5 reasons to join the small house movement

Jacqueline Leppla | Improvement Center Columnist | September 24, 2015

More than 55 percent of first-time home buyers and 44 percent of buyers who have previously owned homes purchase a house with 2,000 or fewer square feet, according to National Association of Realtors research in 2014. Jamie Stearns, a Coldwell Banker real estate agent with 15 years' experience, has observed an increasing preference for small homes over time.

The small house movement gained traction in 2008, primarily due to cost considerations, but other advantages make small homes desirable even as the economy improves.

Small house benefits

1. Save money. The cost savings associated with a small house may be greater than initially imagined. The purchase price of a small home is likely to be lower than a comparable large home, but that is only the beginning. Consider home improvements: "Sometimes people with large homes settle for wood laminate when upgrading their flooring, because the cost to install real hardwood can be prohibitive," explains Stearns. "With a smaller house, it may only be necessary to purchase half the flooring quantity required by a large home, making it easier for a homeowner to afford higher quality materials."

Maintenance expenses can be minimized with small homes, according to Stearns. "Replacing a roof or painting the exterior of a small home should be less costly than completing the same project on a large home because less material and fewer man-hours are required."

Small homes -- especially if they're energy-efficient -- should cost less to heat and cool than similarly constructed large homes. "Some people want to downsize their carbon footprint," says Stearns.

2. Snag the best location. Stearns finds that small homes are a tradeoff some homebuyers are willing to make in order to live in highly-desirable communities. "Certain clients say, 'I want the smallest home in the nicest neighborhood,'" she explains.

Buyers who value a specific location may be able to afford home improvements to a small house that give them an ideal home in an excellent community.

3. Secure freedom. Small homeowners may be able to knock out house-cleaning or perform do-it-yourself (DIY) home maintenance in a fraction of the time it takes to clean and repair a large home.

"With less to clean and maintain, people in small homes may enjoy more free time to pursue hobbies and activities than their counterparts who upkeep large homes," Stearns believes.

4. Skip clutter. With less space, it isn't necessary to display lots of possessions to create an appealing and aesthetic environment. Renovating a small home so that storage is cleverly designed and available where needed can help a homeowner budget for a few high-quality pieces of furniture and just the right artwork to create an inviting setting.

Small homes spare their owners from having to furnish and accumulate a large volume of stuff. Small homeowners may find that they develop good discipline for clearing out unnecessary items regularly.

5. Strengthen family harmony. "Many of today's parents grew up sharing a bedroom with siblings," Sterns observes. "Today, those parents strive to give their children rooms of their own. When those bedrooms begin to include their own televisions and computers, there is a risk that family members may become somewhat isolated from each other."

In the past, proximity encouraged family members to "work things out" and large homes can enable people to avoid resolving issues promptly. Small homes can help families be close in multiple ways.

Is a small home right for you?

Small homes may be a good fit for people with any of the following characteristics:

  1. Independent seniors and baby-boomers who want to simplify their home maintenance responsibilities and de-clutter.
  2. Young couples who may be more able to afford the down payment, maintenance, and utilities associated with a small property.
  3. Single people of any age.
  4. People who are well-organized and willing to be creative about multi-use rooms.

Condos and townhouses may also be considered by those in the small home market. "People might be surprised to find that some condos come with very high homeowner association (HOA) fees, in the range of $200 - $700 per month." Stearns says, "Owning a small home, rather than a condo, may actually be less expensive on a monthly basis in some cases."

Given the important advantages realized by the small home movement, Stearns believes that small homes are here to stay.

Photo credit to Audrey Kerchner

About the Author

Jacqueline Leppla has renovated homes from California to Massachusetts. She has remodeled or improved nearly every room in her current home.