5 Things Living Alone Teaches Us: Could This Be The Next Housing Trend?

These days, more North Americans are living alone than ever before.  Author, Eric Klinenberg explores this new phenomenon as well as the social implications in his new novel, Going Solo.   He is quick to point out that this is not necessarily a negative trend and as opposed to examining the divorce rate, he instead equates the trend with our technological ability to be constantly connected to one another; sometimes to a fault.  "We need to make a distinction between living alone and being alone," says Klinenberg.  He says that many people who live alone often spend more time socializing with friends than people who are married, although I suspect this can be said of most single people who live with roommates as well.

The reasons for this trend aren't difficult to see.  People can afford to live alone now; women are entering the housing market in record numbers; social networking sites help to prevent loneliness; and people today tend to focus on their careers and get married later than their grandparents. 

I have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to live in a variety of situations before Corey and I moved in together and I was glad for the things I learned about myself when I lived alone.  While I'm happier living with Corey, I wouldn't trade those experiences for the world.  Here are the top 5 things I learned:

1.  I am more independent than I had expected.  I loved the feeling of pride I had when I lived by myself and everything was mine.  I loved not sharing.  I loved that when I wanted to roughly sew scraps of fabric together to make some ugly drapes, nobody said anything!  This was an important time for me to learn about the things I liked.

2.  I don't get lonely.  I can spend hours in the evenings just reading and I love coming home to peace and quiet.  Living alone forced me to schedule proper time with friends and it also reminded me that I enjoy my own company.  I also enjoyed the freedom of not being expected home at a certain time.  I found that I frequently stopped to smell the roses (or shop for shoes) on the way home from work and I never cared what time it was.

3.  I like to call my mom once a day.  This habit has continued even now that I live with Corey.  Aside from my mother, it taught me which relationships feed my soul and how important it is to nurture those relationships.

4.  I am a little messy when I'm the only person in my home.  I don't think I would ever hang up my coat except for company... or because I now live with another person and we both do it out of respect for our shared space.  We all like to think of ourselves a certain way but living on your own leaves you without any excuses to hide behind.  The plus side is, since I dislike cleaning, I do not find myself tempted to use it to procrastinate other things.

5.  I can survive a crisis.  In my time living alone, I've lost my keys; been followed home by a scary stranger; taken care of myself when I had the flu and even survived a bad case of appendicitis.  Although the latter involved my mom and brother driving me to the hospital in the middle of the night, it's nice to know that I'm up to most challenges.  Seriously, there was something very empowering about knowing that if something went wrong from a blown fuse to a fever, I (with the help of a bag of spare fuses or a bottle of Asprin) had it under control.

So how many of us are living the solo dream?  Klinenberg says that recent stats show us that 28% of U.S. households are one-person homes.  When compared with less than 10% in 1950, this certainly seems to be a trend.  It is also interesting to note that in busy, hyperconnected Manhattan, as many as 1 in 2 dwellings are inhabited by only one person. 

What does this mean for the real estate market?  Well, I've been wondering too and I believe in the years to come, there will be more published about this trend and how it effects real estate.  I believe condos may continue to be popular due to their size, cost and ease of maintenance but I also think we'll begin to see more and more cost effective micro condos.  I suspect, these smaller units in the city core will be more popular in the future.  

If the concept of micro condos and micro lofts sounds extreme to you, bear in mind that according to a recent National Post article, between 2011 and 2012, the average price per square foot of a GTA high-rise condo increased by 2% while the average size of the units has decreased by 16%.  If we look back to 2009, it seems that units in new GTA builds are roughly 100 square feet smaller now.  While I wouldn't call 800 square feet "micro" by any standard, the 350-400 square foot studios are not far off.

What have you learned from living alone?

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