The concept of small living is not new, but builders across the U.S. are making it easier to become a tiny homeowner, whether you choose to build your own micro-sized home yourself or buy one readymade.
A tiny house is a movable living space, most often built on a trailer, that average about 150 square feet (not including the sleeping loft). In fact, many are built to the maximum width – 8.5 feet – at which the Department of Transportation allows them to be towed without special licensing.
Tiny houses offer an affordable and transportable solution to homeownership. Many of the concept’s early adopters have built their own, spending about $16,000 to $20,000 in material costs.
But now that the concept is becoming more popular, companies around the country have begun to sell customizable homes that range in price from $38,000 to $85,000, much less than the typical single-family home.
“It’s a way to save money and simplify your life. Those are the primary motivations, and also for environmental reasons,” says Dan Louche, owner and founder of Tiny House Builders, a DeLand, Florida-based company that designs and builds tiny homes.
A smaller house means less energy usage, less waste, less maintenance and low utility costs.
“Where it would cost you hundreds of dollars per month to maintain a house over the course of a year, it might only take you less than that in a year for a tiny house,” says Ross Beck, manager of customer services for Sonoma, California-based Tumbleweed Tiny Houses. Beck notes that some of his customers who dwell in tiny houses on the East Coast paid as little as $15 per month to heat their homes in winter.
Since their construction requires relatively fewer supplies because of their small size, builders can afford to use higher quality materials in a tiny home.
In Luling, Texas, Tiny Texas Houses constructs homes from 95 percent salvage materials, taking wood and hardware from old barns and buildings to construct their homes.
“We really believe in building houses that are strong and healthy and that will last another 100 years because of the quality of the workmanship, as well as the quality of the materials that we build them with,” says Michelle Ashley, the company’s COO.
Tiny Texas Houses has built more than 80 homes to date. Their 43-acre property offers an on-site community where seven tiny home dwellers currently live. Prospective buyers can even rent a tiny house for a night’s stay to get an idea for the feel of the space.
“People always say, ‘Oh, this is not nearly as small as I thought it’d be,’” Ashley says. Tiny homes are designed to maximize their interior space, often using a lofted sleeping area that actually makes them feel roomy inside.
The concept is growing most among young professionals and retirees who are environmentally minded and want well-designed, low-cost living. Some people use tiny houses for elderly relatives, or college-aged students who have returned home. Others use them as vacation or second homes.
“A tiny house answers those questions for being very efficient, cost effective and mobile for them,” says Beck.
Sure, tiny living is not for everyone, but the biggest challenge for owners can be finding a place to park them. “There are just not a lot of regulations that say you can put a house on wheels and live in it full time,” says Beck. Zoning and permitting laws vary by region, so it’s best to look into local regulations so that you know where you can put a home before you buy. For info and resources, peruse the websites of builders like Tumbleweed and visit online community sites, such as ThisTinyLife.com.