July 2011

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Smaller is the new big in home tastes

If there's any good to come out of the recent economic recession, it's that it has led consumers to examine their spending habits a little more closely. This scrutiny, which invariably occurs during tough economic times, prompted people to read their bills a little more carefully and is a big factor behind a housing trend which has consumers eying smaller houses on smaller lots.

Conspicuous consumption is being replaced, it seems, by conscientious consumerism. Buyers today are more restrained and deliberate. The urge to purge is replacing the need to accumulate stuff and with that thinking, consumers are opting for more moderately sized homes.

Also motivating the trend for smaller homes are a number of factors which include rising land costs, planning and development policies that restrict sprawl, a growing number of first-time buyers, a looming energy crisis, a shaky economy and the resulting lack of consumer confidence.

This shift is heavily showing itself in the U.S. where builders say they will focus on smaller homes this year. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the average size of a new home in 1978 was 1,750 square feet, a figure that had grown to 2,520 square feet by 2008. In 2010, that figure fell to 2,480 square feet, the first time since 1982.

And builders expect that trend to continue. A recent NAHB study showed builders expect homes to average 2,152 square feet in 2015, a drop of 10 percent. While downsizing also took place in the early eighties, when mortgage rates soared to unmanageable heights, that was a temporary blip. NAHB expects the trend this time to take hold as builders adjust to the new mindset of consumers.

The NAHB study also found that 68 percent of builders predict homes in 2015 will also include more green features such as low-E windows, engineered wood beams, joists or tresses, water-efficient features such as dual-flush toilets or low-flow faucets, and an Energy Star rating for the whole house.

While there are no similar stats in Canada, it's likely that we're sure to follow the example of our influential American cousins.

Smaller homes automatically mean fewer burdens on the environment. From land use and energy consumption to water usage and greenhouse gas emissions, the carbon footprint is generally reduced proportionate to the size of your home.
Sharing your knowledge about this trend will serve to educate your clients to make a wise decision on their next purchase. They'll respect your candor and expertise and refer you to family and friends. Everybody - including the environment - wins.


Elden Freeman B.A., M.E.S, Broker is the founder and executive director of the non-profit National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB). He cares passionately about the environment and practices what he preaches, powering his house with solar panels, driving an eco friendly Toyota Yaris and biking when possible. Freeman says he believes that Realtors across Canada can play an important role in educating their clients on increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions (877) 524-9494 ; elden@nagab.org.

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