They’re not all that new as a concept
The tiny-house movement isn’t exactly new. Those in search of tranquility have long been seeking to carve out their own small spaces since the dawn of time. Now we’re seeing the resurgence of simplicity with a shift toward minimizing and downsizing.
A tiny house is generally one that’s under 400 square feet, says Chris Dorsey, founder of Dorsey Pictures, the producer of "Tiny House, Big Living." They’re generally built on trailers for mobility, but they can be built on foundations.
“What attracts most people to tiny homes is that they are redefining the American dream by owning a home with little to no debt while traveling the country and even working on the road,” explains Dorsey. “With a tiny home, people can design their own space that fits their personal interests and tastes at a much lower cost than a standard custom home… and because everything is smaller in a tiny home, you can pick from top-of-the-line finishes at more affordable prices.”
That being said, Dorsey warns that when it comes to the question of the cost, there may be subtle or even hidden expenses that add up fast.
They can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $180,000
“What’s cool about tiny houses is that they can be built to match anyone’s lifestyle and budget,” says Dorsey. They can range from $10,000 to $180,000, but the average falls somewhere in the range of $30,000 to $40,000.
“Some people are shocked at how much tiny homes cost while others can’t believe how inexpensive they are,” Dorsey explains. How much it will actually cost to build your own lilliputian living quarters will depend upon a combination of factors, including what locale you’ve chosen, whether you will build on a foundation or on a trailer (figure $25,000 if you’re building on a foundation, and $35,000 if you’re building on a trailer), the complexity of the building plans, how much you plan to do yourself, and the materials used.
“You should budget at least $65,000,” says Ryan Fitzgerald, owner of Raleigh Realty. "You might be spending $25,000 on building materials, alone.”
DIYing isn’t always a great idea
“I’ve seen several people take off work for a month or two to build their own tiny homes and think they are saving money by doing so,” says Rachel Preston Prinz, who runs an architectural firm, “Then, months later, they’re still out of work and building.”
So anyone who wants to go DIY should be aware of the money they won’t be making while they’re saving money on contractors.
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Don’t expect to benefit from “economies of scale”
“The smaller the home, the higher the contractors mark up their prices,” says Gabe Lumby, who, with his wife, is building a “tiny-ish” house on his parents’ land. Contractors aren’t excited to make less money because the home you’re building is smaller, he explains, “so we’ve found that the markup is higher, or they’re simply not willing to take the job.”
Zoning laws can add up
Every municipality has different zoning, building, land use, and inspection laws, not to mention the associated fees, says Prinz.
“Whatever you do, play by the jurisdiction’s rules,” she urges. “Rural areas usually have more lenient laws, so choosing rural areas may save you money. But what you save here might get eaten up on connecting to the utilities’ grid.”