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?

30 Day Shrink Guide
  • 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!!!

  • 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 !!!

  • 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 :)