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Are Americans Craving Smaller Homes?

2/8/2011 11:34:13 AM

Tags: small homes, tiny houses, Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, National Public Radio, Tiny Texas Houses, Natural Home magazine, Robyn Griggs Lawrence

One step forward, one step back.

We’ve been reporting, optimistically, on Americans’ move (finally) toward smaller homes since the housing market crash two years ago. A year ago we cited a National Association of Home Builders survey showing that after 30 years of continual growth, average single-family home size had declined from 2,520 square feet in 2008 to 2,480 square feet in 2009. In July, we cited an American Institute of Architects’ Home Design Trends Survey that showed more homeowners eschewing upscale amenities in favor of flexible, open and informal spaces that allow for easy movement and family living—and that they were finding those spaces in smaller houses.

Natural Home magazine has made covering tiny houses a priority since 1999, when we first covered Jay Shafer’s 240-square-foot house, which led to his wildly successful Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. From features about a superbly designed small house in British Columbia to Brad Kittel’s Tiny Texas Houses,12- foot-by-20-foot houses almost entirely out of salvaged materials, we’ve inspired readers to ask themselves: How much space do I really need? The responses have been encouraging.
Tumbleweed Tiny Home on the road 

Jay Shafer's tiny Tumbleweed house was smaller than his town's minimum-size requirements, so he put it on wheels and called it a trailer. 

According to a recent National Public Radio report, however, home square-footage hasn't lost its luster just yet. Adam Allington of St. Louis Public Radio reports that a glut of cheap properties is keeping smaller, more energy efficient houses on the market's fringe. Steven East, who tracks national home builders for Ticonderoga Securities, told NPR that news of the McMansion’s death is premature.There has been a lot of talk in the press that the McMansion is dead and consumers are now permanently wanting smaller homes, etc.,” he said. “There's nothing in our research that indicates that's the truth.”

That’s too bad. Natural Home’s recent article, “How to Live Well in Less Than 1,000 Square Feet,” proves that living in smaller homes is not only more efficient, but usually more comfortable as well. Bigger isn’t better—and smart homeowners will soon figure that out. 

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Gary Wollenhaupt
2/8/2011 8:14:11 PM
Not sure how many people can move into such a small house-- they seem better suited to weekend homes, hunting lodges etc. A little larger, but still small green homes seem to make more sense. Here's an interesting take from two small home architects:

2/8/2011 1:41:41 PM
I "observe" houses in New Orleans for renovation loans, permits and other reasons. I have noted one thing that is interesting and pertains to this article. The "large" home is alive and well here. In our rich culture, there are plenty reasons for a large house: larger families, multi generational families, entertainment... BUT the small home is a very popular choice. And by small I mean under 2000 square feet. Significantly less square footage than considered by this article to be a small home. And I must say that although New Orleans does have Mc Mansion (over 5000 square foot) style houses, very rarly is it new construction. This I am sure is due to the fact that many larger homes are still available as gutted hurricane effected houses that need renovation. Also something I have noted is that purchasers are able to now afford houses in neighborhoods which were out of their price range before the storm. New Orlean has it's own set of special circumstances, but I believe is typical of other large coastal cities and entertainment cities. The Mc Mansion will never die out but maybe become the monolith among the pebbles.

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