Apartment Sizes Are Shrinking Nationwide, Here’s Why

Now that the world is returning to normal as the pandemic ends, people are returning to work in offices, which is causing builders to build smaller apartments.

By Brian Scheid | Published

apartment size

The average square footage per rental unit is shrinking across the nation. Why are Americans getting smaller apartment sizes around the country? The main contributing factor is the shift from the work-from-home initiative that required renters to need more space. As the pandemic has cooled over the last year and more and more companies returned to the office, the need has diminished, and so have apartment sizes.

Looking back at the statistics from 2020 and 2021, the demand by renters needing more space increased as their homes now need dedicated office space. This drove the national apartment average square footage increase because apartment complex builders accommodated the need and constructed larger floor plan configurations. According to axios.com, who spoke with RentCafé analyst Adina Drago stated, “Fast forward to 2022, the demand for more apartments prompted developers to accommodate more units in their projects,”

Developers started constructing more studio and one-bedroom apartments, which has decreased the national average of square feet per apartment. Apartment sizes are traditionally smaller as most of us start living in an apartment in the first stage of adulthood. As people move into the middle stage of their lives, most people start families that require more space and, at some point, opt to either own or rent a house to accommodate a growing family size.

The pandemic bucked this trend as many people stayed in their current situations longer than in the past as they became comfortable with all the uncertainty of how it would ultimately play out. Renters renewed leases and stayed in their current living situations rather than move, which was the driver in building those larger configurations. Now that the pandemic is over and things are returning to a more normal cultural environment, that is why we are seeing a sharp decrease and moving back to smaller apartment sizes.

But some states have significant cities that are bucking the overall trend. When we look closer at the four major cities in Texas, we see one following the trend and three moving in the opposite direction. In Austin, the state capital but also known as a college town due to the University of Texas campus there, we see that the average size of a new apartment decreased to 884 square feet.

Austin’s average apartment size is 0.3 percent smaller than the average nationwide. This is even smaller than the national average for 2022, which came in at 887 square feet. When we look at the other three major cities in Texas, we see the opposite occurring, and this could be because these cities are comprised of more working adults than the partial college town of Austin.

In Houston, the square foot average is at 923 per apartment, which is a whopping 36 square feet above the norm. San Antonio also boasts 14 square feet of average apartment size above the rest of the nation, coming in at 901 square feet. Dallas is more in line with the national average at 895 square feet for their apartment size.

We will most likely see these apartment sizes continue to retreat before the pandemic averages over the next few years. Now that people are returning to their pre-pandemic lives, most of the larger apartments will be vacated as they move into houses, and the smaller studio and one-bedroom apartments will be replaced.