Mini homes: a solution for first-time buyers?


The market has responded to the demand with increasingly varied and innovative offerings.

Marie-Christine Daignault | Desjardins group

The mini-home trend originated in the U.S. in response to "monster homes," and it's now come to Quebec. With their mini payments, mini taxes and mini maintenance costs, mini homes have big appeal with young people. But what are they, exactly? 

"There's no legal definition, but the trend is becoming more popular with future homeowners looking for smaller, simpler and more affordable housing," says Patrick Champagne, a development advisor with Desjardins. 

The market has responded to the demand with increasingly varied and innovative offerings: micro, mini and small homes in rural communities, as well as micro condos and micro lofts in cities, anywhere from 150 to 950 sq. feet in size. 

The concept is very appealing. On the other hand, living in tight quarters can be stressful. Here are some pros and potential cons to consider.

Pros

Affordability
Tighter mortgage rules, the cost of living and economic conditions have contributed to the rise in small homes. Down payments, mortgage payments, taxes and energy costs are all lower, freeing up budget room for other things. 

Environmental appeal
Based on the concept of voluntary simplicity and sustainable development, small homes mean lower energy consumption. Closer to nature, they reflect a lifestyle with a small environmental footprint. 

Better use of space and ergonomics
Everything's been designed based on efficiency: smaller appliances, fold-out beds, double-function furniture and so on. 

Maintenance
It costs a lot less in time and money to maintain.

Potential cons 

Financing
It can be complex! Patrick Champagne recommends discussing your plans with your advisor as soon as possible so they can help you with the financing solution based on the following criteria: 
        • Whether you own or lease the land
        • The type of foundation (e.g., pier, concrete, piles)
        • Compliance with current standards
        • Your financial capacity
        • Method of construction: self-build or turnkey
Location
Like any other residence, building or setting up a smaller home on land must meet the specific standards and requirements of that municipality. Each one legislates the requirements and minimum dimensions for land and homes, in addition to the standards and codes of the Régie du bâtiment du Québec.

Some cities, like Lantier, Eastman and even Sherbrooke, are starting to open neighbourhoods dedicated to small homes, but it's still an emerging trend.

Micro condos are associated with the development of vertical communities (high-rise cities).

Resale value
Except for micro condos, it's still hard right now to know the resale value of mini homes and how much interest there will be from potential buyers down the road.

Conclusion?
For first-time home buyers in the city or suburbs, micro condos, condos and town homes are still the best avenues. Although they're not part of the "mini" trend, they're still smaller and more affordable, but their market value evolves with the real estate market. So they shouldn't be overlooked, especially since first-time home owners generally upgrade to something bigger later on. 

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