by Steve Hansen
The average size of a new home in the U.S. hit a new record in 2013, at 2,594 square feet. The previous record was about 2,497 square feet in 2008, just before the housing market imploded.
That might sound like good news, but it actually indicates a weak housing market, according to economist Robert Dietz of the National Association of Homebuilders.
“Higher-end homebuyers, particularly older homebuyers with cash reserves necessary to meet today’s down payment requirements, are in the new home market in greater proportions than first-time homebuyers who typically purchase smaller homes,” Dietz wrote in an opinion piece for U.S. News & World Report. “The result of this change in market mix is, at least in the data, rising average new home size on an average basis.”
Not coincidentally, in the decade from 2002 to 2012, home ownership fell most among people 35 and younger — 11 per cent, according to U.S. census data. As home sizes and prices have risen and affordability fallen, much smaller homes have become surprisingly popular. Lloyd Kahn, author of Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter, set the upper limit for “tiny homes” at 500 square feet.
With a price of just $20,000 to $50,000, tiny homes offer those without the money for a standard house the ability to own a home, however small. They can be built on a foundation and have all the amenities of a standard-sized house. They’re often used as accessory dwelling units, or granny flats, and are also useful for bed and breakfasts, rental units, and office space.
Possibly more popular are tiny homes built on trailers, as they let owners get around some of the building code challenges, such as minimum floor area, and the need for a building permit. Tiny homes on trailers, however, are generally not legal when parked on a residential lot, even if the homeowner also owns the lot.
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