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.
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.