Tiny houses seem to have a growing number of devotees, but a Redmond company is betting that even more people would live in a not-so-tiny, but still very small house, say 600 square feet.
Simplicity Homes, a sister company to Hayden Homes, is preparing to offer its “Wise Size” floor plans, which range from 400 square feet to 1,064 square feet, as kits that would be shipped anywhere to anyone who has land to build upon. Simplicity has built about 120 of the super-small houses across Oregon and Washington, but President Ken Brodeck said the company fields inquiries from all across the country.
“Even though we don’t spend any marketing money at all, we get a fair amount of inquiries, wanting kits,” he said.
Simplicity has not set a date for the first shipment of a kit, but, Brodeck said, “It’s a priority item.”
The concept of kit homes goes back to the early 1900s and was popularized by Sears starting in 1908. So while Simplicity wouldn’t be the first company to sell a kit, Wise Size appears to fill a niche between traditional stick-built homes and other prefabricated house kits that appeal to buyers wanting cutting-edge architecture.
The need for smaller housing units was a main theme at meetings of the Bend Collaborative Housing Workgroup, said Erin Foote-Morgan, executive director of Bend 2030, which facilitated the discussions. Builders lack financial incentives to offer small floor plans because, regardless of the size of the house, they pay the same system development charges, Foote-Morgan said.
Simplicity and its customers have found, however, that small houses make profitable rental units. “They rent like candy,” said Eric Lundberg, a mortgage broker who built the 11-unit Amazon Cottages neighborhood in Eugene.
Lundberg’s project includes several houses of about 800 square feet, which were designed and built by Simplicity. The neighborhood is arranged in an inward-facing cluster, emulating the pocket neighborhoods of Seattle architect Ross Chapin.
“It’s kind of like a back-to-the-’50s or back-to-the-’30s kind of feel,” he said.
Simplicity was created in 2009 to build houses for a fee on lots that landowners buy and prepare for construction. Most of the houses Simplicity builds are based on Hayden floor plans, but the company came up with Wise Size in 2010 with the notion of building super-small houses as accessory dwelling units, or granny flats, Brodeck said. HiLine Homes, a Washington-based Simplicity competitor, markets a similar lineup of houses that are around 800 square feet.
Simplicity’s ties to Hayden have created a test bed of sorts for the Wise Size houses.
DPM Properties, a real estate company owned by Hayden Homes CEO Dennis Murphy, used the Wise Size plans to create small duplexes in a neighborhood on the east side of Bend off Dean Swift Road. DPM also built a neighborhood of Wise Size houses with modern designs on Turtle Lane in Eugene.
One of the Turtle Lane houses was featured in the Lane County Tour of Homes, and because of the positive feedback, Simplicity is offering all the Wise Size floor plans in a modern design. .
This spring, Hayden built a 600-square-foot house on an odd-sized lot in the Pettigrew Place neighborhood on the east side of Bend and sold it for $244,990. The buyer, Martha Swain, said she’d been looking for a home in Bend and figured all she could afford would be a condominium. So she was pleased to find the single-family house because it also has a yard and a two-car garage where she can store her bike and kayak.
“At my stage of life, I don’t want a three-bedroom, 2,500 square-foot house,” said Swain, 65. “It makes so much sense to me.”
Brodeck said Simplicity has raised its design game by creating modern elevations for the Wise Size houses, but it’s not going to deviate from its focus on affordability. The price of the houses, if built in Bend, ranges from $54,990 for 400 square feet to $82,990 for 1,064 square feet. That does not include land and site preparation. The modern elevations cost from $77,000 to $116,500.
Simplicity has not yet put price tags on Wise Size kits. At this point the company will ship a package that includes enough uncut lumber, drywall and other material to build a shell of a house without interior finishes or fixtures.
“Ultimately, we’d like to do the whole thing,” Brodeck said.
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