Going “tiny” is the new craze sweeping the nation. It’s evident by the amount of shows popular home and garden channels like HGTV and fyi, have created around tiny house living, hunting or building. Right now the shows are; Tiny House Hunters, Tiny House Hunting, Tiny House Nation, Tiny House Big World, Tiny House Building, and Tiny House, Big Living. But is getting a tiny house really worth it? And what is the long-term viability of going tiny? Most of all, what does a tiny house mean to you? A small house that’s stationary or a small you can travel in?

56354854 - an image of people towing a tiny house.

The Cost of Tiny Living for Movable Tiny Houses

A lot of these shows like to display extremely low price tags for these tiny houses which can be great upfront, but they will not show the true cost of the house long-term. Everything needs to be considered before deciding to make a move and go tiny especially cost since cost is one of the biggest reasons people go tiny. First off, building materials for a tiny house can cost upwards of $25,000 and that’s depending on location and quality of materials.

There are some great stories where people have spent far less on their build and I have no doubt they are true, but just remember when trying to estimate the cost of going tiny various factors will affect your build price; the size, materials, labor (if any) or costly mistakes (if you try to build yourself) could all affect your budget. Try to be realistic when you consider your journey to go tiny.

Buying the House Cash?

How much cash do you have, and how much are you planning on spending on the build? Once you’ve spent money from your savings, will you have enough to cover ongoing cost especially, if you are planning to travel full-time and not be in a single location to work?

  • Labor is approximately 40% (or more) of the cost of the tiny house, expect to pay more if you do not build yourself
    • Remember if you estimate $25,000 for the cost of materials, estimate another 40% or so for labor
  • You need a vehicle able to transport this house and you will need gas for that vehicle
    • You will need to find out how much power the vehicle needs to have to pull your house and decide if you want to buy new or used, if your need to take classes to drive the house etc.
    • Gas consumption will depend on the weight or class of the home
      • Smaller Class C motor homes and trailers will consume about 10-15 mpg
      • Large motor homes and trailers will range between 6-13 mpg
    • You will need a place park your vehicle and possibly need hookups to electric, water and sewer
      • Even if you don’t require utility hook ups – you will need a place to park the vehicle at night
      • RV parks or campgrounds cost vary by location and time of season and the amenities you require
    • The toilet will be a big deal whether to use a manual composting toilet, an “automatic” or do-it-all for you composting toilet or an RV toilet which is the most like what you are used to living a house

Financing a Movable Tiny House

Nearly 70% of buyers pay cash for their tiny house. If you need financing it is available but there will be a few dependencies that may make it difficult to finance. If you have a movable tiny house you can to get RV (recreational vehicle) financing.  RV financing will typically have higher interest rates than traditional mortgages, and depending on the condition of the house the financing terms could be from 10 to 20 years, but not 30 years like traditional mortgage loans.

56354863 - an image of a large house next to a tiny house.

The Cost of Living for Semi movable (not practical to travel with) or Site Built Tiny Homes

The cost of the home will have the same variances as a movable home, labor, quality of material, size etc., but the next cost you will have is the cost of the land.

  • You need to consider the cost of the land if you don’t happen to have friends or parents that are willing to let you “park” the house on their land
    • It’s very difficult to sub divide land in many counties because of zoning ordinances so you cannot consider “cheap” land just because you are building a tiny house
  • Be 1000% sure you check zoning BEFORE buying plans to build a tiny house, the worst thing you could do is invest the money to build and not be able to live in the house
    • Zoning can be expensive to overcome and you can still be told no, you might be able to move the house a last resort but that could also mean big bucks lost
  • Be SURE to consider things like insulation and air conditioning when buying a tiny home. Consider all climate conditions and decide if the house plans will work for you as designed
    • Self build kits are great, but you might still need some expert help to fill in the blanks if you realize important elements like climate control is missing
  • If your family size suddenly increases by one you might be in trouble with your tiny house. If you are going to grow your family or start one, you should make SURE you consider this before building
    • Tiny houses usually take a lot of planning because of space requirements and tiny living might even take some practice if you are not accustomed. Be sure to considering tiny living for everyone in your house

Financing a Semi Movable or Site Built Tiny House

No lender will consider a mobile home and there are minimum loan amounts of $50,000 you must consider.  Additionally, the following minimum square requirements to be a house for the two guarantors are as follows;

  • FHA requires a minimum of a 1 bedroom 1 bathroom and 400 square feet to be considered a home
  • Conventional loan guarantor Fannie Mae requires the home to be 12 feet wide and have at least 600 square foot.
  • Mobile home may be difficult to get financing for unless they are permanently affixed to the land, meaning, utilities are run and the house is put on a slab.

Start planning your tiny house now, while it’s getting cooler and get rolling for the summer. This could be a fun adventure! If you aren’t sure about living in a tiny house full-time, consider going tiny for a vacation home. You can pick a nice place in some local wooded areas, mountains or lake-side communities.

24091798 - schwabachers landing

Schwabachers Landing, Wyoming

Paying for your Tiny Living

If you are planning to travel full-time what are you going to do for work to pay for things like parking fees, gas maintenance for the car and house? Perhaps if you can pay cash for the house you can at least cut your monthly bills dramatically so you don’t have to work as hard or as much. If you would like some realistic options of working from home check out the pages and post here. If you do find the ability to work at home, add the cost of a reliable internet connection to the cost of your mobile home.

Does this mean you shouldn’t go tiny? Of course not! Just thinking of cleaning and maintaining normal sized houses is enough to make anyone want to go tiny. The purpose of this article is just to prepare you for the real cost of going tiny – not to say it’s a bad idea. There are so many reasons to switch to this lifestyle – it is a great dream. Maybe you have $300,000 house in the US now – what would it be like to have FOUR $75,000 houses in different states or even different countries instead of that one $300,000 house?