Homeowners who want to be truly satisfied with their home should avoid comparing its size to that of their neighbours’ homes.

A new study from Iowa State University has found that if their home is smaller than neighbouring homes, it often leads to dissatisfaction. The study was conducted by researchers led by Daniel Kuhlmann, assistant professor of community and regional planning.

“Although we may not realize it, our housing decisions may affect our neighbors’ actions,” Kuhlmann said. “Because housing consumption produces these types of externalities, by building a large house we could unwittingly push our neighbors to spend more money to buy larger homes to catch up.”

The study, published in the academic journal Housing Studies, suggests this need to keep up with the Jones’s may be why US single family homes have been getting bigger over the last 50 years.

“As suburbs become more developed and go through new homebuilding, that can waterfall,” he said. “The next person who builds a house would have been totally fine with a 10-bedroom house – but now they think they need a 12-bedroom house to be considered in good standing.”

Kulman says that the worry of developers that new construction may alter the character of a neighbourhood may be less of an issue than how those new homes may make existing homeowners feel about their homes.

The study shows that those with the smallest house in the neighbourhood are 5% more likely to be dissatisfied with their home than those in the largest.

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