeling that his travel habit probably negated much of the benefits of having less stuff (as pointed out by Christie Aschwanden).  But that aside it raised an interesting question: how much space is enough space?

A smaller home requires less embodied energy to build, has lower heating and cooling needs, needs fewer furnishings, takes less time to maintain and requires less work to fund.

In terms of carbon emissions small is beautiful.  But how small is too small? And how much space is enough?

Average house size by country

If you asked all the people of the world whether they would prefer a bigger or smaller house I’d guess almost everyone would plump for more space.  That makes perfect sense for people living in small and overcrowded spaces, but is there a point at which we have enough space?

To get a little perspective I’ve put together a graphic to illustrate how big the average new home is around the world.

The figures are in square-meters of usable floor space, and include data for both houses and flats.

How big is a house

Click to the image to expand, or if you prefer square-feet click this link.

In the countries I could get data for the average new home varied in size from 45 m2 (484 ft2) in Hong Kong up to 214 m2 (2,303 ft2) in Australia.

US home size has fallen a little since the recession, to 201 m2 (2,164 ft2) in 2009.  UK house size is relatively small at  76 m2 (818 ft2) while Canadian houses are quite big at 181 m2 (1,948 ft2).  For China the data only reflects urban properties, which now average 60 m2 (646 ft2) and have almost doubled in size in the last 15 years.

There are all sorts of reasons for these differences.  Wealth levels, urbanization rates, land access and climate all play a part.  Nonetheless the scale of the differences is pretty fascinating.

The thing that is really missing from this picture is people.

Average floor space per person

We can take our analysis a little further by looking at how much floor space this equates to per person.

Using data on average household size we can estimate floor space per inhabitant for new homes.  This analysis is a bit rough and ready, as it assumes new homes are being built for the average household.  Nonetheless it is useful because it helps to control for the considerable differences in household size between countries.

Here are the figures in square-meters.

Average floor space per capita

Click to the image to expand, or if you prefer square-feet click this link.

At just 15 m2 (161 ft2) a person in Hong Kong has just a quarter of the floor space of the average Australian or American.

If Graham Hill lives by himself then his trendy 39  m2 (420 ft2) is similar to someone from Sweden.  In fact in the range from 30-45  m2 (323-484 ft2) are the averages for Italy, the UK, Japan, Spain, Sweden, France and Greece.

At our place we have 110  m2(1,184 ft2) for a family of four, which is 27  m2 (291 ft2) per person.  Having previously lived in a few different flats of 50-60 m2 as a couple this feels pretty palatial, and is certainly more than enough for us.  But 30  mper person is much more generous in a four person family than it is in a studio apartment for one.

In London they have a new minimum space standard as part of the London Plan.  For new flats the minimum standards are 37 m2 (398 ft2) for one person, 50 m2 (538 ft2) for two people in one bedroom, 61 m2 (657 ft2) for three people with two bedrooms, 70 m2 (753 ft2) for four people in two bedrooms and 74 m2 (797 ft2) for four people in three bedrooms.  Are these enough space?

In my mind if you have decent ceiling heights, good windows, clever storage and not too much stuff a little space can go a long way.

How much space do you think is enough?

  • sergio mezzapelle

    the data source ??

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  • Ginger Holloway

    can you show me how to do 4 quarter squares

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  • meee

    I don’t know how big my house is but it is a new 4 bed 2 bath 2 garage place and just myself and my young son live here (in Australia) and I have no idea how other families in the neighbourhood with 2 adult and 2+ kids would manage in a place this size although if I could live somewhere with no neighbours and only be able to live in a place the size of a bedroom or two, I would!!!

    • Don Coleman

      Why???

  • QuM3

    My family of 4 lives in a home just over 6600 sq ft. This leaves about 1650 sq ft per person. Many people that enter my home are amazed first that the all the ceilings are 10 ft and the great room ceiling is 22ft. We never feel cramped and the house is not cluttered.

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  • http://www.inspiredhomeideas.com InspiredHomeIdeas

    I believe there’s quite a revolution going on where people are actually looking to trend to smaller and smaller homes, hence the tiny house movement increasing in momentum. I guess cos many of us a choosing to have smaller families (fewer kids) and there also seems to be a growing trend to not collect as much ‘stuff’, the need for massive large scale homes is diminishing.

