Skip to main content

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — They say 3D printing will radically change the world. But is a 50 square-foot 3D-printed house taking 3D printing a little too far? Or could it be a legitimate way to help first time buyers and students buy their own home?

We cannot ignore the fact many young adults are in a bit of a rut when it comes to getting their foot on the property ladder.

Dustin Taylor, for example, who finished his degree in $50,000 of student debt is waiting tables at a comedy club to pay the rent. Taylor wants to get a mortgage and buy a home within five years.

"Home ownership is out of reach for me," Taylor told Yahoo! Finance. "Renting is fine for now, but I want to own a home for all of the clichéd reasons."

Meanwhile, as Mainstreetreported earlier this year, Daniella DiMartino has been living at home with her parents for the last four years. Living with her parents is her only option after accumulating $58,000 in debt from student loans.

According to the National Association of Realtors, in May this year, approximately 27% of total home sales involved first-time buyers, compared to an average of 35% since October 2008.

'Affordable' solutions

As the number of young adults between 18 and 34 living at home is on the rise and has risen to new highs, the government is looking for ways to help first-timer buyers onto the property ladder. Alternative loans such as FHA-insured loans, in which buyers purchase insurance and the government sets the rules and repays the lender's investment, are designed to help people become homeowners in the U.S.

As the government grapples with more affordable ways to help people to buy a home, organizations are coming up with their own methods to get people out of parental or rented accommodations and into their own homes.

Enter the 3D printed mini home

One particularly inventive – some might argue ridiculous - way to get people on the property ladder has been thought up by a team of students from the U.S. and the U.K.

Students from UCLA and Huddersfield University in the U.K. have developed tiny 3D printed homes. A single property measures just 50 square feet but comprises of essential household items, including a bathroom, kitchen, bed and even a folding toilet. These portable homes, state the researchers, could be placed in various locations around the world.

The dome or mussel-shaped 3D-printed homes are part of a project on "Small Transportable Living." They are intended to provide an alternative for young people who are struggling to buy their first home.

TheStreet Recommends

Being entirely 3D-printed, these transportable mini homes provide a cheaper living solution than modern homes, states the researchers.

When the home is closed, the top level serves as a bed with a 3D-printed "spring mattress." On the ground floor, there is a moveable kitchen counter top. The kitchen can be extended and is apparently comfortable enough for two people. The property's heating, electricity, sewage system and water are also all 3D-printed entities.

Though as the Daily Mail states, if you value your comfort and space, these are probably not the homes for you.

An unfavorable initial response

Immediate response to the 3D mini homes hasn't been too complimentary.

"Less room that a prison cell," writes one Daily Mail reader. "If you can live in a coffin, yes great," writes another.

Judging by the cynical response to the prospect that tiny shell house could provide cheaper and more accessible living for young adults, the idea of having such properties be the answer to get Millennials on the property ladder looks doubtful.

Dan Vassilou, CEO of Vasco World Properties, and owner of some of the most successful American property websites in the U.K., including American Houses for Sale, says he has a much more sensible solution.

"First time buyers should think globally. Buyers would be better off sidestepping Britain where house prices in the likes of London are reaching astronomical levels and head to the U.S. With yields rising at a steadier rate in the U.S. and with the pound being strong, the U.S. property market is creating attractive investment opportunities, even for first time buyers."

So what are the chances of these 3D mini mussel homes actually making their way out of the universities' design labs and onto the market?

Chinese buyers interested?

There are rumors in circulation that a Chinese company is interested in manufacturing the 3D mini homes on a large scale. Though UCLA professor and architect Peter Ebner, who led the project, admits, he is not involved with any talks with them at the moment.

--Written by Gabrielle Pickard Whitehead for MainStreet