Saturday, January 2, 2021

Tiny homes: Are they worth it?

A few days ago, an article appeared on ZeroHedge entitled "56% Of Americans Say They Would Live In A Tiny Home."

The popularity of tiny homes (defined as a living space under 400 square feet, and often as little as 60 square feet) is surging:

56% of Americans say they would live in a tiny home. 86% of first-time home buyers would consider a tiny home for their first home.

72% of home buyers would consider buying a tiny home as an investment property.

Most appealing factors of tiny home living: 1. Affordability 2. Efficiency 3. Eco-friendliness 4. Minimalist lifestyle 5. The ability to downsize.

Most desired tiny home amenities: 1. Heating/AC 2. Kitchen space 3. Designated bedroom 4. Laundry 5. Outdoor space.

53% of Americans can afford the median price for a starter home ($233,400) vs. 79% of Americans can afford the median price of a tiny home ($30,000-$60,000).

Of this list, I would put "cost" as an enormous priority. It's a lot easier to afford a $30,000 tiny home than a $300,000 suburban home. The potential for mobility also seems to be an attraction.

Tiny homes also have a lower carbon footprint, and utilities are correspondingly low -- all benefits for cost-conscious people. For folks who are "handy," a tiny home can be built DIY and customized to specific needs. Tiny home "kits" are also popular. Necessities such as heat, water, septic, and other factors must be legal, of course.

Tiny homes are being touted as a solution to climate change, as well as lower living standards promoted by social engineers.

And there's no question tiny homes can be darling.

But are they worth it?

Putting aside the very real consideration of space (or lack thereof), tiny homes have a number of strikes against them.

For their size, they are immensely heavy. If mobility is an attraction, a better investment might be a travel trailer, which are miracles of efficiency.

And speaking of investment, I've heard tiny homes do not hold their value. Unlike a stick-built home, they seldom accrue in value.

From a personal standpoint, my biggest concern is a tiny home makes it impossible to be self-sufficient, since there is no room for food storage or tool storage. This, to me, is not "simple" living.

Am I wrong? Am I being unnecessarily harsh? Please, change my mind. Tiny houses are darling and I really would like to like them.


  1. I’m with you - I think they’re darling as well, but incredibly impractical. I’d much rather live in a small house (1500 sf), with storage space and a kitchen where I can actually process food for storage.

    Also, I’d like to see how the tiny house lovers feel after, say, 7-10 years of living in what is basically a single room with a kitchenette and a loft.

    Color me harsh as well, and I’d really like to like them also,

  2. I've spent quite a while living in a converted school bus with a wife and several children. We've also had experience living in a very large house, also for quite a while. You're absolutely right that a person can't really develop much of a collection of food, tools, clothing, or other supplies, unless you want to keep them in a storage unit or some such. "Minimalism" and "self-sufficiency" are two principles which don't always harmonize easily. I'd recommend anyone considering such a lifestyle take careful stock of his or her (or their, or its, or whatever) priorities, desires, plans, and prognostications before dropping everything and going tiny.

    We've learned quite a lot about what's necessary and what's not, and about living in small spaces. We feel pretty well guided and blessed by the Creator to take up this lifestyle in the first place, and to be honest, we rather hope that that same power will guide us into something more spacious soon; we'd kinda like to move back into something without wheels.

  3. I dont get them. Why not just use a travel trailer. They are absolutely amazing nowadays. That aside, it is a way of "simple living", but not a sustainable one.

  4. If by "tiny homes" a very small home is meant, then possibly yes. If by "tiny homes" one means what you in the picture, then doubtful. Ability to store anything (let along supplies) is one. Another is probably value - in point of fact, not really much different than a manufactured home.

    The cost is an attraction. But small homes - real homes - can also be designed with these sorts of requirements that will actually be liveable.

  5. Can Common Cents get moved over to the "Must Read" column? :)

    Happy New Year RR!!

  6. First, you need some place to park it. That costs money. Cities are not the place to be or any sort of regulated area, even a small town. Plus, where would I put my canner and sewing machine, etc.?

    I have heard that people build or buy a shed for storage and workspace or even rent a unit. So, I wonder how they do this? Clean out the unit every time they move?

    I read that one woman hired a person to build a really cheap tiny home for her and spent much more having it redone since he used inside wood for the outside.

    The loft for sleeping is only handy for the young, uninjured person. One guy made a slide out area to sleep because he said he liked to drink and could not safely climb.

    I think these are great for adventuresome and very young, single or childless people. I think living in one with teens would be difficult. Some sleeping arrangements are only built for a little person to sleep.

    Little homes are not so cheap when I think of all the downsides and ways to overcome the lack of space.

  7. In north Texas there are a large number of small trailer homes in small parking lots for them. I think the big draw is the low cost and not having to hassle with septic, water and electricity. We had a new one open and it filled up with 100 homes in 6 months.

  8. Another consideration: You have to have somewhere to put the thing, and most states would classify a tiny home as an RV which would limit where it could be "parked."

  9. Tiny homes presuppose individuals or couples without any children. I'll take my five children and a big house with yard over any supposed eco-friendly tiny home any day. I think they are just another way to discourage the building of families. Or true self-sufficiency; or productivity and creativity. Our daughter (now 31) has often thought she'd like one, they seem to be so "romantic" or something. Until I remind her that she could never fit her book collection in one of them (she is a writer) and she sighs and agrees. We aren't hoarders, but we're not minimalists either. I enjoy our trips with our travel trailer, but am always glad to get back home to my big sewing room, kitchen and library.

  10. They are just another fad that will pass. A tiny home is, often, smaller than an apartment.

  11. I actually met someone who had one, but she was moving onto the property of a relative and didn't need as much. I am with you I would just get an RV or wait until I could afford something a little bigger for some storage. I realize most of us too much stuff, but that might not be enough for as you said being self sufficient.

  12. I believe that they are often grossly over-priced. At some of the prices that I've seen quoted on TV, the owners could have had a much larger stick-built home or a REALLY nice mobile home.

  13. Post Alley CrackpotJanuary 2, 2021 at 6:06 PM

    "... a tiny home makes it impossible to be self-sufficient ..."

    The kinds of people pushing these solutions don't want you or anyone else they deem to be a potential threat to be self-sufficient.

    What I want to know is this: instead of a cat flap, do these tiny homes have a small portal for the government-provided brick of "processed cheese product" to enter the abode? :-)

  14. I have a slightly different perspective. I built and lived for two years in a 12x16, 192 sq ft tiny house that started life as a prebuilt shed. The interior was finished well enough – no granite countertops in sight. It has a living room, kitchen and bathroom on the main floor and a sleeping loft and a storage loft up the regular stairs (no ladder for me at 61 and definitely not in marathon shape).

    It is on skids, not wheels, so transport involves a call to the shed company. I had it moved onto a friend’s farm where it snuggled into a corner of the yard overlooking the horse corral. I plugged two heavy duty extension cords into the friend’s garage and into two plugs in the tiny house. With a few breakered heavy duty outlet strips, I had plenty of electricity for a chest freezer, chest refrigerator, microwave, two buffet burners, counter top oven, two electric kettles (one for the kitchen, one for the bathroom), my hair dryer, four lamps, my computer and the only heat source – a tower space heater. This was plenty to keep the well insulated little cabin cozy during two Minnesota winters.

    It has a self-contained composting toilet and I used plastic dish pans for the bathroom sink and in the kitchen for cooking and dishwashing. It was not connected to a water source so I hauled water in gallon jugs refilled at the grocery store and hauled waste water to dump down the drain in the friend’s barn.

    The sleeping loft is 4 feet high with the mattress resting on 1x4s screwed into the floor with an inch space between them so the mattress can breathe. I had no problem with mold. I can easily sit up on the bed. The storage loft was where my preps were stored. I also stored buckets under the stair landing and more food under the built-in couch/pull out bed (I had a guest stay with me for 3 months one summer). I designed the cabin with prep storage in mind.

    I built it (for $7,000) so I could have an inexpensive place to live for a couple of years to save a down payment for the place where I now live. It was never intended to be my permanent house. My previous rental was $850 a month so this was a major savings. I also used the time to evaluate if/how I could live basically off grid in the future. Two 15 amp plugs were all I needed and I learned how to manage my electric usage. The hair dryer required that only one lamp be on or I popped breakers. 12 gallons of water per week was plenty for cooking, drinking, dish washing, sponge bathing, hair washing and water for my two cats (who loved the place). I used a laundromat but I did wash at home a couple of times so I know that 15 gallons is enough to do my weekly laundry. The cabin is now my guesthouse and garden house with a lot of storage in it.

    I agree that the tiny houses of TV fame are overpriced and not really practical if one intends to move them around. But if someone has a place to park it (land they own, a friend with space), and one uses the space well, it’s amazing what can be stored in there.

    1. This is the perfect example. Patrice, you could add one to your property for the girls to stay in for example. The reason they are on wheels is, no building codes, permits, etc. but I like this skid approach much better. For most people, though a trailer is the better approach.

  15. I have owned and lived in what are called "Park Models" They are small mobile homes about 10'X40', and are legal to move on highways with permits. They are generally one full size bedroom, full sized bath and same for kitchen and living room. They can be placed on a foundation. The models have all the amenities of a large apartment. I am looking for a small plot of land here in Idaho and will be buying one again to live in. Cost is about $40,000.

  16. My sister had a tiny house built on her property in Georgia, for a quest quarters. It is really cute, and very cozy for a week long stay! I agree with you Patrice, in that it is absolutely not the place to store more than an empty suitcase for the week. Charming in short term stays, scary for long term living!

