Tag Archives: phenomenon
More people are deciding that a modest house is better for their quality of life than a mansion in the burbs
Craig Saunders – Globe and Mail
Sasha McIntyre lives in a house smaller than some suburban living rooms. And she loves it.
The Toronto animator shares a 480-square-foot house in eastern Toronto with her husband, John Lei.
Open the front door and you walk not into a vestibule, but the couple’s bedroom, with a double bed, tall cabinets and a miniature ceiling fan. Beside the bedroom is a bright, six-foot-square bathroom.
The living room has two loveseats, shelving and cabinets, and a fold-down table for dining.
The 96-square-foot kitchen is newly renovated and features an apartment-sized fridge, a 24-inch stove and an oversized sink. In the unfinished, 5-feet-10-inch-high basement is another bathroom and a small office.
“After 10 years in a basement apartment I didn’t need anything bigger,” says Ms. McIntyre, who works from home. “I don’t want to clean it.”
Like a growing number of people, the couple have decided that a modest house is better for their quality of life than a mansion in the burbs. On the extreme end of the trend are people who live in minuscule houses, sometimes not much bigger than a typical suburban bathroom. Motivated by environmental concerns, convenience and tight finances, they are saying goodbye to 1990s-style monster homes.
The shift got its start in the United States, with the launch of companies such as Tiny Texas Homes and Tumbleweed Tiny Homes, which offer pre-built houses and DIY plans. Today, there are dozens of websites and blogs featuring designs for houses as small as 65 square feet (including kitchen and bathroom), and the stories of people who live in them.
In addition to being low-maintenance, smaller houses cost less. A popular design in tiny-homes circles is the Tarleton from Tumbleweed Tiny Homes. Built on a trailer chassis, the house kit is 117 square feet, including a kitchen and bathroom. It sells for about $47,000 (U.S.) ready-made.
Will Pederson lives in a Tarleton he built on a communal farm outside Abbotsford, B.C., where he grows organic salad greens.
“I like the idea of only having the space you need, the efficiency of it,” he says. “It’s really efficient for heating. I’ve always been kind of a minimalist thinker and trying to reduce my number of possessions.”
Living in a space that small does require some lifestyle changes. Home electronics mean a laptop and a boom box rather than a big-screen television. Digital audio files and e-books replace most CDs and books.
Mr. Pedersen has a table that folds away to give him space for yoga, and has an unheated shed for storage. The entire space is heated with one plug-in radiator. Because it’s essentially an insulated one-room house, every activity, be it cooking, working on the computer or exercising, helps to heat it, Mr. Pederson says.
His wife, Alyson, lives nearby in a 300-square-foot house that she recently sold. In October, the couple will pack up his house and tow it to New Brunswick, where they have bought a 45-acre farm. They plan also to ship Alyson’s goats, start a dairy and live in the farm’s 900-square foot house, using Mr. Pederson’s tiny house for guests or seasonal labourers.
“There’s something nice about a small space. It’s comforting,” he says.
John Gower is another fan of smaller homes. The Victoria architect is one of only a handful who sells plans for houses under 800 square feet.
“The whole idea of the small-house focus started because I was in Nelson [B.C.], where there are all these small houses with nice, timeless lines to them and they’ve proven to be good dwellings over the decades. That was the inspiration for our whole design thrust,” he says.
The movement is a mixture of people trying to get into the housing market, environmentalists and empty-nesters, he says.
“There’s still the phenomenon of the empty-nesters building a home larger than they had during their child-rearing years because they can. It’s hard to understand,” he says. “That was in the 1990s. Today, they want to lighten their load and spend more time travelling and with their grandkids and in the garden.”
But tiny homes aren’t for everyone, he acknowledges. Only about 20 of his smallest homes have been built, mostly in rural British Columbia.
“I don’t know where these tiny houses fit in the spectrum. There’s a place for them,” he says. “As a culture we’re going to have to find many more models for housing as we face the limits of sustainability. If there’s a lot of belt-tightening going on, these might seem more attractive and less fringe. Right now, it takes a special individual to live in a space that small.”
Ms. McIntyre is happy in her little house, which is bright and welcoming inside. She acknowledges she’d like to be able to have more books, but the tiny house’s tiny price tag meant she and Mr. Lei could afford to buy a property of their own.
