THE small HOUSE CATALOG

Plans, Drafting & Design

home design

Are we seeing a mainstreaming of smaller homes?

Jamie's MusingsJamieComment

Shawn and I built a house in Maine together that was so much bigger than we expected and needed that it was ultimately one of the reasons we ended up selling it. While it was on the market, a frequent comment we heard was that it was "too small" which completely amazed us, particularly given that at the time, fuel prices were very high and it seemed an incredibly big house to us. 

Since having that experience, we always consider size in our drafting, particularly since we have moved around and resale is something we now always take into consideration when building. We want to build small homes but also keep in mind that homes are a big investment/money sink for all of us. If you need or want to sell the home, it is nice to think that you could get your investment back out of it. 

Our first house building project was a trial by fire experience. Belfast, ME (Fine Homebuilding, 2009)

Our first house building project was a trial by fire experience. Belfast, ME (Fine Homebuilding, 2009)

Has concern about resale value ever prevented you from building or buying a small house? 

In talking with realtors over the last decade, we've noticed that rather than hearing about how big a house needs to be to be attractive to buyers, we're hearing realtors actually blow off the idea of a house being less marketable due to a smaller size - citing that people's tastes and needs are changing. Retirees don't need as much space and seem to be showing themselves more averse to taking on huge houses. Young couples, too, can fit this category. The size of families has grown smaller so that small houses can easily accommodate a family with children. Many people don't have children. This is a real sea change. Perhaps this trend holds more true in crowded urban areas where space is at a premium or in retirement areas where many buyers are not necessarily looking to take on a humongous house responsibility. But then again, we might also be seeing long term trends transition to smaller houses being seen as highly attractive for their own merits, rather than being seen as "too small" or "not big enough."  



Right Sizing Your Home

Jamie's MusingsJamie
BIG, Small, tiny...what's a good house size? 

BIG, Small, tiny...what's a good house size? 

Some time ago a woman making a comment on our site mentioned “right sizing” her life. I thought that was an apt phrase. We always hear about down sizing and super sizing (and even super down sizing!) but we don’t necessarily hear much about right sizing, which implies a great deal of consideration. It’s easy to go big…what can’t be fit into 3500 square feet?  It’s even easy to go tiny, in many ways. You just put everything into storage or "get rid of things". But what if you fall somewhere in between and want to make a conscientious choice that meets your current and foreseeable needs?

People considering building or buying a home are all totally different in terms of needs and really have to consider these issues carefully. It’s not an easy task, actually. It can be problematic to build or buy a tiny or small home and then find you actually do need more space. It can be equally problematic to find that you thought you needed more than you did and are now dealing with all that extra space. Personally, I’ve experienced both sides of this coin. Both have associated problems. 

So as a piece of advice to people planning to build at some point or are currently in process, I offer the following thoughts on design. Consider your needs carefully and thoughtfully and honestly. Try not to make your decisions based on what you think is cute, or works for other people (and therefore “should” work for you) or is somehow the “only” right thing to do. Sometimes all of these things coincide, but definitely consider your needs so that you can make a choice that will ensure a home that works for you for a long time to come.

  • Do you have a big family? Small?
  • Are you planning to have kids? 
  • Do you live alone?
  • Is your family still subject to expansion or are members just about to leave the nest?  
  • Do you do a lot at home in terms of business, hobbies, cooking, entertaining or do you prefer to be out and about, traveling often or eating out regularly?  
  • Do you live in a climate that has extremes that might make being indoors necessary for a good chunk of the year?  
  • Do you like cozy spaces or do they disconcert you?  
  • When you look around your current space, what problems do you see?  
  • Are the problems you seek to avoid replicating layout issues or do you actually have too much or too little space?  
  • How much can you afford and how much do you want to pay for in dollars, time, expenses, etc?  

I think there are probably a lot of other issues in there as well, but having a good solid question and answer session can be illuminating and might help to guide your design process so that you can come up with a small home that is the right size for your specific needs. Putting in the thought in advance can save you a bundle of time, energy and money down the line. Believe it or not, we have heard from people who have houses both too big and too small. Seeking a balance is a worthy challenge for prospective home builders as it makes it far more likely that your project will be rewarding to yourself and others for many, many decades to come.

THE small HOUSE CATALOG