Small House Revival?

Real Estate Agent with The Helen Oliveri Team


Is the "bigger is better" mentality fading in terms of real estate? Are the days of McMansions coming to an end? Well, it seems for some homeowners it is. There's a new movement out there that's creating quite a buzz among environmentalist and folks seeking a simpler life. It's called the Small House Movement and it might just be the next small thing.

These homes bring a whole new meaning to up close and personal since most are less than 1000 square feet, some are even less than 100 square feet.

Gregory Paul Johnson, who is a founder of the Small House Society in Iowa City, says there are many reasons people are choosing to drastically downsize. Among the most practical motives are rising energy costs and the mortgage crisis. Basically, people want small homes because they cost less to purchase, maintain, and heat and cool.

And for those reasons, builders who specialize in these types of construction have seen an increase in their business this year. Brad Kittel, owner of Tiny Texas Houses in Luling, Texas, says he's built 10 homes this year up from just four in 2007.

Jay Shafer of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company based in California, says he's sold five houses and 50 sets of plans, up from a yearly average of just one house. Although the growth appears modest at best, it still shows a growing demand for houses that minimize one's footprint, both carbon and structural.

The Tumbleweed Tiny House Company creates homes ranging in size from about 70 to just over 800 square feet and cost anywhere from $20,000 to $90,000 to build. Even the owner Mr. Shafer has lived in a tiny house himself for over ten years. At 100 square feet, his house is smaller than many people's closets. When asked about the appeal of the homes he said, "The small space is a symbol of something else. I think it's a symbol of a desire for a more simple life."

Even if you're craving a simpler life yourself, don't think you've got to sacrifice on style. The homes resemble cabins or birdhouses even with their wooden exterior and high pitched roofs. Sustainable materials and reclaimed lumber are incorporated into all the homes and The Tumbleweed Tiny House Company pride themselves on not using first life materials.

These homes are built on wheels, not a foundation like most new construction and because they are so tiny, they're considered travel trailers and do not require a building permit. You can pretty much put one anywhere you can park an RV. They also come pre-wired for electricity, either an AC plug-in or a solar electric system, and they're pre-plumbed and ready to be connected to public water and sewer systems.

The interior of the homes are completely finished in pine with stainless steel. The ceilings are vaulted to make it appear roomier and the bathrooms come complete with full shower, toilet and sink. The kitchens include a two-burner stove, an under-counter refrigerator, a bar sink, an instant hot water heater, and a propane boat heater. Storage is also an extremely important asset, as you can imagine. By utilizing overhead space and making otherwise unusable spaces functional, Mr. Shafer promises ample space for a simple lifestyle.

And of course these homes are very energy efficient; they are well insulated and super easy to heat and cool. In fact one small house owner in Olympia, Washington, boasts that even with rising energy costs, her worst monthly energy bill is about $8.00. That seems almost too good to be true, but Mr. Shafer attributes that to the careful attention that has been given to the light, warmth, energy efficiency and proportion of each and every home he builds.

As you can see, these itty-bitty residences have all the modern conveniences of larger homes, just built to a smaller scale. They're something to consider if you're looking for a change, literally a change of venue or you'd just like to see more of it in your pocket.


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