In the United States the average size of new single family homes grew from 1,780 square feet in 1978 to 2,479 square feet in 2007, and to 2,662 square feet in 2013, despite a decrease in the size of the average family. Overall, our homes keep getting bigger, but there is a small group of home buyers and builders that are moving away from this trend. A very early pioneer of this small house trend is Henry David Thoreau, whose publication of the book “Walden” is quoted as early inspiration for living in a smaller space.
The current small house movement is a return to houses of less than 1,000 square feet. Frequently the distinction is made between small (between 400 square feet and 1,000 square feet), and tiny houses (less than 400 square feet). One of the events that opened peoples eyes to these smaller homes was Hurricane Katrina. Marianne Cusato developed what was called the Katrina Cottages, that start at 308 square feet. Though these were created to provide a pleasant solution to a disaster zone, Cusato received wider interest in her design from interested home owners and developers. The financial crisis of 2007–08, also attracted more attention to the small house movement as it offers housing that is more affordable.
Smaller homes are less expensive than larger ones in terms of taxes and building, heating, maintenance, and repair costs. Small houses may emphasize design over size, utilize dual purpose features and multi-functional furniture, and incorporate technological advances of space saving equipment and appliances. Vertical space optimization is also a common feature of small houses and apartments. In addition to costing less, small houses may encourage a less cluttered and simpler lifestyle and reduce ecological impacts for their residents. Some small home builders will reuse old material such as wood floors, doors, windows. Recycled materials such as recycled glass, aluminum, recycled tile, reclaimed lumber, recycled plastic to reduce the ecological impact building can have.
Charleston’s Small House Movement
According to a Post and Courier article, the Tiny house movement has begun to sprout in Charleston. There has been a history of living in small spaces in Charleston, either by necessity or on purpose. Examples are Freedman’s Cottages, sailboats, beach cottages and apartments downtown. More recently, a couple just had their 192sf tiny home in North Charleston built by a North Carolina company for $45,000. Though they had complications with permitting in their original location, they are now happily living in their tiny home. A 392sf tiny home on Johns Island and a 240sf home for two in East Charleston were both built for around $30,000. One Charleston company is even moving towards a planned unit development of 40 tiny homes near Park Circle.
Right now there are 125 single family homes for sale in the Charleston MLS area under 1000sf. Only 200 homes of the 7,745 that have sold in 2015 were small homes, but the homes and the land are out there. If you would like to find out more about small homes, The Avera Group would be happy to help!