Americans' urge for big houses returns: Square footage at record high

Forty-four percent have four or more bedrooms

WASHINGTON D.C. - The big house is back.

The average square footage of a new house built last year set an all-time record, according to new figures out from the Census Bureau.

After shrinking for a few years during the housing downturn, home size has surged in this recovery, with the average house built in 2013 weighing in at 2,598 square feet, a closet bigger than the previous record of 2,521 set in 2008. Of the new houses built last year, one-third had at least three bathrooms, and 44 percent had four or more bedrooms, both all-time highs.

This suggests that, even as some builders focus efforts on denser, more walkable communities, they're still finding ways to beef up square footage. Another factor could be the focus lately by many home builders on higher-end developments, which tend to be larger than more modest starter-home projects.

Either way, it suggests that Americans' appetite for a big house didn't go away in the downturn. It just took a breather.

It doesn't look like their appetite for housing cars went away, either. Of the new houses built last year, 85 percent included a garage to fit at least two cars, an all-time high. More than one-fifth of homes -- 21 percent -- included a garage for three or more cars, a figure that has doubled since the early 1990s.