Traditionally the trend when people buy new homes is that they always buy bigger. This isn't always true anymore. There's a new trend toward people building and buying homes with smaller square footage than in previous decades. There's even a conference in the United States dedicated to the tiny house trend. Read on to find out what's behind this trend and to determine if a smaller home is right for you.
One man's small house is another man's closet. The small house movement as a whole sees some average ranges, though. Those who seek “small” houses tend to buy and build homes under 1500 square feet (139 m²). Tiny homes tend to sit between 200 and 800 square feet, or 18.5 to 74 m². Smaller homes can be built on a foundation like a regular home or on a trailer frame for portability. Tiny houses tend to have just one bedroom whereas the larger small homes can have two to three.
Why Smaller Homes
Proponents cite many reasons for going smaller. These reasons include:
- Budget Restrictions
- Cost of land
- Green living
- Simple or frugal living
A smaller home equates to a lower mortgage, less expensive utilities, and less room for clutter. It's also easier to maintain a home that has fewer walls, doors, and windows to repair. For older residents, a small home means less square footage to clean up every day and more familiarity of space. It's hard to live independently when you have stairs or a large lawn to maintain. A well-designed home can also be greener. A ranch home with a lower ceiling will cost less to heat than a two-story house with a cathedral ceiling of the same size. Homes built with salvaged materials are the ultimate in green development.
Getting Started with a Tiny or Small Home
It's important to do some research and introspection before you jump on the small home movement. What are the reasons that make you want to go smaller? If it's costs, there may be other ways to reduce costs than moving into a tiny home. There are housing schemes, for example, that can make home ownership more affordable. Or you can rent out a room instead of downsizing. But if it's to live a minimalist lifestyle or to reduce your carbon footprint, then moving into a smaller home might be a good next step. Finally, research small home builders and trends in your area. This will save you costs as well as resale value down the line.
When You're Ready to Go Small
The path toward a small home similar to buying a larger home. If you're buying, you'll first need to locate land. If you want a small home for cost savings then you'll want to find a plot of land that is the right size for your home and any required waste removal. Local ordinances vary in their utility and waste removal requirements, so speak to a lawyer or land agent before you start looking. Once you have land, you can buy kits from tiny house builders or have a prefabricated home delivered to your door. If you're purchasing a small home that's already standing, you'll want to have it inspected carefully. Tiny homes have their own set of problems that you'll want to address earlier rather than later. If you have friends who know a good surveyor, you can ask who they used. HDG Chartered Surveyors is one company that isn't afraid to evaluate small homes, for example. As a last step, enlist the help of others to go through your items and toss, donate, or sell items that aren't essential. Success in a small home includes simplicity of living.
Who Might Not Benefit
The small home movement isn't for everyone. Families with many children or multiple generations under one roof will not be able to legally or ethically fit into a tiny home. In some areas, the law requires a certain amount of space per occupant making tiny home living impossible for some families. Another factor is simplicity of living. A small home requires occupants who can keep clutter to a minimum. If you've seen an episode of Hoarders you'll know that hoarding is a large fire hazard. A fire hazard in a tiny home is like a spark in a matchbook; it's a bad idea to combine the two. Carefully evaluate whether you can actually live in small quarters without feeling claustrophobic or cramped.
A small home can be an investment in a simple, affordable lifestyle if done correctly. Many who've taken the leap toward a more frugal lifestyle still feel content that they made the plunge years later.
Molly Howarth works in property sales and has her finger on the pulse when it comes to property trends. She likes to share her insights online and is a regular writer on a number of relevant websites.