  • Pat Robins

    St George built it. Not impressed. I live in a 60 metre sq 2003 new build flat in a new housing association flat (read higher rent and £7 per week service charges for a lift and a bucket and mop cleaner once a week on the landings, no longer is out internal waste chute cleaned once a month) in block for the social housing Imperial Wharf grudgingly built at the back, out the way, by the overground rail station, on the Fulham side of Chelsea Harbour, almost by the river, good enough for poor scum like me. We watch ‘them’ and their younf yell out of their Ferrari’s ‘pikies’ and other insults.

    What C21st joy I have two windows, 2.5 feet wide by 3 feet tall triple glazed, one in the bedroom and one in the living space, open plan kitchen, fridge noise, washing machine, cooking smells et al.

    I have no windows in the bathroom or kitchen, effectively no cooker hood extraction process that actually works. The supposed ventilation / trickle extract system is utterly crap. It does next to nothing but add to electricity bill. Short arsed architects, so short they thing a ceiling they can not touch is OK, short arsed architectss who no nothing about kitchens and actual cooking, designed this BS. I’d dearly love to cook fish in their living rooms, be it steamed, grilled or fried !!

    There is utterly inadequate storage. No balcony. I’m 6 feet 1.5 inches tall but I can not stretch out my arms and hads above my head without breaking my fingers. It is awful as a space and yet I’m a lucky one as others have even smaller space. Rabbit hutches like this should not be permitted and so no the numbers quoted above are not by any menas enough. We need minimum standards and sizes for 6 footers like me not just you bloody midgets !!!

    • Howl

      I have to admit, I love the British humor in your post. I miss that. Yes on the ceilings. Populations are getting taller.

      • Pat Robins

        Thank you, you are very kind, for overlooking my myriad typos… OK dreadful I know (just re-read m’ scibble, ooops) misspellings, senior moment from 1963 vintage. I used to spell well when I wrote manually, with my hand, pushing a pen on sheets of thin wood. Read and enjoyed your reply post ending with ‘Terrifying,’ regards our ancient builders brick useage, methinks designs purposefully kept simplistic to allow our recent Eastern European arrivals, who build everything here, work twice as hard, and longer, enduring lower quality working rights and conditions… as the 1%ers, or certainly top 10% of population, drain the economy of wealth, in pursuit of their majority selfish interests beyond the dreams of avarice. Ah, sorry, my left of centre leanings stirring again, yes you can make millions or billions, we’ll provide a safe environment and all the tax funded infrastructure you need, roads, schools, NHS, virtually nill blasted gun toting unstable, ill educated, homicidal maniacs disturbing your income generating, profit motivated activities, all good, but pay your damn taxes like the rest of us 😉

  • FloydPierce

    Hi, your post did leave a strong impression on me. I like this. But by the way, can you help me know the ways to count 4 quarter squares? Thanks a lot!

  • emcon1

    I grew up in South Africa, a family of 5 in a 228sqm home. That’s around 2400sqft giving 480sqft per person. My wife and I moved into our own place which was 140sqm (around 1550sqft) giving each of us 775sqft of space…
    …and she still didn’t have enough space for all her clothes and shoes… =8O

  • Rakesh Kamal

    Is there a international standard on how big a house is needed for decent living? Any leads will be greatly appreciated 🙂

  • http://www.inspiredhomeideas.com InspiredHomeIdeas

    I can understand how everything is getting smaller as our need for ‘stuff’ reduces as we get older and with the baby boomer generation now approaching retirement, they dont need super large houses any longer

  • Mahender Goriganti

    At 15m sq/person in HK, which is an advanced state, if shrunk down to 45m sq for 4 with three bedrooms is an ample space is equivalent of 430 sq foot. I Imagine if only Americans learn to live like that how much savings for them, in transportation, taxes, insurance, lawyer fees, heating & electric,mortgages, interest payments, more importantly how much less time to work to pay all these bills and more time to oneself to enjoy life ??
    Apparently the average home in US now is 2,750sq feet, addiction for itch we sacrifice working like slaves to pay the bills. good ex: if say 500s1 ft home costs 100,000, when all costs, including taxes, mortgage(30y) etc, one ends up paying pays 750,000 in today’s money. if the 2750 sq ft home costs 500,000 one ends up paying 4.25 million in 30 years.

    • joe ho

      I am from Hong Kong. In fact, average 15m/sq person is based on 2009 figure, and may properly for upper middle income class or above.

      For ordinary citizen, buying new flat in 2017, 54 sq feet (5 sq meter)/person is already very large.

      In urban area of Hong Kong city (say Northern Hong Kong Island).
      A new house with 400 square feet (37 sq. meter) properly cost average 8 million Hong Kong Dollars (US $ 1 Million). Rental price of 400 square foot house priced HK$ 15K per month (US $2000) on average.

