In a country that nearly always believes bigger is better — think supersize fries, giant cars and 10-gallon hats — more and more Americans are downsizing their living quarters.
Welcome to the world of tiny homes, most of them less than 400 square feet (less than 40 square meters), which savvy buyers are snapping up for their minimalist appeal and much smaller carbon footprints.
The tiny homes revolution, which includes those on foundations and those on wheels, began a few decades ago, but the financial crisis of 2008 and the coming-of-age of millennials gave it a new impetus.
The proliferation of home improvement shows on networks like HGTV fueled the trend, inspiring customers ready to personalize their own small living spaces.
Cost is one of the driving factors — a tiny home of just over 200 square feet with a customized interior can go for about $50,000 — a massive savings over a McMansion in the suburbs.
“We have a housing crisis and we have crumbling buildings around us. It’s just hard to find good quality living at an affordable price,” says Brandy Jones, who took the plunge with her husband and two sons.
Eight months ago, they moved into a tiny house in Reading, Pennsylvania, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of Philadelphia.
Jones says that for a new house in the area, the family would have had to budget for about $300,000. The tiny home option “is a huge difference. It makes living affordable.”
In most cases, the savings is not enough of a motivating factor: the average newly-built family home in the United States measures about 2,600 square feet, according to the Census Bureau.
Marcus Stoltzfus, the director of sales and marketing for Liberation Tiny Homes in nearby Leola, says that over the last 40 years, Americans “went into this McMansion phase, where they built those massive homes.”
Now, in some parts of the country, “people are realizing that living with less is very advantageous to your lifestyle.”
– No ‘wasted space’ –
Scott Berrier, who moved into a 370-square-foot home about four months ago with his wife Melissa, says he’s happy not to have as many possessions as before.
“We really like the whole minimalist approach — kind of paring down and not having clutter everywhere and everything,” Berrier explained, adding that his home is simply more functional.
“The biggest difference I notice is that we use every single space. There is not any wasted space,” he said.