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Living in less than 1,000 square feet, or even in a place under 500 square feet, is usually reserved for a  Ramen-eating student or someone just starting out on their own. However, a growing group of people are choosing to live in smaller homes, even if they can afford something bigger.

Labeled as “tiny homes” or “micro-homes,” residences measuring less than 500 square feet are appealing to buyers who want to pare down their lives in every way.

The concept of downsizing has even reached cities such as San Francisco and New York, where tiny apartments — measuring as small as 220 square feet — seem like a viable way to combat rising rents. Both San Fran and the Big Apple have approved changes to the building codes to allow apartments of this size. In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg challenged architects to design a micro-apartment, choosing a winner in January.

The beginning of the real estate downturn was one of the biggest catalysts behind the small home movement, says Michael Janzen of Tiny House Design. People began facing the challenges they had in housing and affording houses.

“A lot of people who are retired are looking at tiny homes as a way to downsize,” he said. “Younger people are interested in it as a way to get a foothold on homeownership, and a lot of people like the environmental aspect.”

And, adds Janzen, not only do smaller homes cost less, you can also build a tiny home yourself.

“It’s an empowering movement,” he said.

While there are resources and plans to build your own tiny home, it’s also possible to buy one currently on the market:

Small wonder

219 W Mission Rd, Alhambra CA
For sale: $325,000
432 square feet

CA

Located in Alhambra, just south of Pasadena, this SoCal starter home boasts just 1 bedroom and 1 bath. But where it lacks in space, it makes up in charm; the little home has been redone inside and out.

Private retreat

171 Utley Rd, Dover AR
For sale: $22,900
128 square feet

dover ark

An adorable “doll house” measuring 128 square feet costs just under the price of most mid-sized sedans. Ideal for a getaway cabin or as a place to downsize, the petite place has 1 bedroom, 1 bath and a tiny kitchen.

Small house, big lot

3833 Libby Rd NE, Olympia WA
For sale: $139,900
416 square feet

olympia wa

This home has less than 500 square feet, but it sits on nearly an acre in the capital city of Washington state. Custom-built with cedar siding, the Olympia home has energy-efficient, dual-pane windows, a solar-reflective roof and marmoleum floors.

Midwest charm

533 N Highland Ave, Aurora IL
For sale: $55,000
600 square feet

aurora il

Two bedrooms and 1 bath make up this charming and freshly painted Aurora home. The small cottage has already had a price cut; it was first listed in April 2012 at $60,000.

Updated cottage

2444 3rd Ave N, St Petersburg, FL
For sale: $74,900
560 square feet

st petersburg fl

Although it measures less than 600 square feet, this St. Petersburg home makes enough room for 2 bedrooms and a bath. The home is move-in ready with recent updates, including renovations to the kitchen and bathroom.

Room to grow

33832 Robles Dr, Dana Point CA
For sale: $380,000
600 square feet

dana point ca

Cute, clean and within walking distance of the beach! The Dana Point home has 1 bedroom and 1 bath, but if you’re looking for a bit more room, the city recently approved plans for a possible second level.

Related:

About the Author

Erika Riggs, the Zillow Digs manager, covers home design and trends.

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