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McMansions are back -- and they're bigger than ever

The McMansion was just one way Americans once loved to supersize their lives, a habit that was cut short by the pressures of the recession.

But after a dip in the average size of new single-family homes from 2007 to 2009, the McMansion is roaring back, according to The Atlantic's CityLab. The average square footage for new U.S. homes reached more than 2,600 square feet last year for the first time, according to U.S. Census Data. By comparison, the average size of a new home in 1973 was only 1,660 square feet.

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Behind that bigger footprint is the rising popularity of truly gigantic homes, according to CityLab. More than one in 10 new single-family homes built last year had a floor area of more than 4,000 square feet. Twenty percent of homes built last year had 3,000 to 3,999 square feet, or about 66 percent more than the share of homes built with that footprint only 15 years earlier.

On the other hand, builders are constructing about half as many homes with fewer than 1,400 square feet now than they did in 1999.

While Americans have always liked to live large, another factor is at play, Trulia chief economist Selma Hepp told CityLab. Developers who had bought up land during the recession decided to capitalize on the lots during the recovery by building larger, fancier homes.

At the same time, land values have jumped along with the rise in real estate prices overall, which is adding to developers' pressure to make the most out of their lots.

In Boston, where property values have surged more than 30 percent since 2012, one developer told he's charging clients $200 per square foot, compared with $150 per square foot just three years ago. Builders are now paying a premium for land, which is boosting home prices and putting pressure to construct larger houses, Russell Busa of Sterling Homes Development added.

Of course, the builders wouldn't construct mega-homes without customer demand. Multigenerational families often seek larger homes for their sprawling households, CityLab noted. In Boston, mega-McMansion buyers are often wealthy couples in their 40s and 50s who are moving onto their second or third primary home, noted.

How much do the ginormous McMansions cost? Often more than the median price of a new home or existing home, which sold for $281,800 and $236,400, respectively, in June.

One new 3,426-square-foot home in Norfolk, Massachusetts, starts at almost $600,000, for instance. Built by Pulte Homes (PHM), it includes granite countertops, central AC, an an "owner's suite" (aka the master bedroom).

"Over the past year-and-a-half, our average house size has gone up by at least 1,000 square feet," Scott Jones Jr., vice president of builder James V. Caggiano & Son, told the publication. "People are more comfortable spending more money." And living large, again.

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