How do you define a McMansion?

I’ve heard this term thrown around the SDMB for a while now, but I’m not sure exactly what Dopers picture when they use the term. Do you mean those new neighborhoods springing up where all the houses cost a minimum 300-500k? Do you mean new neighborhoods where all the giant houses look the same? Give me your definition.

I’ve mostly seen it used, outside the Dope, to refer to enclosed building developments directed to US retirees in Latin American countries… they try to be like “a piece of Florida only cheaper,” I guess.

Well, the price is going to depend on the part of the country. You can’t get a McMansion here for $300,000 - and this is only the Twin Cities.

I would consider them the same type of house my girlfriend calls faux chateaus - large houses with custom kitchens, granite counter tops, offices, libraries and/or billiard rooms, hand glazed tile in the bathroom, but which have not reached the state of true ‘mansion’ i.e. they are on suburban lots that are rather small, they were built recently, they are desigend to be cleaned by someone who comes in once a week instead of live in help, they have the same bones as the tract home - just far more of them.

That’s a pretty good definition to me. I also think of McMansions as having more emphasis on visual frills–cathedral ceilings, crown molding, etc.–than solid construction.

In my town, there are old money neighborhoods and new money neighborhoods. The old money neighborhoods have beautiful old trees and older houses–over 100 years in some cases–that have lots of individual character. The lots aren’t enormous. The new money lives in new developments with giant lots, 4000 sq. foot houses that all look the same, and very few trees. Fine if you like it, but not my scene, although since I’ll never be old or new money, it’s never likely to be an issue for me.

McBuilding here in Westchester, NY, consists of knocking down a nice middlesize house on a large lot and building a steroidal red brick shipping warehouse or Colonial zeppelin hangar with all sorts of extra roof dormers, peaks and at least two chimneys. The idea is to maximize square footage and minimize green area, which no upwardly mobile type would maintain without a lawn service.

A fair number of the buyers are new-money folks of Middle Eastern or South Asian origins. I think they’re used to living close to the road or street, and tend to turn inwards, away from the out-of-doors, when at home or entertaining.

I’ve used the term to describe the developments of huge “luxury” single family homes squashed together on tiny lots. The house is out of proportion with the lot it sits on, and the homes in the development are near identical from the outside.

We’ve got a couple of those developments on the other side of town. They only came to be because a stable owner out there got an offer he couldn’t refuse. His stable had been a town mainstay since the turn of the century. The land he owned stretched a good quarter mile and had woods. It also bordered wetlands/

The McMansions were up within a year after the sale. What were once gently rolling hills is now as flat as can be engineered. There are 5-6 houses, every one of them identical except for the paint and exterior trim. Three are vacant. The going price is somewhere in the mid-high $500K.

The woods are gone. If you ever pass by in the very early morning just before dawn, you might see a deer or two in the distance. There used to be a lot of them when the stable was there. I’m presuming other McMansions are going to be built where the woods used to be. All I can think is, Where are the deer going to go?

K Hovananian and Toll Brothers have pretty much cornered the market on these. Think of it like this: When you drive therough the next newly built “luxury housing” development. Notice that all of the houses are based on one of 3 designs, and they’re all beige stucco, with fake brick around the bottom to look like a foundation. No trees are taller than the house, every one of them is a 2+ car garage, and belgian block skirts the driveway, which is often made of pavers. There’s a double door in the front, usually a large window above them, and at least 2 separate peaks to the house.

I think burundi has it right. To me, a McMansion is all about looking big and expensive, but without paying attention to aesthetics or good design principles. Around here, what’s typical are near-non-existent roof overhangs, brickwork that is on the front only and the end of it is visible on either side (no effort to conceal that it’s only facing), columns out of proportion to the house (usually too narrow), that sort of thing. I’ve also been in some that were like big cavernous spaces on the inside, with absolutely no nice molding or built-ins or other attention to detail.

Others have added the “small lot” criteria to the definition. I’d disagree, but only because I’m reluctant to mock houses that are on tiny lots. That kind of development, with higher residential density, is better–ideally you squish the houses together and devote land to larger amounts of common space, woods, wetlands, what have you, rather than give each house its own little acre parcel. I’d much, MUCH rather see a bunch of tiny yards.

