Mini-Houses

smallhouse.jpgToday’s New York Times has an article about small houses, and I mean small – like 300 square feet small.

A wave of interest in such small dwellings — some to serve… as temporary housing, others to become space-saving dwellings of a more permanent nature — has prompted designers and manufacturers to offer building plans, kits and factory-built houses to the growing number of small-thinking second-home shoppers. Seldom measuring much more than 500 square feet, the buildings offer sharp contrasts to the rambling houses that are commonplace as second homes.

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Hardly the slapped-together hunting camp that belonged to your uncle, these buildings even offer instant curb appeal. They are often equipped with airplane-size bathrooms and tiny kitchenettes. Styles include romantic, rustic and designer modern. Jeanette Andersen, an agent at Sotheby’s International Realty/Santa Monica, said that in theory this could contribute to an increase in sales of undeveloped land. “When the design is appealing,” she said, “buyers are more willing to buy one and spend the money they saved on land.”

The growing popularity of these small houses are supported by several trends – the green movement, simplicity, and, in some cases, luxury. This kind of small dwelling has a small ecologocal footprint, making it appealing to those who are actually willing to change their lifestyle for their environmental beliefs. Related to the green movement is simplicity, and it seems pretty obvious why life in a 300 or 500 square foot house needs to be pretty simple. Luxury, on the other hand, doesn’t quite seem to fit here but the article points out that some models can cost “more than $200 a square foot for designer models built with specialized or luxury materials.” This is a trend we’ve seen before of saving money in one area to free up money for luxury spending in another. I’ll admit, this is pretty extreme, and I’d question how luxurious it can be in a house this small, but if it were a hunting cabin, $200 per square foot makes a pretty nice cabin.

These houses are the product of some innovative thinking and they point out the effectiveness of at least one technique for brainstorming – imagine your big product small and your small product big.

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