As new homes become larger and larger, the added space is going into bigger master bedrooms and grander kitchens. But the biggest beneficiary of the extra square footage is the secondary sleeping area.
According to research from the National Association of Home Builders, the largest room in the average 2,580-square-foot house is the master bedroom, which accounts for 12 percent of the space, or 309 square feet. And the kitchen isn't far behind at 11.6 percent, or 300 square feet.
In larger houses of, say, 3,780 square feet, the family room -- sometimes known as the great room -- is the biggest component at 426 square feet, or 11.3 percent of the total. The kitchen comes in at 420 square feet (11.1 percent) and the master at 411 square feet (10.9 percent)
But secondary bedrooms -- the second and third bedrooms in the average house, and fourth or even fifth in larger places -- seem to grow the most. At 677 square feet in larger houses, they take up 17.9 percent of the livable space versus 432 square feet (16.8 percent) in the typical house.
Put another way, the secondary sleeping area grows by 245 square feet when the house moves from the average to large category. Part of that, of course, is because there are more bedrooms. But it also shows how builders are paying more attention to this area of their houses.
Good fences may make good neighbors. But bad neighbors can destroy property values.
"I've seen many situations where external factors such as living near a bad neighbor can lower values by more than 5 to 10 percent," says Richard Borges of Seymour, Ind., president of the Appraisal Institute.
Almost any problem can constitute a bad neighbor: loud or annoying pets, unkempt yards, unpleasant odors or poorly maintained exteriors. Who wants to live adjacent to someone whose dog is constantly braying at the moon, or whose paint is peeling and shutters are hanging by a thread?
Appraisers refer to this as external obsolescence: depreciation to a home's value caused by external issues that the owner can't fix. Would-be buyers would be smart to cruise the neighborhood with an eye toward eyesores before they make a final decision. Once you move in, you could be stuck.
If you see something that gives you pause -- say, a dog that is tied to a tree morning and night -- take the time to knock on the doors of other nearby owners and ask if there have been any problems.
If you are a seller, on the other hand, round up your other neighbors and speak to the offending owner as a group. Peer pressure often works wonders.
Before that, though, it would help to arm yourself with a little ammunition by looking up the original and updated subdivision restrictions to see if the bad neighbor is violating any rules or restrictions. Depending on the offense, Borges suggests calling the local health department.
If you get nowhere, hire an attorney to do battle with the offending owner. Maybe all your neighbors will chip in. But even if you have to go it alone, the cost is likely to be less than the potential loss in your home's value.
And if all else fails, consider putting up a fence to block the view from your house into your neighbor's. But make sure the fence meets the local building code. Otherwise, the bad neighbor might be taking you to court.
The New Year is a time to look forward with optimism. But looking back, more than half of all homebuyers have at least one regret, according to a survey by Trulia, the real estate search engine.
The survey asked some 2,000 owners what, if anything, they rue about their current homes or the process in choosing it. Drum roll, please. The top regret: wishing they had chosen a larger home.
Some 34 percent of those with regrets -- and 17 percent of all owners -- say they should have gone bigger. Another big mistake: Some 22 percent of those with regrets wish they had had more information about their homes before they decided. And 18 percent said they would have rather put more money down.
Some other common misgivings: 14 percent wished they had more information about their neighborhood; the same percentage wished they had used a different agent; and the same percentage again thought they should have shopped for a better mortgage. And 12 percent said they wished they had better understood the true cost of ownership before taking the plunge.
Stick these regrets in your bonnet as you shop for a house in 2014, and you may not make the same mistakes.