It used to be that the upper class compared the number of square acres their estate was settled upon. Now, it’s all about who can do more with less.
With a population density of 3.41 people per square kilometre, space isn’t a huge issue up here on Canadian soils (even though much of it is buried beneath heaps of snow). According to ShrinkThatFootprint.com, Canada’s average residential floor space per person is 216-square-feet, coming in third behind America at 231-square-feet and Australia at 267-square-feet.
But if it’s true that minimalism leads to a more fulfilling life – as Graham Hill, who owned a 420-square-foot New York apartment, argued in The New York Times – then it’s no wonder these small houses are filling up. The idea of getting into real estate for less than $30,000 in today’s housing market certainly does sound fulfilling.
Investing for Less
Consider that the average price of a home in Canada rose 2 percent last year (or 1.5 percent after inflation adjustments) – and that was its lowest year-over-year increase since 2009. Between 2000 and 2010, housing prices doubled from $163,000 to $339,000, according to Re/Max Canada.
The calculations for the average cost of a home in Canada can be affected by a multitude of factors: the neighbourhood (location, location, location!); the condition of the home; the condition of the economy; and consideration of newly-constructed homes being added to the proverbial pool (also, whether or not the homes come equipped with a pool!).
Neither the media, nor economists, nor real estate professionals can predict with absolute accuracy where the housing market will be five years, ten years, or twenty years from now. The value of Toronto condos in January 2013 was actually lower than the year before for the first time since 2009 – but it’s unlikely condo owners saw those drops coming when they purchased the properties. The most we can do is make our best educated guess. What we do know is that Canadian homes grew in price by an average of five percent annually between 1990 and 2010 (Saskatoon showed the highest average annual growth rate at seven percent).
Let’s examine the $25,000 British Columbia Nomad Micro Home we paid homage to in this article. Vancouver’s overall housing prices increased by an average of 5.3 percent annually between 1990 and 2010. If it were 1990 today and you managed to build a Nomad Micro Home in Vancouver, you’d be able to sell the $25,000 home for $70,227 by the time it was 2010. The British Columbia Real Estate Association forecasts a 4.3 percent increase in average home price for 2013 and 2.1 percent for 2014. Although overall house prices in Vancouver dropped 3.2 percent (or 3.7 percent after inflation adjustments) last year alone, Fairview homes (situated somewhat near downtown Vancouver) appreciated by 6 percent.
Build Better, Not Bigger
Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, based in California and Colorado, specializes in building tiny homes. They offer 20 models to choose from – the longest of which is 24 feet and costs $66,000 (for those who like to splurge). For the frugal, the company also builds 18-foot homes at $57,000 a piece or 24-foot homes at $60,000. Tumbleweed sprouted in 1999 – two years after the reported start of the “small house movement” (Sarah Susanka was credited with its initiation in 1997 when she published her book The Not So Big House, coining the phrase, “Build better; not bigger”).
But it was with the onslaught of the 2007 and onward financial crisis that the movement started to gain traction in North America. This was at a time when the average size of a single family home was 2,479 square feet. By 2012, however, one percent of home buyers in America were purchasing homes smaller than 1,000 square feet – hence, the small house movement. Baby steps.
The website TinyHouseLiving.com showcases several tiny home concepts from around the globe. If this website, nude lipstick, Halloween candy, and Apple’s success with simplistic branding have taught us anything, it’s that sometimes, less is more.
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