Smaller housing to become more popular?


Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
Mar 10, 2007
Feel free to call me a fool, but am I the only one who thinks there might be a new trend towards condos and smaller homes with boomers retiring and downsizing? I just started pondering this, and wondered if anyone else considers this a possibility?
So, instead of the 2,400 sq. ft. and UP, 2 car garage house, minimum 3 bedroom being the smallest of the most popular homes in the next 20 years or so, we might go to a trend of actually smaller places...or condos.
Any opinions from you experts out there?
I'm already in the smaller house corner. Currently live in a 1200 sq ft house. Lower maintenance, taxes and insurance. Of course it's just me and the mutt so I don't need much sq footage.
Actually the trend is in the opposite direction, retirees are not downsizing.
Another hot topic is that builders are starting to build the smaller homes very, very upscale. Bottom line is that they want to maintain their profit margin so when size decreases, frills increase.

We're in a big house and I regret it at times. We'll downsize but the market is not ripe for selling now. Fortunately it's paid for and is a nice house so waiting it out is no hardship. But when it does sell, it should add a nice boost to the nest egg.

I do think smaller will be the trend in the long run.
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i'd only have a smaller house and i still have two rooms i don't need. mom had a larger house and my brother has an even larger one than that, and with soaring ceilings, just the space you don't want to air-condition in florida.

i prefer intimate spaces afforded in smaller houses, i find them less intrusive and friendlier.
Here in our "55 or better" community of 800 single family houses, ours is among the smallest at 1840 sq ft. We are somewhat baffled by the couples (or even singles) who buy homes here with basements or lofts or even both! Some of these houses have well over 4000 sq ft. That isn't the kind of downsizing we sought.

We moved from a 4-bedroom, two story colonial to a one level, 2-bedroom and den house. It is plenty big enough for me and Mrs. Grumpy. I would have preferred a condo and could have been perfectly happy in 1500 sq. ft. or less by DW likes more space.

So, as far as the OP's thesis that retirees will seek smaller housing, we are not seeing that trend where we live.

We downsized when we left Houston last year. We had a 2200 sf house there. When we moved to the country we bought a 1150 sf house on a half acre of land.

We could have afforded much more, but the summer cooling bills and high property taxes are the main reason we went much smaller. Maintenance and insurance bills are also lower. It also helps us resist the urge to accumulate more stuff; we had to get rid of a LOT of stuff (and store the rest in the garage) just to move!
Guess I just do not get why anyone would want to get more house, more bills, more outside help and so forth when they get older. Have kids and grandkids who visit at the holidays, so you need the room? Obviously, nobody has ever heard of hotels and motels for that great once a year week of visits.
Regardless, I read that boomers are downsizing in some articles and going to condos...and the complete opposite in others (that boomers are buying the bigger houses with lots of extra luxuries).
Verrrry interesting...
My house is about 1000sf and it's too big.
The assessor says our house is 876 sqft, though that doesn't count the semi-finished basement room. Enough space for the two of us, but there wont be any downsizing in our future.

If anything we'd upsize to something with more than 1.0 baths, and I wouldn't mind having a garage at some point. At least we own it free and clear!
We will downsize. We have way too much. I am thinking of targeting somewhere around 1200 to 1500 sq ft. If we get a free standing house, it will be a ranch.
I can't speak for the rest of the county, but I can speak for Houston. The problem here is neighborhoods. I would like to be in a smaller home, and so would others I know. The problems is that small equals cheaper, and the cheaper neighborhoods are areas that 95% of people are not willing to live in if they can afford better. Generally, most people are not willing to stop until they move up to at least the 2500 SF level (say ballpark $150k to $200k in the suburbs). Unfortunately, the lower the income, the higher the percentage of people who make poor neighbors. I have no idea why this is true, but IMHO it is.

Essentially, my point is this. You can live in Houston in a $50k home. They are widely available. Go to and there are 11 available in zip code 77093, in the heart of the city. Do you really want to? I don't.

The counter to this is to make a neighborhood of expensive small homes. However, most people, myself included, would rather have a 2500 SF/$200,000 house than a 1200 SF/$200,000 house if they are both available in the same area. Expensive for the sake of expensive does not generally attract buyers.
The counter to this is to make a neighborhood of expensive small homes. However, most people, myself included, would rather have a 2500 SF/$200,000 house than a 1200 SF/$200,000 house if they are both available in the same area. Expensive for the sake of expensive does not generally attract buyers.

I'm in some agreement with that. Our 876sf is right on the edge as far as neighborhoods go. Not too bad, but most folks would probably go elsewhere. For the record, our house could probably sell for $140-150k.

