The tiny home movement has been sweeping the nation for years. For some, it’s simply a way to make homeownership more affordable. For others, it’s about minimalism or maintaining a flexible lifestyle.
While these mini houses are popular, that doesn’t mean the tiny homes movement is the best choice for all aspiring homeowners. Here’s an introduction to the tiny house trend, as well as a look at how to figure out if a tiny home is right for you.
What Is a Tiny House?
Generally speaking, the definition of a tiny house relies mainly on the size of the dwelling. While there isn’t an official tiny house size cutoff, the size limit is usually around 600 square feet, though the average size of a tiny house usually comes in closer to 225 square feet.
The tiny home movement also comes with a semi-minimalist lifestyle, as owning a lot of stuff typically isn’t an option. Tiny houses on wheels also allow for a nomadic approach to living, allowing people to take their homes with them when they hit the road.
As for interior design, versatility and space efficiency are both musts. Tiny house appliances and furniture tend to focus heavily on built-in options, allowing you to save room.
For example, an over-the-range microwave with a built-in vent pulls double-duty and doesn’t up counter space. Fold-out wall-mounted tables and desks give you surfaces when needed and more floor space when you don’t. Dining tables that convert into beds may eliminate the need for a formal bedroom or can accommodate the occasional overnight guest.
Building or Buying a Tiny Home
If you’re interested in a tiny home, you usually have two options: buying or building. For buying, you can either get a permanent tiny house that’s already positioned on land or work with a company to acquire the structure. With the latter, having it placed on a foundation or keeping it on a trailer-like chassis are both potential options.
Buying a Tiny Home
The main benefit of buying a tiny home is convenience. You don’t have to handle the construction personally, which may be preferable for those without much time or limited know-how. However, that typically means paying more for your tiny home than if you handled the build.
When you buy a tiny house, you can find one that’s already complete. This includes homes sitting on permanent foundations or already on trailers.
However, you can also buy a tiny home from a dealer and have it placed on your property. This option is not unlike purchasing a full-size mobile home. You’ll choose a modular design, and the company will position it onto a foundation on land you own or rent.
For permanent tiny homes bought from a dealer, you may need to purchase land in advance. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure you have utility service to the lot, ensuring you can get connected with ease.
Building a Tiny House
Building a tiny home can be a cost-effective alternative to buying one. In some cases, you may be able to handle the build for $10,000 to $30,000, though some people certainly spend more depending on the materials, your location, and whether you hire any pros to help.
If putting one together yourself seems appealing, you may be asking, “What do I need to build a tiny house?” Generally, you’ll need the same materials and plans as you would for a regular-sized home. The main difference may be using a tiny house trailer, suggesting that you aren’t placing it on a foundation. Otherwise, you’ll have to handle the framing, electrical, plumbing, appliances, fixtures, doors, windows, and roofing, just as you would with any other home.
If you’re wondering, “Do I need a permit for a tiny house?” the answer is, “It depends.” If it’s becoming a permanent structure on a piece of land, then a permit (and all associated inspections) is usually necessary. That’s true whether you plan to reside in the house or use it as an ADU.
Tiny homes on trailers are usually considered RVs instead of traditional houses. While this makes the answer to how to move a tiny house simple, it also means that different rules apply when it comes to permits and licensing.
However, the exact regulations also vary by location. You’ll want to check with the municipality where you’ll have your tiny house built or kept. That way, you can follow local laws.
Insuring a Tiny Home
One critical piece of tiny house information all potential owners need to know is that insuring the homes can be tricky if they’re on wheels. Mobile tiny houses aren’t viewed as traditional dwellings, so you can’t get regular homeowners’ insurance. However, if you build one yourself, it may not be eligible for RV insurance either.
In some cases, even placing one on a foundation isn’t enough to alleviate the issue. Some companies will only insure them as personal property regardless of whether they’re on a foundation, so keep that in mind.
How to Downsize to a Tiny House
Downsizing to a tiny house isn’t always easy. Typically, you have to declutter to the extreme, eliminating any property that isn’t genuinely a necessity. Otherwise, your new home may feel particularly cramped.
There are plenty of techniques that can help you declutter with minimal stress. Usually, it’s best to start well before you intend to move. That way, you can reduce your belongings, assess how much you now own, and pare down again until you eliminate enough stuff.
If you aren’t sure whether you’re cut back enough, consider using rooms in your current place as a model. Find a space (or combination of rooms) that has a similar amount of square footage to a tiny home. Then, move everything you’d like to keep into those spaces.
You can stack cardboard boxes to mimic vertical storage solutions like cabinets or closet systems, having them represent the same amount of usable footage as you’ll have available. That way, you can visualize how much room the belongings you’re keeping take up, giving you an idea of whether scaling back more is critical.
Is a Tiny Home Right for You?
Whether a tiny home is right for you depends mainly on your lifestyle preferences. If living in a small space isn’t appealing, going with a tiny house isn’t a wise move, even if it’s the only buying option that fits your budget. The odds that you’ll be happy with your purchase long-term might not be that high. As a result, you may be better off saving up for a home you’d actually enjoy.
However, if you’re comfortable with minimalism or enjoy the versatility that a tiny house could provide, it may be an excellent fit. If you build on a trailer, you may be able to take your home with you as you travel, supporting a semi-nomadic lifestyle. If you go with a foundation, you can have a permanent structure that’s highly cost-effective, often coming with lower maintenance costs, property taxes, and other homeownership-related expenses than regular properties.
Just keep in mind that the rules surrounding tiny homes may differ from what you see with standard structures. Some municipalities ban tiny houses, while others apply specific codes or restrictions within city or county limits. Before moving forward, make sure you’re choosing a tiny home-friendly location for your build. That way, you can get the home of your dreams with ease.
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