Tiny Houses For Sale – What You Need To Know Before You Buy
You may have heard about tiny houses through a news item, on social media or perhaps on one of the HGTV shows dedicated to them.
TV shows such as Tiny House Hunters, or Tiny House Big Living.
Wherever you heard the term, it seems as though everyone is talking about the tiny house movement these days.
Even mainstream news channels like CNN, NBC, and the Huffington Post have been talking about it.
No surprise then, that tiny living is a growing trend that shows no sign of slowing down.
So, what’s it all about?
Are we just talking about extreme downsizing here or is there more to it?
How do you find out where there are tiny houses for sale?
And more importantly, what do you need to know before you buy one!
Read on to find the answer to all these questions and more.
The questions are organized as a table of content, so you can skip down to the one that is most pressing for you.
- 1 What is tiny house living and how do I downsize?
- 2 What is a tiny house?
- 3 Things you need to know before buying a small house
- 4 Are tiny houses legal?
- 5 How much does a tiny house cost?
- 6 Can I get financing to buy a tiny home?
- 7 Renting vs buying a tiny house
- 8 What are the benefits of owning a tiny house?
- 9 What are the downsides to buying a tiny house?
- 10 Where can I park a tiny house?
- 11 How to move a tiny house and what are the costs?
- 12 Can a family live in a tiny house and if so, what size would be needed?
- 13 Where can I buy tiny homes?
What is tiny house living and how do I downsize?
Probably the number one question on your mind right now is finding out just what tiny living is.
Question number two would then be how could you possibly fit your life into one of those tiny places!!
Tiny living is a movement that came about as more and more people became interested in living simply in a smaller space.
It may be because you want to save money, declutter your life or perhaps want to reduce your carbon footprint and go green. They’re all valid reasons for looking into the growing trend to buy a tiny home.
Off the grid living is also one of the ideals talked about by tiny house enthusiasts and that can be a dream many people have.
Tiny house living is about more than just the physical side of going smaller, though, it’s about becoming aware of our part in modern day society.
It will make you think long and hard about how you live your life and the decisions you make.
You may find that baggage you want to ditch could be more emotional than anything else!
Talking about getting rid of baggage, if you make the decision to go small then how are you going to decide what goes with you?
One way to get your head around it might be to imagine you lost everything in a fire. You then decide to replace only the things that you actually need by dividing it up into 4 lists.
The first will be things you can’t live without. This is the stuff that will have to come with you no matter what. We’ll call this list the ‘Must Have‘ list.
The next list will be those items you don’t really need but are nice to have. This is the list of stuff that you will sell, donate or recycle if there is no room for it. This one can be called the ‘Nice to Have‘ list.
The third list will be for those things you do not need. Be brutal here as this is the key to your tiny house door. Unless you already live a simple life, without much modern clutter, then this list might end up being quite large!
Anything on list number 3 will be sold, given away or recycled along with the stuff that didn’t make it from your Nice to Have list.
The fourth list is more of a reminder and should be for your things that could potentially be downsized with you.
Maybe you need to have a TV (really…?) but that monster on your wall is not going to cut it. So, you could sell it and get a much smaller one. Same goes for that sprawling sofa or huge wardrobe. We’ll call it the ‘Downsized Items‘ list.
Note that this list will only contain items that are on the first two lists already as if it isn’t, then you don’t need it!
This is a great way to build up an inventory for insurance purposes as well by the way. You should try this even if you’re not moving into a tiny home.
But think how much easier to manage that list would be if you do decide to buy a small house…
What is a tiny house?
Typically, a tiny house is a house or dwelling with between 100 to 400 square feet of space.
When you consider that the average American home is around 2,500 square feet of space, these homes really are tiny!
As the tiny house movement has grown, most people have opted to make their home mobile and so it has to be built to fit on a trailer.
That means it can’t be any bigger than 40 feet long by 8 feet 6 inches wide. Height wise you are restricted to 13 feet 6 inches.
Most ready built tiny house RVs are under 30 feet long as otherwise it can get very tricky moving it around.
That gives you around 255 square feet of space, more if you can fit in a loft as well.
Why are people putting them on trailers? It comes down to one of the major problems of owning a tiny home right now.
