Housing ‘Trends’

by Grace aka costofcollege

The tiny house movement

Could you live in a tiny home that measured “between 65 to 400 square feet”?  I’m enjoying the tiny home shows on HGTV, but no thanks for me.  Maybe 1,000-1,200 square feet could work.  This family likes their small space.

4 People, 650 Square Feet: A Love Story

This made me laugh.

And, real talk, when someone went No. 2, the house had to be evacuated. The bathroom’s proximity to the kitchen was equally disturbing. The folding door did not, I repeat, did not seal odors well, and you had to wash your hands at the kitchen sink.

Modular homes

9 new built-in-a-day modular homes rise in Yonkers

The factory-made houses appear to be very well made, and offer some nice architectural details and lifestyle choices, including hardwood floors, crown moldings, second-floor outdoor decks, master suites, glass pocket doors on either side of the dining room, granite counters and stainless-steel appliances in the kitchen, and a washer/dryer on both floors. The bedrooms are carpeted and the bathroom fixtures are chrome.

Check out the slide show at the link to see the process of building these modular homes.


Here are the listings.  At $650,000 each, they are relatively affordable for the area.

Why is homeownership slumping?

Homeownership rate drops to 63.4%, lowest since 1967

Household formation, however, is rising. The number of occupied housing units grew, but all on the renter side….

What’s your take on this analyst’s opinion?

“All the governmental attempts (certainly aided and abetted by many players in the private sector) at boosting homeownership has gotten us to this point in time with all the havoc it wreaked over the past 10 years. It’s just another governmental lesson never learned, of don’t mess with the free market and human nature.”

What housing trends interest you?  What do you foresee?  Are you ready to downsize, upsize, or stay put?


163 thoughts on “Housing ‘Trends’

  1. I wouldn’t buy a modular house where I live. It seems like strong winds and tornadoes are always tearing them down around here, but then again, if there is a tornado, a brick house isn’t going to stand up to it either.

  2. Those modular homes look a little sad and cheap to me and I dislike that tiny house show on HGTV, probably because I think the whole idea is absurd.

    DH has been thinking about looking for a new job and we’d probably focus his job search on the Boston area, so we’d probably be forced to downsize with the price disparity in real estate. Neither of us would really mind going down by 1000 square feet, our house is a little too big for us now.

  3. I will say DW and I did a good job of picking a good base layout and making a few modifications when we built our (still current) house in 1990. And whether by design or default, the fact that we have stayed put vs. upsizing when the oldest became a teen was a good thing, maybe especially financially.

    Sure, there are things we would have done differently if we were clairvoyant 25 years ago.

    And sure, we need to sink some cash into the mechanicals simply because of time passage, HVAC mostly. Also, we should get new windows (now), a new roof (3-5 years), a redone back deck (maybe as soon as next year), and the exterior (front) needs to be addressed from an aesthetic point. Plus, we want to redo the master bath and at least fix the kitchen cabinets/drawers/sliders so they all work as they should. Oh, and repaint or repaper a bunch of rooms.

    Maybe once the mortgage gets paid off, sometime in the next 15 months and maybe as soon as January, I’ll be ok with addressing that list.

  4. When we upsized 12 years ago, we knew we had a completed our family (of 4), but didn’t want to be on top of each other and wanted room for the kids friends to come over to play and/or spend the night. We would have preferred one a bit smaller, but in this neighborhood, the next model down was too small. However, the extra space also allowed us to experience foreign exchange students. For this phase of life, we are as “right-sized” as we can get at just over 2,000 square feet.

    I like our house, but after both kids are launched (at least 10 years to get the youngest through college) I see us downsizing – both in terms of interior square feet and the amount of yard their is to maintain. I really like our house, so I it may be harder for me to leave than I think, but a basically empty upstairs won’t really make it feel like home either.

    At the same time, as I watch my parents aging process, it will be beneficial to be near one or both kids as we need help in those later years. I am not sure I would want to move twice unless we really needed to.

    With friends, I am seeing the trend of “mid-sizing” – for a while the 3,000 plus square feet homes were the rage. Families of 3 and 4 are beginning to see these as too big and rambling, and are moving to homes in the 1800 – 2500 square foot range. In our area, we see a lot more multi-story condos going in, so I think the downsizing trend has hit to live closer into town, which reduces the commute, but increases the cost.

  5. Around me, the trend is to buy an old ranch house, knock it down and build something like this http://www.homevisit.com/tour/mobile-mls.asp?id=88246&ver=

    Always has a white kitchen, always has a coffered ceiling, always has those cubbies to hang up coats and bags.

    It is a nice style and seems very functional for a family, but I worry about resale when the market is flooded with all of the same kind of house that is now 10-15 years old.

  6. Cat – that’s what happens in our area too. It’s always a surprise when a family just buys a ranch to live in, although there are a few that just got knocked down in the past year or two where the family lived in the ranch for the first five years and then knocked it down and built brand new. And always with that side garage because the lots aren’t that wide.

  7. I’ve seen a few modular homes appear in my town. They tend to be on smaller lots in the more moderate areas of town but they look fine from a drive-by. Two of my friends went the modular route when they had to rebuild their homes after Sandy. They’re happy with the house, not so happy with the local builders they used to prep the foundation and do the add on work.

  8. Tiny house – no, never in a million years. I would like to put a bathroom in the attic so one of the kids could move into the 4th bedroom. If we haven’t moved yet, maybe we will end up doing that in 5 years or so.

    We had a great cabin when we went to the lake – it was small but functional in the common areas and had a TON of bedrooms. Seemed like the ideal second home for retirees – all the rooms were small enough so that you didn’t feel like you were swimming in them with only 2 people,

    My parents want to downsize (from about 4500 sq ft) when my dad retires, but they are looking at places that are 2000 sq feet; my mom is very reluctant to get rid of their furniture.

  9. I really like the author of the NY Mag essay in her one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment.

    One note:

    The amount of living space per person in an average new American home is 1,054.7 square feet.

    We’re well below average, but it feels like plenty for us, and we make it work.

  10. I hate the side load garages that make the driveway cut across the front! I would rather have a front load garage.

  11. I spent 35 years living in apartments or dorm rooms. I never had enough space for all of my stuff until I moved to the burbs.

    I can’t believe how we managed to fill every inch with so much junk because we just have one child. She is a hoarder and her stuff has taken over our house. I’m trying to fix it now as she moves into a different room.

    I think we have the perfect amount of Aq feet

  12. 1050 sq ft/person seems really high. I don’t think the average family of five lives in a 5000+ sq ft house. Maybe the top quartile do that.

