If you asked me as a kid what my dream home looked like, I’d have painted you a picture very similar to the extravagant mansion in 1994’s “Richie Rich.” With 8,000 acres of land and that iconic in-house McDonald’s, the renowned “largest home in America” served as the ultimate fantasy for many wide-eyed kids growing up.
Fast forward a few decades and the latest real estate trend sweeping the nation isn’t that of sprawling lawns and rooms to spare, but rather the bite-sized tiny house movement.
What Is A Tiny House (AKA Micro Home)?
Although tiny houses seem pretty self-explanatory, they’re more specifically defined as any home that falls under a maximum of 500 square feet. They can also be built on either a mobile platform or a permanent house foundation.
What Is The Tiny House Movement?
The tiny house movement rose to online glory not only due to its architectural innovation but also because of the lifestyle, philosophy and whimsy it embodies. Many viral tiny homes unlock a sense of dreaminess, oftentimes overlapping with the cottagecore styling trend, which celebrates softness and simplicity.
However, the tiny house community most notably overlaps with minimalist and sustainable lifestyles, which is perhaps why they have become a social movement in and of themselves. With a need for few building materials, a significant decrease in energy consumption and small square footage which can prevent overcrowding, tiny homes present numerous benefits to the environment. So, it’s no surprise that those seeking an eco-friendly lifestyle – or even just a more eclectic way of life – have gravitated to the tiny home movement.
12 Surprising Tiny House Facts
As great as tiny homes may seem, when it comes to buying, moving and living in them, you may encounter more hurdles than you bargained for. In order to understand just what to expect before adopting this lifestyle, let’s discuss some of these challenges.
1. Finding A Place To Park Your Tiny House Can Be An Issue
If you find that a big part of a tiny home’s allure is the mobility and ease of traveling, then it’s good to bear in mind that there are also downsides. Due to many zoning regulations, full-time living in temporary housing structures is usually not permitted in many municipalities. Additionally, even if you are well within your means, it can still be difficult to find somewhere to park your tiny home.
Many tiny home lifestyle advocates frequent parks, beaches or anywhere in cities with abundant street parking. But if you live in the suburbs or an area with particularly unruly weather, it could be challenging to find adequate space to live in your tiny home.
2. Tiny Houses Aren’t As Mobile As You Think
Speaking of travel and mobility – there’s a misconception that with a tiny home you’ll be able to travel the world with ease. And while this is truer of tiny houses than your standard permanent foundation home, it’s not quite as cut and dried as it sounds. There will be many expenses to consider and prepare for whenever you plan on moving. For example, you’ll need a trailer and a hitch for relocating. You’re sure to encounter numerous parking fees, and of course, you’ll have to figure out how to secure all of your belongings.
3. A Tiny House Means Tiny Appliances
If you’ve dreamt about someday owning a Sub-Zero refrigerator or if you like to make use of your full range stove, the proportionally small appliances that come with the tiny home lifestyle are sure to serve as a reality check. Many tiny homes come equipped with a small-sized refrigerator, oven or stovetop – not to mention pretty limited counter space. So, if cooking is a big part of your life, you may want to forgo a tiny home or look into creating your own custom build with larger appliances.
4. Zoning Laws Make Building Permanent Foundations Difficult
The same way that mobility presents numerous challenges for tiny-home owners, permanent foundation tiny homes also bring their own set of difficulties. Typically, zoning laws require a minimum size build for permanent residences, which tiny homes rarely meet. So, if you’re set on living in a particular area, make sure you understand the local ordinances and regulations before setting about your tiny home aspirations.
5. Tiny Houses Are More Vulnerable To Natural Disasters
This drawback is a more serious one – especially if you live in a high-risk area for storms or hurricanes. If you want to live somewhere with high-speed winds, having a tiny home – particularly one without a permanent foundation – just isn’t safe. Be sure to do your research and seek out one of the many communities in non-hurricane zones.
6. Temperature Control Can Be Less Than Ideal
When you’re buying or building your tiny home, you must keep the weather in mind. If you love the look of lofted spaces, just know that they can get uncomfortably hot very quickly – especially in warmer months. And when it gets cooler, it can be just as difficult to warm up.
When it comes to tiny home living, proper ventilation and heating and cooling systems are key.
7. Tiny Houses Are Often More Expensive Per Square Foot
For those of us who are real bargain hunters, calculating the price per unit for better deals can feel like second nature. So, it can be a real letdown to learn that most tiny homes are almost double the price per square foot than a traditional home. According to Business Insider, while many standard homes average around $150 per square foot to build, tiny homes can cost around $400 per square foot.
However, that’s not to say you won’t save money in the long run. Although there are plenty of upfront costs for a tiny home, you’ll save quite a bit on utilities or excess furnishings down the road.
8. Building Codes Vary Or May Not Apply
It’s no surprise that standard homes must meet certain regulations in order to be deemed safe enough to live in – and the same goes for tiny homes. According to Money Task Force, typically, tiny homes must include:
- One full bath with a minimum ceiling height of 6 feet 4 inches
- A minimum ceiling height of at least 6 feet 8 inches in common areas
- A ladder or staircase for any lofted areas
- At least one window that can double as an emergency exit
- Compliance with the International Residential Code or the International Building Code requirements
However, these building codes can vary from region to region, so it’s important to do your research and understand the regulations specific to your area. Additionally, since tiny homes are a relatively new phenomenon, many areas may not even have policies or regulations in place pertaining to tiny home safety. Keep these factors in mind before deciding where you’ll plan to live.
9. It May Be Difficult To Secure Funding
Since tiny homes are newly popular, the methods for financing one are still relatively limited. Because of this, it can be difficult to find traditional financing options. However, Quicken Loans® does offer financing on tiny houses with a permanent foundation.
10. Keeping Clean Can Be A Real Chore
Despite the idyllic pictures that we see online, having much less space could mean having much more clutter. Without spare rooms to store things, it can be easy for your tiny home to fill up with misplaced items, unless you’re constantly maintaining your living space. Additionally, since most many tiny homes have more unique nooks and crannies, cleaning can become much more burdensome than in a standard home.
11. No More Shopping Sprees
Although this might seem like a given, tiny-home owners have to seriously cut back on impulse purchases. If you’re a clothing fanatic like, for example, refusing a good sale can be difficult, but with limited closet space you’ll have to either refuse or opt for swapping out your wardrobe.
12. It May Not Be Wise To Host
Unless you live in a particularly warm area where you can take advantage of outdoor seating, you should probably forfeit hosting the next dinner party or game night. Having guests over one at a time might run smoothly and your tiny home is sure to wow for its novelty, but cramping your friends and family in for a meal or catch-up may not be comfortable. Not to mention, many tiny homes use composting toilets and giving your guests a toilet tutorial could be a bit awkward.
So, if you find yourself jumping at the chance to host holidays or dinners, be sure to give these factors some extra consideration.
The Bottom Line On Tiny Houses
Tiny – or micro – homes are much more than just walls and a roof; they embody a simple and eclectic lifestyle that many of us want the chance to experience. But what we don’t see behind the quirky architecture and free-spirited lifestyle are the challenges: parking, weather, financing and zoning. All of these are factors you must consider before joining the tiny home movement.
What many people also forget is that tiny home living is a drastic lifestyle change – one that could liberate people and change their lives for the best, or one that could leave you feeling frustrated. Tiny homes are a huge change so it’s important to do your research and be absolutely sure of your decision before pursuing the tiny home lifestyle.
If you’ve considered all of these points and are still looking to finance your tiny house – or a traditional home if you’ve found they’re not for you – then consider speaking with a mortgage expert today.