What is 'McMansion'
McMansion is a slang term that describes a large, sometimes opulent or ostentatious mass-produced house. The name carries a slightly critical connotation, due to the thought that McMansions lack architectural integrity. McMansions is a play on McDonald's fast food restaurants but also associated with a generic, cookie-cutter, suburban aesthetic style as a social status.
BREAKING DOWN 'McMansion'
The slang term connects the McMansion style to upper-middle-class homeowners. Built to provide a luxurious housing experience that was previously only available to high-net-worth individuals, a McMansion is often considered a status symbol. Notorious for their size and suburban locales, the cost of maintaining such a home is significant. Buyers often face high utility bills, expensive landscape care, and costly maintenance fees. Another added expense is the need to commute from the remote, suburban location of the McMansion.
These homes are generally between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet. This large home size is meant to signify the owners' high social and economic standing. McMansions were most popular from the 1980s through the early 2000s, before the crash of the housing market in 2008.
McMansions and the Great Recession
Many of the negative connotations associated with McMansions result from the Great Recession. The Great Recession refers to the sharp decline in economic activity during the late 2000s, generally considered the largest downturn since the Great Depression. The combination of rising home prices, loose lending practices and an increase in subprime mortgages alongside a growing supply of large tract homes caused the US housing market to bust, causing large amounts of mortgage-backed securities and derivatives to lose significant value.
Because of the 2008 housing crisis, the McMansion lifestyle equated to living beyond one’s means and the proliferation of subprime mortgages, which are considered an underlying cause for the recession. A subprime mortgage is one granted to borrowers with low credit ratings or those at larger-than-average risk of defaulting on the loan. Subprime mortgages often have higher interest rates than a conventional mortgage but require little to no down payment.
The McMansion, because it is easily built and attractive to consumers, was the perfect vehicle for subprime loans. Many people lost their homes, and others saw the value of their homes drop below the original loan amount because of the subprime mortgage. In some cases, borrowers were better defaulting on their mortgage loans rather than paying more for a home that had dropped precipitously in value.