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Outside the box: Innovative homes on the market in Halifax

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As potential homebuyers continue to struggle with high borrowing costs, some innovative and affordable housing solutions are emerging, right out of the box.

One is found on the picturesque Saint Margarets Bay Road: an expandable home, unfolding like a cardboard box to a 20 by 20 living space.

The 400 square-foot home includes one bedroom, one bathroom and an almost unbelievable price: $65,000.

"It's because the supplier is the leading manufacturer in metal, more than likely,” business co-owner Brandon Topple told CTV News Wednesday.

The company, East Coast Expandable Homes was born when Topple started researching a foldable building for another project, and he discovered the manufacturer in China.

He was impressed with their versatility.

"Because these can be considered lots of different things from RV's, tiny homes, or even permanent dwellings depending on the foundations that you choose, it really makes it suitable for a lot of different people in a lot of different scenarios," he said.

Two of the Chinese-made expandable homes sit on an lot on St. Margarets Bay Road in Halifax. They unfold to a 400 square-foot, one bedroom, one bathroom home. (CTV/Bruce Frisko)It comes at a time when home prices continue to rise.

Royal-Lepage Atlantic says a single family home in Halifax increased 4.6 per cent last quarter, with the median price landing at $552,400. Condos up nearly 5 per cent - a little more than $413,600.

The increase comes even as the number of sales has dropped, and that's expected to continue.

"There's just so much underlying demand out there from the population growth that we've seen in all of Canada, but also specifically in Atlantic Canada, prices have held pretty steady," said Royal-Lepage Atlantic president Matt Honsberger.

"We really see about a 3 per cent growth over the next year or so."

As for his thoughts on the expandable home concept, Honsberger said he appreciated the initiative.

"I love all the new solutions that are coming to the market," he said.

"Necessity being the mother of invention, there's a lot of need out there right now for more affordable housing choices for people. This is on the end of the spectrum, where accessibility to any housing whatsoever is a concern, and obviously that's a significant social problem, right?"

"And so, for someone to step in and bring a product to market that's going to fulfill that segment of the market, I think that's fantastic, and I'm excited to see where a lot of those innovations go over the next few years."

An expanding home being unfolded. (Source: Facebook/East Coast Expandable Homes)The sentiment was echoed by mortgage broker Clinton Wilkins.

"We certainly need solutions like this. We need more housing of all types," Wilkins said, adding a typical mortgage on a $65,000 property would be somewhere around $500/month, but getting one might be difficult without a designated location.

"Typically, we do a mortgage, the property needs to be on a foundation, and these types of homes would be financed similar to what a mobile home would be. Now, there are some lenders that will entertain it, but the real question will be about the security for the lender," said Wilkins.

"I can see this type of property really working well for an investor. Maybe they buy several of these properties, and they have a larger piece of land and it's a really quick way to get fast access to housing."

The homes are shipped from China with a full bathroom and a partial kitchen - no fridge or stove are included. It comes ready for septic and electrical-hookup. Extra insulation is added, along with baseboard heat.

The interior of an expandable home. (Source: Facebook/East Coast Expandable Homes)They have an R-value of 28 standard, before we even get in there and do our final construction," said Topple.

"If a customer requested say, a heat pump or some other heat source, we can look into those options for sure. We do have a couple of other contractors on hand."

He said interest in the units has been brisk.

"Now that HRM has passed the bylaw of allowing a secondary suite in your backyard, I feel like this is definitely by far one of the best options, as far as having something built and in place in months, rather than a year," he said.

"A starter home. Any parents out there that want to help their children get going, help with the growth. We're bagging for a better solution than $350 a square foot for buildings," Topple said.

"So this is it, I think."

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