Guide to Tiny Homes
Tiny homes are small houses either built on permanent foundation or mobile platforms. Discover the benefits and costs of building a tiny house.
Tiny homes are not a new concept, but it hit newfound levels of popularity in 2008, due to a downturn in the housing market. Tiny houses experienced an additional surge in popularity in 2012, when the first mobile tiny house was released for sale. Since these early years, a number of different tiny homes were produced, and many resources were launched to help potential tiny home owners either build or purchase their own tiny house.
A tiny home refers to any dwelling with either 400 or less square feet. Because of the small size, tiny homes focus on efficiency, utilizing space-saving solutions to make every inch count. They are popular because they are significantly less expensive than a traditional home. Many tiny house owners also appreciate the simplicity of the homes, finding them useful to eliminate clutter, live a simplistic, less expensive lifestyle and help the environment.
Benefits of a Tiny Home
For many, the biggest advantage of living in a tiny home is cost. Tiny homes are significantly less expensive than a traditional home. You also spend less on heating, cooling, property taxes and home maintenance. The smaller size also leads to spending less on unnecessary items. With a mobile tiny home, you can travel around the country without sacrificing the comfort of living in your own home. Tiny homes are environmentally friendly, and because they require less power, they are optimal homes to run with solar or wind resources.
Understanding Local Laws
If you are interested in downsizing to a tiny home, the first step is to check your local laws. Tiny houses themselves are not illegal, but there are certain zoning regulations which can cause issues. Zoning laws refer to what you can do with your land. Many of the cheapest parcels of land, which may seem ideal for tiny homes, are unusable because of zoning regulations. Zoning laws can greatly vary based on state, city and county. You can learn about zoning laws by going to your county assessor’s office. If you are unsure what zone your land is in, make sure to ask for your assessor’s parcel number (APN).
Another legal consideration is what your tiny house needs to legally be considered a residential home. These regulations also vary based on state, but there are a few common requirements. Your tiny home must have at least a full bathroom, with a ceiling height of six feet and four inches. If there is a loft, it must have access by either a ladder or stairs. Your tiny home must have at least one window large enough to be used as an emergency exit.
Selecting a Base
There are two variants of tiny homes. The first is permanent, sometimes known as land tiny houses. These tiny homes are built on a permanent foundation, such as concrete slabs. There are many advantages to building on a foundation, including more customization options and the ability to add a basement or crawl space for extra storage. Depending on your state, you may need to get permits to build a tiny home, which can cost between $400 and $2,000.
The second type of base is a trailer, sometimes referred to as mobile or wheeled tiny homes. These tiny homes are built on an RV or other mobile unit. This allows you to move the tiny house. Because your home is mobile, you do not have to worry as much about building regulations, since you can rent land for your home instead of buying it in an area where your tiny home is acceptable.
Budgeting for a Tiny Home
There are a few different costs associated with a tiny home. The first decision you must make is whether you want to buy an existing tiny house or build your own. The cost of prebuilt tiny homes is between $30,000 and $80,000, based on the complexity of the home. If you are ordering a mobile tiny house, you must also factor in delivery fees. Some companies include this in the base price. On average, mobile homes are more expensive, costing closer to $60,000 and $80,000.
If you purchase new land and want to lay down a foundation, you must first have the land inspected by a surveyor. This costs between $400 to $500 on average. Laying foundation costs between $4,000 and $9,000, based on the material you use and overall size of the foundation.
The next consideration is how much utilities cost. The closer you are to civilization, the less it costs to get hook ups for water and power. On average, if you live near a residential area, it costs between $10,000 and $30,000 for utility connections. If you want to install a septic system, this may cost between $4,000 to $5,000.
One way to save money is building your own tiny house. This not only cuts down expenses, but also provides more customization option. There are different ways to build a house, based on your level of experience. Many tiny house owners purchase a prebuilt exterior kit. With these kits, you do not have to worry about building the walls, floor or ceiling and can focus on the interior. You can also purchase kit homes, which include blueprints, a list of supplies and customized trailer to hold your tiny home. Building your own home costs on average between $10,000 and $30,000.
Tiny House Resources
There are many websites dedicated to either building or renting tiny homes. TinyHouseListings has options for both buying and renting throughout the United States. Finding a contractor to build a tiny home can be difficulty, as they are still considered niche properties. Many tiny home owners recommend going through the National Association of Home Builders to search for local tiny home contractors.
It is much easier to find a prebuilt tiny home for sale. Some of the top companies currently selling tiny homes, kits and design plans include: