Are tiny homes on trend? Data shows they might not be so practical after all

Aly J. Yale
Aly J. Yale
The Mortgage Reports Contributor
February 20, 2019 - 2 min read

The tiny home to-do

Tiny homes are often billed as the new big trend in real estate, but according to data, that just isn’t the case. In fact, tiny homes only made up a mere 2.1 percent of all New York City sales in the last eight years — and that’s the highest share of all major cities in the country.

Small but not yet mighty

It appears the tiny home trend hasn’t taken off as much as many predicted it would — even in dense areas like New York City and San Francisco.

According to an analysis from PropertyShark, NYC has seen the most sales of tiny homes (500 square feet or less) since 2010, but they still only accounted for 2.1 percent of home purchases. In San Francisco, the share was just 1.7 percent.

Tiny home sales were even lower in other major markets. In San Diego, 0.9 percent of all home sales in the last eight years fit the tiny home mold. In Los Angeles, it was 0.5 percent.

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Other major cities weigh in with 0.3 percent shares (Phoenix), 0.2 percent (Columbus, Ohio) and 0.1 percent (Chicago, Indianapolis). In San Jose and Philadelphia, tiny homes made up 0 percent of total sales.

According to Property Shark’s Patrick McGregor, density doesn’t seem to matter in the popularity of tiny homes.

“It may seem that denser cities would naturally attract more tiny homes, but that’s not necessarily the case,” McGregor said. “NYC and San Francisco may have had the highest amount of tiny home sales of the cities we looked at, but similar cities, like Philadelphia and Chicago, had hardly any.”

Based on the sales data, McGregor concluded that “tiny homes don’t appear to be an attractive option for the average buyer at this point.” But renting a tiny property? That seems to be a little more popular.

Since 2010, nearly a quarter of all new apartments in San Francisco have been tiny home-sized, clocking in at 500 square feet or less. In New York City, 16 percent of new units were under 500, while 10 percent of Chicago’s were.

Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Diego also have fairly sizeable shares of small apartment units, at 12 percent, 9 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

“While the concept is trendy, it’s hard to know if it will really take off in the near future,” McGregor said. “For now, most developers are taking a ‘wait-and-see’ approach until the direction is clearer. What’s likely to happen is a slow peppering of micro-units into existing and future developments. Either way, it’s unlikely that tiny homes will become a major trend anytime soon.”

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