Honey, I shrank the house! Downsizing as a trend

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The financial crisis of 2008, of course, was a real wake-up call to many; they began to reassess their lifestyle and to modify their plans and dreams accordingly.

John Zogby, a Forbes.com contributor, wrote that year, "... average Americans have made fundamental adjustments in their expectations, their needs and their values, and ... those adjustments are creating whole new paradigms through which people are making consumption and political choices that will shape the nation in the decades to come."

Housing data over the past decade shows that when it comes to a new home, bigger is not necessarily better. The size of the average American home took a big hit during the Great Recession, and the trend toward smaller homes is continuing even though the market has recovered, according to recent studies.

This new realization has resulted in newer house designs: open floorplans, creative storage, common-sense-sized bathrooms, and extended outdoor living areas - all reflecting consumers' desire to live larger in smaller spaces.

Who is buying smaller? And why?

The Millennials, straddled as they are with student loan debt, are getting married and starting families much later than in generations past. They are opting for small families or to remain childless.

They don't see themselves as ever requiring a large house with four or more bedrooms and are simply not interested in having more space than they need.

The Millennial HENRYs (High-Earners-Not-Rich-Yet), are interested in a meaningful, personally richer and rewarding lifestyle which includes a more modest-sized home. This enables them to afford a second "getaway" home at the beach or in the mountains where they can find "nature's stress relief" from their demanding careers.

The GenXers are just getting into their 50s, but are younger than ever. They are very active empty-nesters who are opting for more livable, more manageable homes that don't make demands on their free time.

Many Boomers, now well into retirement, are also downsizing, relieving themselves of the money pits of aging huge homes, the spaces and rooms they no longer use and the high fees for amenities they no longer want.

They are loving their new smaller, more energy efficient homes - as long as these homes include the high quality of construction and appointments they are accustomed to - and are happy with a simpler lifestyle.

Mary Umberger, in her article "Home Trends Move From Lavish to Practical" for NewHomeSource.com, wrote: "If the houses we build are some kind of barometer of our attitudes, then hooray for us!"

Across all demographics, it is becoming clear that today's buyers are getting more excited about how a home makes them feel rather than its overall square footage.

Homebuyers purchase based on emotions, and today's smaller homes are creating emotional excitement.

Jane D. Kiser is an agent with The Alliance Group Realty and co-owner of The Cottages of Bluffton, LLC. CottagesOfBluffton.com

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