  13. Ranches are becoming very popular around here. A well-maintained ranch will typically sell to an empty nester who wants everything on one level but with a finished basement, usually with some type of sleeping area and extra bathroom for guests. If the ranch is in bad shape, it will be bought by a builder and replaced by a mini mansion.

  14. “1050 sq ft/person seems really high. I don’t think the average family of five lives in a 5000+ sq ft house. Maybe the top quartile do that.”

    Just having some fun with the stats. The average household is probably 2.2 people.

    We have everything we need and most of what we want. We count our blessings of our friends, family, and faith. We feel truly rich in love and laughter. We don’t need a big house.

  15. I couldn’t do the tiny house thing, if it were just me , maybe. Add a husband and kid to a small space like that, no thanks

  16. We had to share about 800 square feet during our addition last year, which was too small. No tiny house for us!

    The house is now about 2,300 square feet plus the finished basement which probably brings it to 3,000. All three kids have their own rooms. I can see us staying here until we can’t manage the stairs or the property taxes, whichever comes first.

    We looked at doing our addition using modular or panelized construction, but our street is narrow, we have a large tree in the front yard, and there are overhead power lines. The crane delivery would have been too difficult.

    If you can break the design down to 15′ wide (or better, 12′ wide) sections, modular is a lot cheaper here. Panelized is less of a savings but allows a lot more design flexibility. There are quite a few spec mansions near here in the $1MM-$2MM range that are modular, but you would never know it.

  17. Does anyone else get a sense from the millennials they know that buying a house is one of furthermost things on their minds? I may be misremembering, but it seems that at that age we talked about our plans to buy a home soon or eventually.

  18. Apparently I’m the old end of millennial. I couldn’t wait to buy a house! I was 21 when we bought our first.

    Some of the younger people I know don’t want to be tied down with a house. They want an apartment or rental so they can choose job opportunities around the country without having to worry about selling a house.

  19. I am too old to be a millennial, but I never really wanted to buy a house. Had I not married and had a spouse who did, I would still be happily renting. But I am a vagabond at heart.

  20. CoC – we could name 30 top Country hits that have already been written on that, often multiple songs by the same artist. Zac Brown (times 2) Lonestar, John Denver, Alabama (times five or six), Alan Jackson, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton…

  21. Our house is small, but the house in the article is too small for me. When we bought our house, it was 1100 sq feet. At that time, it was just the 2 of us. By the time we were 4 people, we knew we had to expand. Right now, I believe the house is maybe 1400 sq feet? Which seems about right to me. I would like more storage, but even people with tons of storage say that. I like the fact that we are all physically close in the house.

  22. Does anyone else get a sense from the millennials they know that buying a house is one of furthermost things on their minds?

    I get the sense that they don’t view home buying as having the same short term investment potential as people once did. If you buy a house, it’s needs to be your forever home.

  23. I am downsizing (next weekend!) from 3 people in 2800 SF to 1.5 people in 2400 SF! Does the dog count, because he takes up a lot of space sometimes? I would have considered renting while I figure out what my new life will be like, but the quality and location of rental properties in my town cater to the college student rather than the UMC family. And the rents are higher than my mortgage payment will be. I also looked at some smaller homes, but the one I’m buying is in my same neighborhood, which I love, and the only smaller place available actually had a higher price.

    I’m reducing square footage by 15% but cost by 30%, and I am getting just the right spaces that I need. DD & I will have our own rooms and bathrooms, plus a guest room with access to DD’s bath. When I’m alone, I’ll be all on one level with my garage, laundry, open kitchen/family/dining room, and bed/bath. There is a separate living room space on the level with DD’s room that will be perfect for a tween/teen hangout but also as an extra space for guests with a pull-out sofa. I’ll be able to have my whole family visit for holidays, football games, etc.

  24. Back in the 20’s, mail order houses were really popular. Sears and Alladin were the big companies selling them. The houses came in a box on the train, and you assembled it yourself. There are many areas of the country where you can still see entire blocks of Sears houses. We actually own one ourselves. It is funny because we had looked at some other houses that were advertised as Sears houses in the listing(because there is some cachet to it) but the house we bought did not have that listing so I did not realize that it is a Sears house. My mother, who was a devotee of old houses, found our house in a fascimile of the 1922 Sears house catalog. The plans in the catalog matched our house exactly. Amazing.

  25. Our house is a 70 year old ranch. We bought it 15 years ago because that’s all we could afford at the time in our neighborhood. We’re happy with it–it is perfectly sized for our family of 4, but gets really tight when we have guests. When the kids leave, it will still be a good size for a pair of empty nesters. It’s one story, so we can keep it as we age.

    However, due to its age, it’s in constant need of work. The driveway needs to be redone, which we will do probably next year. We need a new roof, but we will probably just patch it to get another year or two of life from it.

  26. Out of curiosity, what is the typical $ per square foot for housing in your area?

    When I was pregnant, we were priced out of Manhattan and moved to Brooklyn. We like our place, but would love one more bedroom. We’re (again) talking about moving, primarily due to the lack of school choices in our area.

  27. CoC, buying a house was a million miles away from my mind when I was in my 20’s. In fact, I lived in campus graduate housing until I was about 26. I was in my late 30’s when we finally considered buying a house. My parents were also in their 30’s when they bought their first house. So I think the idea of home ownership or even considering in would be strange for a 20-something. The Millenials sound pretty normal.

  28. “If you buy a house, it’s needs to be your forever home.” See, I think that was the attitude that was prevalent in my parents era. I think the house-as-quickie-investment attitude of the 90’s was the aberration.

    I just realized – DH’s parents were in their 40’s when they bought their first house. Their eldest went to college the next year.

  29. At one point, I lived alone in 900 square feet. It was not an ideal layout, too much living room and not quite enough kitchen (some kitchen space had been given over to washer and dryer). But overall the amount of space would be fine for one or two. With a better layout, we could easily downsize to that when we become empty nesters.

    My parents downsizing obstacle was the attachment to furniture and stuff. I am attached to the bedroom set and dining room set and my one desk chair that I love. Otherwise, any other piece of furniture can go! I got a piece from my aunt when she died, that while I like it OK, I don’t love it and it is somewhat cluttering my spare room. I am ready to part with it, but one of my kids says she wants it SOOO badly, I’m having a hard time forcing it out of the house.

  30. ATM: In our neighborhood, it’s ~$320 per sq ft for older houses (built in 30s and 40s and usually renovated).

  31. ATM: Probably about $275 to $325, figure goes down the more square footage there is.

  32. off topics: DH won tickets for a OneDirection concert in the Meadowlands. It was a workplace contest. My DD will be thrilled, but ugh, it means DH and I have to go. I haven’t been to an arena concert since high school. Any idea how late a show that starts at 7 will run?

