Thursday, March 15, 2012

State of the Field

   Hello, internet travelers!  Come rest your weary eyes on this Tuesday update.  It's not Tuesday you say?  Well, it must be Tuesday somewhere!
   Today we turn our gaze to the architecture of The American Dream -- homes!  It's well acknowledged that home ownership has taken a bit of a hit in the past few years, but how much?  Most politicians and economists will quantify this problem in terms of foreclosures, resale values and rates of construction, but sometimes a qualitative approach is needed.
   In four parts, we'll glance at the state of the field across the United States.  What does money buy in real estate these days?

Median Home Value 2011: $122,000
Location: Kalamazoo, MI - Population 74,262
Median Household Income 2009: $45,255
Example Home Asking Price: $128,500 ($58/SF)
Size: 2,202 SF, 3 Bed/3 Bath (1 Full, 2 Half)
Lot Size: .26 Acres
Built: 1960

   Design Notes: The Prairie School style was popularized around the turn of the century by Frank Lloyd Wright.  While this home was designed much later, it draws many influences from the Prairie Style.  Note the low roof with deep overhangs, the predominantly horizontal lines and the centrally located fireplace.

All Photos Credit:

   Final Thoughts:  Despite the very dated interior, this is a fairly spacious home for the cost.  I've placed it first in the list as the benchmark by which the other homes may be judged.


Median Home Value 2011: $225,700
Location: Providence, RI - Population 178,042
Median Household Income 2009: $54,199
Example Home Asking Price: $229,000 ($113/SF)
Size: 2,033 SF, 4 Bed/2 Bath (1 Full, 1 Half)
Lot Size: .11 Acres
Built: 1943

   Design Notes: This home is typical of Colonial Revival -- also known as Neo-Georgian -- homes.  Such designs often include a central entryway surrounded by a symmetric facade and a roof line which runs parallel to the road.  Although this style can be seen across the country, it is particularly common in New England.

   Final Thoughts: This is a considerably more expensive home than the previous one despite being of a similar size, but it shows in the quality of the interior materials.  It is, however, interesting to note that although homeowners in the Northeast make only 20% more than those in the Midwest, they pay 85% more for a home (on average).


Median Home Value 2011: $134,800
Location: Montgomery, AL - Population 205,764
Median Household Income 2009: $40,489
Example Home Asking Price: $134,900 ($88/SF)
Size: 1528 SF, 3 Bed/2 Bath (2 Full)
Lot Size: ~.5 Acres
Built: Unknown

   Design Notes: If "The South" can be said to have a regional style, it would have to be Antebellum Plantation style with its double story columns.  Also typical in the region are dogtrot and shotgun style homes, but while the Plantation style homes price in closer to the seven digit range, the latter two styles tend well below our median home price.

   Final Thoughts: Although the climates of the Midwest and the South are very different, the dollar tends to go just about the same distance in both areas.  Compared to the first example, this is a much smaller home, so it is unsurprising to find newer fixtures in the kitchen and a generally more modern interior.


Median Home Value 2011: $187,100
Location: Albany, OR - Population 50,154
Median Household Income 2009: $48,457
Example Home Asking Price: $199,900 ($100/SF)
Size: 2002 SF, 3 Bed/3 Bath (2 Full, 1 Half)
Lot Size: .18 Acres
Built: 2004

   Design Notes: While the California bungalow could certainly have found a place in this last region's spotlight, i've decided to instead include a contemporary take on the ranch.  While there is a raised front porch, it is concrete slab barely above grade and without a surrounding railing.  The modern touches are primarily noticeable in the untrimmed square cut of the windows as seen from the interior.

   Final Thoughts:  I have to wonder if the fireplace was a last minute addition, because the proportions of the window immediately next to it are just hideous.  Then again, this looks like a developer built home rather than one custom designed, so it's possible that was the original layout.

The original listings for these properties can be located at the following locations (links valid upon posting).


  1. Interestingly the Midwest home in Kalamazoo looks strikingly similar to a home that I once considered. I find this to be a very relevant post for prospective home buyers.