How To Make A Qualified Decision Before You Buy a Tiny Home
There are many people who want to be a part of the much sought after tiny home movement and buy one to live in. They are not sure, however, if they buy a tiny home if it is really going to be the right solution for them and so are looking for answers.
Things like, what a tiny house is, or what the various benefits to living in one. Numerous questions come to mind and need to be answered in order to make a qualified decision.
Below is an interview that was done with a person that was already living in a small house and very kindly agreed to answer the most common questions asked about living the lifestyle.
If you would like to just read the parts that you’re interested in, just click on one of the links below and that will take you directly to that section.
Description Of A Tiny House
Q: Before we talk about anything else, can you explain what a tiny home is exactly?
A: Sure… A tiny house is a house which is so small that in most cases it can fit on a trailer. While dimensions may and will vary, the sort of standard width of a tiny home is about 8’6″ wide by 13’6″ high. These dimensions will depend on everyone’s individual needs of course but these guidelines allow one to travel on the highway.
You can either place the tiny house on the ground if you have a spot to put it, or you can put it on a trailer which makes it more mobile.
Why Buy A Tiny Home
Q: What made you decide to buy a tiny home?
A: Well there are many reasons to that actually. I got a chance to living in one while house-sitting for a friend. In doing so I realized, how much stuff I really owned and how much I didn’t need it.
It was a very freeing experience and I could see the benefits of being able to simplify my life and to do more of the things that I wanted to do without the upkeep of a larger house.
Once I made that decision, I went back home and started downsizing my belongings. This kept me focused on what I really wanted, and friends, family, and thrift shops were thrilled to receive my years of accumulated things.
Benefits Of A Small Home
Q: You mentioned benefits. Can you give me a little more information about that?
A: Ah, there are actually many benefits to buying and living in a tiny house.
The first one that comes to mind is financial reasons. Basically, it costs a whole lot less to build something small versus something large.
The repair costs are a lot lower and almost nonexistent, especially if it’s a brand new house.
Depending on where you put your house, there are lower taxes and insurance rates than a traditional house.
With the house being small, you consume less energy which makes the house a greener option. They are really energy efficient.
It is really amazing how little it costs once everything is set up. And… I save money in a lot of other ways. Where I would have gone out and bought a new something or other, I really take a second look to decide if I really need it and more importantly, where I would put it.
You really become a neater and tidier person living in a small space I found.
Those are just some of the benefits that I can think of right now, but of course, for everyone they will be different.
Tiny House Cost Versus Traditional House Costs
Q: You mentioned that a tiny house costs you less than a traditional house, can you elaborate?
A: Oh yes! If you have to buy a new house in this area, it would cost you somewhere around $290,400, but if you buy a tiny home, you would only be paying around $40,000 – $60,000 finished, depending on the length and extra’s you wanted.
Add the additional savings that you would be paying on interests and it sure costs a lot less than a traditional home. Also, you’re not spending your entire life paying off the mortgage. That was a real relief for me.
Once I sold my house I was actually able to buy my tiny cottage without owing very much. I will be able to pay it off in a couple of years.
Q: Okay, we have been talking a lot about cost and benefits, let me ask you another question?
Q: Did you always live in a tiny home or is this your first one?
A: Oh, I had been living in a regular house before this.
Q: So you were used to living in a more spacious house before you bought the tiny home?
A: yes, you can say so.
Q: What sort of lifestyle changes did you need to make?
A: Aw, that is a tricky one! Honestly, the only lifestyle change that I had to really make was that I had to stop throwing things here and there. Along with that, I had to learn the art of space management to the fullest. I think as you shift from a traditional house to a tiny home, you learn to do more with less.
It also changed my buying habits and I spend way less on “stuff” and more time on things that matter.
Q: Did you say space management? Tell me a little more about that?
A: Oh yes. See, in a tiny home, you still have all the amenities that you would have enjoyed in a regular home. You have a kitchen, a dining area, a toilet, a sleeping area and my one even has a seating area as well. If you have to accommodate all these things in 100 to 400 square feet, you’ve got to learn the art of space management.
You are always looking for ways to maximize space. Things like instead of buying a chair, I bought stacking stools so they only took up the space of one thing instead of 2.
I put things inside of things and it’s amazing how many space-saving devices are out there.
Water and Waste
Q: I always wondered about the bathroom facilities. What sort of options do you have for toilets? I would be concerned that it would smell up the whole house, especially after having beans for dinner.
A: Ha ha ha! Certainly not! Toilets that are meant for tiny homes are designed in a way so that the don’t smell at all. If you want the traditional flushing toilets, you can add that too, but, in that case, you would be required to be connected to a sewage system. Else, as you said, it would certainly become smelly.
There are actually a few options that you can choose from.
You can try the RV toilets which are specially designed for tiny homes and recreational vehicles.
Q: Do these toilets flush water?
A: Oh yes they do. The RV toilets usually flush a small amount of water per flush and stores the waste in a holding tank that is attached to the unit. This tank would need to be emptied from time to time or connected to a sewage system.