    • Howl

      Excuse me, I’m an American who just got back from the UK. The prices are 30% higher and you get 30% less product for that. It’s easily 60% lower standard of living than the US. The houses including terraced houses were all 1910 style. The visible lack of progress was shocking. In the USA you can see the house styles change through the decades. In the UK, I saw 14 story apartments being built with bricks. Lots of them currently being built. Those would be 1940 style apartments in the US. I’m sure the inside is modern but honestly the lack of progress was scary and you can’t explain it to people who only know what they see around them. France also lacked visible design progress. Both countries has some modern buildings but you can guess there were foreign investors. Not one single house I saw or row house looked like it was built after 1910 in either country. They didn’t change the outside design for the last 110 years and very little change of the floor plan. They get less because that’s their only option. Terrifying.

  • Travis Jones

    Russian apartments are horrible in terms of size. For a while, my wife and I and our 1-year-old son were living in a 32 m2 1-room apartment in Moscow, but it was such abject misery that they ended up moving back in with her parents’. Since I’m a foreigner, I can’t borrow money (mortgage rates are 14% anyway) and they have this weird cultural phobia against renting. But anyway, we’ve managed to save some since then so we’re going to try for a 55 m2, 3-room apartment. I think that’s about half of what a family of four should shoot for. On the upside, I haven’t driven a car since I rented one to visit my grandfather in Ohio a year ago. Few in the developed world have more than 3 kids these days, with most having only two or opting not to have any. This is reflected in total fertility rates outside the African and Muslim world, which have dipped towards 2.0 – the level at which population growth stops. Even places like Mexico (2.22), Brazil (1.81) and Turkey (2.06) which once had very high fertility rates are seeing them stabilize, meaning that we shouldn’t expect the built environment of the Americas or Europe to expand, except due to migration pressures. While 120-160 m2 should be more than enough for a family of 4 or 5, the extant housing isn’t going away so there’s no use in shifting the majority of the population towards New Urbanism, as much as I wish the US had done so a few decades ago. I would say that ideally you’d have a master bedroom for the parents, a kitchen/living room combo and two additional bedrooms for a boy and a girl.

  • Olaf Olson

    1000 square feet per person.

  • YouGoGlencoco

    i live in ireland where housing is similar to the uk, and the reason why our houses aint that big is because land availability is tough in dense countries like the uk and ireland, and resources are a lot harder to get too in a country of smaller sizes in land mass – australia however is a highly urbanized country with plenty of resources and a relatively small population with low lying land. island countries tend to have more bumpy land. and european houses are made out of expensive brick which costs a lot as it is valuable (most american houses are made from stone or wood) and hard to import. hope this cleared things up for people

    • Martin Nolan

      how in the fuck is ireland ‘dense’? the only dense thing here is you.

    • Howl

      This is usually a lie that that the English unwittingly repeat. They have 1/6th the space of America and 1/10th the people. They need to do the math. Much of America is desert, mountains or forest by the way without houses there. I didn’t do the math on Ireland but I would question if this is just a repeated thing thats said so often people believe it. In the UK it’s very clearly a robber baron thing – the people can’t afford the land because it’s high priced on the lie that there isn’t much per capita. Just saying. I don’t know the issue in Ireland. I do know while int he UK I saw the robber baron problem every where I looked and the people couldn’t see it because it’s all they know. hey, in Windsor there were Terraced Houses (attached row houses for the US but the UK calls them unattached to I guess make them feel better) and those things were 1 million each. The rich own the land and the middle class bought into the believe that there isn’t enough of it and so they keep squeezing more people into the same areas and now spreading out and growing their cities.

  • disqus_TKlQWOwlsg

    Know I am late joining this discussion, but are we looking at footprint or floor space of a multiple story house?

  • Annie

    My family of 4( me, my mom, dad, and baby sister) live in a 3,307 sqft house in the us…..

  • Don Coleman

    True about the enclosed space. Our home in Austalia also has a 100m2 pergola where we spend a lot of time. Roofed, but no walls, and essentially classed out outdoors.

