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Tiny Houses – Real Estate’s Next Big Trend?

Imagine living in a house that’s not much wider than your arm span. You’ve probably seen them on the news, the Discovery Channel, or even Oprah – tiny houses as small as 90 square feet (yes you read that right). They’ve become a small but rapidly growing real estate trend among people who want to simplify their lives, live more affordably, and have less impact on the environment.

Tiny or at least small houses are nothing new and used to be the norm.  Large families lived in single room cabins or small multi-room houses. As incomes and personal wealth increased for North Americans, so did the size of a typical house. Since 1970, average house sizes have increased 50% in the US and other western countries.

The small house countermovement was started by Sarah Susanka who published the influential The Not So Big House in 1997. After hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, Marianne Cusato developed “Katrina Cottages” to provide a more comfortable alternative to the FEMA trailers supplied to people who had lost their homes. At 308 sq. ft., they attracted the attention of resort developers and prepackaged building kits are still available for purchase.

The housing crisis and recession that hit the US hard starting in 2006 not only caused a lot of American families to lose their homes – it forced many to readjust their ideals. The tiny houses that were the norm a few generations ago have become a practical and trendy alternative for people who still want their own home without extras like unmanageable debt, maintenance, and clutter. They’re also becoming very popular among homeowners who need a separate office, guest house, or living space for children who won’t leave home.

Many architects and designers have embraced the challenge of creating tiny houses and have come up with some truly innovative and beautiful designs that emphasize style over size. Today a lot of companies specialize in building tiny houses and plans are readily available online for DIY’ers.

Tiny houses are by their nature quite simple to build with basic skills and tools. If you decide that a tiny house is right for you, make sure that building regulations in your area don’t stipulate a minimum house size.

While they might not be the next big thing in real estate, it is a concept that’s gaining traction.

By Patrick Murray