  33. My parents were first married in their 30s/40s respectively, and bought their first house just before they were married. My mother was in an apartment with a roommate and my dad was still living at home with his widowed mother.

    I think the job you have, where you live and whether you are single/married all affects your desire to buy a house.

  34. MM – East Rutherford has a strict noise ordinance (I know, I used to live in site of the Meadowlands). The concert will end at 11pm. Any later and they get HEAVY fines. At Bruce’s 2009 concert series in the old Giants Stadium, he paid the fines up front so each show could go to midnight.

  35. In our area, $125 to $300, depending on house size, lot size, proximity to university and neighborhood. We live in the young family part of the county, because the schools are good but it’s not in the expensive walkable neighborhood around the university. Probably $150-$175 in my neighborhood for a normal size lot.

  36. I should say “no later than 11pm”. 1D may end earlier… but remember that 7pm start probably includes 1-2 openers. You could try to show up later.

  37. Pretty much all my Midwest cousins get married and buy houses before 30. The three oldest from the next generation have already done so. The math teacher has announced her engagement to the cop, after ~5 years of dating during high school and college.

  38. From the time we got married, we were looking to get out of our apartment and to buy. But it was a different location and different housing market, one where there was indeed short term upside which we captured and that enabled us to buy/build our current 2800sf (plus basement of probably 1500sf) when I was in my early 30s.
    I do not think my kids have house buying on their radar. Oldest is day-to-day, middle is looking at the rest of college + grad school, and the youngest is too young to be thinking about that.

    ATM – $150 to $190 per square foot for new build in three neighborhoods the company who built our home is working on now. 3000-4500 sq ft homes. Probably the same as where you’re originally from.

  39. Fred- Just checked my mom’s house – you are close.

    Not sure why I asked – the sticker shock of NYC is always jarring to me, even after living here most of my adult life.

  40. we downsized last year from total 3600 sq feet (1800 plus finished basement of 1800) to about 2300 sq ft, it is still too big (too much cleaning!)

  41. In my area, $110-$150/sq ft. In my suburb, you can get homes for under $100/sq ft.

    We bought our first home when I was 25 or 26. It was a HUD home in a neighborhood we liked, so we only had to put $500 down to get it, then eventually put 3% down at closing. It was cheaper than renting.

  42. @SWVA — congrats! I’m sure it will feel good to be settled in the new place after so much recent change and uncertainty.

    Not a tiny house person. I watch the shows with sort of the same fascination that I read MMM and such — it’s a compelling concept, but it’s just too extreme for me. I like the feeling of light and space — I don’t need a lot of rooms, but I like the ones I have to be oversized. My favorite house was the CO one, with a big (16′ x 24′??) two-story family room off the open kitchen, with the short end being 2-story windows overlooking Cheyenne Mountain, and the long end being a line of window (1-story) that wrapped all the way down the wall and through the breakfast room bump-out. I think my perfect house would recreate that setup and just extend the breakfast room to fit my big rectangular table and turn it into the dining area. The current house has plenty of space, but the rooms are a little smaller than I’d like — I’d prefer fewer-but-larger rooms on the first floor.

    But there’s one exception on the “tiny house” issue: I stay at the Residence Inn just S of Columbus Circle, and I have lucked into the line of rooms with two walls of windows facing N and E — giving me a full-on view of Central Park. Every time I go, I curl up in the chair, put my feet on the windowsill, and fantasize about how I could redo the space to live in full-time. Mind you, this is maybe 300 square feet, so the planning always involves lots of hidden storage and murphy beds and such. But if it were just me and they’d sell it to me, I’d do that in a heartbeat.

    On the “not getting additional space any time soon” front, we are once again back to no garage, as the first quote was, literally, 2x my worst-case scenario. So now we’re thinking maybe a nice asphalt parking pad in the back with a basketball hoop. . . .

  43. ” My favorite house was the CO one, with a big (16′ x 24’??) two-story family room off the open kitchen, with the short end being 2-story windows overlooking Cheyenne Mountain”

    that sounds lovely

  44. “1000 sq ft per person on average…” With that metric, I should have a 4,000 sq ft home. I have 1400. I figure our next house will be about 2500. We’ll be dragging down that average for years to come. We’ll also be boosting the “number of homes with multi-generations” for years to come as well – 3 generations under one roof.

    Wine – when we moved to RI, we rented an apartment with 2 bedrooms for LESS than a 1 bedroom in NJ. When we purchased our home, our mortgage and interest was less than our rent in RI.

    On Millenials – most seem to want the ability to roam and houses just don’t let you do that. But high rents (like Rocky’s Millenials) speak to the opposite. My family Millenials are all living at home and commuting (works in the NYC ‘burbs) so that they can save money.

    Median price per square foot is about $160. It’s probably a large range because we have very poor districts and ridiculously rich districts (homes in the $5mill range) due to neighborhood, size, lot size, proximity to the water, etc.

  45. Congrats SWVA – your new house sounds lovely!! Could we host the Totebag Cocktail Party there?

  46. Thanks y’all! I’m trying to be excited about the move in order to avoid being sad about the reason. Last night I ordered a new mattress for myself (going king-size!) and a custom-sized one for DD to use with an antique iron bed that was my great-grandmother’s.

    Price per SF here ranges from $100 to over $200 – crappy student rentals to multi-million-dollar custom homes on top of a mountain (like http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/Blacksburg_VA_24060_M64253-16835?row=1). I just realized that I have only rented a home for about 5 months of my life, unless you count the 2 school years in a dorm room. When I moved off campus, it was to a condo owned by my parents. Then I lived with them for 7 months until I bought my first townhome. After I got married and moved here, we rented an apartment for the 5 months it took to sell the townhome, get H a job, and buy our first house together.

  47. DW actually owned a place before we met. After we married, we sold it so we could “roam” for awhile. The plan was always to buy again when we were more settled.

    Your house sounds great, SWVA.

  48. I think rent vs. buy is largely regional and cultural. It seems that in some major cities, a lot of people are lifelong renters, because buying is too expensive and/or they may not plan to stay forever. Whereas in other parts of the country, where home prices are so cheap and the people who are there largely plan to stay long-term, it makes more sense to buy. So it doesn’t seem surprising that people’s assumptions might vary based on the expectations they grew up with. I totally grew up wanting a house, wanting to be settled, and that was really my top priority right out of school (well, 2nd, after paying off the loans).

