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Study details how home features and mortgages differ regionally

A new NAHB study finds that home building and buying preferences differ greatly by region.

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From price and design features, to building materials and financing, significant differences are being seen across regions, according to a recent study from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly, a home builder and developer from Wilmington, Del., states, “this recent analysis really illustrates the many different types of homes built throughout the country; It is fascinating to see how newly built homes can vary significantly not only in design features and building materials, but also in terms of lot size, home prices and financing methods used, simply based on where a home is built.” 

The study looked at several different categories: financing, outdoor features, exteriors, number of stories and water supply, foundation, lot size and value, median sales cost, and finally, sales and contract prices.

Comparing sizes and prices

Of homes built for sale, the most expensive homes are in New England, where the median sales price of new single-family homes started in 2013 reached $400,000. The least expensive homes are in the East South Central and West South Central divisions where median sales prices reach $221,000 and $223,000, respectively.

There does not seem to be any correlation between home size and home price, as some of the most expensive homes were also the smallest in terms of square footage.

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Design preferences vary

Three of the subcategories can be considered to be part of the heading “design preferences.”  This includes regional differences such as siding preferences, the number of floors in a home, and the type of foundation preferred. Far and away the favorite for siding in America is vinyl.

Approximately 31 percent percent of new single-family homes started in 2013, used vinyl. Brick follows in at a close second with close to 24 percent. There are regional variation here, of course, with vinyl being preferred in the Northeast and Midwest, whereas, brick is preferred in the South. For the West, the primary choice for exteriors is stucco.

As for foundations, preference seems to be linked closely to regional climate. The colder climates of the Northeast and Midwest have basements, unlike the warm South which are more likely to be built on a slab.

Also, each region differs in their preference regarding number of stories. Approximately 58 percent of the homes built nationwide last year had two or more stories, however half of the homes in the Midwest are single-story. The Northeast, West, and South vary quite a bit by division, but nearly half of all homes in each region are two stories.

The most popular outdoor feature is by far, porches. Patios, however, still dominate the West South Central and West regions.  And despite a somewhat surprising decline in national popularity, decks are still the choice for 63 percent of newly built homes in New England.

Financing also varies regionally

The SOC also provides information on type of financing that has been arranged for financing a new house. Since conventional loans have dropped significantly due to the recent housing crisis, alternative forms of financing have emerged. This is reflected somewhat in this study.

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For new single-family homes starting construction in 2013, conventional loans account for about two thirds of the financing market. Mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and loans guaranteed by the Veteran’s Administration (VA) make up a less bit less than 13 and 6 percent of the market, respectively.

Cash purchases account for additional 11 percent. Other types of financing, including Rural Housing Service, Habitat for Humanity, loans from individuals, State or local government mortgage-backed bonds and other types of financing, account for 4 percent with availability, access, and usage of these types of financing varying greatly across the nine U.S. divisions (please see the study for the division map).

The takeaway

Regardless of which featured element of a home you look at, one thing is clear: regional differences make a big impact on building materials, price, size and even financing of new homes.


The NAHB study is based on data contained in the 2013 Survey of Construction (SOC), conducted by the Census Bureau. This survey (SOC)  is conducted by the US Census Bureau, which is partially funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and collects detailed information on physical and financial characteristics of newly-built single-family homes. The information comes from interviews of builders or owners of the selected new houses.

About one in 50 new single-family homes are selected for interviews based on a sample of building permits and a canvassing of areas not requiring permits. This sample is large enough to provide estimates for nine Census divisions. Traditionally, the Census Bureau provides detailed annual estimates for new homes completed and sold. NAHB Economics often prefers to analyze data for new homes started since starts occur before completions and therefore can detect changing trends a bit earlier.

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Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.


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