Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Rethinking the American Dream Home

Whether manufactured or the reflection of a genuine desire, the American dream has long been a process of settling down with your family in your own single family house (ideally with white picket fence). To some extent, there is a shift away from this dream. One obvious reason is that many people are delaying or avoiding coupling up and having kids. 27% of all Americans live alone–a percentage that has continually increased over the years–suggesting there’s a movement away from nuclear family households and the single family homes they inhabit. Even for those who do have families, there seems to be a shift around the dream of homeownership, a shift that went into overdrive following the housing crisis in 2007. People are questioning whether owning a house means they’ve “arrived” in the world. How can carrying mountains of mortgage debt forcing homeowners to choose work based on whether it can pay the bills be a dream? How can managing and maintaining stuff and space homeowners seldom use be a dream? How can hour plus commutes to homes in lifeless cul du sacs be a dream? It’s not a stretch to say we need to rethink our dreams when they’re so out of sync with reality. This new dream is what real estate startup Acre is all about.

Acre’s mission “is to preserve the beauty and balance of of the environment, connect our homes to it, and give homeowners the freedom to enjoy it more fully.” Husband and wife founders Andrew and Jennifer Dicksen want to create “innovative, attainable, high-quality homes that are better for people and the planet,” according to their website. The way they do this is through easy to ship and assemble homes that are net zero, creating both reduced construction and operating expenses as well as minimal environmental impact.

On top of being more efficient than status quo housing, Acre wants to challenge the large house as status symbol. Not only does the size impact the efficiency of the home, but it often leads to homeowners serving their homes (cleaning, maintaining, paying for, etc) versus the other way around. Acre explains in their promotional video that the status that comes from owning one of their homes is that the owner shows off his or her intelligent, intentional existence (a more enlightened form of status seeking we suppose).

They are offering three sizes: small, medium and large, ranging from 1200-1800 sq ft and two to four bedrooms. The houses arrive in a shipping container, and once the foundations are set, take three months to construct. While homeowners must take care of buying the land and laying the foundation, Acre’s pricing includes the rest: from delivery in the continental US, construction costs, all materials and finishes, solar power systems, appliances and so on.

Speaking of pricing, the small house runs $400K, medium is $450K and the large is $500K–prices that will surely increase with land costs and foundation work. The prices, considering the homes’ quality and features, are not too surprising. Yet these prices are considerably higher than the median price of a single family home in America, which is about $226K, raising a thorny question: which would go further toward simplifying life, buying and improving a less expensive, lower quality home or going for something like Acre’s homes, which in the long run, might be a better investment?

Acre also doesn’t address the thing that can totally thwart a home’s attempts at being energy efficient, which is its location. These are still single family homes, which are ultimately best suited for suburban (read: driving intensive) living. Almost anyway you cut it, single family housing in the burbs is going to be less efficient than multi family housing in transit friendly locations

Those questions aside, we appreciate what Acre is trying to do, how they are trying to make a substantive change to how homes are designed and built and how they are making us think about how we relate to our homes financially, environmentally and psychologically. If you’re interested in an Acre, head over to their website

HT Jared J.

  • Jen Dickson

    Thanks so much for sharing our story David! We’ve long shared the LifeEdited passion for a more intentional way of living!

    I want to clarify that our price does include the foundation/site work, and also mention that we’ll have a more affordable series of homes available in 2017. Much like Tesla had to start with the Model S, and is now releasing the Model 3 (affordable solution) – as a startup, we’re priced for the “early adopter” crowd as we scale to build nationwide, and will be able to offer other options soon. The current plans are sized for mid-density urban infill lot sizes, and the next plan we’re releasing is a townhome configuration for more dense areas. Hope that helps!

  • Edith Spencer

    “…Speaking of pricing, the small house runs $400K, medium is $450K and the large is $500K–prices that will surely increase with land costs and foundation work. The prices, considering the homes’ quality and features, are not too surprising. Yet these prices are considerably higher than the median price of a single family home in America, which is about $226K,”

    Oh, Good Grief.

    1) Bad logic is bad. Having volunteered and worked on Habitat for Humanity homes for working class lower income families, the assumption that a lower priced home is a lower quality home is false and profoundly stupid.
    2) That being said, there are still issues of scale and access. If this is geared (like so many things in this country) for the rich 5%-10%, then understand that these people have choices- and so do the lower 90%, who no longer depend on the trickle down theory to have something that is long lasting , made well and relatively reliable ( Tesla below is mention with it’s all electric cars, and yet somehow Ford, GM, Toyota and NIssan came out with hybrids and all electric plug in cars WAY before Tesla was made available to a wider audience.)

    • Agreed. Cheaper homes use the same building materials and infrastructure as expensive homes. It’s the size and level of finish that affects the price.

      • Edith Spencer

        Right! And while most of earth friendly finishes can be very expensive indeed, the most common are actually reasonable per sq foot- non VOC paint, water based Non VOV paint, recycled fibers for insulation, engineered hardwood and marmoleum have all been used in good looking, small and well performing Habitat for Humanity homes with very happy families in it. My point being is that this is yet another darn thing skewed to the rich, solving a problem they do not have.

        Granted, I think that this start up in located in the Bay Area, where housing is at a premium, but even then the problem is still access to building site, permissions and all the rest. That takes the amount up $750-$900K for the smaller end of home. Again this is not a problem that people who can afford this amount of money have since they already buy into a more environmentally friendly luxury building or buy one of the pre-existing homes in the area- which even more environmentally friend no further resources are need to build the place.

  • I get what they’re doing by starting at the higher margin end of the market, but the difference between an Acre home and a Tesla is that Tesla doesn’t ship you parts. The 1% is not interested in assembling their own homes. But interesting concept.