The Rise of Smaller Homes

As you might suspect, we’ve been making a study out of best-selling, small houses at Builder magazine. I say you might have guessed because small homes targeted at entry-level buyers are just about the only ones selling these days.

Too many builders are apologetic about the small homes they are building. The standard approach is to slim down old plans, eliminating distinguishing design and construction features. The end result is rarely inspiring, especially for builders accustomed to doing trade-up housing.

We find that builders having the most success start from scratch. Instead of dumbing-down old plans, they create exciting new ones—built better, designed better, and less expensive to operate.

Going through this exercise becomes vitally important when you consider the competition in many markets is bigger, recent vintage homes that may even sell for less. Even buyers who prefer new homes may settle for one that’s three years old if it’s a better value.

Our March cover story examining 10 best-selling small homes provides some fascinating case studies. Varied facades and wide-open floor plans, along with price cuts, have made a winner out of Standard Pacific’s Oxford Square community in Tracy, California.

Phoenix’s Blandford Homes is selling 14 homes a month at its Tuscany Villas project since it went to smaller plans with better kitchens and baths.

It’s amazing how much living space you can pack into a 1,900-square-foot package if you try really hard. At its Miramar Landing project in Baltimore, Ryland Homes artfully fits four bedrooms, 2.5 baths, and two dens into that much space. It is selling three homes a month in the $300,000 price range.

Taking the guesswork out of the buying process has worked for several builders having success in the small home market. At its very successful Canyon Crossing community in San Antonio, LGI Homes tells prospects everything they need to know—their monthly payments, their move-in date, and where the closest grocery is.

Close-in locations, never easy to secure, are another difference-maker in the small-home market. A great urban location, with views provided by floor-to-ceiling glass, made a big winner out of Old Orchard Woods in Glencoe, Ill., where units sell for as little as $275,000.

It’s going to take more projects like our 2010 Concept Home and these other examples of smaller and better houses to get the industry back on the right track.


5 comments to “The Rise of Smaller Homes”

  1. Jackie Sampson says:

    Does anyone in the DC/NoVA area have a clue that someone might want to live this way? I DO – I’m moving there in a couple weeks and see nothing on the web that meets my needs to elegant, smart, small homes. Any ideas?

  2. Jane Overwhelmed says:

    This concept is GREAT! Your website is NOT. It is very glitzy, and very, very HEAVY. An this is from someone surfing on a three week old net book.

    PLEASE, y’lall….just add a tab for dummies who simply want a few pop-ups and some concise info delivered in bullet form.

    Life is short. I need a great house, not a multimedia EVENT.

  3. Bernie says:

    The floor plan is awful! How do you bring in your groceries, through the adaptable space? The side entrance, which will be the one most use coming from the garage is almost useless. And if the room is rented out, the only entrance is the fromt door. Hello fire saftey.

    Detatched garages are fine for mild climates. The mechanical room and storage areas are accessible through the Master bedroom, which is UPSTAIRS!

    Thanks for putting this online. I would hate to actually have to go somewhere to see this poor home design and pure marketing ploy.

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