A McMansion is a term which describes a large fancy house built as part of a housing development, unlike real mansions, which are usually custom built houses and reserved for the upper crust of society. McMansions are luxury housing for the image conscious well off masses, rather than captains of industry, celebrities, and politicians traditionally associated with mansion ownership. A McMansion is typically part of a development of upscale homes, usually placed onto 2 or 3 acre lots of farmland on the suburban fringes of many major metropolitan areas. Less expensive than a real mansion, with selling prices on the order of a about $500,000 to $1,000,000, they are popular among the merely well-off of society, such as Doctors, Lawyers, and the more sucessful real estate agent or plumber. McMansions are often interwined with a golf course, forming a golf course community. They usually have pretentious names like River Downs or Hunter's Chase. The houses usually feature lots of showy gingerbread, such as complex rooflines, fancy brickwork and circular driveways.

The pretentiousness of McMansions continues indoors as well. Most McMansions feature lots of room, on the order of about 4,000 square feet, and have lots of ornate moldings, track lighting, fancy bathroom and kitchen fixtures.

If you are in the market for a McMansion, it is advisable as with any house to look beyond the shiny finishes and fancy fixtures and see what the house is really made of. In many cases, much of the glitz is only skin deep in too many examples of this genre of housing. Builders and developers looking for a quick buck will skimp in places you won't see or won't notice until the house has been lived in a for a while, and they are long gone. Spending this much for a house, it pays to build in quality throughout. In the worst of these houses, for example, the kitchen cabinets are a thin veneer of hardwood or fake wood finishes over a base of particleboard. The walls are also made of thin drywall, the mouldings plastic foam, the "hardwood" floors are plastic laminate, or very thin wood, and the gold bathroom fixtures are a thin plating over plastic.

To maintain property values most communities of McMansions have lots of rules, called covenants, which regulate in detail the types of landscaping, style and colors of allowable exterior modifications to the house, and even the height at which the grass must be cut. These covenants are enforced with vigor and enthusiasm by the local Homeowners Association. Prohibited additions to the house or activities often include having rooftop antennas, above ground pools, working on vehicles, or even keeping the garage open longer than necessary to park the SUV. Neighborhoods such as this are often populated by suburbanazis. Hobbies, whimsy, or anything that might break the straightjacket of conformity are strongly discouraged, if not downright prohibited. If you decide to move into one of these communities, make sure you can cheerfully abide by their rules for the forseeable future.

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