Are you confused about what the true definition of a mansion is? If you're just curious or are looking to purchase a mansion yourself, talk to an experienced real estate agent who knows the ins and outs of the market.
Updated May 10th, 2019
Do you have a home in the neighborhood that you collectively refer to as "the mansion?" If so, or you're simply just curious and asking yourself, "How big is a mansion?" You are not alone. Here's how you can decipher the true mansions from McMansions and other large houses.
What is a Mansion?
The word mansion means different things to different people. To someone in New York City, a mansion might be a 2,000 square foot penthouse with a hefty price tag. To a Colorado resident, however, a mansion might describe a home with multiple living spaces, wine cellars, and an indoor swimming pool.
While they would both be right, according to the dictionary definition of a mansion (a large, impressive house) — there are other factors at play that you must take into consideration to know if you are dealing with a true mansion.
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How Big is a Mansion?
As you can see, there is no true square foot measurement to help you determine if the home you are looking at is a mansion. While the general consensus is that mansions are houses above 5,000 square feet— most realtors agree that anything above 8,000 square feet is a mansion.
The size of the space is important in defining true mansions, but there is another way you can figure it out for yourself — by determining and comparing the square feet of living space.
Your typical single-family home has about 4 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. This is just enough space for a family of four to have enough rooms for their children as well as a guest room or workspace. The adults get a bathroom to themselves while the guests and rest of the household use the other bathrooms.
A mansion, on the other hand, has large rooms designed with a specific purpose. Typically, that purpose is luxury. Mansions have rooms with relaxation and entertainment designed as the only purpose. These rooms include pool rooms, entertainment rooms, and libraries.
Types of Mansions
From classical to McMansions, there are many different types of mansions throughout the United States. Here is a brief overview of some of the most common mansions.
These are the mansions common to the era that The Great Gatsby was set in. With grand ballrooms, tall ceilings, and columns, these historic beauties were—and still are—a gem in real estate. Crafted only with the best materials and by the top-skilled laborers of their time, they are so much more than simply large houses.
To take a glance at colonial mansions, one has got to take a trip to Latin America. You'll see these homes stand proudly apart almost as an art form in Brazil.
Mansions of the era were European in architectural style. In the second half of the 19th century, you'll see the influences of Spain and Portugal reflected in the house.
Victorian homes are already known for their elaborate style of homes patterned after the royal homes in Europe. These homes have elegant towers, large great rooms for gatherings, and the formal feel that follows the Victorian era.
You may have heard this term used to describe the large cookie-cutter homes popping up all over the United States. These large homes have the appearance of status and luxury, but they pale in comparison to many mansions built before 1970.
McMansions are built out on the premise that if it looks good (or at least partially good), then it doesn't matter what materials it was made out of or how quickly it was constructed. Many McMansions use shoddy materials and odd detailing that doesn't fit with the style of the home.
Beyond that, many McMansions are not designed by an architect, making the style of the home a gamble from the start. There are many instances where the gabling and dormers on a McMansion not only doesn't match the style of the home, but it is also constructed as quickly as possible.
These homes are also often out of proportion with their surroundings. There is an oversized house on the lawn with a small patch of land, for example.
The beauty of the original mansions doesn't always reside within the houses, but in the property the house is set in.
Most mansions were (and are still) built as a compliment to the piece of property they are set on. The grounds are well kept and often feature elaborate gardens, tennis courts, and other types of outdoor areas for activities.
McMansions, on the other hand, often reside on a small piece of land, squished right up next to the other McMansion of the neighborhood.
Mansions For Sale
In 2012, Curbed rounded up some of the largest mansions that are for sale. Here are a few worth noting:
Picture this: over 34 acres of forest and impeccable gardens. 31 bedrooms and 16.5 baths, and a spooky ghost story to add some value. All of this and more describes Blairsden—a New Jersey emerald.
Blairsden (1903) was built by C. Ledyard Blair who was the New York Yacht Club, Commodore. It was listed for sale at the advertised "bargain" price of $4.9 million dollars.
That number is perhaps offset by the ghost story that is floating around. The story goes that the Mother Superior (surely possessed by a devil or under some sort of spell) murdered the nuns that lived with her. The idea is that she still wanders the property as a ghost.
Searles Hopkins Castle
Let's take a trip to western Massachusetts and take a look at this French-style beauty. Approximately 54,246 square feet and seven stories tall, "castle" doesn't just allude to its caliber of architecture, it also describes exactly what it is.
There is gold leafing on the ceiling, a music room with a domed roof, and multiple towers. The house served as a girls school after the owner's death but was eventually turned into a home for troubled teens in the mid-1980's.
You can live in this castle for the nice low price of $11 million.
Maybe none of the previously mentioned homes quite fit the bill for you. You may be after a 55,000 square-foot brick estate in Newark Ohio, instead. This glorious mansion features seven bedrooms, 15.5 bathrooms, 11 fireplaces, and multiple vast entertaining rooms.
$15 million is what it takes to get this beauty — and is well worth the price to pay.
Mansions truly do come in all shapes and vastly different sizes. While you may still think the 2,500 square foot home down the road is a mansion, hopefully, now you know a bit more about them. At the very least, hopefully, you know the answer to the question, "How big is a mansion?"