Most local regulations class these as too small to be a permanent dwelling. Put them on a trailer though and most counties class them as recreational vehicles (RV’s)!
Not a perfect solution but we’ll take a closer look at how people make this work later.
Things you need to know before buying a small house
If you’re still reading, then you are probably getting quite interested in what tiny houses have to offer. That or you just enjoy a good read!
Either way, there are some important questions to look at before you go looking for a tiny home for sale.
Are tiny houses legal?
The number one concern for most people and surprisingly, given all the media attention, the answer is in most areas, no.
At least, that’s how it is right now.
As we noted before, most cities and communities have zoning rules that specify a minimum square foot requirement for a family home.
Anything smaller usually needs to be an accessory to a larger house (think an office out in the back yard here).
Just to make matters more complicated, many areas have regulations about utilities. The rule is usually that if it’s a permanent dwelling, it must be hooked up.
A problem for many ‘off the grid’ enthusiasts. They want to use alternative energy sources such as rainwater catchment and solar power systems.
Putting your tiny house on wheels so it’s classed as an RV comes with its own set of problems, though, as most counties do not allow people to live in RV’s.
You may end up living a furtive life trying to stay under the radar of the local housing code enforcement officers.
You will also need to try and make sure it’s RVIA (Recreational Vehicle Industry Association) certified as well.
Without that, you may find it difficult to get finance, insurance, and DMV registration.
You will also need to find somewhere to park it! (see below).
How much does a tiny house cost?
One of the main drivers behind the tiny living movement is saving money on buying the house you live in.
Compared to purchasing a larger house, you can certainly do that!
A typical new tiny house can cost between $40,000 and $80,000 dollars to build using professional contractors.
If you can do most of it yourself, then you could do it for as little as $15,000 – $30,000.
You can also buy brand new tiny home RVs for around the same sort of money. That would give you more options of where you live but less living space overall.
If you want to save even more money, check out buying one second-hand.
A good place to start looking would be the sites we have listed in our ‘where to buy’ section at the end.
Can I get financing to buy a tiny home?
At the current time, you will find banks and other lending institutions are generally not interested in lending money secured against a tiny house.
They do not have a good enough resale value to attract that sort of lending, unfortunately.
Things may change though and it’s always worth checking with your bank what their position is.
If you can get an unsecured loan for enough money, then some people with a good credit history may find that an attractive option.
RVIA certified tiny homes qualify for ‘RV loans’ which offer fairly low fixed interest rates. You will need to agree to automatic payments from your bank account, though.
Many people choose instead to use their own savings to fund their lifestyle change. Depending on your circumstances that may be your best option.
With build, your own costs starting from around $15,000 it’s certainly something most people could consider.
Borrowing the money from family or friends is also something you might be able to look at.
Bottom of the list is borrowing the money from higher interest sources such as credit cards etc. Everyone’s circumstances are different of course, but that does not seem the best way to go unless you have no other option.
Renting vs buying a tiny house
Now that we’ve covered how difficult it may be to secure finance for your tiny home dream, you may be wondering if you could rent one instead.
That is certainly an option and one that might be a good idea to see if you really are suited to the tiny living life before jumping right in.
Renting obviously cuts out the initial cost but like all rent vs buy comparisons, it’s not just about that.
You would need to weigh up other things like local amenity costs, rental increases, how long you intend to stay and a whole lot of other factors first.
Most people opt to buy their tiny home once they’ve looked into it providing they can raise the capital.
What are the benefits of owning a tiny house?
At this stage, it would be great to list out all the wonderful things about living small that we’ve come across:
- Being able to save for and build your own tiny house without having to take out a massive mortgage.
- If you buy an RV type house, you can move it to wherever the mood takes you.
- Want to live off the grid? Tiny houses are a great way to make this happen.
- Decluttering your life can be both emotionally and physically rewarding.
- Dramatically lowering your living costs are a real possibility as heating and cooling costs will be less.
- Maintenance and upkeep costs will also be reduced.
- Tiny living is good for the environment as tiny houses are much more energy efficient.
- Spend less time cleaning! You can clean the whole house in 30 minutes instead of several hours.
