How Much Square Footage Do You Need?

Consider your top priorities for your new home

A parent holding their child in the kitchen
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When shopping for a new house, you’ll see square footage among the first points on a listing, answering a homebuyer’s key question: How big is it?

The square footage is calculated by multiplying the length and width of each room then adding them together. It offers a standardized way to determine how much living space a house provides.

But how much square footage do you need in your next home? For each person, the ideal square footage will be different because it depends on several factors. Let’s take a closer look at the average square footage in homes today and what to consider when deciding how much space you need.

An Average New Home’s Square Footage

The square footage of a home tells you how much living space you’ll have inside of a house. The size and number of rooms in a home—including bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen and living room—along with the number of stories affect a home’s square footage.

The average size of a new single-family home was 2,480 square feet in 2020, after increasing steadily in recent decades, according to the most recent data from the United States Census Bureau. In 1975, the average size for new homes was just 1,645 square feet. Further, about 50% of new homes were one story, while 45% were two stories.

Over the past 45 years, the majority of news homes have been built with three bedrooms.

The percentage of homes built with four or more bedrooms has steadily been growing.

As of 2020, 10% of homes were built with two bedrooms or less, 46% have three bedrooms, and 44% have four or more bedrooms. In 1975, 14% of homes were built with two bedrooms or less, 65% had three bedrooms, and 21% had four or more bedrooms.

When it comes to bathrooms, the majority of two- and three-bedroom homes have two bathrooms. Homes with four or more bedrooms tend to have three or more bathrooms.

What Is the Price Per Square Foot for a Home?

A home’s square footage is also a key factor for homebuyers because it affects the price of a home. The bigger the home, the more expensive it is.

The average price per square foot of single-family homes sold in the U.S. in 2020 was $122.12. That cost has generally increased since 1992, when the average price was $55.18 per square foot, with one major exception—a five-year downturn in prices after the 2008 housing crisis.

Limitations

The price per square foot you end up paying can vary greatly depending on your specific location because some regions have higher home prices than others. For example, the average cost of a new single-family home in the Northeast U.S. was $173.23 per square foot in 2020, while it was just $109.52 in the South.

Home prices will fluctuate not only on a regional level but also based on the neighborhood where the home is located.

A smaller home in a higher-end area will have a higher cost per square foot than larger homes in mid- to lower-end areas.

The quality of features and amenities in a home can also affect its price per square foot. A home with higher-end interior and exterior finishes will cost more than the same size home with lower-end finishes, all other factors being equal.

Factors To Consider When Considering Home Size

When considering how much square footage you need, it can help to first break down your needs into the different types of space in a home.

Let’s look at the common spaces within a house, their average sizes, and what to consider about each. (Average sizes are based on a 2,480-square-foot home.)

  2020 Average Square Footage Calculations
Primary bedroom 298 sq. ft.
Primary bath 149 sq. ft.
Kitchen 288 sq. ft.
Dining room 184 sq. ft.
Living room 213 sq. ft.
Family room 285 sq. ft.
2 other bedrooms 417 sq. ft.
2 other baths 156 sq. ft.
Laundry room 92 sq. ft.
Foyer 84 sq. ft.
Other finished spaces 315 sq. ft.

Bedrooms

To find out how many bedrooms you need while living in this home, ask yourself:

  • If you have children and/or plan to while living in the home, how many bedrooms will you need for them?
  • Will you need a bedroom(s) for relatives who will be living with you now or in the future?
  • Do you need a guest bedroom so you can have friends and family stay with you?
  • How much space do you want for the primary bedroom? Do you want two walk-in closets or a sitting area?

All of these will impact the square footage you need. A master bedroom averages about 300 square feet while other bedrooms average about 210 square feet each.

Bathrooms

Consider how many bathrooms you want and what features they will include. Do you want a luxurious bathroom with a whirlpool bath, spacious shower, and closed-off toilet room? Or do you just want more affordable, standard bathrooms?

Consider if any of the other bathrooms will be half size rather than full size. The primary bath typically accounts for about 150 square feet while other bathrooms average about 80 square feet each.

Shared living areas

The next big consideration is the shared living areas, which include the living room, family room, dining room, and kitchen. Is having a spacious area to host guests important to you? Do you want that space to be open and connected?

Or perhaps you are prioritizing saving money with a smaller kitchen and living area, and no formal dining room or family room. Kitchens are typically about 285 square feet, while living rooms average about 215 square feet, and family rooms are typically about 285 square feet.

Additional rooms

In addition to the standard rooms, think about other rooms you want in the home. How will the layout design look? Do you want a foyer, laundry room, office, breakfast nook, home classroom, or hallway?

All the extra spaces on your wishlist add to your square footage. The average laundry room is about 90 square feet, while a foyer is about 85. Additional rooms for an office or crafting would be about the same as other non-primary bedrooms, with an average of about 210 square feet.

On average, extra finished spaces (aside from the laundry room and foyer) are about 315 square feet of a home’s space.

The Bottom Line

To find out how much square footage you need, make a list of all the rooms you want in your home. Then you can estimate the square footage for each room and add it up to get the estimated square footage you’ll need.

For each person, the square footage they need will depend on their personal lifestyle, living priorities, and budget.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you calculate a home’s square footage?

To calculate your new home’s square footage, you’ll need to go room by room. Measure the length and width of a room, then multiply them together to get the square footage of that room. Once you have the square footage of all spaces within the house, add them together to get the total square footage of the home.

How many square feet are there in an acre?

One acre consists of 43,560 square feet.

What is the square footage of a two-car garage?

The average square footage for a two-car garage ranges from 440 to 624 square feet. On average, it costs $40 to $60 per square foot to build a garage, but prices can be higher with higher-end builds.