Before moving into the house, they shared an 880-square-foot condo downtown for 18 months. Still, after shedding duplicate possessions, their new home feels comparatively “spacious,” Ms. McIntyre says. Indeed, a family of four lived in the house before them.
“I like it. We picked happy, bright colours to paint it,” she says. “It’s cheap and easy to maintain, and we’ve already paid the mortgage off.”
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As sale signs mushroom, buyers have more choice, while sellers are adapting
Carolyn Ireland – Globe and Mail
Some homeowners who were waiting for their gardens to spring to life before they listed their houses for sale are wondering if they would have been better off planting a sign on the lawn in the barren days of February and March. The answer, most likely, is yes.
Toronto’s real estate landscape has shifted in the past few weeks with a burgeoning number of houses listed for sale.
For prospective buyers, the change means they are facing a phenomenon they haven’t encountered in quite some time: choice.
Real-estate broker Patrick Rocca of Bosley Real Estate Ltd. says the Toronto market has become quirky since listings began ramping up immediately after Easter.
Now, some houses are selling in bidding contests at premiums above the asking price that Mr. Rocca deems “crazy,” while in other cases agents anticipated a quick sale and the property is just sitting.
“A month or six weeks ago, everything was a slam dunk.”
Mr. Rocca says every spring brings a rush of new listings when the freshness of new leaves makes houses and tree-lined streets look their best, but in 2010 that seasonal trend is even more exaggerated.
Some sellers have recently gone with the strategy of holding off buyers until a specified hour so that all of the bids can be considered at once, only to see the night pass by without receiving a single offer. Other sellers are trimming their asking price as the competition increases.
As for new houses, Robert Kavcic, economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns, says developers are ramping up their building at a pace that may be too quick compared with the rate at which households are forming. “One could argue that the short-lived construction recession didn’t last long enough to work off the overbuilding seen during the 2000s, and therefore starts will moderate in the coming year if demand trails off as expected,” Mr. Kavcic said in a note to clients.
Mr. Rocca recently listed two semi-detached houses on one popular street. Another listed a third on the same street, which rarely has any houses for sale, let alone three almost at the same time.
Along with the rise in listings, mortgage rates have edged up and some first-time buyers may have been priced out of the market, Mr. Rocca says. Meanwhile, many prospective buyers who secured a pre-approved mortgage with lenders are anxious to buy a house before the financing offer expires.
With market dynamics changing, Mr. Rocca says that sellers are beginning to realize they may not fetch the same price for a property that their neighbour received two months ago when listings were scarce.
He turns down listings when the sellers press to set an asking price that is too unrealistically high.
“I don’t need an overpriced listing just sitting there.”
Mr. Rocca is also less likely to recommend that sellers hold off buyers until a specified time – particularly when the asking price is more than $1-million.
Paul Johnston of Right at Home Realty is also increasingly likely to recommend that sellers consider an offer as soon as a buyer is willing to make one.
Last week he listed a house on Ridley Boulevard which sold within two days.
“We didn’t even hold the open house.”
Mr. Johnston says that buyers who have long been frustrated by the shortage of appealing properties on the market are finally feeling more hopeful.
“If someone wants it they can come and get it without having to play the game,” he says. “There’s optimism among buyers that they may finally get a property that doesn’t have 13 offers on it.”
Buyers who are committed to the search, he says, are active on a daily basis. Many have their finances in line and they will move quickly.
“They’ll be on your listing faster than you can blink.”
Also, listings are mushrooming so quickly that sellers who list a house and then decline to look at offers for a week are risking the chance that competing properties will arrive and siphon off bidders.
Single-family houses that are nicely renovated and located in a good neighbourhood are still selling briskly, he says. Investment properties that have been kept in top shape and which provide a steady income are also selling quickly.
“These are still two beasts where buyers are willing to extend themselves.”
Looking out to the fall, many market watchers are expecting a slower pace of sales.
Mr. Rocca, who is still hearing from lots of homeowners who are asking him to evaluate their property, expects the next six weeks to be hectic. He says the market may be slower in the fall, but it should remain fairly strong.
In between, he hopes to catch up on some rest if the typical summer slowdown arrives.
“I’m looking forward to July.”
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