Pick up your remote control and scan through your favorite cable TV channels and you’re sure to find at least 2 or 3 different shows that tout the advantages of building and living in what has become known as a “tiny house”.
The hosts of these shows chat with us via the television camera about all the advantages of tiny house living and joke with the new owners about their new lack of space, scaling down, and all the good things they’re doing for the environment by moving into these minuscule mansions.
Perhaps you dismiss the idea with a shake of the head and a roll of your eyes. Or maybe you watch intently, thinking “we could do that”. Hmmm….
If you’ve ever given even a fleeting thought to living in a tiny house, there’s much more to know that what you learn from watching a half-hour show on TV. From the advantages and disadvantages to all the laws that govern where you can place your teensy house, there’s plenty of research to do before you take the plunge.
Tiny House Benefits
It’s true that there are lots of advantages to living small rather than large. Some of those benefits include:
- Small initial cost to buy
- Lower bills (utilities, etc.)
- Low maintenance
- Can be built quickly
- Ability to move quickly if necessary
- Simplifying one’s lifestyle
- Family togetherness
- No property taxes (in some states/counties/cities)
For many people, these reasons are enough to forge ahead. But there’s lots more to consider, like what kind of tiny house you’d like to have.
Types of Tiny Houses
If you’ve been watching “Tiny House Nation” or any of the other tiny house-related shows, you’ll know that there are two kinds of tiny houses: the kind that stay put and the kind that move.
Mobile tiny houses are technically recreational vehicles and are generally built on a travel trailer bed. They can be towed whenever the owner needs or wants to move and it takes no time at all to pack up and make that change. These mobile tiny houses have very much become a fad in some locales and there are actually communities of tiny house owners that have sprung up here and there across the U.S.
A stationary tiny house is – by definition – one that is built in a traditional manner and contains less than 400 square feet. As a comparison, that’s smaller than some hotel rooms, one-bedroom apartments, and maybe even your current family room! Placed on a foundation like a traditional house, they are designed by individuals who are very good at making the most of the square footage available, including clever hideaways, fold-downs, and other options that allow for storage and stress maximum comfort.
Sometimes, one can find these traditional tiny houses on a property that already includes a larger house. They can function as a sort-of “in-law suite”, a space for an elderly relative or a college-aged kid, or a guest house for visitors.
Tiny House Locations
Quite honestly, you’ll rarely find a tiny house in the city. A lot of zoning laws and restrictions simply won’t allow for such a structure in a downtown area. Most tiny house builders look to the country or suburbs for a place to set down their tiny house, largely because the laws are less stringent. And, besides, if you’re looking to simplify your life, that’s better done in the quiet and bucolic countryside.
Either way, it’s important to first check out the building codes for the municipality in which you plan to settle with your little home. Do thorough research so there are no surprises or employ the assistance of a realtor or attorney for this task. You might be shocked at how many rules there are surrounding the placement and building of your house.
Remember, you still need to think about issues such as water hook-ups, sewers or septic systems, minimum lot size, emergency egress, and much more. That makes the whole scenario a little more complex than just building a house and plopping it down on a vacant piece of land.
Still not sure?
While it may seem like scaling down to a tiny house is all peaches and cream – especially if you’re hoping to save money and yearning to simplify your life – there are indeed plenty of disadvantages to this lifestyle, which may or may not impact your decision. These include:
- Difficulty getting a loan to build – not all lenders are eager to help with tiny house mortgages
- Lack of space for personal items/need to become a minimalist
- Lack of privacy when living with others
- No space to entertain guests (except perhaps outside)
- Difficult to re-sell
- Home will likely not appreciate greatly or may even depreciate in value
Only you can decide whether tiny house living is right for you. Investigate all the dos and don’ts and ins and outs of such a lifestyle, check out all the laws and rules, and ask for help if you’re not sure about all the parameters. It’s a big decision…despite the size of the living quarters!