Homebuilders Going Small

Is small beautiful? The homebuilders evidently think so as they’re cutting the size of their starter homes in an effort to compete with foreclosures.

BusinessWeek has an article that features KB Home’s new Open Series which starts at 964 square feet. In Tucson the base model sells for $89,999. It downsizes hallways and bathrooms and uses other techniques to save on construction costs. Buyers have multiple options, however, in terms of adding rooms which can increase the overall size by 40%.

According to KB the strategy is a winner. They credit the program with a 59% jump in new orders since the first of the year. Though sales are down year over year at this point they expect 2009 orders to be up overall by the end of the year.

DR Horton has also introduced similar offerings and I had an earlier post about Meritage rolling out the same idea. Even Toll Brothers which specializes in upmarket housing is downsizing some of its bottom end offerings.

Does It all make sense? If you want to compete with foreclosures, it’s probably the only option other than not building at all. Homebuyers looking for a starter home, particularly those without families, will probably find the offerings attractive. It might even have some legs with those looking to downsize but the big question in my mind is how houses this small will hold up in the resale market.

I’m not convinced Americans are ready to abandon lots of living space. Maybe if energy costs get high enough the incentive will be sufficient to force downsizing but that’s a bet on something that has been promised forever and still hasn’t materialized. McMansions may be a thing of the past but I just don’t see homeowners, particularly young ones, resigning themselves to raising a couple of kids in a thousand square feet.

I really do wonder if this is a lasting trend.

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