  17. I like watching tiny house videos on YouTube. Some of them are quite large (long) actually. I actually like some of the ideas for being efficient in terms of storage, I can see some of those ideas being utilized in a larger home.
    From the videos I have watched, yes they are mostly used by singles or couples. I think it is a good way for them to be able to get a house. A single person could have room to stock up if they designed the tiny home right.
    If tiny homes had been a thing when my husband and I started out, it would have been a huge help. We could have bought a piece of property to put one on, and when we finally built a house, the tiny home could be used for a teenager to "move out" into or even as an Air B&B later on for an extra income. If built right for maximum accessibility (no loft, for instance), it could even be a place for an elderly parent to stay instead of a retirement village.
    Having said all that, I do think that even the addition of a pet or two, or child, would render it a frustrating place to live. That is why there is a need for something between a tiny home and a "starter home" in our culture. I think "Small homes" would fit the bill.
    I don't quite "get" your other commenters about how living in an RV would be better. My family and I recently finished a nearly 4-year stint of RV living. After baking through hot summers and spending uncomfortable harsh winters, I would much, much, MUCH have preferred a tiny home.

  18. They can be stolen! The province I live in had 2 stolen over the Xmas holidays. Can't do that with a normal house.

  19. I really don't like the campers on steroids. In the northeast they usually end up in trailer parks or seasonal campsites. Tiny homes with foundations, water and waste disposal are awesome. We have a tiny home/cabin and wouldn't consider anything on wheels.

  20. Indoctrinating the future generations to be happy living in a "cell", relying on the government to supply all your needs

  21. I watched a documentary on tiny houses and woman was gushing on about how it gave her such a feeling of independence but as the show went on, it was revealed she had her tiny house parked in a friend's backyard and that the tiny house owner was using the friend's bathroom and kitchen. Seems like if you don't have a bathroom or a kitchen in your tiny house you have zero independence!
    My husband and I would rather own a small house but plenty of land.

  22. The biggest strike against them that I see is that they are on wheels. And they are on wheels because of legal issues. For many if not most of them, the wheels are as useful as those on “mobile homes”—to get them from the place they’re built to where they stay.

    If mobility is an issue, I agree, get a travel trailer. If I were to go that route, I’d like to get an empty shell of a travel trailer, so I could put in the interior that fits my lifestyle.

    As for size, compare them to many of the houses—log cabins, sod houses, etc.—built 150 years ago. But the advantages those houses had was that most of those houses were built on farms with outbuildings for work and storage.

    Basically, all one needs in a house is a place for cooking, a place to sit and eat, a bathroom and a place to sleep. If the storage is in a separate building, like a barn or shed, the main house can be quite small. It’s when one wants to add all sorts of luxuries, like a library inside the house, a living room, game center, a large pantry instead of the shed, etc. that the houses grow.

    Yeah, I like the tiny houses too. But I don’t see them as practical absent exterior storage.

    That’s my 2¢

  23. The question is, are they as attractive to tornadoes as mobile homes?

    1. Many of them are taller - tough towing in Northern plains 'high wind warnings'.

  24. The whole "Tiny House" movement really comes down to high housing costs and heavy government regulation - in some Liberal cities, for example Seattle, they are a winked on exception to zoning and permitting regulations since they are on wheels...
    Government regulations have artificially restricted the housing supply and driven up prices in most metro areas; this is one workaround.
    Personally, I'd rather use a travel trailer or motorhome (I just spent 2 weeks in mine visiting family over the holidays).
    If you move to a rural area, housing usually is much cheaper than cities.
    For example, when I moved to a rural area, I had the same mortgage value but Twice the internal space, 4 times the garage, and 1200 times the land.

  25. I lived in a "tiny house/converted school bus" years ago, before they were the in-thing. I was a teenager living with parents and two siblings.(in the yard of friends, water from their hose, showers in their bathroom) I would not live that way again. There is a huge difference between independence and moocjing. I am not opposed to minimalism to an extent, but I believe that "putting things up" for later is not just Biblical, but smart. The whole storge (lack of) bothers me.

  26. The next time you are on the highway, take a good look at the big rig sharing your road. The driver(s) live in these for weeks to months at a time. John and I did.
    We had a 30 foot camper stored near Dallas which was also near the kids. We stayed here when we had days off. This was a great life until John was diagnosed with lung cancer.
    Then we moved back to our real home and I returned to sustainable living. I started my garden and filled my pantry. He brought 2 newborn calves home and I raised them. We went fishing. He passed 3 years later.
    Now I am ready for the future as much as anyone, better than most. Just canned 50 quarts of veggies on halves from a friend. Have house renovations to keep me busy. This has always been my dream for my senior years. Only regret is friends. Too many of mine have passed. Others live far away.