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Popularity of Microhomes on the Rise

The latest government reports indicate the U.S. housing market is cooling off. But builders say there's a mini-boom going on for a different kind of house. VOA's Mil Arcega reports on new interest for a special category of "very small homes".

Large, million dollar homes were the rage at the height of the real estate boom. But with many of the so-called "McMansions" languishing on the market, developers say the trend is towards smaller, more affordable homes.

Libby Crawley wanted to downsize from her 250-square-meter house but never thought she'd end up with something so small.

"When I first drove over and looked at it, I thought it was way too small. There was no way I could fit into this house," she said.

At only 65-square-meters, Crawley's microhome is about one-third the size of the average American home. But Crawley says not only was the space more than adequate for her needs, there was also another surprise.

"Heating and air. Actually my utility costs are probably less than $100 year 'round."

Although microhomes represent a tiny fraction of new home construction, builders say the category is one of the fastest growing trends in housing.

Tim Russell is the founder of V2 World, which specializes in prefabricated building designs. "Although we have historically been lower than the median price of homes in America, over the last four years our prices have increased two and three-fold."

Russell's company can deliver a 67-square meter, energy efficient home, complete with furniture and appliances for under $150,000. It's an attractive deal for price-conscious consumers who believe $230,000 is too much for an average house.

Designer Joe Herzog says the secret to success is making small homes feel large. "It's about efficiently using space. And it comes down to not only room spaces, but drawer sizes."

After more than a year in her new home, Libby Crawley admits it's not for everyone. "I think that a person would have to be someone who likes to live simply. For me, it hasn't been a sacrifice in as far as the quality of my life."

The Small House Society, which promotes small housing solutions, says about a thousand new homes measuring less than 50 square meters have been built since the group was founded in 2002.