With former Senator Rick Santorum’s decision earlier this month to drop out of the GOP primary race, the stage has been set for a face off between former Massachusetts’ governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.
As the race for the White House heats up, political pundits will hammer away at the candidates looking for weak spots in their armor. One question that’s tossed around each election cycle is how candidates relate to the average American voter. It’s a fair question, and the answer might depend on where you sit on the red-blue divide.
But a more specific question is how do the candidates relate to the average American homeowner? In 2008, then-presidential candidate John McCain made a gaffe when he blanked on the number of homes he owned. More recently, Romney has undergone some scrutiny for both the number of houses he and his wife own, and his decision to expand his beachfront property.
In 2008, the Romneys purchased a $12 million oceanfront home in La Jolla, California. Built in 1980, the one-story home located in the Beach-Barber Tract neighborhood has three bedrooms and three full baths. It features, among other things, direct access to the beach, an oceanfront deck, and an underground lap pool. In total, the Spanish-style home, designed by architectural firm Lorrimer-Case, sits on an about 18,300-square-foot lot at the end of a cul-de-sac.
Dane Soderberg, vice president broker associate at P.S. Platinum, a local real estate firm, described the area as a cosmopolitan beach community.
“It’s a dealership next to the surf shop type of thing,” Soderberg said.
More specifically, Soderberg described the Beach-Barber Tract neighborhood as a mostly residential area, opposed to a space for second or third homes.
“It’s kind of where the people of La Jolla live,” he said. “It’s not exactly a tourist area.”
The neighborhood sits next to Windansea Beach, which has a long history associated with surf culture.
Last August, Romney submitted plans to tear down the home and build a new structure that quadruples the size of the original home. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Romney wants to replace his 3,009-square-foot beachfront house and with an 11,062-square-foot structure.
Official word from Romney’s campaign, as reported by Politico, is the expansion is to enlarge the home to make it more accessible for the former Massachusetts’ governor’s five children and 16 grandchildren. Construction isn’t expected to begin until after the campaign season wraps and permits have been approved.
But what exactly does an 11,062-square-foot home look like to the average homeowner? According to the 2009 American Housing Survey, the medium floor area of existing U.S. homes was 1,700-square-feet. Perhaps more telling, 2010 Census data shows that the average size of a new single-family home in the U.S. was 2,169-square-feet, up from 2,135-square-feet for homes built in 2009.
This means that about 6.5 average-sized American homes would fit inside Romney’s proposed beach house. What about new single-family homes built in 2010? The number hovers at about 5.1 average-sized single-family homes.
Soderberg, who’s sold homes in the area, said an expansion of this magnitude isn’t uncommon.
“What he’s doing is not abnormal for people in La Jolla who buy a home in that price point,” he said. “No one here is talking about it here as if it’s a big deal.”