Park City houses have gotten bigger and bigger in past 20 years |

Park City houses have gotten bigger and bigger in past 20 years

by Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

People buying houses in Park City by 2010 wanted more elbow room inside their new places — more than 1,000 square feet of additional elbow room than 10 years before.

And nearly 1,800 more square feet than homebuyers 20 years before.

City Hall in 2011 conducted an analysis of the size of houses that have been built inside Park City, finding that the square footage of the typical home built in 2010 climbed to 6,824. The figure sat at 5,697 in 2000 and 5,070 in 1990. The 2010 figure represents nearly a 20 percent increase in house size from 2000 and a nearly 35 percent rise from 1990. The number of permits for houses, though, dropped sharply between the three years that were studied, from 113 in 1990 to 19 in 2010, the analysis showed.

City Hall made the results public as part of a broader discussion about growth. The analysis did not grab lots of attention when it was released, but the results will likely be of interest to a range of Parkites, including homesellers, City Hall watchers and people who monitor development trends.

Katie Cattan, the City Hall planner who conducted the study, attributed the climb toward larger houses to rising real estate values during much of the period that she researched. She noted a desire for larger places among people buying vacation homes, an important segment of Park City’s real estate industry.

Cattan, meanwhile, also said the decreasing number of houses built in Old Town through the study period likely contributed to the rise. City Hall’s tight Old Town restrictions typically keep the size of houses smaller than they are in other neighborhoods. That means there were fewer of the smaller Old Town houses to balance the numbers from the larger houses built in other neighborhoods.

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The size of houses in Park City has generally not drawn much attention outside of Old Town. There have long been contentious discussions, however, in Old Town, where another tiff about the size of houses unfolded in 2011 after City Hall made a move toward tighter restrictions. Leaders backed off the idea after widespread opposition.

The mansions in places like Park Meadows and much of Deer Valley have gone up without much resistance from City Hall or rank-and-file Parkites. The larger houses are seen as attractive to buyers who want enough space for families to gather during trips to Park City.

"For lack of a better description, a lot of the homes are second homes and are built for Christmas Day and for kids and grandkids," said Rick Otto, an architect who has designed upward of 150 houses in Park City since 1987, many in Deer Valley and Park Meadows.

Otto, whose work portfolio includes the designs for many vacation homes, said people who hired him have wanted to build bigger houses over the years. He said the clients wanted houses large enough that their families would be comfortable when they visited. Otto acknowledged the larger houses were also based on land prices. Buyers wanted to ensure the houses would be attractive when they were put up for sale later, with the square footage being a critical factor in prices, he said.

He said the trend toward the largest houses reached a crescendo in 2006 and 2007, before the sharp drop in housing construction that occurred during the recession. Since then, Otto said, his clients have been interested in somewhat smaller places.

The period between 1990 and 2010, the two bookend years of the City Hall study, saw spectacular growth in Park City. The city’s population especially boomed in the 1990s, and development proceeded largely uninterrupted until the effects of the recession started to erode the closely related industries of real estate and construction.

The leader of the local real estate industry said homes in neighborhoods like Park Meadows and Solamere remain large, but overall house sizes might be trending downward. Patrick Giblin, the president of the Park City Board of Realtors when the report was issued, said people without kids living with them anymore are in the market for smaller houses than before, mentioning, as one of the reasons, lower utility bills. Larger families, though, continue to look for bigger houses, he said.

Some homebuilders are not as interested in construction jobs involving houses as large as 6,000 or 7,000 square feet, Giblin said. He also acknowledged that homebuyers are "starting to pull back a little bit."

"Whether it’s a luxury or a necessity what do we actually need," he said as he described the questions buyers are asking nowadays, adding, "Do they need that big home theater, that wine cellar, that extra three rooms for friends to visit."