    I also agree with Mooshi that it’s the last @20 years that are more the aberration than the rule. Even back when I graduated, the expectation was you’d put 20% down, which most people just can’t do until they’ve saved for several years; you basically couldn’t get a mortgage with less than that without a cosigner. The newer mortgage products have been great for allowing people to buy earlier, but the flip side of that is that it’s easy to get locked in when the job market goes south. I think the Millennials saw that downside up close and personal and so are being smart about questioning whether and when buying a house is the right choice.

  49. I enjoyed the article about the family in the small house. Too small for me, but it’s great that they are making it work.

  50. We’re 5 in 1200 square feet. Which is small enough for me. I like the idea of the tiny house (DH and I lived in a 400 square foot studio for a few years before kids that worked well) but they don’t seem to accommodate any gear for activities or interests. I obviously don’t have a lot of that stuff, but I have some and enjoy it.

    I heard an old stat years ago– not sure how true it holds– that after about 2500 square feet people had trouble maintaining the cleaning of a place on their own without hiring some of the work out.

    I never wanted to buy, but over the time since we bought, our mortgage/insurance/annual repairs are still quite less than the average rental this size– and our house is much nicer to live in than many crappy rentals. If we were renting, we’d be more likely to be financially pushed out of the area sooner. I think the last average I saw was about $600-$700 a square foot?

  51. Some of the home-buying attitudes are regional, for sure.  But it’s also true that overall millennials are financially disadvantaged compared to previous generations — lower incomes, lower net worth, and higher debt.

    Americans between 18 and 34 are earning less today (after adjustment for inflation) than the same age group did in the past. A typical millennial averaged earnings of $33,883 (in 2013 dollars) between 2009 and 2013. That was down 9.3 percent (after adjustment for inflation) in just a decade and is the lowest since 1980. Older Americans have fared considerably better; earnings of all full-time workers were roughly flat between 2000 and 2011.

  52. Congrats SWVA – I hope this is a beautiful fresh start for you and you sleep like a queen, smack dab in the middle of that giant bed!

  53. I have a friend who is always posting pictures & articles about tiny houses because he has an old cabin of some sort on his property and is looking for ideas of how to use it. He thinks all those people in the articles who claim to live simply have secret storage units for all their stuff that doesn’t fit in the tiny house.

  54. I’m on older Millennial, and was eager right out of school to purchase a place. Good life decision, very poor financial decision. Fortunately I was able to recover, but the lost funds still makes me feel a little bad.

    As they say, once bitten, twice shy. We likely should have purchased last year as our local market is very hot. However, we do like our place overall (minus third floor walk up with baby, and laundry in basement) and our landlord has essentially treated us as if we had rent control. If we were to move to another rental, we would probably be paying 40% more for something comparable in the same neighborhood (though it would probably have in-unit laundry).

  55. When we bought our house in 1999, 20% was still the norm. The variable rate mortgages had appeared, but they were still considered kind of scary at that time. How things changed in just a couple of years. I am really glad we bought when we did, because the house values skyrocketed after that in our town, and even after the crash, we couldn’t have bought a house for what we paid in 1999.

  56. Interesting, when we bought our house in 1993 we put 10% down and had mortgage insurance for the first few years. This was very common. Maybe a regional thing. The real estate class I took for my MBA program in 1996 had a whole section on alternative mortgages – some as low as 5% down, and interest only for the first several years. Certainly variable rate mortgages were around in the late 80s – mortgage backed securities and not understanding interest rate risk was a big contributor the failed S&L industry and a big focus of bank regulators in the early 90s.

  57. I think home finance was regional until fairly recently. To contrast with MM’s experience: Bought our first house in 1988, 5% down, variable rate mortgage. No special program from the government or thru an employer.

  58. When we bought our house in 1999, 20% was still the norm.

    Were you first time home buyers? IIRC 3.5% FHA mortgages were common in 1999.

  59. We are 5 in ~1750 sqft, and I would rather have more room than less room. We obviously don’t have our 1000/sqft/person. Trulia says the neighborhood average sale price/sqft is $563 for my neighborhood and $592 for the city as a whole, which probably reflects that my neighborhood runs more to single family houses while the city-wide average is apartment-heavy.

    I didn’t want to buy as a young single. I didn’t want to be tied down to some 1 br condo and then a few years later (as indeed happened) be married and looking for something to raise a family in.

  60. Being a condo-living urban-dweller, I don’t put a premium on space over location, but I could never ever picture living in one of those tiny houses. It makes me claustrophobic just looking at the photos. Our 2BR 2BA condo is about 1400 sq ft which feels fine for our family of 3 most of the time. It starts to feel small with more than 2-3 guests for dinner though. But we don’t do a lot of entertaining, so it’s fine. We tend to meet with friends away from home. This seems to be pretty common among our city friends, whereas the suburban friends like to gather in people’s houses more.

    We bought at the peak in 2007, so we were living with a loss on paper for quite a few years, but prices have recently recovered very quickly. Our area is suddenly pretty hot (may even been the same area as MidA).

  61. Price per sq foot in my town per trulia is 425. Since we live in a townhouse, the market does not take into account the 1/3 of sq footage full finished walkout basement (even though the tax assessor does). So we have nominally 1400 sq ft for two people, except that we really live in 2000 sq ft (subtracting 100 sq ft for the finished laundry/utility room), plus we have another 600 sq feet of storage in the the sloped roof but unfinished walk up attic. No wonder the properties in our complex sell in a weekend after a bidding war. Suburban palace’s town is 230 per sq ft, but the taxes are 1.5% of FMV, not 1.0 to 1.1% as is more standard in MA.

    I love watching the tiny house show, because the official long term plan is to downsize in my 80s to less than 600 sq ft in walkable DC or NoVA. Of course, if I get assigned to another one of the kids, a 350 sq ft (no loft) tiny house on somebody’s property (assuming it is not in a cold climate) is a mighty nice alternative to a prefab granny pod on the one hand, or a full guest house (cost) on the other.

    We’ll have a better idea in 6 mos if we need to make accommodations for Mr Mémé’s bum ticker because of the stairs in the townhouse – right now they seem to fulfill the doc’s prescription for a daily bit of exercise with no ill effects. I looked at the price per sq ft to move to an actual, not nominal 1200 sq ft flat in a walkable location and for a lot less than the additional ?00K we would have to fork out or take on as a mortgage, I think I can manage to put in a stair lift.

