Author Topic: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?  (Read 8017 times)

ShaneD

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Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« on: June 04, 2015, 01:56:35 PM »
Hi, MMMers.

I have what may be a really naive question, but having never been a homeowner before (long-time city renter), I'm unsure: might it ever makes sense to purchase a house and renovate it to a smaller square footage (such as lopping off an extra room, for example)?

My husband and I are a tiny family in search of a small house (800 square feet, give or take), but standalone houses that small don't often exist in the locations we're looking at. Our final location is still TBD (we're looking at mid- and small-sized cities all over the map), but in a few places I've seen some really nice and surprisingly affordable houses that would be great -- except most start at closer to 1200/1300 square feet (again, give or take).

We're both breadwinners and caregivers for ill parents, so taking on becoming landlords with the extra space is just more than our circumstances can handle for the next decade or so. But we don't want to waste time or energy cleaning, maintaining, furnishing, heating/cooling, and paying property taxes on space we just don't need either. We'd just love the chance to own a tiny house that's affordable and comfortable and provides a bit of garden space for the 2 of us, and are wondering if reducing a house's footprint seems reasonable.

My attempts at Googling the topic have come up empty so far.

Thanks.


kendallf

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Re: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2015, 02:13:23 PM »
My first thought is that it's unlikely to be economically efficient to remodel with the sole reason being to reduce square footage.  Not to mention the reduced value for future sale, etc.

Having said that, if you are doing an overall energy efficiency remodel, and there's some feature of the house that lends itself to removal or modification, you might be better served.  I know a lot of older historic houses in my area had front porches that have been converted in more recent years to heated/cooled rooms.  I would have no problem "unconverting" these back to a porch.  Similar common conversions include bedrooms made from garages, that sort of thing.

Failing that, just work to minimize the ongoing utility and maintenance costs of any space you don't need.  I have a front room in our current house that was probably originally a porch.  I keep the A/C vent and the door to this room shut, it serves as our bike room with six bicycles in a rack and green indoor/outdoor carpet that I can let a dog lay on.

Louisville

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Re: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2015, 02:23:56 PM »
I sympathize. It can be difficult to find a small house in a neighborhood you like. I've been in the same boat.
You don't find anything on Google about making a house smaller because it would be like lighting a pile of money on fire. Have you found a neighborhood you like that has any lots available to build on?

ShaneD

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Re: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2015, 02:28:33 PM »
My first thought is that it's unlikely to be economically efficient to remodel with the sole reason being to reduce square footage.  Not to mention the reduced value for future sale, etc.

Having said that, if you are doing an overall energy efficiency remodel, and there's some feature of the house that lends itself to removal or modification, you might be better served.  I know a lot of older historic houses in my area had front porches that have been converted in more recent years to heated/cooled rooms.  I would have no problem "unconverting" these back to a porch.  Similar common conversions include bedrooms made from garages, that sort of thing.

Failing that, just work to minimize the ongoing utility and maintenance costs of any space you don't need.  I have a front room in our current house that was probably originally a porch.  I keep the A/C vent and the door to this room shut, it serves as our bike room with six bicycles in a rack and green indoor/outdoor carpet that I can let a dog lay on.

Thanks for the thinking, kendallf. Really interesting thoughts especially about opening up closed spaces (such as a porch). I hadn't thought of that.

It's easy to find info on creating more space (such as enclosing that porch), but way out of the norm for creating less. I like your example re: that front room you've repurposed.


I sympathize. It can be difficult to find a small house in a neighborhood you like. I've been in the same boat.
You don't find anything on Google about making a house smaller because it would be like lighting a pile of money on fire. Have you found a neighborhood you like that has any lots available to build on?

I know, right? Building from scratch may be a possibility, but man, am I hoping not to go that route.

Thanks, Louisville. My sympathies to you as well!


And funny enough, Louisville and Jacksonville both are on my list of places to explore for relocating.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2015, 02:29:52 PM »
There are many sub-1000 square foot houses for sale around here.

Guesl982374

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Re: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2015, 02:35:31 PM »
I agree with the above posters that all you'd be doing is destroying value as most markets are priced $/sqft. You are better off finding the right lot and building / parking a tiny house on it.

sol

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Re: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2015, 02:39:11 PM »
You can pretty effectively minimize all of those costs except property taxes by just closing off the room.

The amount you lose to extra property taxes will be way less than the cost of remodelling or removing the room.

If it were me, I'd consider building the unwanted room a secret entry door, like a swing out bookcase or false wall.  Then pretend it doesn't exist, and after someone visits for like the tenth time you can casually access it to fetch something and blow their minds.  That would be totally worth it to me.

forummm

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Re: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2015, 02:39:39 PM »
You really ought to be able to find a small house for sale. And they are probably priced attractively since people generally don't want them. I would personally rather just leave the extra room totally empty (no furniture, nothing to clean except maybe vacuum it 2x/year or something, then spend a ton of money to get rid of the room and decrease your resale value. I had an extra room in my apartment. I just left it empty, and put some boxes in there when I needed extra space. I shut the A/C vent going into it and left the door closed all the time. The extra energy cost was probably minimal.

