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Relocation survey shows America's growing preference for smaller homes

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Apparently that 2,500-square-foot, $350,000 home in the suburbs doesn't look as attractive to potential homebuyers as it once did. Some 48% of respondents to a survey by Relocation.com said their ideal home size would range between 1,000 and 1,999 square feet, and 29% prefer homes with 2,000 to 2,999 square feet of living space. Five years ago, the average home size was about 2,400 square feet, according to Relocation.com, citing figures from the National Association of Home Builders. "We’re definitely seeing more Americans downsizing due to the current state of the economy," according to Sharon Asher, chairman of the research and consulting firm. "But as more homeowners rethink how much space they need, I think we'll continue to see more innovative approaches to living well and sustainably within a smaller footprint." Credit Suisse research suggests "the trend toward urbanization appears unstoppable," as four-fifths of the population in developed countries live in urban centers. "Worldwide the share is 50%, and by 2050 it will likely be two thirds," according to Giles Keating, head of global research for the Swiss investment banking giant. He said the economics of geography championed by Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman, point to "returns to scale in the production of goods and services with transport costs" as the main drivers of increasing urbanization. Relocation.com sent emails to 149,000 subscribers in October inviting them to participate in the survey, and 2,218 responded with about 1,500 completing it. More than half of respondents still indicated they'd prefer to relocate to a suburban area, while 24% showed a preference for urban living and 22% prefer rural spaces. These figures are backed up somewhat by 72% of respondents saying they would like to work within 30 miles of their home, including more than one-quarter that prefer to commute 10 miles or less. In determining a neighborhood's safety, which 55% of respondents said is very important, three-quarters indicate the "upkeep of homes and front lawns" and "word-of-mouth reputation" are the most significant. When looking for a place to live, 87% of respondents said central air conditioning was a necessary amenity. Write to Jason Philyaw.

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