What is your ideal house-size? Is it 1,000 square-feet? 2,000 square feet or more? Right now across the country, many Americans are purposely moving into much smaller homes, some less than 500 square feet. This tiny-house movement makes one wonder: how much space do you really need to live comfortably? After all, the average size of a home in America has increased steadily since the 1950s to over 2,000 square-feet, even though family size has declined over this same time frame. With extra space in our house, and more money, our material possessions have also increased to extraordinary limits.
Tiny houses offer a way to go against this trend and return back to basics. Those that are part of the tiny-house movement have sought to decrease their living space and material items, allowing them greater freedom and financial independence. In our society today, success is usually measured by what we own. By being content with having less and embracing the old adage “less is more”, tiny-house owners are redefining success. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages of tiny-house living as well as further considerations to make before purchasing, or building, a tiny house. Even if you are not interested in, or capable of, living in a tiny home, there are still facets of tiny-home life that you can incorporate into your own household, regardless of the size.
A tiny house, also sometimes referred to as a micro house, can be defined as a single-family dwelling of less than 500 square feet. Some tiny houses have even been as small as 80 square feet. Often these houses are on wheels and not attached to a foundation. This mobility gives increased flexibility in where you can locate your home since it can be moved on its trailer. Tiny homes can be permanently affixed to the ground or foundation in many circumstances. Due to their decreased size and attached trailer, many areas do not recognize tiny houses as homes, but as recreational vehicles. This has its benefits based on the flexibility of being able to put your tiny house in different locations and not having to worry about strict zoning laws which affect larger homes. However, there are some definite drawbacks to this as well. Other options for tiny house living could include small cabins, yurts, teepees, campers or trailers. Just because it is not from a specialized tiny-house company, does not mean it does not qualify as a tiny house! You may even consider a studio apartment to be comparable to tiny house life, since often these are less than 500 square feet.
So why would someone want to live in a tiny house where they have to sacrifice space, convenience, and material goods? There are many reasons why someone would want to live in a tiny house. One reason is that it takes a sense of adventure to live in one. With the freedom to move around, you are not limited to one spot on your property or even to a geographical region since your house can be moved. Along with a sense of adventure, tiny-house living presents rewarding challenges. Like many homesteaders, tiny-house dwellers need to be resourceful, highly organized, and strive toward simple living. Space is at a premium in a tiny house, so homeowners need to constantly be aware and limiting of what they bring into their homes.
Financial considerations also make tiny house living appealing. Compared to traditional single-family homes, tiny houses cost substantially less. According to the U.S. Census, the average home sold this year will cost over $300,000, while a tiny home can be purchased for under $60,000. In cases where the homeowner builds his own tiny house instead of purchasing a completed one, that figure can drop to $20,000-$30,000. Because less money is going toward housing, this allows tiny-home-owners to be more financially independent as they are able to allocate their money to other ventures.
Additionally, being environmentally aware and wanting to limit your impact on the environment are also valid reasons to live in a tiny house.
Lastly, due to its restricted living-quarters, families or couples who live in tiny homes often feel closer, emotionally, due to their close physical proximity. For young adults just starting out, tiny houses may present an affordable housing option without sacrificing mobility. For retirees looking to downsize, this can be the start of an exciting, new adventure.
There are many advantages of living in a tiny house. A main factor is cost; tiny houses are much cheaper to purchase than standard size homes. Prices vary tremendously based on upgrades, power supplies, and whether you purchase one that is already constructed or one that you assemble. Additionally, when you consider the cost of heating, cooling, and supplying power and water to a tiny house compared to a larger home, utility cost is also much lower. In the summer, they are much easier to cool and in the winter they are faster to heat. With less space inside the home, less furniture and décor needs to be purchased to decorate and furnish the home. This translates into additional cost savings. With space at such a limit, any purchases made must be carefully considered to ensure there is room in the house. In many ways, this allows homeowners to save their money for other necessities and luxuries. It also helps curb impulse buys. There is also a smaller carbon footprint with a tiny house than a standard size home; especially if that tiny house is equipped with natural, sustainable energy sources. Lastly, tiny house living allows for a certain degree of freedom since the home can be relocated with relative ease compared to a standard home.
