If you watch home improvement channels like HGTV, then chances are you have seen tiny houses on shows such as “Tiny House Hunters.” These miniature homes can be as small as 60 square feet. In a materialistic world, the thought of discarding all but the essentials has its appeal. But is the reality of extreme downsizing worth it? Also, could it take off in the Crescent City?
Robert Van Meter, a New Orleans realtor with Latter & Blum, sold a 496-square-foot house last year on Forstall Street in Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Village in the Lower 9th Ward for $107,000. Van Meter said the house’s size combined with its solar panels make for lower utility costs and a smaller carbon footprint. It’s a way for homeowners to become more environmentally friendly.
For those who want to live a more mobile lifestyle, the tiny houses can also be towed from one city to another. This gives homeowners added flexibility in an era when more and more people hold remote work jobs.
While these homes are gaining in popularity nationwide, the trend has not substantially materialized in New Orleans, said Greg Jeanfreau, a New Orleans realtor with Latter & Blum. Van Meter also agreed that the phenomenon is still rare in the Crescent City.
“New Orleans is never really that in to jumping on national trends in my experience,” Jeanfreau said.
Jeanfreau said that one of the cons to tiny houses is the fact that the most expensive components of home construction are plumbing, electrical, HVAC, a kitchen, and a bathroom. The costs will still be there, even with a tiny house.
People looking to downsize can also do so without going so far as to live in a 60-500-square-foot home. For example, older couples concerned about things like climbing stairs and declining mobility can switch from a 2-story house to a 1-story house.
A 2015 article on realtor.com noted that homes between 1,000- and 2,000-square-foot got the most views on the site, about 50 percent more than 2,000 to 3,000-square-foot homes. The same article also stated that 500 to 1,000-square-foot homes provided the best bargain per square foot.
“Adding a room or two more doesn’t add that much more expense, but makes for a much more functional living space,” Jeanfreau said.
Another concern for tiny houses in New Orleans would be blending in with the architecture in the city’s more historic neighborhoods. But Van Meter said that tiny houses can be built to match the style of a given neighborhood. A 400-square-foot shotgun cottage was built in the Irish Channel and is now listed on Airbnb (airbnb.com/rooms/369715). Van Meter added that even some of the city’s older homes have only two rooms.
Van Meter said the tiny houses would likely have the best success if they were clustered in groups in a section of New Orleans with lots of available land, like the Lower 9th Ward or New Orleans East.
While Van Meter thinks tiny houses could work well in New Orleans, he acknowledged that it is not a leap many people would be willing to take. Americans are used to having larger living spaces and compromises have to be made to live in a tiny house. For example, if you and your significant other have cherished furniture or other items, it will be a challenge to fit them all in such a space. If you like entertaining friends for dinner parties, that can also be difficult.
“It’s not for everyone,” Van Meter said. “It’s not easy to do.”
But Van Meter added that the people he has spoken to who have made the leap are happy with the results.
“They [tiny house owners] realize that they don’t need all that stuff,” Van Meter said.