Tiny homes are emerging as a trend in the 50+ consumer marketplace. According to research by The Tiny Life, 38% of tiny-home owners are over the age of 50. The movement has shifted from pioneers living off the grid to a mainstream desire to downsize our lives. Keep in mind, the average home in the U.S. is around 2,600 square feet. Tiny homes vary from 100-400 square feet. The movement is being fed by FYI’s “Tiny House Nation” and HGTV’s “Tiny House Hunters,” the growing number of web sites, and how-to books.
For older adults, this trend resonates with a shift away from Possession Experience Stage, which is typical of young adults forming families, and toward the Being Experience Stage, which is more anti-materialistic. This stage is about letting go of regrets, resolution of conflict and experiencing life free of “stuff.” (Their “stuff” is one of the biggest challenges of later life; see my last Engage:Boomers post, "Unstuffing America.")
Why go small?
The idea of tiny home living is largely motivated by the desire for financial independence. Foreclosures and job losses in the recent recession have left people seeking an option that they can own outright and downsize their monthly expenses. Younger consumers choose it to get out from under student loan debt and own their own space. Older people choose it as a way to downsize for retirement — mortgage free — or to live closer or with extended family.
Tiny houses are age-friendly
Tiny houses are often the solution to specific family needs in cost-prohibitive markets and are particularly attractive to older adults looking for solutions.
Most municipalities have a minimum size for dwellings. The tiniest of the tiny houses are 100-200 square feet and are on wheels; these function as RVs. Many communities, however, ban full-time RV living outside of an RV park. Some communities allow for accessory dwellings on existing properties, like casitas and “granny flats” but may prohibit full kitchens, which can limit options for use.
Who owns them?
As mentioned earlier, older adults — 50+ — make up the largest proportion of tiny home owners at 38%. The Tiny Life research reports that 68% of tiny homeowners have no mortgage, compared to 29% of all U.S. homeowners. More than half (55%) of tiny-home owners have more savings than the average American, and 89% have less credit card debt. More women than men own tiny homes, and tiny-home owners are twice as likely to have a masters degree.
Tiny-home villages solve community problems
Around the country, the tiny home is a solution for aging in place, multi-generational living alternatives and even the creation of dementia villages. Trend spotters believe tiny homes are the tipping point of a new frugality, a desire to do more with less, and a backlash against the excesses of pre-recession America.
Great insights and a harbinger of things to come.
Thank you, Jim!
$500,000 home = $12,000/yr in real estate and school taxes plus maintenance. Even a $250,000 house = $6000 (appoximately) annual taxes plus maintenance. This is what the value of homes now, not what they paid for it. And the kids don't come for overnighters or for alternative living spaces. But this choice is not always the first choice, but the only choice people have.