Although there are many advantages to living in a tiny house there are also some drawbacks and challenges. Tiny houses seem to work best for smaller families of one to three people. It would be a major challenge for a larger family to live comfortably in a tiny house. The lack of space that can be an advantage also has its challenges. Specifically, decluttering would need to be a constant activity as any item brought into the home would need to find a space for it. With space so limited, it may be difficult to arrange and organize items. Many personal possessions may need to be donated to make room for more. Difficult decisions on which items to keep and which to purge would need to be made. There are things that you may want but not have the space for like a home office, library, or piano. In many ways, living in a tiny house can mean having to make difficult decisions and sacrifices. You will not be able to hold a large family gathering in your home. Also, privacy and personal space could be difficult to maintain while inside the home.
Also, because of the varied zoning laws in any community, you may need to seek approval for the house to be categorized as a dwelling. Insurance coverage can also be more difficult to obtain than with traditional homes. In order to receive homeowners’ insurance to protect your home and valuables, your tiny house must be first recognized as a house by your local community and zoning board. Other options include renters policies or RV insurance, however, these do not offer the full advantages of homeowners’ insurance. Based on the growing popularity of tiny houses, insurance policies for tiny-home owners can be found but vary greatly by area.
Tiny houses are incredibly affordable compared to standard homes. Many owners of tiny homes are able to purchase their homes outright without taking out loans or procuring financing. Of course, financing is still available; but because of the nature of tiny houses, if you needed to finance your purchase with a loan you would probably not take out a standard mortgage. An RV loan or low-interest personal loan could be suitable options. Additionally, tiny-home companies offer payment plans and loans made directly through the company. So, while you would be a homeowner, you won’t be able to take advantage of mortgage tax deductions to make your home more affordable when filing taxes. However, the money you would save on rent/mortgage and utilities would most likely make up for this year-end tax-savings.
Again, zoning laws vary widely from town to town, city to city, and state to state. Generally, the closer you are to a city the more strict the zoning laws are, the however this is not always the case. Rural communities may also have strict building codes and zoning laws. It is imperative before making any purchases to contact your local boards to learn about the unique laws for the area you reside in or the area where you plan to relocate.
One last consideration is whether you should build a tiny house or purchase one that is already assembled. This is a personal choice based on your carpentry skills, the amount of time available, and the amount of funds present for purchasing a tiny home.
For some, tiny house life presents an intriguing adventure but due to personal circumstances, they are unable to live in one all year round. Tiny houses can also make an interesting choice for a second home or vacation home. The size and cost is perfect for a weekend getaway, and gives you a chance to experience tiny-house life without making a full-time commitment. For more information on tiny house living, research “micro houses” or “tiny houses” in a web search engine to be matched with companies offering relevant products and blogs providing firsthand living experiences. If you are interested in purchasing pre-built or do-it-yourself kits, there are several places online that offer tiny homes for sale. If you are handy, you could also design and make your own out of purchased or found materials
Perhaps you are not ready to take the leap into tiny house living. Fortunately, there are many tips you can incorporate into your current household, regardless of the size of your home. First, reconsider the way you look at your personal possessions. Are they helping you achieve your goals or adding to your overall happiness? If not, you may want to consider getting rid of excess items.
Look first in areas that you can declutter. So much time, energy and money are spent in cleaning up, organizing and displaying our personal possessions. Even though many of these items we no longer use, want, or need. Donate excess items to a local charity or thrift store, sell items at a garage sale, or swap items with friends and family. After all, do you really need fifteen bath towels or that blender you got few years ago that is still in its box? Additionally, be observant of the amount of new material possessions you bring in. Often, we bring new stuff into our homes each day without realizing it.
Regardless of the size of your home, decluttering does not happen in a day but is an ongoing process. You may want to consider donating items to make room for items that are more relevant to your current needs. Tiny houses also allow you to make the most of your space. You can organize your current home to make use of its space as well. For example, storage containers and organizing bins can help you better manage your things. Tiny-house living teaches us that we should be content with what we have; you don’t need to live in a tiny house to achieve this.
The tiny-house trend is, in many ways, a call for simplicity, and a return to basic necessities over material wants. We can all take away certain ideas from this and use them in our everyday life. Being content with what we have, and keeping our material possessions limited, are all goals worth seeking. Perhaps you will even make the venture into purchasing your own tiny home. By weighing the pros and cons of tiny homes, you can make the best housing decision for you and your family.