  62. Trulia say our price per square foot is $961, which seems pretty accurate for the prices I’ve seen lately.

    I love the “idea” of a tiny house, but things like bathroom odors would definitely be an issue! We definitely don’t need any more space, with DD on her own and DS halfway through college. We do have an issue with aging in place long term because we have a lot of stairs. Friends in the neighborhood recently put an elevator in their home – but they do have two flights of stairs from the street/garage to their main floor!

  63. Winemama & RMS, I got your posts.

    Fred, we’re on a similar timeline as you, also having bought our home in 1990. We’re at least talking about downsizing, which is a start. I’m finally getting serious about clearing out accumulated stuff that comes of not moving for 25 years. Today I cleaned out a family room closet, and H actually agreed to getting rid of FIVE Trivial Pursuit games, ranging from the original to the 25-year version. I keep on this track and downsizing will be easier.

  64. I am interested in moving to a condo someday – with a view if I can afford it!

  65. Rhett, I can see the problem with trying to force income equality on all employees.

    Two of Mr. Price’s most valued employees quit, spurred in part by their view it was unfair to double the pay of some new hires while the longest-serving staff members got small or no raises.

    … “Now the people who were just clocking in and out were making the same as me,” he complained. “It shackles high performers to less motivated team members.”

  66. Some of my classmates bought in the four years of grad school, and realized 40 to 50% gains. Which is really like quadrupling your money when you only put 10% down. We didn’t, because we weren’t married at the time, and we didn’t have a source for the down payment, or secure income. We were excited to buy as soon as I finished school, and move to a very low cost of living area. While we were there, we saw acquaintances in other cities whose houses value doubled, while we realized gains of a few percent per year. As soon as training was complete, we move to a high cost of living area and bought at the peak of the market. Almost a decade later, we are still recovering. We rented for a very long time, but the area here does not cater two families who want to rent, and we had trouble with stable housing and appropriate housing in areas with decent schools. We recently bought, far more square footage than anyone can justify. I’m happy with the change, I’m ready to be in charge of when we make our next move, instead of our landlord.

  67. Well, y’all have confirmed that I can never live afford to live anywhere but my suburb or similar places in Mid-America. Good thing I like it here.

  68. A friend sold her house last month, for roughly what she paid for it 10 years ago. She is happy that she only had to put 3000 into cosmetic improvements and will be able to walk away from the sale without paying anything. She also bought at the Peak, in an excerpt that was overbuilt. It’s very sad to me that she has 10 years of mortgage payments with nothing to show for it. They also put a substantial amount of money into redoing the basement on the property. They have lost a decade, their late 20s to late 30s, of of weath accumulation. I really do feel terrible for them.

  69. Rhett, I can see the problem with trying to force income equality on all employees.

    I’ve seen it in consulting firms. You’ll have a bloated company (or division of a company) with 500 consultants, 100 managers, 25 directors, 5 VPs etc. and a new competitor will come along and poach the best consultants with higher wages and get the money from eliminating most of the managers, directors and VPs.

  70. “I think the house-as-quickie-investment attitude of the 90’s was the aberration.
    When we bought our house in 1999, 20% was still the norm.”

    I’m guessing that this reflects on your region.

    I did most of my house shopping in the 80s and 90s (we’ve been in our current house almost 20 year now), and in my areas, 20% down payments were unusual; 5 to 10% was much more common, and variable and convertible mortgages were very common.

    It was also very common for people to expect to be in the market multiple times. Many people would buy a starter home, e.g., a condo or very small house (mine was a house of about 900 sf), then move up as income and space requirements rose. Many people were afraid of being locked out of the market if they waited too long to buy.

  71. Many people were afraid of being locked out of the market if they waited too long to buy.

    I’m always surprised by that theory. Certainly in the 80s in HI there was the fear that the Japanese would buy everything. But, I’m always surprised by the number of people who are concerned that they will be locked out of more normal markets. As we saw during the financial crisis, the price of the average house can’t long stay higher than the average person’s ability to pay for it.

  72. @WCE — Nah, come near us — we’re probably around $200/ft, give or take.

  73. I am trying to remember the details of our mortgage. It is so hazy now. Thinking back on it, I believe we did the 20% down to avoid having to do a jumbo loan. I don’t think we qualified for an FHA loan. Certainly we knew about variable rate mortgages but they seemed to be something that people with poor credit ratings, or who were trying to buy too much house, took on. I think we wanted a low mortgage rate and stability. The banks we spoke with never even pushed variable rate loans, which I believe changed a lot a few years later. In any case, I think we paid something like 230K total for the house, which at the time seemed heart stopping to me. We had just moved from MA where nothing was over 200K at that time. A few years later, the house next to us, which is similar in size, sold for 890K. What a change.
    Anyway, we have refinanced twice since then, and have a very low interest rate now. In the last refinance, we changed so that we are paying it off more quickly too.

  74. When we lived in MA, we saw the entire regional housing market crash and burn. Our whole town was filled with houses that had been thrown up in the 80’s during that boom, and which could not be sold in the early 90’s. We rented one of them, in fact. That made me realize that housing prices do not go up forever.

  75. “I’m always surprised by the number of people who are concerned that they will be locked out of more normal markets. ”

    I think a lot of people have seen it happen. E.g., we would be hard pressed at best to buy our current house at today’s prices.

    A lot of it depends on timing. People were afraid to be out of the market when it takes off.

  76. “That made me realize that housing prices do not go up forever.”

    Yes, most markets are cyclical, but move up over the long term.

  77. Yes, most markets are cyclical, but move up over the long term.

    By very very little.

    According to research by Yale economist Robert Shiller, one of the foremost experts on housing in the U.S., noted that from 1890 until 1990, the real inflation-corrected prices of homes showed almost no change.

  78. We bought as the market was dipping. Our house has appreciated quite a bit, so has the whole neighborhood. We have several older ranches but they are very big on the inside around 2,800 sq. ft so really not something to move into if you want to downsize. The houses that see more turnover are these ranches. People think that a ranch is all good but in a few years a big ranch plus yard is too much so people downsize to condos. Those seniors who are in smaller ranches are aging in place quite well. We will continue to be in this house till both kids leave. After that we will have too much empty room and may need to be in a place without stairs. I really like our neighborhood so would try to buy one of those smaller houses (hope they are all not pulled down by then)
    Houston’s house sounds ideal for the long term.

  79. I think the key is to look at the fundamentals. That part of MA had really poor fundamentals. It was an old mill town, a little too far from Boston to be an easy commute. There were no sewers, town water, or trash pickup. In the 80’s the area got badly overbuilt, and then when the crash came, no one wanted them because they weren’t that great to start with.