I have a hard time seeing how extra energy costs could be anything close to what it would cost you to remodel to remove a room plus losing the resale value.

KCM5

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Re: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2015, 02:43:42 PM »
I second (third?) the idea that you'll probably find a house under 1,000 sq ft. They're usually in older neighborhoods. Around my neighborhood they're a dime a dozen.

But really, close off the room and forget about it if it's that much of an issue for you.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2015, 02:44:50 PM »
Seriously, there are lots of these houses. There are 73 currently listed in my county, and it's not a huge county.

AJ

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Re: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2015, 03:00:16 PM »
But we don't want to waste time or energy cleaning, maintaining, furnishing, heating/cooling, and paying property taxes on space we just don't need either.

If the house you choose has zonal heating, you could just close one of the bedroom doors, put a bookcase in front of it, and pretend it isn't there. That would take care of the the cleaning, maintenance, furnishing, and heating/cooling. I would guess that whatever you might save in taxes (assuming you could even get them lowered) would never make up for the value you lost when you go to sell the place.

iris lily

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Re: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2015, 03:06:08 PM »
I think of the rows upon rows of 1930's houses around here. Many with built on 2nd bedrooms or kitchens. If it is a 2nd bedroom or the enclosed porch you would be doing right in my Book to restoreThe house to its original state. usually new additions are ugly carbuncles on historic houses.

mtn

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Re: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2015, 03:14:17 PM »
That would never be a good idea. Either use it as storage (slippery slope though), an extra sitting room, or just block it off completely and shut the vents.

Alternatively, seal it off with a good deadbolt and make it a VRBO/AirBNB and make some income off the extra room if possible. Not nearly the committment of a full on rental.


Runrooster

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Re: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2015, 03:47:22 PM »
Would any of the parents move in eventually?

KungfuRabbit

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Re: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2015, 04:35:35 PM »
I 100% guarantee the costs of remodeling to remove space will never be recouped in savings. Ever.

There are mustachian uses for that extra room though. Set up an indoor garden baby the window, make it a space to work on side hustles, a workshop for DIY projects, etc.

ShaneD

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Re: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« Reply #15 on: June 04, 2015, 05:09:47 PM »
If it were me, I'd consider building the unwanted room a secret entry door, like a swing out bookcase or false wall.  Then pretend it doesn't exist, and after someone visits for like the tenth time you can casually access it to fetch something and blow their minds.  That would be totally worth it to me.

OMG, brilliant!


Thanks, everyone. All makes sense. I appreciate the thoughts and ideas.


I think it would be very hard to make an existing house smaller unless you're undoing additions done before (un-enclosing a porch, converting a bedroom back to a garage, removing an addition). My current house has a 300sqft addition that if I were to stay here I would be very tempted to take it back off. It's awkward (12'x24'), not integrated to the rest of the house well (seriously, it has it's own fuse box) and ugly since it was added in the '70's. It would hurt resale though since it's the 3rd bedroom.

I do feel your pain the the lack of smaller houses. I just bought a 960sqft house and it was definitely the smallest house I could find that wasn't in major disrepair or in an area I didn't want to live in...or both. Just keep looking and be prepared to settle for a house at least a little larger than you'd prefer

Exactly! And thanks. I'm finding many of the smallest houses (the ones that aren't dilapidated shacks) tend to be either in inconvenient (non-walkable) or just generally crappy neighborhoods, or in such tony historic districts that the prices are too high for our purposes. Much in between has either be added onto or bulldozed and replaced with something bigger.

Hope you enjoy your new home!


Seriously, there are lots of these houses. There are 73 currently listed in my county, and it's not a huge county.

Yeah, unfortunately Emmaus (or Bethlehem or Allentown) doesn't work for our purposes. It's a really lovely town, though.


ETA:
Would any of the parents move in eventually?

Sorry, I missed you earlier, Runrooster. re: parents: I really hope not. Regardless of which parent were involved, I fear my husband and I would end up divorced by the end. It's one -- er, two -- of those families.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2015, 05:14:00 PM by ShaneD »

Insanity

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Re: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« Reply #16 on: June 04, 2015, 05:14:28 PM »
actually, land would also be a factor for making one house smaller.  Depending on the acreage and zoning you could theoretically split the land and sell the second parcel.

mozar

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Re: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« Reply #17 on: June 04, 2015, 05:17:56 PM »
What about building a tiny house on wheels?

dragoncar

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Re: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« Reply #18 on: June 04, 2015, 05:48:27 PM »
Can't you use the extra room to house your ill parents?

Ricky

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Re: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« Reply #19 on: June 04, 2015, 07:18:20 PM »
Make a duplex.

kendallf

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Re: Making a house smaller: is that a thing?
« Reply #20 on: June 04, 2015, 07:36:39 PM »
And funny enough, Louisville and Jacksonville both are on my list of places to explore for relocating.

Jacksonville has a bunch of smaller houses in my current neighborhood (Murray Hill) and in Riverside (historic district, more $$).  Our house was built in 1949 and I had a thread here when I was in the middle of renovating it and moving in:

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/real-estate-and-landlording/first-limited-renovation