Thursday, July 08, 2010

Who Likes McMansions?

Whole subdivisions of McMansions - starter castles, Hummer houses, garage Mahals - have been built over the last generation.

One of the side effects of my research on the "knowledge class" is that they seem allergic to this kind of house. Indeed, it is undoubtedly knowledge class types who invented the the term McMansion, and mostly use it pejoratively.

Yet clearly, they must be popular with a significant section of the upper middle class, or they wouldn't have been built or bought in large enough numbers to need such a pop sociology name.

So I ask readers, from your experience, what are the social characteristics of people who prefer and enjoy living in neighborhoods of houses with "a floor area over 3,000 square feet (280 m2), ceilings 9-10 feet high, a two-story portico, a front door hall with a chandelier hanging from 16-20 feet, two or more garages, several bedrooms and bathrooms, and lavish interiors." I would particularly value first-hand accounts from such happy homeowners; if you know such, please pass this query on.

8 comments:

Black Sea said...

Some people are shopping for good school districts, and for zoning and housing covenant reasons, this is the predominant housing type in their preferred district. In other words, it's not really the McMansion that they're after, it's the school.

Another contigent fell afoul of the dictum that it was a wise investment strategy to "buy as much house as you can." I am assuming that this meme is now dead in the American housing market, but not that long ago, people could be persuaded (or persuade themselves) that an enormous house was also a sound investment.

Then there's status seeking, which nobody admits to, but no doubt plays a role. The "knowledge class" you refer to also engage in housing status, it's just that for them, a McMansion doesn't confer status. A hundred year old, fully refurbished home with craftsman details in a well-gentrifed, intown neighborhood, on the other hand . . . .

Black Sea said...

ps: I don't know anybody who lives in such a house (but I suppose this goes without saying).

Anonymous said...

I live in California and know many people in the McMansion subdivisions. They are all intelligent, driven people who hold mid to upper level corporate jobs. Both husband and wife work, and the hours are long. They do not have the time for, nor the interest, in fixing up an older home. They want a home that is "ready to go" from the day they walk in. They entertain at home both for business and pleasure. McMansions out here always include swimming pools and outdoor "rooms" with gas firplaces, nice furniture, etc...

Gruntled said...

Ah, that helps already with something I was wondering about. So the appeal is that the house and the school district are ready to go. The neighborhood (and neighbors?) are secondary.

Do people who move in to McMansions expect to move on in a few years? Are they especially for corporate "spiralists" who are move around often?

Anonymous said...

Same people who like Macintosh computers. Pretentious people.

Gruntled said...

I don't think Macintoshs and McMansions appeal to the same kind of people. They seem to me like opposites. (Though both may be pretentious in different ways).

LMR said...

I haven't had much time to read lately so I had fallen behind in your posts, but I wanted to comment on this one because my parents have a McMansion. And for them it is definitely NOT about the neighbors. At one point it may have been about neighborhoods/schools, but they are now empty-nesters and have continued to buy McMansions.

The McMansion is their idea of what success looks like. They are what I think of as "things" people. They value their worth by the things they have - they have a house with enough bedrooms for everyone in your family and a guest room in a nice subdivision in the suburbs. They have two foreign-made cars. They take foreign vacations, but are tourists rather than travelers. (and, for the record, they are upper-middle-class professionals with graduate degrees, etc.)

Caitlin said...

The people I know that live in mcmansions are mid-thirties to mid-forties, professionals, materialistic. You might think that they are the up and coming socialites (which is what they want you to believe) but they are not. They have just enough money to pay a large mortgage payment but not enough to send their kids to private school, which is what truly wealthy people do now. So they live in the suburbs, have a nice house, and good (not best) schools. Win win.