It can be hard to find the balance; my ideal would be around 1200sf in a lovely old neighborhood, but those are often $300k+ here. Hard for me to justify double the price for 1/3 more sqft. The only suitable alternatives are in the smaller nearby cities, or in tract-house sprawl. This is in Madison, WI, BTW.
If it is anything like my uncle's recent downsizing from 5000 sq ft to 4000 sq ft, a trend perhaps could be starting. On the other hand, my house could be his cottage...

Problem with smaller n'cheaper is that the surroundings are usually less desirable.

A friend - broker - is developing a 55+ community. No smaller n'cheaper trend here. All 400k+ and "loaded" (cherry cabinets, granite counters, ...).
I know my parents (boomers) are looking to downsize...or at least find something on one level.

However, I think for the most part, we will not see a trend downward. A person's psycology doesn't change (much) with age. And unfortunately for most Americans a house is a status symbol.

"I live in <fill in your local high-end neighborhood>" or "I have 'x' acres with 100 year old oak trees" are badges of honor, which far too many people wear with pride. With the exception of my parents, most the boomers I know are actually upsizing. They are at the peak of their career/income, and the nest is empty. Why not buy/build their dream home?
It might be different for posters on this board, but I believe the trend is towards McMansions and luxury digs, not downsizing... the houses that are currently selling are the high end of the Million dollar (more than entry level $1M) plus homes, where the people that are buying them still have mucho dinero to spend.
Guess I just do not get why anyone would want to get more house, more bills, more outside help and so forth when they get older. ..

Definitely agree -- I live on a large lake but chose a small (1450 sqft) house when I moved here about ten years ago. Even though most properties on this lake are second homes, the average house is over twice that size. I could never understand why anyone would want to take care of a large house, esp. a vacation home.
My wife and I are planning a retirement home in Texas. What we can't agree on is the size. I think 1800 square feet or less is fine; she thinks anything less than 3000 will be impossible. I suppose it's what you get used to, but I find it hard to justify two extra bedrooms for grown children who might leave the opposite coasts at Christmas (but probably won't).
Here's our house. A few more rooms and fireplaces than we really need these days. Yeah yeah I know, some of the shingles look a bit dicey, but you know... none worse shod than the shoemaker! :D


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When we moved to our current neighborhood six years ago, one thing on our criteria list was "family friendly neighborhood". So we found a great new housing development where the homes were just starting to go up -- 2 story homes with 4-5 bedrooms and 2400-3200 sq ft. It felt like a place we could call 'home', where lots of families with kids like ourselves would enjoy living. So we made an offer and soon had a house.

Our next five neighbors were all retirees. What? ? ? It turns out that they could afford these larger, nicer homes. The families we met were living in smaller homes in very tightly-packed neighborhoods -- very few could afford these larger homes with more bedrooms and more space. So it turns out that we now live in a nice, VERY QUIET neighborhood with lots of retirees and a couple of nice families.

FYI, our plan is to downsize in a couple years from now when our youngest is off on his own. Our neighbors will undoubtedly be mystified by this decision :)
For some reason, I think most American's equate success with a large house. Obviously if one has a large family, they need room. But that is not what I am talking about. American's seems to want to get more house than they often need. We did. I know many other's that could afford to do so and did the same thing.

We have come to our senses. Now I am just trying to decide our exit plan. Should we sell before or after retirement. I am considering doing it after we retire. Simply because DW and I will have more spare time.
It amazes me how people want to upsize in their late 70's or even early 80's. I saw my grandparents do it, and my own parents bought a McMansion at around 80. So, you had two really old people rattling around a big house they couldn't take care of themselves, and why? Because they could afford it now, I guess.
Me? I think it's insane.
But the ones that get me the most are those that buy the huge house for the visits from the kids and grandkids for their ONCE A YEAR visit. So, you have this huge McMansion for 11-1/2 months of the year for a time when you will have 10 or so people visiting. Again, has nobody ever heard of hotels? Is it just me that doesn't get this logic?
We downsized from a 5000sqft acreage estate to a 2000sqft penthouse. The penthouse is an old design, like a 3BR rancher in the sky. If it had contemporary design, we think 1600sqft would be perfect.

But I agree that we are going against the herd. We had friends who sold their home, considered a penthouse like ours, and ended up in a even larger home for the two of them. Why? Because they can.

What they don't consider is the time that owning a large property takes. I guess they consider it a hobby. They also think it is a better investment. I consider housing to be a cost. My investments pay me.
kcowan, you are a man after my own heart! I totally agree with your thinking...but it may just be the two of us on this issue.

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