Like most movements, tiny houses started small…pun intended. These homes are characterized by a square footage of less than about 400-500 square feet, although there are no formal parameters for size.
Small homes are considered to be under 1,000 square feet, with tiny homes coming in around half that size. In truth, the average single family home now clocks in at upwards of 2,500 square feet, so anything significantly smaller could be considered insufficient, depending on the buyer.
However, the tiny house movement is less about square footage than it is about choosing a different lifestyle, one that eschews the prestige, excess, and show of material wealth that larger homes represent. The tiny house movement started small because many people weren’t willing to give up the idea of a home as the lynchpin of the American dream, along with the capitalism and materialism that dream entails.
Tiny houses have continued to grow in popularity, if not in size, because many Americans are tired of living paycheck-to-paycheck to finance the American dream. People want more time, more money, and less stress.
If that means giving up some space and some stuff, it seems that more and more people are willing to make the switch to tiny homes and the minimalism they represent. Is it just a trend, though, or will this movement continue to grow?
Ask any real estate agent and you’ll find that tiny homes are nothing new. In fact, you are probably familiar with the precursor to tiny homes: trailers.
There has long been a certain subset of society that chooses trailer park living over the traditional home-buying mentality. These people may not have a lot of money or they may simply have a desire to live well within their means instead of overextending on a home mortgage they can’t really afford.
Maybe they don’t care about appearances. Or perhaps they like the idea that they could move and take their home with them. It could be that they want to spend their extra income on travel or other things instead of being weighed down with a mortgage.
Some may be more interested in spending the lion’s share of their money on land, perhaps with the intent of building a larger home down the line. Whatever the case, tiny homes are just a modern extension of this concept.
The Minimalist Lifestyle
The thing that most people fail to understand about the tiny house movement is that it has less to do with the actual living space than with the concept of minimalism. Real estate agents and home buyers alike can speculate about whether or not tiny homes are just a trend or an enduring movement, but the truth is it’s less about the movement than about the mentality behind it.
There are always going to be people interested in the concept and implementation of a minimalist lifestyle. Some of them want to work less, spend less, and live more simply. There are probably proponents that just want to spend less time keeping the many possessions in their living spaces neat and clean.
This lifestyle isn’t for everyone, as any real estate agency can attest. Most people are still chasing that brass ring and trying to keep up with the Joneses, and newest construction fits this grand mentality.
However, there are always going to be homeowners attracted to the minimalist lifestyle. They may continue to be the minority, but the principles that dominate tiny house buyers are likely to endure in one form or another.
The recent recession made a lot of people rethink their priorities, including lenders, Realtors, and home buyers alike. This was probably the driving force behind the initial growth spurt of the tiny house movement.
Consider the attitude of those who lived through the Great Depression. The attitude of wasting nothing persisted in an entire generation throughout their lifetime. My grandmother still uses every part of a chicken, refusing to throw out the carcass until she has used it to brew chicken broth.
In the same way, the lessons learned from the Great Recession are likely to stick with our generation, informing our financial decisions well into the future. The belt-tightening that occurred after the housing market crash, rampant unemployment, and economic crisis will not soon be forgotten.
The average real estate broker can read the temperature of the market – tiny houses are popular now. They may never go mainstream, but they’re likely to continue to dominate a certain segment of the home buying market, just as trailers have done, for years.