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Tiny Homes and McMansions: Two Extremes with Limited Audiences


In October 2018, Salt Lake City, Utah became the latest among a small number of metropolitan areas to allow tiny homes on occupied lots. City officials stress that tiny homes could be a key component in finally solving the affordable housing crisis.

Few can argue that the tiny home craze has done a lot to reshape how younger first-time buyers view housing. The other side of that coin is the McMansion craze that struck in the 1990s. Both tiny homes and McMansions represent the extremes of U.S. housing. Both have limited audiences as well.

The New Minimalist Lifestyle

CityHome Collective is a Salt Lake City real estate and design firm that makes a point of keeping its ear to the ground to stay ahead of housing trends. Agents at the firm recognize that tiny houses are hot right now. Moreover, sales are not limited only to millennials and their younger counterparts.

Middle-aged and senior buyers are suddenly interested in tiny homes as well. Among all buyers, the driving force seems to be a desire for the new minimalist lifestyle. In simple terms, people are looking at tiny homes from the perspective of maintaining simple lifestyles unencumbered by large spaces filled with stuff.

This minimalist lifestyle is a perfect fit for tiny homes. Whether you are a millennial looking to purchase your first home or a senior couple just beginning the downsizing process, tiny homes fit the bill.

What is most interesting in Salt Lake City is that tiny homes can now be built on properties with existing housing. That means a middle-aged couple looking to bring senior parents to live with them do not necessarily need to have an in-law apartment. They don’t have to buy a larger house either. As long as their lot will accommodate a tiny home, grandma and grandpa can have their own place but still be just across the yard.

Luxury Homes and McMansions

Equally fascinating is the reality that luxury homes are still in demand even though McMansions went out of fashion when the housing crash hit a decade ago. CityHome Collective agents explain that luxury housing is going up in Salt Lake City as quickly as builders can do the work.

The primary difference in 2019 is that luxury homes are being custom-built. Back in the McMansion days, luxury housing was still cookie-cutter housing. Your typical McMansion neighborhood featured row upon row of houses that all looked just about the same. That is not the way buyers like it today.

Buyers now want custom-built homes. And why not? As long as they are putting good money into a luxury home, they might as well get what they want.

In Between for the Rest of Us

Taken as a total percentage of the housing market, tiny homes and their luxury counterparts combine for just a small fraction of the housing stock. The average American has a house somewhere in between. That is not necessarily a bad thing, either.

For many people, a tiny house is just too small while the modern-day McMansion is too big. Other people want a fairly nice house but don’t want to spend the money on a custom, luxury build. Still others feel they can embrace the minimalist lifestyle without necessarily going for a tiny home.

What you have in tiny houses and McMansions are two extremes with housing options aimed at limited audiences. For the rest of us, something in the middle is more appropriate. It turns out that’s the way it has always been. Things will probably continue to go that way for the foreseeable future.

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