Taking an Inventory of U.S. Homes, Amenities (and Rodents) Included

Even in a lousy real-estate market, Americans’ homes are typically their most valuable assets. So, what are those homes like? A report issued this month by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development presents lots of detail about what houses had and lacked as of last year.

While the size of the average household has been shrinking for decades, the average home has not. Eighty-two percent of occupied homes built in the past four years have three or more bedrooms, vs. 63 percent of all occupied homes. And 89 percent of new homes have at least two full bathrooms, vs. 50 percent of all occupied homes. Most homes have an outdoor element as well: 85 percent include a “porch, deck, balcony or patio.” The figure rises to 91 percent for homes built in the previous four years.

Some modern conveniences have become more the rule than the exception. Among occupied housing units, 64 percent have a dishwasher, 83 percent a washing machine and 80 percent a clothes dryer. Meanwhile, some pre-modern amenities have become more the exception than the rule. Just under half of occupied homes have a separate dining room (49 percent), and just over one-third have a working fireplace (35 percent). But fireplaces may be making a comeback, as 51 percent of homes built in the previous four years have one.

The report also includes information on some of the irritants people face in and around the house. Under the tactful heading “Selected Deficiencies,” it noted that 5 percent of occupied housing units had “signs of mice in last three months”; 1 percent had signs of rats. Five percent had “open cracks or holes (interior)”; 2 percent had “broken plaster or peeling paint (interior)”; 5 percent had “bothersome smoke, gas or bad smells.” And there’s ample opportunity for the nation’s soundproofing industry, as 23 percent of homes suffered from “bothersome street noise or heavy traffic present.”

Happily, most people have a favorable opinion of their domicile. When householders were asked to rate the physical structure on a scale from 1 (worst) to 10 (best), 71 percent scored it at an 8 or above. Just over 1 percent of households graded it at a 3 or below.