Looking for living space? Head to Texas and the South, where starter homes rank as the largest in the country. While Honolulu offers the smallest starter homes, it's also the best place to go big.

Size matters. As we reported last year, 43% of Americans told us they would like a larger home. The desire to upsize was even greater for millennials, with more than 60% wanting more living space. However, finding ample space is an easier exercise in some metros than in others because of differences in the existing housing stock.

To help young homebuyers looking for elbow room, we found those markets which have the largest and smaller starter homes across the country. As it turns out, everything really is bigger in Texas: not only do Lone Star metros top have some of the largest entry-level homes in the country, they also top the list of metros with the largest tradeup and premium homes. On the flip side, finding a spacious starter home in the Land of Aloha is tough, but trading up to more space isn’t.

In our pursuit to find where homes are largest and smallest across the U.S., we found that:

  • Austin, Texas, and Atlanta have the largest starter homes with a median size of over 1,300 square feet, while Honolulu and Detroit have the smallest with a median of under 950 square feet.
  • Houston and Colorado Springs, Colo., have the largest tradeup homes with a median size of over 1,900 square feet, while Detroit and Minneapolis have the smallest with a median of under 1,300 square feet.
  • Colorado Springs and Dallas have the largest premium homes with a median size of over 2,900 square feet, while Philadelphia and Detroit have the smallest with a median of less than 1,700 square feet.
  • While Honolulu offers the smallest starter home, climbing up the housing ladder to a tradeup home comes with an 82.3% increase – or 587 extra square feet – in space, which is the largest in the U.S.

Everything Really Is Bigger in Texas

Starter home buyers looking to go big for their first home would do best in the South. Of the 10 markets with the starter largest homes, five are there. Austin tops our list, where the median size of a starter home is over 1,400 square feet. Atlanta follows closely in the number two spot with a median size of 1,344 square feet, while Newark, N.J., the Pennsylvania region that includes Montgomery, Bucks and Chester counties and Houston round out the top five.

 

Metros with Largest Median Home Size by Homebuying Segment
Metro with Largest Starter Homes Median Sqft. of Starter Homes Metro with Largest Tradeup Homes Median Sqft. of Tradeup Homes Metro with Largest Premium Homes Median Sqft. Premium Homes
NOTE: Among the 100 largest U.S. metro areas, full data available here.
Austin, TX 1,428 Houston, TX 1,997 Colorado Springs, CO. 3,056
Atlanta, GA 1,344 Colorado Springs, CO 1,908 Dallas, TX 2,945
Newark, NJ 1,330 Dallas, TX 1,900 Fairfield County, CT 2,904
Montgomery, Bucks, Chester counties, PA 1,326 Austin, TX 1,893 Houston, TX 2,869
Houston, TX 1,320 Raleigh, NC 1,880 Montgomery, Bucks, Chester counties, PA 2,857

 

Starter homebuyers looking to eventually move on up to a large tradeup home would also do well in Texas. Both Austin and Houston, which made the list of metros with the largest starter homes, also topped the list of metros with the largest tradeup homes. Houston ranks first with a median sized tradeup home of nearly 2,000 square feet, followed closely by Colorado Springs and Dallas where the median tradeup home runs at least 1,900 square feet. Austin and Raleigh, N.C., round out the top five with a median tradeup home size of just under 1,900 square feet.

While premium homebuyers would also do well in the lone star state, as both Dallas and Houston make the top 5, Colorado Springs has the largest premium homes in the country with a median size of over 3,000 square feet. Fairfield, CT and Montgomery County-Bucks County-Chester County round out the top five with a median sized premium home of at least 2,850 square feet.

Where Climbing the Housing Ladder Comes With Space

While not all starter homebuyers think about the size of the home they might tradeup to someday, it is important to consider, especially if a growing family is in the cards. To find out where households stand to gain the largest increase in living space by trading up, we calculated the percentage change in square feet a household would receive by moving from a starter home to a tradeup home, and from a tradeup home to a premium home.

 

Where Climbing the Housing Ladder Comes with Space
Metro with Largest Jump from Starter to Tradeup Homes % Gain Between Starter and Tradeup Homes Square Feet Gain Metros with Largest Jump from Trade up to Premium Homes % Gain between Tradeup and Premium Homes Square Feet Gain
NOTE: Among the 100 largest U.S. metro areas, full data available here.
Honolulu, HI 82.3% 587 Memphis, TN 67.4% 1,027
San Antonio, TX 51.7% 579 Los Angeles, CA 65.7% 895
Houston, TX 51.3% 677 West Palm Beach, FL 65.6% 902
Colorado Springs, CO 50.2% 638 Omaha, NE 65.2% 872
Dallas, TX 49.7% 631 Knoxville, TN 64.7% 922

Those looking to climb the housing ladder in paradise should fret not. While Honolulu offers the smallest sized starter homes, it also offers the largest jump in space when moving from a starter home to a tradeup. Doing so home comes with an additional 82.3% – or 587 extra square feet – of space, which is the largest in the U.S. Those looking to initially live large in Texas can also do well trading up there. Of the five markets that offer the biggest increase in space climbing from a starter to a tradeup home, three in Texas: San Antonio comes in second with an increase of 51.7% – or 579 square feet – followed by Houston and Dallas with a jump of 51.3% and 49.7%, respectively.

Existing tradeup homeowners wanting to make a big jump would do best in Memphis, Tenn. Doing so would get you closer to Graceland than any other major market in the U.S, as moving from a tradeup up home to a premium would net you 67.4% – or 1,027 square feet – more living space. Memphis followed closely by the City of Angels, where trading up to a premium home comes with 65.7% – or 895 square feet – more house. West Palm Beach, Fla., Omaha, Neb., and Knoxville, Tenn., round out the top five with increases of 65.6%, 65.2%, and 64.7%, respectively.

The Final Addition

To recap, home buyers look to maximize their living space will have the best chance to do so in southern markets, especially Texas. Every major market in the Lone Star State – Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio – offer large homes for all buyers. Starter home buyers looking to climb up the house size ladder quickly have their best shot in Honolulu and San Antonio, while those wanting to expand into premium space can live large in Memphis and Los Angeles. While it’s tempting to buy as much space as you can, it’s important to keep in mind that large homes come with other large costs: all that extra space means more home furnishings are more energy consumption.

Methodology

To estimate the median size home of each price segment (starter homes, tradeup homes, and premium homes), we first define the price cutoffs of each segment based on home value estimates of the entire housing stock of single family homes, condos, townhouses, and co-ops in each market, not listing price. For example, we estimate the value of each single-family home and condo and divide these estimates into three groups: the lower third we classify and starter homes, the middle third as trade-up homes, and the upper third as premium homes. We then calculate the median size of all homes that fall into each of these segments.