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“By and large, builders are building to the market,” Melman said. “What buyers are out there tend to be higher-income right now, so they’re purchasing larger homes.”

Historically, home sizes have grown 50.9 percent during the past 39 years, based on census data. In 1973, the average new home reached 1,660 square feet and had ballooned to 2,505 square feet by 2012.

Though Americans are known for sprawling homes with the latest appliances and spare bedrooms, those who live small say having less stuff means having less stress and staying organized.

“Basically, there’s a lot of stuff that can just be done away with,” said Gregory Johnson, president of the Iowa-based Small House Society. “A lot of it is not an architectural challenge. It’s an internal challenge.”

Faulconer, who teaches at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., spent two years living in a recreational vehicle to prepare to live in her cabin on wheels. She ditched dozens of pairs of shoes, blue jeans and some artwork so she could fit in the smaller space.

“One thing that I really like about the small space is you really have to keep things organized,” she said. “Because one or two things out of place is very visible and makes it cluttered.”

But those choosing to construct smaller homes can face obstacles including local building codes. Smith, for instance, had to get a special city ordinance to build his tiny homes so close together on one lot.

Louche said it’s typical for many living in “tiny” cabins to “fly under the radar” for fear of being shut down by government code enforcers.

“Most people just kind of do what they’re going to do and see how it turns out,” Louche said, adding that some people chose to build to local RV or mobile-home codes.

Faulconer, meanwhile, expects to finish her petite cabin by the end of January, complete with hardwood floors, a kid-sized dishwasher and a lofted bed for less than $20,000.

“It feels great because I’ve got zero debt on it right now,” she said. “Everything I have on it’s paid for.”

©2013 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services

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