    On the other hand, I think southern Westchester has good fundamentals, especially for houses within walking distance of Metro North. Those houses will probably increase in price over the longterm.

  80. From 1890 — just three decades after the Civil War — through 2012, home prices adjusted for inflation literally went nowhere. Not a single dime of real growth. For comparison, the S&P 500 increased more than 2,000-fold during that period, adjusted for inflation. And from 1890 to through 1980, real home prices actually declined by about 10%.

  81. “After that we will have too much empty room and may need to be in a place without stairs.”

    I think I want to stay in a house with stairs as long as DW and I can comfortably manage them. I think the forced exercise of having stairs will keep us healthier longer.

  82. Rhett– We’d get locked out of housing here very quickly. That said, while our house may one day turn out to have been an investment, right now we viewed it as a way of stabilizing housing costs. It’s done that remarkably well.

  83. 800 sq ft. was the size of my aunt’s apartment in the home country where she and my uncle raised two kids. It had one bedroom, one bath, a kitchen and living room/family room/dining room. There were no mortgages at the time so that was all they could afford on their savings. That number stuck in my head because everyone else had at least a two bedroom place which pushed the square footage to a 1000+.
    Very few people had more than two bedroom apartments.

  84. Good article Rhett. I agree that a house is not a great investment. There’s a 75% chance that the person who buys our house will tear it down and build something 4,000 sq ft +.

  85. I think home prices will continue to climb in the Bay Area, with slowdowns for things like earthquakes and recessions. Having a fixed amount of land (areas like NYC, Boston, Palo Alto and SF) seems like the factor that will keep prices high.

  86. “the price of the average house can’t long stay higher than the average person’s ability to pay for it.”

    OTOH, the %age of families’ incomes going to house payments can go up. In some places, an increase in the %age of two-earner families can make more money available to pay for houses, as can increases in opportunities for women to get well-paying jobs.

  87. In some places, an increase in the %age of two-earner families can make more money available to pay for houses, as can increases in opportunities for women to get well-paying jobs.

    Then how do you explain:

    From 1890 — just three decades after the Civil War — through 2012, home prices adjusted for inflation literally went nowhere.

  88. While a house may not be a good investment, for many people buying a house is a very good decision financially.

    Owning a home provides protection against increases in housing costs. It is also a vehicle for increasing wealth, without which many people would retire with very little to their names.

    It can also be a good investment. The Motley Fool article to which Rhett posted a link ignored the real gains one could make through leverage if the house value tracks inflation.

  89. Rhett, I imagine part of it had to do with the relatively large amounts of undeveloped land available, and the lack of zoning restrictions.

  90. OT, I’m not interested in living in a tiny house, but I like reading about them and watching the HGTV shows about them.

    One thing I like is that, as with reading frugal or hypermiling blogs, I can get some ideas that I can use. Tiny house designers are quite clever in their use of space, and sometimes they have some ideas, especially for storage, that I can use.

    Tiny houses and tiny apartments could also have a role in addressing homelessness and the undersupply of affordable housing.

  91. A new house is just being completed in my neighborhood. They tore down a crumbling ranch and built a many roof house. It is not the size but the look of the house that doesn’t fit. Anyway, we have lots of trees that do a great job of obscuring the frontage of every architectural mistake.

  92. OT again, This Old House featured a modular home as a replacement for one damaged by Sandy.

    I think shop construction of houses, whether partial (e.g., framing rafters in a factory) or total, makes a lot of sense. Factory construction can facility much more efficient use of materials.

    I wonder how the trades guys/gals view it. Do they like the predictability of showing up to work at a factory, and not having to worry about being rained out? Or do they prefer the variety of going to different job sites, and being out in the weather?

  93. Rhett, I imagine part of it had to do with the relatively large amounts of undeveloped land available,

    I’ve flow across this great (main)land of ours from coast to coast literally 100s of times and you know, there is still vast amounts of undeveloped land.

    Developed Land- Despite all the hand wringing over sprawl and urbanization, only 66 million acres are considered developed lands. This amounts to 3 percent of the land area in the U.S., yet this small land base is home to 75 percent of the population.

  94. Although California is the nation’s most populated state, it is hardly running out of land. More than 94 percent of Californians live in urban areas that cover just 5.1 percent of the state.

  95. Ada – I totally agree with your points and examples about how significant, or bad, the long-term effects of making such an expensive and highly leveraged investment like real estate when you’re young can be, only because we blindly fell into the opposite (great) side of that luck. We owned DW’s townhouse for just over two years (crucially) of the steepest part of the boom cycle. We actually tried to keep it as a rental investment, but it seemed like nobody was interested in renting at the time when everything had been going up and mortgages were so easy. So we sold it, and the first people to see it the first day on the market made a full-price non-contingent offer.

    Suddenly, I went from being 24 in the just-starting-out-saving phase to being 24 with a six-figure check, tax-free, to bring to the bank. We bought a CD for the time that we figured we’d be renting, as CDs were paying about 7% in those days, and I remember being astonished watching the bank deposit something like $800 into that account every single month–$800 that I didn’t have to do a single thing to earn, and that was insured by the NCUA, seemed like the greatest miracle in the world. It occurred to me that if I could just double that, it would cover my rent. Forever.

    And for a while, we watched it, but worried that housing prices were still going up and we’d made a mistake and would never be able to afford houses like we’d grown up in. I started trying to prepare myself for the idea that we could be perfectly happy in a smaller, 1970 something or other, if that was all we could comfortably afford. And then suddenly they stopped going up. We ended up buying again when they were well off their peaks, but not totally at the bottom.

    It could just as easily have gone the other way.

  96. “There’s a 75% chance that the person who buys our house will tear it down and build something 4,000 sq ft +.”

    Yeah, this is my in-laws. Their running joke their whole lives is that they always live in the slums of whatever the best neighborhood is — so in MD, they were in Potomac, but on the fringes (well, the fringes back in the ’80s, which was maybe a mile from the main intersection). Now they are in a very nice country club in Boca, but in the area that was the half-million-dollar houses instead of the million-dollar-+ houses when they moved in. Except now a lot more big money has moved in, and even the “cheap” area is ridiculous — the house across the street sold for 7 figures and was promptly torn down for a 6000′-8000′ mansion.

    Which, you know, is good for the eventual estate. :-) But it’s made it hard for them to justify putting any money into updating the house — they finally just did a kitchen facelift, after talking about it for at least 5 years.

  97. “you can come out ahead by renting.”

    My brother and I have discussed in the past how we’d come out ahead financially if we both bought houses, then rented them to each other.

