The Beginner’s Guide to Tiny Houses

The Beginner’s Guide to Tiny Houses

9 min read

The standard, American-sized home comes with a whole host of issues. You have to maintain it and make repairs so that it doesn’t fall apart. You have to heat it or cool it so that you can stay comfortable throughout the year. You have to fill it with stuff (or at least that’s what society says). And on top of that, you have to worry about a mortgage.

It sucks.

Here’s a little something that will make your life a bit easier: a tiny home. These homes are quite a bit smaller than most Americans are used to, but can provide an affordable and more efficient solution to the housing crisis. If you dream of owning your property, but the high prices in the market you are in turn you away, or you want to have a home that can travel with you, then a tiny home is the right choice for you.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about tiny houses, including what they are, how much they cost, and how they can benefit you.

 

About Tiny Houses

What is a tiny house?

Tiny houses are just that: small houses. They can be on wheels or on a foundation. Tiny houses usually offer all the conveniences of a standard home including kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, and living rooms. They’re known for being very creatively designed, as one must use space efficiently in such cramped quarters.

If you’ve ever seen Tiny House Nation or Tiny House Big Living, you’ll know that these houses come in all shapes and sizes. Over the past few years, tiny homes have been gaining widespread popularity. You may believe that tiny houses are best for people who can’t afford a standard home, but you’d be surprised.

Their versatility and aesthetic appeal make them ideal for everyone. This brings me to my next point: The Tiny House Movement.

 

How big are tiny houses?

Tiny homes rarely exceed 500 square feet. Most commonly, they range from 100 to 400 square feet, though there are lots that are even smaller. The typical tiny house on wheels is usually around 8 by 20 ft, with a living space of about 120 square feet. This compact size makes it ideal for easy towing and exempt from the need for a building permit.

In comparison to the average American home, which is about 2,600 square feet, a tiny home is about a fifth of the size.

 

What is the Tiny House Movement?

The Tiny House Movement marks the increased cultural shift and popularity towards smaller, more efficient housing.

This shift is a direct result of many things. Many people during 2007 and 2008 ended up losing their homes during the financial crisis. And over the past few years, home prices have steadily been increasing. As a result, more young adults are choosing to live with their parents. In fact, many are waiting until their 30s before ever buying a home of their own.

As a result, people have been driven to find better sources of affordable housing. Tiny houses offer a solution. For just a fraction of the cost, many people can buy or build their own small home – free of debt and without the financial burden of a mortgage.

“Green”, or energy-efficient, housing has also been on the rise. While it’s still not completely mainstream, many tiny homes are innovators in this field. Many are completely “off-grid” or “carbon neutral”, which means that they produce their own electricity and don’t pollute the environment.

The Tiny House Movement has also been encouraged by the increasing popularity of minimalism and “living with less”. Many people, especially Americans, are tired of living lives in the pursuit of stuff. The Industrial Revolution promoted consumerism and mass production, but society is currently moving towards less physical belongings (with a greater emphasis on a digital presence).

And what’s perfect for someone that doesn’t own much? A tiny house.

The Tiny House Movement signals the move away from large and expensive homes that can ruin a person financially. The movement suggests, that instead of living in a difficult-to-clean and energy-inefficient mansion, one should downsize their home.

Some benefits of a tiny home include: more affordable and easier to clean. Depending on the build, they can also be mobile and go with you wherever you want.

 

Tiny House Costs

How much does it cost to build a tiny house?

In general, it costs about $8,000 to $30,000 to build a tiny house yourself. However, you can build one for as low as $4,000, if you can manage to find more affordable materials. Here’s a general breakdown of all the building materials you would need.

 

How much do pre-built tiny houses cost?

Tiny house manufacturers tend to follow a few cookie-cutter designs and layouts for the houses they build.

The cost of purchasing a tiny home that is pre-built from a manufacturer is often a little bit more expensive than building it all on your own. Though, it will cost less than having a home that is custom-built. While it’s possible to buy a quality tiny house for $5,000, it’s not uncommon for them to reach prices upwards of $250,000.

As a general rule of thumb, the more features you want and the bigger the house is, the more it will cost.

 

How much does it cost to rent a tiny house?

The amount that you will pay for rent on a tiny home will depend on the size of the home, the location, and the landlord. Since these are smaller, you can expect to pay around half of what rental fees are for other homes and properties in your area.

In addition, since these are inexpensive to build or purchase, many landlords can pay them off quickly with minimal upkeep and maintenance. This can make it more affordable for the tenants while still making a profit for the landlord.

Since tiny homes are still fairly uncommon and since most people who build one decide to live in them themselves, finding one to rent is often the challenge. However, if you are able to find one, the cost of renting can be quite affordable, especially when compared to rents in more expensive areas.

 

Can a tiny house be financed?

Getting a mortgage for a tiny home is difficult. The cost of most of these homes will be less than what most lenders are willing to give you for a mortgage. However, there are other choices you can make to help finance your tiny home and this can actually make the process as these funding sources are often easier than the mortgage process.

Depending on the cost of the tiny home, you may be able to use a personal loan. These are fast and easy to get. Unlike a traditional mortgage that can take months, a personal loan can be done in a week or less. Just give them your credit report and some proof of income and you are ready to go. Just check what the interest rates are to make sure you are getting a good deal.

 

Tiny House Laws & Regulation

Do you need a permit for a tiny house?

In most cases, you will need a permit or license for your tiny home. Like with any home, a tiny home is going to have several codes, regulations, and rules that you need to follow.

With traditional homes, since they do not move, the codes are all met when it is originally built. Since you could possibly move the tiny home around, there are special permits you need to get.

