Home building trends from 2008 to 2014 are showing a decrease in the square footage of residential family homes. Trulia reports that the average American home size has decreased every year since 2008. In the 1950’s the average home size was less than 1,000 square feet. By the early 2000’s homes were approaching 2,600 square feet.
Whether it was the economy combined with high heating and cooling bills, or the maintenance toll that larger houses were extracting, people began to choose and build smaller homes just before the recession. Good timing. Exceptions abound of course – wealthy buyers are still building mansions, but it is a small percentage of the market. Market share has actually grown for homes sized less than 1500 square feet.
What is most confusing in the data is the “small home” segment. Builders will give you different answers to the question, “How big (or small) is a ‘Small Home?'” Consensus is that a “small home” is 1,500 square feet or less. You might say that this is not a small home at all. Then there is the term “Very Small Home.” A very small home, if you research the phrase, turns out to be less than 1,000 square feet. Again, you might comment that 1,000 square feet is just fine.
Continuing down this arbitrary path, we come to the term “Tiny House.” A tiny house is described by TinyHouseTalk.com as a home with less than 400 square feet. OK, I hear you saying, that is small. But wait. There’s more. We have the term “Ultra Tiny House.” I bet you can figure this one out. Less than 100 square feet? Yup. These tiny homes can be as small as 90 square feet complete with bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom and a common area. How is this possible? Designboom.com is a web site with pictures of these truly tiny homes and it is remarkable. I don’t think I could do it!
Finally, if you want to get away, you can still buy a motorhome or RV with a lot more space than a Tiny House. But you can also get away with a Portable House, sometimes called a “Towable Home.” The Custom 30 Foot House by Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses, featured on Gizmag.com, is a handsome example. Built for a family of 3, it offers 200 square feet on the main floor and 100 square feet in two separate lofts. The home features seating for six, a wood stove, large refrigerator, washer/dryer, and a dishwasher. The bathroom includes a composting toilet, sink, a small bathtub, and a shower. The house rests atop a 30 foot trailer, and can be towed by a full size car or truck.
An interesting final fact on American home sizes. Our homes are considered extravagant by the people in most other countries across the globe. In Spain and France, an average home size is less than half the size of an American home, and in the United Kingdom homes are one third the size at about 800 square feet. So the next time you walk into your American home, appreciate the fact that it’s bigger than you thought it was.