According to data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction (SOC), the median size of lots on single-family homes built for sale that were started in 2014 was more than half an acre (0.80 acres) in the New England Census Division (Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Connecticut). This is significantly larger than the median lot size on homes started in the other eight Divisions.
Among the southern states, the East South Central (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee) had the highest median acre lots of 0.44 acres, followed by South Atlantic Area (Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia) with a median of 0.25 acre lot and the West South Central Area (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas) with 0.17 acres. In the Middle Atlantic Area (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania), for instance, the median lot size was 0.26 acres. In the Midwest, the median lot size in East North Central (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin) and West North Central (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota) was 0.39 acres and 0.29 acres respectively. The Mountain Division (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) where the median lot size consists of 0.19 acres, the Pacific Division (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington) had median lot of 0.18 acres.
The SOC also reports lot values for single-family built for sale. Not surprisingly, New England lots that stand out for being the largest are also the most expensive in the nation. Of all sold single-family homes started in New England in 2014 report lot values in excess of $92,000. In comparison, the national median lot value for single-family spec homes is $40,000.
The East South Central Division reports the second most expensive lots, with half of the lots priced above $70,000. The Middle Atlantic division and Mountain division reports the lowest median value of $35,000 each per lot. The West South Central where lots are smallest reports among the top 5 expensive lots with a median lot value of $55,000.
For this analysis, the median lot size and value were chosen over averages since averages tend to be heavily influenced by extreme outliers. In addition, the Census Bureau often masks extreme lot sizes and values on the public use SOC dataset making it difficult to calculate averages precisely but medians remain unaffected by these procedures.
This analysis is limited to single-family built for sale homes. Custom homes built on owner’s land with either the owner or a builder acting as the general contractor tend to have larger lots. But the SOC surveys builders, and builders aren’t usually involved in the purchase of the lot for custom homes, the SOC doesn’t collect information on size or value of custom homes lots.
My primary question is what accounts for these regional size differences? It was surprising to me that all regionals west of the Mississippi River had the smallest median lot sizes. Even more surprising was the West South Central’s smallest size of all regions. Texas and Oklahoma, the smallest lot sizes. Maybe some of that reflects the mass suburbanization of areas such as the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex. Conversely, some areas around the metro DC area require one acre and larger lots in order to build a SFH.