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Thread: House builders thinking smaller?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    House builders thinking smaller?

    Sorry for being a few weeks behind with this one, but I note that a major house builder in southeastern Wisconsin (they have been advertising heavily on SE Wisconsin radio for many years now), known for building high-end outer-suburban big-lot 'McMansions', appears to have shifted focus entirely and is now actively marketing and building small-lot, small footprint houses (sometimes called 'starter' houses), almost a 'Back to the Future™' kind of thing, much like what was commonly being built in the 1940s and 1950s.

    For example, see:
    http://www.jsonline.com/business/128857588.html

    Any thoughts?

    I do find this to be a refreshing change in the market supply, although my biggest concern is that these are smaller than the minimum floor area required in the zoning laws of many suburban munis.

    Mike

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    1. When I think of "Back to the Future" homes it is the 1950s L-shaped ranch house. These examples in this article remind me of the built-to-order Sears catalog homes from the turn of the century, many of which still exist.
    2. I don't really think it's a huge innovation. Developers are re-tooling starter homes to what they originally were: starter homes. What we call average/standard today (a 2 car garage, more than 1 bathroom, even a family room) wasn't commonplace until after WW2, and even then it took quite a while. The first houses in Levittown were less than 1000 SF.
    3. My biggest concern is the quality of building materials. Back then they used brick, stucco, or wood, depending on the climate and availability of resources. I am also concerned about targeting this to a renter. A starter home is way to earn ownership in a house and build up equity. It may not be flashy but it is the first step. Having a landlord now complicates things more.
    4. I wouldn't be surprised if within the next few years more states give communities police powers to condemn "select" developments (through a lengthy scrutinized process) to tear down SOME large lot developments, re-plat, and start over. I think this is probably more of a fantasy/pipe dream that would face extreme opposition.
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  3. #3
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    3. My biggest concern is the quality of building materials. Back then they used brick, stucco, or wood, depending on the climate and availability of resources. I am also concerned about targeting this to a renter. A starter home is way to earn ownership in a house and build up equity. It may not be flashy but it is the first step. Having a landlord now complicates things more.
    No...it's targeted for purchase by people/households that are currently renters. Not as rentals. Granted this may not actually preclude speculators buying them to rent.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

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  4. #4
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    I find it refreshing that someone is creating a product that is smaller, but not a townhome. I think some view townhomes as affordable housing or 'smaller' that typical SFR, but they are not. Some townhomes in my area are over 2,000 sq. feet and cost over 200,000. Not affordable. It is well documented the the average house size has increased while the average household size has not.
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    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by beach_bum View post
    I find it refreshing that someone is creating a product that is smaller, but not a townhome. I think some view townhomes as affordable housing or 'smaller' that typical SFR, but they are not. Some townhomes in my area are over 2,000 sq. feet and cost over 200,000. Not affordable. It is well documented the the average house size has increased while the average household size has not.
    True, true, true. Nor have a household's wages increased (apparently in like 30 years). There are some similar housing styles (albeit a little larger, maybe 1350 s.f. or so) all one level, that are marketed to seniors around here. They're great senior housing. Need for this kind of housing - as starter or "finisher" homes seems to be out there to me.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    This is not a "new" trend. I remember beginning to process and plan for smaller lot subdivisions with smaller houses towards the end of the boom. It was more a response to high cost of land equitating to getting more units, but obviously it wasn't the "spin" we put on it (more starter homes/affordability was our spin).

    Funny how these smaller lot/sizes homes are actually getting built out here versus the larger lot/mc mansion type of homes. Heard a report on NPR this morning that apartment or multi-family new construction starts have increased over last month. In my muni this is the exact case as our townhouse/attached housing products have been coming in droves due to the market versus single family detached.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    I think municipalities are finally coming to the realization that all the infrastructure required for those large lot homes / McMansions are just a ticking time bomb maintenance wise. It will be interesting to see how municipalities deal with this once development picks up again.

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    Cyburbian
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    As a result of the Provincial planning legislation that severely curbs sprawl in the Greater Toronto Area most suburban home builders around here have taken one of three actions - they’ve either:

    1. Switched to building urban style buildings on infill or brownfield sites;

    2. Moved beyond the greenbelt to small towns at the very fringe of the commuter shed; or,

    3. Started cramming in as many small units as they can in the last remaining pockets of developable land within the greenbelt.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    This is not a "new" trend. I remember beginning to process and plan for smaller lot subdivisions with smaller houses towards the end of the boom....this is the exact case as our townhouse/attached housing products have been coming in droves due to the market versus single family detached.
    Quote Originally posted by Blide View post
    I think municipalities are finally coming to the realization that all the infrastructure required for those large lot homes / McMansions are just a ticking time bomb maintenance wise. It will be interesting to see how municipalities deal with this once development picks up again.
    Hopefully enough cities are re-doing their land-use codes now while it is slow, in order to open up opportunities for smaller lot sizes in order to be...erm..."sustainable". I think in a few years when things pick up (knock on wood it is only a few years) cities will, however, take any and all permit fees they can get and won't argue about where they come from.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    I like the price tag. It will be interesting to see how well these homes sell. I think the bedrooms being so small will be a drawback -- take it from someone with a bedroom that is only large enough to fit a queen size bed and "sleeps two". The dresser has to go into the closet and two professional adults have to share that one little closet. It can be rather annoying, but it certainly is doable.

    Regardless, it is nice to see some truly affordable new housing being built for once. Sign me up Scotty.
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  11. #11
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TerraSapient View post
    I like the price tag. It will be interesting to see how well these homes sell. I think the bedrooms being so small will be a drawback -- take it from someone with a bedroom that is only large enough to fit a queen size bed and "sleeps two". The dresser has to go into the closet and two professional adults have to share that one little closet. It can be rather annoying, but it certainly is doable.

    Regardless, it is nice to see some truly affordable new housing being built for once. Sign me up Scotty.
    It's "affordable" because the land value is low. Put these down in my neighborhood and they'd be 300-400k I'd guess.

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