  98. I know its late on a Friday, but dealing with parental issues this afternoon that raised the question – Has anyone dealth with someone on oxygen 24/7?

    OT is holding her a few more days in rehab to make sure she is competent to deal with (1) being teathered to a concentrator while in her apartment and (2) can switch herself to small tanks when she needs to leave the apartment – go to the dining room, get a hair cut, go to the doctor, etc.

    SWVA – Congrats!

    I was pondering on the square foot average. For singles in smaller homes, I can see the 1000 sq ft average as even the smallest houses in most of our city are about 1,000 sq ft. for those build pre-1960 and 1,200 to 1,500 those build after 1960. When you have a family (2 adults and 2-4 kids under 18), if you are in a 2000-3000 square feet, you would average about 500-700 sq ft each. But, then as those families become empty nesters, the sq ft per person rises until they decide (if ever) to downsize. That makes me wonder for families with kids – what is the average sq ft occupied?

    We would have been fine in about 1800 square feet, but the houses in our area in that range are poorly laid out. The 1500 and under along with the 2000 and over make much better use of the space, both for room layout and storage space. It seems to be because once you get above 1500 everyone expects two dining and two living areas, which results in small rooms and awkward layouts.

  99. Milo,

    With those prices you can certain of one thing: Canada is sitting on the mother of all real estate bubbles.

  100. Has anyone dealth with someone on oxygen 24/7?

    Yes, but it was a couple years ago. They have the whole thing figured out – portables, non portables, tanks in the garage, deliveries, it’s a whole industry.

  101. My mom was on oxygen, but she was already at the assisted living place, so they mostly monitored it for her. I’m really sorry, Austin. It’s just one damn thing after another, isn’t it?

  102. AustinMom – hope you were able to arrange things over the weekend.

    On the 800 sq. ft apartment of my aunt’s – just realized that my cousin had moved back in after issues with his wife. It is now back to three adults in that space but I guess with two adults still working, everyone is not home all the time and they are used to living in that space.

  103. All the undeveloped lots in our area are going quick. The area is expanding at a quick rate. What was farmland is now housing developments. The traffic is heavier in some areas but what I am seeing is people working from home instead of commuting in. Also scattered business areas are being developed so people if they must go in, choose one of the satellite offices instead of the downtown area.

  104. The only problem I see with renting after I leave this home is finding the right sort of bathroom. If I don’t want to live in a seniors only building or the most independent level of a continuing care community (and it is difficult to find one with good public transportation/walkability index), most of the nice rental apartment buildings don’t have stand up showers, just tub shower combos. I might have to buy a tiny condo just so I can retrofit the bathroom. But otherwise I could just invest the proceeds from my home in tax free bonds and use the interest to cover most of the rent.

  105. Rhett – Yes they have it figured out, my issue is more with how the person manages tethered to something all the time. Not tripping on it, not getting is tangled in things like her walker, etc. She is basically only to take it off to (1) change pull over tops and (2) to switch from a concentrator to a portable bottle.

    Rocky – Yes, it REALLY does seem that way! If she can’t be weaned off (though already down from 5 liters in the hospital to 2 liters in rehab), it may push us to assisted living. Home health will be coming for a while and she may need some extra paid help, but I’m trying to keep her where she is as that is her preference.

  106. “While a house may not be a good investment, for many people buying a house is a very good decision financially. ”

    I totally agree. We are able to own a comfortable home for the price it costs to rent a 1-2 bedroom apartment.

    SSK: You are right about all the value being in the land.

  107. The main reason we bought a house had nothing to do with investing. I was just so sick of dealing with landlords, especially when things broke. Landlords always want to fix things the cheapest, stupidest way possible. At our last apartment, the landlords husband did all the repairs. Not only did he do a sucky job, but he would drink all the beers in the fridge while making the repair.

  108. “drink all the beers in the fridge while making the repair.”

    Lol ! We were in apartments that were professionally managed by a rental company.
    So everything was well maintained.
    Our only problem was the fire alarms that residents would set off at ungodly hours.
    Our last apartment building was newly built and we were the first occupants so everything was new.
    It was so different to move from an all new apartment to a house that needed to be updated.

  109. When we were getting married, and I was shopping for places to rent, I found a really nice house that was owned by a Coast Guard commander and his family who were moving to Yorktown, Va. for a new assignment of unknown duration. They were very particular and protective of this house, and he made no secret of the fact that he was kind of shocked that a pipsqueak lieutenant (junior grade) could be renting it. But he was asking less than my housing allowance rate, which had become more generous since His Day, plus we had great credit, no pets. Still, I was ready to sign and he wanted to think it over for a few days.

    All along, I’d been renting apartments, and I never worried about the duration of the lease, because I could quote the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act that would allow me to break a lease without penalty for any permanent change of station greater than 50 miles away. But then, during these couple of days, a wise older person pointed out that the same law works in reverse, too. An active duty military landlord can kick out her tenants, supposedly, when she returns if she wants to re occupy her own house. And I’m picturing myself being gone and this guy getting transferred back all of a sudden and telling DW to pack up and get out. So we ended up spending the same amount of money on new a 2-br “luxury” apartment, which was kind of a downer, but there was no yard to mow or driveway to shovel, and we got a pool and gym, so it all worked out. After we signed that lease, the CG guy calls me back to say that they decided to “let us have the house,” and I said no thanks after explaining those concerns.

  110. Off topic, I’m throwing out mail and I see that Great Courses is having its annual sale on high school courses. If you’re interested in one of the math or science courses, which you can’t do in audio format and thus can’t pick up for less via Audible, now through August 6 is the time to get it. There’s a coupon, TDK7, for $10 more off. I’ll probably pick up Chemistry since my oldest has it this year.

  111. “It’s very sad to me that she has 10 years of mortgage payments with nothing to show for it” My father the economist said never to buy a house as an investment plan. It is a place to live. If you make money good. If you don’t, then you got to live rent free which is nothing to sneeze at. He also grew up in the Great Depression so his expectations might be a little different than some of ours. Still they are better off than renters.

  112. Moxiemom– I am not sure how they are better than renters. They spent the last 10 years doing lawn maintenance, home improvements, regular home repair stuff. They paid property taxes. I suppose they itemized and got a deduction for mortgage interest, but I am not privy to that level of detail. They didn’t live rent free. They paid a large monthly payment, which never came back to them.

  113. Also, they have significant transaction cost with moving. They needed to replace their carpet, paint the walls, do a bunch of other minor home improvements.