That is pretty much the meaning in Australia although the houses vary among say 8 to 10 designs per estate. More tellingly now it refers to houses beyond the means of the buyers that often end up foreclosed. Many young Australians now insist on mortgaging themselves to the hilt to own a 4 bedroom home they don’t need so that they end up living on the brink of poverty to pay the loans.

Giant faux-chateau, with an ugly-ass 3+ car garage in front.

There’s a beautiful old snooty urban neighborhood in my (middle-sized midwestern) city full of 1890’s-1940’s mansions. Most are in the million-plus range, and more than a handful are more than five million. Each and every one of them has character, and none of them has a garage that faces the street.

In the past few years, a couple of the larger tracts have been divvied up, and McMansions thrown up the new lots. Every last one of those has at least a three-car garage facing the street. In a neighborhood where there are more carriage houses than attached garages.


Here in Houston, some people are realizing that living Inside the Loop reduced commuting time. And the older neighborhoods are more interesting. So they do the same as the people up in Westchester. The new houses are huge & expensive–but mostly lack real beauty & style. And they make those “interesting” neighborhoods less interesting–as construction removes many trees & the streets become canyon like. And as the newbies begin making noise complaints against little music venues that had been in business for years.

We’ve got plenty of white yuppies living in these monstrosities.

Sure, there are McMansions Outside the Loop. The developments look silly–clumps of big houses huddled together behind walls, quite conspicuous on the bald prarie. But those developments generally didn’t destroy anything. Except, perhaps, rice fields. Which still tend to flood.

This Inner City Renter wants to look down on Mini-Mansions because of sustainability, neighborhood quality, etc. But I admit there’s some jealousy–if I had all that money, I like to think I’d spend it with more style & grace.

But black or Hispanic yuppies would be okay? Is there any particular reason you felt a need to drag race into this?

I will say that the style and build quality of Westchester houses these days is often excellent, at least on the outside. The problem is with the scale. A Colonial saltbox wasn’t meant to have six dormer windows and be the size of a cattle barn.

Pardon my bluntness, but that may be why you don’t have all that money. Stylish, graceful people tend not to make a pile, what with all the restless, grabby ones out there.

As $300K-$500k is not much in my area, McMansion is based on the look and design, not the price.

Here it refers to a newish development of similar large houses, 3 car garages or even 4. At least two stories, a meant to be impressive front walk up and all packed onto a smallish property for the size of the houses. A true Mansion would either be on Acreage or in Town.

These development will usually see a lot of money put into landscaping.

Actually **Shecky ** does a better job describing what I mean than I do. As he lives in my area, we seem to be in full agreement.


Here in Houston, some small new houses have been built on small lots. Especially in the Heights area, which still has plenty of fine older homes. They often copy the little houses still standing in Galveston.

But giant homes on smaller lots often don’t have yards at all–just driveways. Forget about “common space, woods & wetlands”–the developers surely do. I’ll mock those monstrosities with no hesitation. (There are worse examples–just not as readily available on the 'web.)

Over here McMansion neighborhoods are considered a bit low-rent. They’re typically in the outer suburbs and populated with young families or couples who have been priced out of the inner city areas. People can buy a 3-4 bedroom house for maybe $250-400k when the same house in a middle suburb would be $500-700k and in an inner suburb would be $800k-1M+.

The funny thing is that you can go to these suburbs and see rows of beautifully styled McMansions; then you go to a suburb with triple the median price and see rows of shabby looking terrace houses.

My (possible) bad - I referred to cultural group influences upthread. I may have been hasty in doing so.

You at least established a connection between ethnicity and the subject of the thread, i.e. Mideasterners and Asians apparently care more about inside space than outside space. Bridgette’s use of the phrase “white yuppies” shows some resentment or hostility towards middle-class whites and introduces the issue of class and race when it really doesn’t seem all that relevent.

From what I’ve seen, a lot of them seem to incorporate cheap building materials, and thus have maintenance problems after only a few years.

They are big boxes made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same. The opening credits to Showtime’s Weeds sum up the phenomenon.