  • Deedrah Adkins

    I debated the space I needed to live in for about 3 years, though the best way to figure it out , for me, (rather than theoretical or analytical research) was through experience. I now share a 1480 sq foot house with a roommate, he uses approximately 300 sq feet, approximately 80 sq feet are useless as of now and 600sq feet aren’t optimized (but I’m working on it). I’ve learned my bedroom and bathroom (a combined approximate 250 sq feet) are pretty much the perfect size and should I move I could lose roughly 300 sq feet and still have everything I care to have and all the space I need, this means my ideal “perfect” living space (with every luxury) would be about 800 sq feet, in that I could fit a small living room, a full gym, my bedroom furniture (bed, mini bar, desk, tv, dresser, nightstand, chaise and dressing screen) , my large wardrobe, a “library”-shelf, a kitchen, bathroom and laundry (give or take for laundry).
    Living in a rv I could further reduce to around 250 sq feet and live rather happily for a time I imagine, that will likely be a bit hard but it’s a project, lose the gym for a bike rack on the back, 2 walk ins for a capsule wardrobe, a bookshelf for a kindle, a large tv for a projector or a laptop (I have trouble seeing small or far away tvs), lose the furniture for built ins and the floor space for freedom, its an easy trade fand after living in one bedroom for a long while it’s not the hardest trade (though harder after living in this house), So to sum it up: I live in 1480, appropriately 1000 of which are mine, I could easily live in 800 and vacation for long periods of time (though not be able to completely live in) 250

  • Gergely Springer

    I live in Hungary. Wife, 3 kids, so 5 people and we have 74 SQM in a block flat apartment. Considering our earnings we belong to the top 20% in the country. Just sayin’… 🙂

  • Commenter

    US. First home, 979 square ft. No garage. 3 bdrms, 1 bath. Small kitchen with eating area barely enough for 3. Bought from a family of 5. Current home, 1824 square feet. 4 bdrms, 2 1/2 baths, adequate to good kitchen, good living/dining room, garage. Bought from a family of 5. Actually more space than I need now for just 2 and pets. But considered a small home by many realtors.

    • Howl

      My house is 1640 sq feet and huge for us. We have 5 adults living here. It’s one story and designed well.

      • Commenter

        Wow – a comment after 8 months!
        Recent building in my area are some HUGE homes, with very little in the way of a yard. They are so large compared to nearby homes, a friend thought they were putting up apartment buildings.
        The family across the street, in a similar sized, but single story, also has 5 adults living there. As I said, the house is now too large, but it’s far better built than newer homes, and smaller homes are not being built – forcing seniors to move away.

  • Summer Lotus

    I think that the design of the house/living spaces is more crucial in feeling like a house is big enough in comparison to square footage. My partner and I live in a 107 year old (mostly in original condition) 1270 foot squared (118m squared) house, which where we live is quite small. But the spiral design creates flow between rooms. No space is wasted in halls, and the tall ceilings make it feel grand. Rooms are just perfect shaped for practical use (small closest are admittedly a challenge in consumer USA). There’s only one bath, but also small compact powder room on the main for guests–two people can’t really shower/bath at the same time anyways. The formal dinning room makes hosting large parties surprisingly easy. It’s not an open concept and honestly I’m starting to equate that term with “wasted space.” The previous owners moved out on the premise that the house was too small for kids–I can’t imagine a better design for a family.

  • K Mart

    Living as a single minimalist is fine but it shouldn’t be forced on everyone. Naive American kids are sold on this dream that Europe is Disneyland but are unaware the living conditions behind the curtain. Living in tiny apartments sipping expresso all day may be fine for a senior but not those with a family or large aspirations. India is packed with people on top of people.

  • Howl

    I just came back from England last Sunday and the Terraced houses terrified me. I could never live there. Everything at the store was 30% higher cost and for 30% less of the product than you would get in America. I was there for 11 days. Their standard of living is easily 60% lower than America. I liked the place. The people were awesome. But they missed all progress. In America we can guess the year the house was built by the decade as houses kept changing. The UK was nearly all 1910 Terraced houses. The detached houses looked like 1910 little train stations. I didn’t see 1 single normal house like the US has while I was there. I also when to Paris and didn’t see what would be considered a normal house. Don’t get me wrong, lovely countries, but I could never live there. If you want to know the standard of living, look at the size of the public garbage cans. There is a reason for this size difference. There is also a major reason for the missing changes in house styles. It’s a progress halted problem. Yes there are a few modern buildings in the big cities. Likely by foreign investors. The houses however were terrifying and the lack of progress through 110 years was shocking. Sure they’re modern on the inside but the outside sameness and stuck in 1910 says it all. I saw 14 storyl high apartment houses being built with bricks. Several of them, in the UK being built right now. Terrifying. Those would have been in the 1940’s in the US.

  • Howl

    It would be nice if they would show the tiny house movement and micro apartments which us Americans love to watch shows on.