Handyman: Trend toward tiny homes growing in U.S.

Glenn Haege
Special to The Detroit News

Living in a large, heavily populated urban area like New York, Chicago or San Francisco, a small studio apartment or an upper flat is common, in part due to space constraints and also due to the high cost of living. That “smaller is better” concept is starting to take hold around the country, and is one reason we are seeing a movement toward tiny homes.

In fact, the tiny home’s ideology is so popular these days it has spawned many popular television shows, including “Tiny House Big Living” and “Tiny House Hunters” on HGTV, and “Tiny House Nation” on the FYI Network.

While the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers indicates that 55 percent of home buyers still prefer homes in the range from 1,500 square feet to 2,500 square feet, the trend toward smaller homes seems to be taking hold among the millennial generation, who are often more interested in having an uncluttered, more sustainable lifestyle.

When it comes to the tiny house movement, many people think of those homes they see that are less than 200 square feet. But in fact, smaller houses that are around 1,000 square feet or less are also considered part of the movement.

Greg Johnson, the president of the Small House Society,, said that in many markets houses less than 1,200 square feet sell much faster than the larger homes, and many first time home buyers feel more comfortable investing in a smaller home because of the better return on investment.

“Many millennials lived in a small dorm room in college where they basically had everything they needed, so when they look for a a place to live they are more comfortable in a small home or studio apartment,” Johnson said.

“Technology has also been a huge factor because the younger generation doesn’t have a need for bookcases or storage areas for their books, CDs, movies or photos because they have everything stored digitally on their computers or the cloud,” he said. “With less clutter in their lives, they can live more comfortably in a small home.”

“Once people’s kids are grown and gone, we see many of them buy a much smaller home,” Johnson said. “That is another trend that should continue to make living in smaller houses popular.”

Johnson, who lived off the grid in a 10-by-7 tiny home for six years, said people who are more environmentally conscious also like the fact that they use far less energy in a tiny home, and it is easier to use solar and wind power to supply the home’s energy.

In fact, according to the Tiny Life,, a website dedicated to those living in tiny homes, 2 out of 5 tiny homes in the U.S. are actually owned by people aged 50 and older.

“We have found that many townships and cities have minimum square footage requirements for new homes in their area that are more than a tiny home, in part to try to avoid having someone put trailers in a community,” said John Emery of Woodhaven Log & Lumber, (888) 988-7463,, the manufacturer of Tiny Cabins in Michigan. “But our tiny cabins are built to code with the best materials, so often home buyers will be able to get a variance from the local zoning board to put one of our cabins on property in their township.”

Emery said they receive several requests each week for Tiny Cabin price estimates from young couples seeking affordable housing, from people who wish to add a guest cabin to their summer cottage property or from retirees who winter in Florida but want a small summer home in Michigan.

But for many people, less is more when it comes to homes, especially if you want to save money and not feel tied down. If that sounds like you, then the tiny home trend could be right up your alley.

For more home improvement advice, call “The Handyman Show with Glenn Haege" on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. The Handyman Show can also be heard on more than 135 radio stations nationwide.