It is important to check the zoning laws in your area. Several things that will factor into the type of permit that you need to get, and the amount that you will pay for it, includes where you decide to put the house, on what kind of land, and how long you plan to keep the tiny home there.

For stationary homes, consider getting including plumbing and electrical permits as well. Since this is a smaller home that will not have the same electrical and plumbing needs as a big home, the cost to get them implemented in the home can be less. But you still need to get the right permits from the city and county.

Here’s a bit more information on the topic.

 

Are tiny houses illegal?

Some states consider tiny homes illegal because they’re a bit difficult to regulate. Many counties don’t have the necessary laws and zoning to effectively manage these small spaces. And without the right safety regulations and permits, many states ban them altogether.

 

Does a tiny house have to be on wheels or on a foundation?

A tiny home can be both. There are many tiny homes that are on wheels. This makes them mobile and can be a great way to view the world. You do need to make sure that any tiny home that is on wheels has a trailer foundation to keep it steady and that it meets all regulations for driving on the road.

There are many tiny homes that have a set foundation as well. These are perfect for those who want to lower their living costs and get an affordable house in a smaller area without moving all over the place. You do need to provide it with a good foundation and follow the same rules and regulations for regular homes when building a tiny home.

 

Can a tiny house be used as an RV?

Since many tiny homes do have wheels on them, you can use them as an RV. Not only are these tiny homes a great way to keep your housing costs down, but they are a fantastic way to really go and see the world. With the right kind of tiny home and some planning, you can turn it into an RV and take it anywhere you want to go.

Just be aware that in certain states, you may have to register them as a recreational vehicle. Your tiny house also has to fit within certain dimensions and weight limits in order to safely drive it on the highway.

 

Can a tiny house have a basement?

Most tiny homes will not have a basement, however, it is possible to build one if your house is stationary (given that your zoning regulations allow it). Building a basement for a tiny house is very much like building one for a standard home.

 

Benefits of Tiny Houses

What are the benefits of a tiny house?

There are many reasons why you should consider purchasing a tiny home. This is not the traditional home type that most families choose to go with, but they can be worth it. Some of the benefits of choosing a tiny home include:

 

1. More affordable

Tiny homes are going to cost a lot less than most homes. They are often just a fraction of the cost because they are small, making them more efficient to run. They also cost less to build, as they do not use as much material.

In addition, utilities will also cost less in a tiny home. Even if you connect the tiny home over to a power source, you may have to pay an electric bill, but you will notice it is at least a quarter less than you see with a traditional home. The amount of energy that a tiny home needs is substantially less than a traditional home so you do not have a large bill.

Some tiny homeowners opt-out of paying utilities altogether. Instead, they install solar panels and create their own energy. Some even sell back their extra energy to the grid and make a profit!

 

2. Mobile

If you have ever wanted to travel the world, then a tiny home may be a good option. Many tiny houses are built on wheels, making them ideal for those with the spirit of adventure in them. You’ll never have to worry about finding hotels or places to sleep. You can just take the tiny home around with you, hitched to your car, and you are ready to hit the road.

 

3. Efficient

When you live in your tiny home, you have a lot less storage space compared to some other options. This helps to reduce the random purchases that you make and can help you live a minimalist lifestyle better. This helps to reduce the amount of trash that piles up from you and makes it easier to manage what you own.

Because the area of your tiny home is smaller, you will not need to spend all weekend cleaning up the home. The less time you need to spend on upkeeping the home, the more time you can spend doing other things that you like. If you have always despised cleaning, then a tiny home is for you.

 

4. Better quality of life

Many people who move into a tiny home state that they have a higher quality of life and better happiness. A tiny house allows an individual to focus on what’s important (hint: it’s not stuff). They don’t have to clean all the time, so they’re free to see the world and focus on their most important relationships.

 

Tiny House Durability & Lifespan

How long will a tiny house last?

A tiny home that is made out of high-quality materials can easily last for decades, much like a standard home. Houses usually need regular maintenance every 10-20 years. However, please note that because tiny houses are smaller, they tend to get a lot more wear and tear.

Therefore, you do need to give it additional care and attention every once in a while.

 

Can a tiny house withstand a hurricane?

Yes, a tiny house is able to withstand a hurricane as long as it has been constructed properly. There are even some prefabricated structures that are made to handle the high winds of hurricanes that you can easily convert over to a tiny home. There are several makes of tiny homes that will do well with a hurricane including:

Other tiny houses are on wheels, making them ideal for avoiding hurricanes if you can manage to drive them somewhere else.

 

Tiny House Parking

Where to park a tiny house?

There are many places where you can park your tiny home. If you have your own property, you can park the tiny home there. An RV park is also a good option. There are many RV parks around the country that will allow you to park your tiny home there, as long as the home is RVIA certified.

You can also park your tiny home in select Walmart and Cracker Barrel parking lots.

 

What is a tiny house community?

If you are considering purchasing or building a tiny home, you may want to find a community that’s specifically dedicated to this type of living. Tiny house communities are a great place to park your vehicle. Considering your neighbors would all have something in common, this may be a great way to make some friends.

Some of the best tiny home communities around the country include:

All of these options offer a different atmosphere to choose from. Some are in the city, others in more rural areas.

 

Final Thoughts

A tiny home is a perfect option for many, given that it can be an extremely affordable and flexible housing option. They can make ownership possible when other options have failed. Take some time to research these tiny homes and see whether they are the right choice for your family.

If you found this article helpful or would like to learn more about tiny houses, please check out my other articles. I write about the benefits of living in a tiny house and how to make money while living on the road.

Victoria Miller

I'm the founder of NTT. I live in Miami, Florida, and enjoy learning everything there is to know about tiny spaces.