  114. When we moved here the Great Recession was slowly starting. Builders were still building new housing developments. These were not too far from the city and you could customize your house. The schools were still being built and your kid could end up with a change of schools till the enrollment numbers settled and the boundaries were fixed. A lot of these developments stalled during the recession. If you were one of the first residents you could be looking at unfinished neighboring houses for a few years. Now, we have tons of apartment buildings going up, I don’t know if all these units will be fully occupied because suddenly there are so many new units. The younger residents are still interested in buying houses, so they will move out of an apartment once they have kids.

  115. Ada- maybe not financially but it could be an emotional thing.

    I pay less in mortgage/interest than I did in rent. I will probably not make much money when we sell. I will have to update things (carpets, lots of paint (we don’t have a neutral palate), and some appliances). The area has just not rebounded like others. But I know I’m better off here than renting. I have a yard, garden, ability to paint/do what I want to my house, have 2 dogs, and satisfaction knowing that it’s mine.

  116. The main thing that people forget when figuring out the purely financial side of buy versus rent is the opportunity cost of capital. If you put 20% down on a house that will suit you for 20 years and after taxes your cumulative cost to occupy and maintain is roughly equal to the cost to rent a comparable place, at the end you will have the house paid for, and and increase in value roughly enough to cover inflation in an historically average market. If you rent, at the end of the 20 years you have no house, but if put the 20% down payment into an index fund on day one the investment balance you will have at the end (on historical average) is almost the same. The intangibles weigh heavily toward home ownership, but the freedom to relocate quickly and a significant liquid versus illiquid asset balance weigh the other way. The gyrations of the stock and real estate markets make it impossible to fine tune or predict that calculation for any individual family, location or 2 decade span. If you buy low under either choice, you do well. If you put less than 20% down on a house and don’t pull money out when you refinance, the equation tips more toward home ownership because of the increased effects of leverage.

  117. I think the rent or buy question turns upon schools and children. If you have a lot of children and good public schools, then buying is better than renting. That also suggest a large amount of employment stability. Also, the value of a home may not be counted for financial aid purposes at college time, but the index fund money will reduce aid.

  118. Where I’ve lived, the neighborhood characteristics of owner-occupied vs. rental properties are quite different. In urban areas where renting is common, I suspect this is less true. Most people here rent because they are transitioning, are starting out and saving up to buy a house or for another reason. Also, nicer rentals are usually for a fixed term, because someone is on sabbatical for example.

  119. Utterly random question for a Sunday night. If you were stocking your guest room, what brand of shampoo / conditioner would you supply? I know this is a dumb question but I’m kind of obsessing about it. I have a variety of guests from guys I don’t even know to the kids (yes, the kids I could ask.)

  120. Rocky- I like Suave because it works well with our water. It washes out very well and doesn’t leave a residue. You could always poll the guests.

    Just have to say, ok brag- I love my mom’s store associate discount. And coupons. This week I think we’ve saved over $500 on a 10 piece bed set, curtains, and clothes for DH, DS, and myself. Shopping rarely feels this satisfying for me.

  121. Andrew moved in first, with just a sleeping bag, so he could experience it before leaving that fall for Bowdoin College in Maine, to study physics and engineering.

  122. RMS – I like L’Occitane shampoos for a guest room. If you want something you can get at the drugstore I’d second the Suave recommendation, or maybe Herbal Essence?

  123. I stock my guest bath with things I like and typically use, because I raid it if I run out of something. Mooshi, I also keep anything else they may have forgotten like extra toothbrushes and toothpaste, and bottled water.

  124. Herbal Essence and Suave are fine for guys or kids, but too harsh for most women’s hair. I have a guest bathroom with a small tower shelf – The top shelf is open for their own travel bag, and the lower shelves holds tissue, shampoo, shower gel, conditioner, hair spray, razor, shave gel, toothbrush, toothpaste, tampons, cotton balls, qtips, face cleanser, face cream, body lotion. All of these are travel sizes, trial sizes that are free add ons with regular purchases, or hotel packs. No special purchases involved, and I have been known to raid it myself.

  125. If we think of it, our guest bathroom typically has a collection of stuff we’ve pilfered from a few nicer hotels.

  126. “If you were stocking your guest room, what brand of shampoo / conditioner would you supply?”

    @Rocky — Meme and Milo beat me to it. I took the basket from a gift basket that someone gave me and filled it with a variety of hotel toiletries soaps/shampoos/conditioners/lotions, along with a few gifts that I had never used, like bath salts. And I took a few cute little boxes that I had accumulated over time and put things like cotton balls in them. Less attractive things, like disposable razors and the giant box of Q-tips, live in the cabinet.

    This is as close to a “craft” as I have ever gotten.

  127. LfB – a long time ago, I was watching Oprah. She gave a tour of her guest suite and she had the guest basket thing going on. I recall nice fluffy towels and bathrobe, was like a hotel.

  128. I supply soap, lotion, shampoo, and conditioner in the bathroom. If the guests forget something, they usually ask. Our guests are usually family, so we’re a little casual about stocking the guest bathroom. We usually stock it with the stuff we use, so I don’t have to think about getting something special.

  129. @Rocky – And, if you are a Birchbox fan, some of the products you get are not always on target and those can go in there too. We always have a few extra toothbrushes and some travel size toothpaste. Our “guest” bath is also our only upstairs bath, so we don’t leave things out all the time, but tell guests where the extras are located in the bathroom, if needed. Ours isn’t “craft-like” in any way.

  130. LOL. Our guest bath has some old hotel stuff in it, but we have never (AFAIK for this house) hosted non-family guests, so the guests (my parents or DH’s parent, usually) just borrow our stuff if they come without. Also, the guest bath is ridiculously small – like 6 ft by 3 ft not counting the tiny shower – so people will often just use our bathroom or the kids’ bathroom, both of which are bigger.

  131. We also use the hotel stuff in our guest bathroom.

    I’ve noticed a recent trend in hotels toward having shampoo/conditioner dispensers rather than the little bottles. From the hotel perspective, it seems like there would be a lot less wasted, and from the environmental perspective, it seems like there’d be a lot less plastic used.

    When you go to a hotel, do you use the shampoo/conditioner they provide, or do you bring your own? If you use the hotel-provided stuff, do you take the partially used bottles home?

  132. Finn – Typically, if we drive, we bring our own, but DW may sample the offerings just the same. I’m particular about my shampoo and my Neutrogena anti-acne face wash.

    This morning, for the first time in my life, I shaved with a five-blade razor, the Schick Hydro (had a coupon for a case of them case at Costco). It felt almost ludicrous, more like a brush than a razor. But it was very fast and very smooth.

  133. If you use the hotel-provided stuff, do you take the partially used bottles home?


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