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‘Tiny homes’ make up less than two percent of SF sales

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But nearly a quarter of rentals are less than 500 square feet

A hand holding a tiny model of a house between two fingers. Photo by I_love_life/Shutterstock

In recent years, so-called “tiny homes,” loosely defined as units of 500 square feet or less, have been a byword in real estate marketing and development, proposed as an efficient fix for the housing crunch and the homeless crisis.

(Enterprising thieves have even started stealing entire houses in some communities where tiny homes thrive.)

But according to real estate site Property Shark, tiny homes make up only a tiny portion of the Bay Area home buying market.

In a study published in February, the site compiled sales by square footage in ten U.S. cities, including San Francisco and San Jose.

The results: Only 1.7 percent of homes sold in San Francisco since 2010 have measured 500 square feet or smaller. It’s even less in San Jose; in fact, Property Shark analyst Patrick McGregor reports a big fat zero when it comes to tiny home sales in the South Bay.

However, a Property Shark spokesperson clarifies to Curbed SF that these figures are an estimate and that the mere 36 tiny homes sold in San Jose during the eight year span gets rounded down to zero in the results.

Note that these numbers combine every sort of home available, from single-family houses to condos and apartments.

That seems like it might deflate the optics a bit—after all, far fewer houses are built at less than 500 square feet compared to apartments, so including single-family homes in the equation handicaps the results a bit.

In response to Curbed SF’s inquiry, Property Shark explained that nationwide nearly 70 percent of tiny homes sold were condos (11,801 units in total), while just 22.3 percent were houses. Townhouses comprised just 0.1 percent of the overall, with the remaining 7.8 percent classified as “other residential.”

McGregor does note that while relatively few people are buying tiny homes—the biggest returns were in Manhattan, with 2.1 percent of the market—today appears to be a great time to develop them for renters.

According to rental site Rent Cafe, of all the new apartments built in San Francisco since 2010, 24 percent were “tiny homes.” In San Jose that figure comes in at only one percent. And according to San Francisco’s most recent housing inventory, the city built 12,016 new condos and apartments since 2010, although those figures do not include 2018’s contributions.