Super-Sized Homes Are Out, Super-Small Homes Are In

The American home got supersized during the housing boom. In the era of the McMansion, a ginormous house was a symbol of status, but to current home buyers they are the epitome risk and high overhead. Today's home buyer wants something a little smaller.

After decades of expanding, the average size of new single-family American homes completed in 2009 dropped to a nationwide average of 2,438. That's about 100 square feet smaller than 2007, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

"There's so much more concern about very big homes," said Robert Lang, director of Brookings Mountain West, University of Nevada-Las Vegas. "People used to buy as much house as they could afford. Now they're saying, 'Even if I could buy that, do I really want to?'"

The recession and the availability of money is obviously part of why homes have shrunk. Smaller houses cost less to heat and cool, with the added benefit of being easier on the environment. Even those who can still afford supersized homes are scaling back. In the realm of real estate, Americans are trending toward valuing quality over quantity.

"We were bloated," said Tom Fisher, dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. "It made architects cringe, there was so much wasted space. There's a shift back to 'What do I really need?' vs. 'What will impress my neighbors?'"

Some people are taking the trend a step further and living in micro-sized houses. Tumbleweed Tiny House Company produces miniature homes that pack a range of amenities in spaces smaller than some people's closets for $40,000 to $50,000 ready-made. Alchemy Architects' prefabricated weeHouse concept, introduced in 2003, now represent half of the firm's business.

According to Geoffrey Warner, principal architect. "It's fueled our practice," he said. "A home may be one's castle, but is the goal really to have a castle? For most people, when they talk about their favorite rooms, it's generally smaller spaces."

Read more about the downsizing of the American home and the unique challenges it presents, like the need for downsized furniture and other housewares. Or as in the case of the Tumbleweed Tiny House, reducing your belongings until they fit into a living space as small as 89-square-feet.

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