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Smaller Home, Heftier Mortgage

Two years ago, when interest rates were low, the average Hayden home was a 1,900 square-foot three-bedroom that cost $500,000, or about $2,000 a month, said Steve Klingman, the company’s president, in an interview. This assumed a 5 percent down payment and a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a 3 percent interest rate.

Now, as borrowing costs consume more of buyers’ mortgage payments, Hayden is lowering prices and square footage to keep customers’ payments stable. The average Hayden home is now 1,550 square feet and costs about $400,000, or $2,100 a month, Mr. Klingman said. To buy it, however, a customer has to produce a 10 percent down payment and, even with incentives, is paying a 6 percent rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

“We are reconfiguring our floor plans, our features and community design all to get to that payment buyers can afford,” Mr. Klingman said. “People want to own if we can make it attainable.”

In dense areas like Southern California, the high cost of land has long led developers to focus on compact homes. Trade-offs like a side yard instead of a backyard, or a garage that opens to the street instead of a driveway, have compressed size and reduced cost. Now those kinds of urban designs are arriving in the exurbs.

For instance, in Hayden’s hometown, Redmond, Ore., a city of 35,000 about 30 minutes from Bend, Ore., its Cinder Butte Village development now has homes as small as 400 square feet (a one-bedroom, one-bath with a garage on the back alley). The average is around 1,000 — half the typical home size in the community two years ago.

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