Q: What’s it like to use such a toilet?
A: It’s just like using a regular flush toilet. They are designed in the same fashion although they tend to have a little smaller seat so to take up less space.
Q: Are there other options?
A: You have the incinerating toilets that do not need to be connected to a sewage system. It doesn’t flush any water.
You can also try the composting toilets that turn the waste into useful compost. This is the one that I picked. It is a little more expensive but well worth it in my option.
Q: Okay I guess that was too much information about the toilets. How about water. How do you manage the plumbing system?
A: There are a couple of options and actually, it’s really nice having all these options to choose from.
You can either go with full plumbing and that works well if you are in an RV park or outside a house, you can just hook directly into a water tap via a hose.
Or, no plumbing, which would mean you would have to carry your water or store it.
I opted for a hybrid version, so when I’m located where there is running water I just hook up and everything runs normally. On the other hand, when I’m traveling or moving, I have large storage tank under the sink that holds water as well.
Remember, that you are using a lot less water, as you don’t need it to flush the toilet.
All I have to do is to get rid of the gray water and that again depends on where I’m at. If I’m parked in a friend’s backyard, I usually just water their plants with it. If I’m in a campground or park that offers waste facilities, I just hook into those like an RV would.
I even have the option to collect it under the house and dispose of it. You get really creative and it’s always good to check the laws in your area concerning the dumping of it.
I don’t have a washer or dryer so the only thing that takes up a bit of water is a shower. But I have one of those ones that you shut off between soaping and rinsing and it’s amazing how little water is consumed.
Heating and Cooling
Q: How do you heat that tiny house of yours?
A: Temperature control is not very difficult when you buy a tiny home and start living in it. I just use a little space heater or a propane one if I’m off the grid. I have a friend who has a little wood stove in his, but it gets really hot in there, and he usually ends up opening all the doors and windows.
Q: And what about cooling things down in the summer?
A: If you are living on the grid, air conditioners are the best option that you have. Don’t go for the split ones as their fitting process is very cumbersome. Instead, get one of those small window units as that’s enough to cool the little space .
If you are living off the grid, it makes it a little more difficult. You can use battery operated fans and air coolers or if you have solar panels there is probably an option to use with those.
I either use a window unit if I’m hooked up to electricity, or use a fan. Another option is to try and park under a large tree or in the shade.
Cable and Internet
Q: Do you have cable and internet connection to your little house?
A: Oh yes, I do! I use a satellite-based service. So it really doesn’t matter where I live as long as I’m not in the middle of a forest, surrounded by trees and not able to connect to the satellite. It is amazing the amount of portable services you can get.
Q: Do you use regular electrical appliances?
A: Well… you can. Depending on how much load your electric supply has to offer you, you can run all standard electrical appliances, but for convenience and the size of the house, I tended to go with apartment size versions.
The best thing to do here is to make a list of all appliances that you wish to use. Once you are done with this, you can then determined the total electric load of the house. Based on this you need to decide on the power source.
You can use the RV connection if you are stationed at a mobile home park. You can also use extension cords if you are parked near a driveway. All this will not come into the picture if you live off-grid. In that case, you would have to use appliances that run on batteries or propane.
I haven’t gone to solar yet, but that’s next on the list for me.
Buying a Tiny House
Q: How did you buy a tiny house? Was it a premade one or a shell and you built it yourself?
A: Well mine is a premade one, but you can build it yourself as well. If you have any knowledge of construction work, and you have some friends to help you, building a tiny home is not a very difficult task.
Q: I have heard about RVIA certification (Recreational Vehicle Industry Association), do I need to get one?
A: Most reputed manufacturers are RVIA certified and if you buy your house from them it will come with that certification. But… as I understand it, if you are going to be using your house as your permanent residence that you don’t need one. You would have to look into this further.
Q: If I want to buy a tiny home, where can I do that?
A: There are a bunch of builders around the world building and selling tiny homes. When I was looking for one, I did a lot of research.
My options were:
- Buy a ready made one
- Get a custom tiny house
- Buy a shell and do the interior myself
- Buy some plans and build it myself
I decided to go with the ready made option as I have trouble hammering a nail in straight. After doing a lot of reading and investigation I came up with 2 companies that looked really good. I’ll give you their websites if you like?
Q: You mentioned at the beginning of the interview about tiny houses being cheaper to insure. What kind of insurance do you need?
A: You can check with your insurance agent on this one. If they do not understand what you are talking about, you can call it a custom travel trailer if it’s on wheels. However, you must know that you should put insurance on your tiny home.
Spend some time in picking the best policy out there by phoning around. By doing that, you not only protect your home in the best possible way but also save some bucks.
Q: My last question, are you happy living tiny?
A: Like never before! There is a sense of independence as you live in a tiny home. Also, a special type of freedom that I’ve never experienced. Like knowing I can up and move anytime I want, and stay if I choose.
You get rid of all the “things” that are cluttering up your life and everything gets simplified. Feels like a weight lifted off my shoulders.
Best decision I ever made.
Featured photo credit: Bill Dickinson