56% of Americans Say They Would Live in a Tiny Home

Tiny houses are gaining traction with Americans who see them as an affordable option and an income generator.

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For years, the average size of the American single-family house ballooned, from under 1,000 square feet back in the 1950s, to over 2,600 square feet in 2018. But with greater size comes greater costs – not only in terms of required building resources, but also to purchase, and maintain over time. With the average size of families shrinking as well, it means that there's a lot of underused square footage everywhere, especially in the larger, so-called McMansions.

But despite this American penchant for everything "big," smaller homes have nevertheless been gaining popularity in the last couple of decades. Once considered something "fringe," tiny homes – usually defined as anything 400 square feet and below – are now breaking into the mainstream consciousness, as can be seen in the innumerable blogs, books, festivals, and television shows dedicated to the small space lifestyle.

Now, with the pandemic, there seems to be a fundamental shift with people looking to move out of crowded cities. And Americans are indeed warming up to the idea of living big in a smaller house: 56 percent now say that would live in a tiny home, according to a recent survey of over 2,000 respondents conducted by Fidelity National Financial subsidiary IPX1031.

Tiny homes As The New Starter Home?

Some of the finer details here are quite interesting: for instance, the survey notes that 86 percent of first-time home buyers would consider a tiny home as a first home, which speaks to the affordable appeal of these smaller-sized homes, as they aren't associated with the burdensome mortgages that bigger homes are.

But perhaps that shouldn't be too surprising. As seen in our own reporting here on Treehugger over the years, we've witnessed countless young and old individuals, couples, and families choose tiny homes in order to free themselves from debt and gain financial freedom.

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Affordability Is The Top Reason

The rapid rise of home prices in recent years, coupled with a shortage in affordable housing and stagnating wage growth is one big reason in why tiny homes are an attractive option to a growing number of people. As this analysis shows, only 53 percent of Americans can pay the median price for a starter home ($233,400), compared to 79 percent of Americans who can afford the median price of a tiny house ($30,000 to $60,000). Other oft-cited factors behind the appeal of tiny houses include efficiency, eco-friendliness, the minimalist lifestyle, the ability to downsize, with the top motive being affordability, as 65 percent of respondents indicate. Of those surveyed, 61 percent say they would spend $40,000 or less on a tiny home, compared to 16 percent who would spend more than $70,000. Seventy nine percent say they would be able to outright buy or finance a tiny home, rather than a traditional starter home.

Tiny Houses as Investment Properties

The survey points to a newer and expanding trend in the tiny house industry: purchasing a tiny house as an investment property, something that 72 percent of homebuyers in the survey would consider. Indeed, we are seeing more and more examples of people building or buying tiny homes not to live in, but to rent out to long-term tenants (63 percent of these respondents) or tourists (37 percent), in order to earn some extra income.

Tiny Houses as Tiny Offices

Yet another interesting trend is readapting the tiny house typology as a backyard office. With more Americans now working from home, the tiny house concept is an attractive option for creating a designated space for work, rather than using a home office, kitchen or living room. As the survey discovered, 54 percent say they would buy a tiny house to use as a workspace separate from their main residence, with 26 percent saying they would ideally spend less than $8,000 on such an addition. Moreover, 68 percent of respondents indicate that they would consider renting out their tiny office, meaning that it would be a multifunctional and possibly income-generating asset.

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The Ideal Tiny Home

There is no "perfect" tiny house per se, as tiny homes are often uniquely tailored to their owners and their particular needs. But among those who participated in the survey, 60 percent say that the most important tiny house amenity is heating and air-conditioning. With some careful forethought to passive heating and cooling techniques, energy and maintenance costs can be significantly reduced over the lifespan of a tiny house. Next on the list was kitchen space (58 percent), having a bedroom of one's own (48 percent), laundry space (43 percent) and an outdoor space with a view (42 percent). You can see the rest of the survey here.

So Is a Tiny Home Right For You?

There's a lot that goes into making such a big decision, and thankfully, there are plenty of resources available. To start, you can check out Treehugger's extensive guides and resources on where to park a tiny home, or different ways to use a tiny home, or finding the best tiny house insurance company out there, as well as perusing some of the tiny house communities that are cropping up everywhere, from Colorado to Oregon, Michigan, New York and New Jersey. Still not sure? You can always rent a tiny house to see if it's the right fit.