What is a tiny home? Rest assured, you’re not alone. When I heard the term for the first time, I totally thought of the hobbit homes from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. While they’re not quite as cool, the whole tiny home movement has seen rapid growth in recent years.
So, back to the question. If not a fictional, mythical structure, what exactly is it? Well, as the name suggests, it is a home substantially smaller than your everyday brick-and-mortar in the suburbs. The average American home is approximately 2,600 square feet, while the average tiny home pales in comparison at a 100 to 400 square feet! Can you picture that?
It may seem like a no-brainer: who would willingly choose to live in a space so small when the classic mantra of “the bigger, the better” is so prevalent in society today? The beauty of the tiny house movement is that it doesn’t appeal to only one type of personality. People who live in tiny homes don’t always follow the trope of being some die-hard environmentalist (nothing wrong with that, of course). Matter of fact, more and more people are joining the movement for reasons such as alleviating financial burden, inspiring creativity, and even for the super cool opportunity of being able to take their home on the road!
So, have I convinced you yet? It’s okay if you’re not totally sold yet (after all, it’s a pretty big move), but at least check out this mini-guide and save all the useful information in your memory bank should you decide to join the cool kids (kidding).
How do I even start?
Now that you’re all hyped up about this amazing movement, a very justifiable question arises: where to even start? Can I just pick a plot of land in the woods and start building? What materials should I look for? Where can I find tiny furniture?!
- Do some self-reflection first. Perhaps the most important, and initial step, in this process is to try and decide if you’re actually able to live in a small space. Sometimes, as human beings, we get clouded by the glamour of a certain idea or phenomena without digging deep within ourselves and seeing how we actually feel about it. A tiny house isn’t quite like an outfit you didn’t like and can return to the store—a tiny house is a lifestyle change, and a substantial one at that. Now, it’s okay to not be able to come back with a conclusive yes or no answer on how you feel about it at the end of the day. Try sectioning off a piece of your house or apartment with masking tape and seeing if you could reasonably fit what you want to fit in that space, and be comfortable as well (though, admittedly, there are certain hacks when it comes to fitting in more furniture).
- Check out the legality in your area. Tiny homes aren’t quite treated the same in terms of zoning and other property laws, occupying their own gray space between camper vans (aka, RVs), mobile homes, and traditional single-family homes. First things first, to actually be considered as “tiny”, the house must be no bigger than 400 square feet, according to the International Code Council. Tiny homes also come in two forms: movable and stationary. Depending on which one you choose, it largely impacts where you’ll be able to take up residence.
- Movable Tiny Homes: These types of tiny homes are subject to far less rules than its counterpart. However, if you build using an RV code, it will be a lot harder to switch into residential status later on should you decide you want to settle down.
- Stationary Tiny Homes: These fall under the same code as a residential home, creating a loop in the standard zoning code of the property having to be larger than 70 square feet but not less than 1,000—a metric all tiny homes fail to fulfill. While plenty of places will let tiny home owners get away with this, there are some areas in which this is illegal. Check your local legislature on this!
- To hire or do it yourself? Of course there is some novelty in (literally) building your own house and living in it, but consider your capabilities first. Building a house of any size is a lot of hard work, and for this reason, it is usually recommended to hire help. It’s as easy as showing several pictures with the ideas you had in mind so that they can develop a design for you. Nonetheless, it is still a good idea to make a project out of learning some ‘handyman’ skills, like how to do drywall, simple plumbing, simple electrical, and more. Youtube offers a host of information on these subjects, with a lot of resources even specific to tiny homes.
So now you have all the preliminary information you need to build your own tiny home! Now you can sell your home through a flat fee MLS program (saves you even more money to invest in your tiny home) and join the movement. But it doesn’t stop here—we still recommend you continue to do your research. The Internet has a wealth of information on everything you need before diving in, with more tips, tricks, and personal stories from tiny home owners.