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BEHIND THE beautiful images of tiny homes on
Instagram and the entertainment value of
HGTV is the reality that, while tiny-home enthusiasts report such benefits of going small as
greater financial freedom, achieving a mobile
life, embracing simplicity and using fewer environmental resources, they’re not for everyone.
Generally under ;;; square feet, tiny homes
can be prefab, custom or do-it-yourself (DIY).
They can be mobile or built on a foundation. If
you’re thinking about buying one to downsize or
save money, here are some things to consider.
Don’t assume tiny means cheap.
Construction costs for a tiny home vary greatly.
Generally, it could be anywhere from ;;;,;;; to
;;;;,;;; or more, depending on factors such as
location, the complexity of
your building plans, the
materials used and whether
you build it yourself.
Costco members Andrew
and Gabriella Morrison
spent ;;;,;;; constructing
their roughly ;;;-square-foot home on wheels.
Andrew, a veteran builder
who leads tiny-home construction workshops (tiny
that hiring a professional
builder would double that cost.
Kimberly Skobba, an associate professor at
the University of Georgia in the Department of
Financial Planning, Housing and Consumer
Economics, co-teaches a tiny-home construction
class ( tinydawghouse.com). With a professional
team, she’s completed three tiny homes costing
over ;;;,;;; each.
“There are added costs when building a tiny
home,” she says. “Some of the appliances and
fixtures, such as the water heater and heating
and cooling systems, often cost more than traditional appliances and fixtures in a standard-size
home.” It’s important to run numbers so you
know exactly what to expect.
If you’re hiring a contractor to build a custom
tiny home, he or she could mark up prices to
account for taking on a small project, so make
sure to get at least three different bids.
There is a real cost of DIY. Building your own
tiny home could take three to six months if you’re
working on it full-time. If you’re thinking of this
option, you should be aware of the money you
won’t be earning while trying to save money on
contractors. Weigh the pros and cons.
Small oversights could mean big bucks.
Costco member Chris Galusha, president of the
American Tiny House Association (american
tinyhouseassociation.org), says a prefab tiny
home could become a money pit if it’s not con-
structed properly. To avoid potential problems
with a tiny home, he suggests that you make
sure the National Organization of Alternative
Housing ( NOAHcertified.org) or Pacific West
Associates ( pacificwestassociates.net/tiny-
homes) certifies it. “Things like the foundation,
if it’s on wheels, framing, windo ws, roofing, insu-
lation—these are really expensive to go back and
fix if not done right the first time,” says Galusha.
You will have to do big research. The tiny-
house movement is still maturing, and so is
information about financing, land and construc-
tion costs, laws and potential challenges of
tiny-home living. Self-education is necessary
before going tiny, so be
prepared to spend a lot
of time researching.
There are books, how-
to videos, workshops
and conferences on
tiny-home living. Real
estate news sources like
Curbed ( curbed.com)
run regular features.
Local groups on Meetup.
com provide network-
ing opportunities, and
Facebook groups, like
Tiny House People ( facebook.com/groups/tiny-
housepeople), which has over ;;,;;; members,
provide a discussion forum.
Most important, try out tiny living before
you build or buy. Familiar vacation rental sites
like Airbnb ( airbnb.com), VRBO ( vrbo.com) and
HomeAway ( homeaway.com) rent tiny homes, as
do other tiny-home-specific websites. You can
book a tiny cabin in the woods near Boston and
New York City on Getaway (getaway.house), a
site for city dwellers looking to unplug. It’s
money well-spent. While many tiny-home own-
ers report being happy with their choice, some
express buyer’s remorse. Skobba says, “I’ve had
a lot of students realize they could never live in a
tiny house after spending the semester working
in ;;; square feet.”
Many people think ;;;; could be a defining
year for tiny homes. The International Code
Council I-Codes are a complete set of compre-
hensive, coordinated building safety and fire
prevention codes. Andrew Morrison, of tiny
housebuild.com, helped to spearhead a new code
appendix for the construction of tiny homes that
will be added to the International Residential
Code next year. Some in the industry see this as
the next step toward advancing the tiny-home
movement in a big way. C
Think big picture before you go small
Costco members Andrew
their roughly ;;;-square-
who leads tiny-home con-
builder would double that cost. Tiny House People ( facebook.com/groups/tiny-