Saturday, July 18, 2009

For some, tiny houses are just the right size


They had the land and the plan ready for a 3,000-square-foot retirement home.

But sticker shock and a sour economy spurred Lee and Donna McCollough to downsize their dream into a 336-square-foot "country cabin."

"It was mostly an economic move. But it’s serving our lifestyle very well," said Lee McCollough of their home near Schulenburg in South Texas.

Built from vintage salvage materials by Tiny Texas Houses of Luling, McCollough said the "turnkey package" cost $70,000. "It’s great," said the 62-year-old retired electrical technician. "People are impressed with the construction and coziness of it. It’s built like an Igloo ice chest."

Tiny home proponents call it "super downsizing," but that’s just the extreme edge of a growing movement away from suburban castles and into "right-sized" homes that require less energy, upkeep and money, experts say.

"The era of the 'McMansion’ could well be over as home sizes have been trending downward recently, with a significantly higher number of architects reporting demand for smaller homes this year," Kermit Baker, chief economist for the American Institute of Architects, said in a news release.

In a June survey by the National Association of Home Builders, 59 percent of respondents said they are building smaller homes, said Stephen Melman, the group’s director of economic services.

As the economy sank in 2008, new homes started shrinking, Melman said. Census data showed the average new home declined from 2,600 square feet in the second quarter of 2008 to 2,373 square feet in the third quarter, he said.

"This isn’t the worst thing in the world," Melman said. "People are buying the home they need.  . . . Energy costs are up and people are interested in cutting costs."......

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