- You will not need a huge lot to live on and if you don’t like the neighbors, just pack up and move somewhere else!
Image Source: Stuart Miles
What are the downsides to buying a tiny house?
We can’t cover all the good things without giving you some idea of the not so good ones as well, so here goes:
- Finding somewhere to live can be a challenge.
- Space is a valuable commodity in a small home so most rooms will need to be used for more than just one purpose.
- You will need to compromise. Watching TV late at night might not be an option anymore if your partner is asleep just a few feet above.
- Make sure you have a strong relationship if you’re going to live with a partner in a tiny house. It can be tough going as you will be in the same space most of the time.
- Less storage space means more trips to the stores and more expensive grocery bills.
- You will need to decide how you’re going to deal with sewage. Are you going to have a composting toilet or do you plan on using a chemical toilet system for instance?
- Remember to bear this in mind when looking for somewhere to park yourself.
Where can I park a tiny house?
Despite the problems we’ve covered about where you can build or park your tiny home, you may be encouraged to read that things are changing.
Slowly, it has to be said, but it is happening.
As you know, if you want to build your place as a permanent dwelling then in most areas you will need to cooperate with the zoning department.
Try to involve a local building contractor who understands the local rules and regulations and who can help smooth the way.
If you go the tiny house RV route, then you may be living a secret life for a while. Parking up on a friend’s land and pretending you sleep in their house is quite common.
You could try buying some rural land that’s very private and hope no one reports you as well.
Another alternative is to find a trailer or RV park that will allow you stay longer term.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. There are now a few cities that allow tiny houses on wheels to be lived in. Fresno, California is one example.
You may find small towns are more open to allowing tiny homes than larger communities as well.
These smaller places are beginning to think that maybe the tiny home movement is something to be welcomed.
Spur in Texas is one example. With a population of around just 1000 people, it declared itself the nation’s first tiny-house-friendly town in 2014.
This could be the start of something on a much wider national scale. Smaller communities are realizing the movement could be the answer to help revitalize their town.
What kind of insurance do I need?
You will, of course, want to insure your pride and joy against fire, theft, and anything else that could happen to it.
Insurance for RV type tiny houses that have the RVIA certification can be obtained fairly easily. Just contact any insurance company that deals with RV insurance.
Owners of permanent or non RVIA certified tiny homes have found it more difficult in the past, but there are a small number of insurance companies now beginning to offer cover.
Although not everyone in every state will be able to get insurance cover right now, the hope is that they soon will be able to.
This is definitely an improving picture.
How to move a tiny house and what are the costs?
If your tiny home does not already have wheels or was not built to go on a trailer, you will have to think very carefully about moving it.
Buying a trailer on its own could cost you up to $7000 and you would still need to actually get the house on the trailer.
The whole exercise will need detailed planning beyond what we can discuss here.
Tiny home RVs, on the other hand, are made to be mobile. If you have a suitable towing vehicle, then there’s no reason you can’t move it yourself.
Even if you don’t have anything powerful enough (something like a 3/4 or 1-ton diesel truck) then you can easily rent one for a couple of days.
Don’t forget your DMV registration and check if you need any other documents, licenses, insurance etc. for states you will be passing through.
As tiny homes are not known for their aerodynamics you will need to make sure that weight is distributed correctly. This will help to avoid your home swaying alarmingly when being driven down the freeway!
Plan carefully to avoid low bridges, weight restrictions etc. using an RV GPS route planner and there should not be any problems taking your tiny home on a journey.
Can a family live in a tiny house and if so, what size would be needed?
One question that often comes up is whether a tiny home would be suitable for a family.
The answer is yes, but you would need to sit down and think carefully about the design.
You would also need to forget the ‘typical’ small home dimensions.
Allow yourself to go slightly over to make sure everyone has the space they need. A family of 4 might need up to 1000 square feet of space for example.
Of course, that all depends on the family and how old the children are. You can also utilize outdoor space as well to give you more options!
But it’s not about the numbers so much as embracing the lifestyle when you are thinking of introducing your family to living tiny.
Where can I buy tiny homes?
There are several places you can find tiny homes for sale. Many have a wealth of information on how to build your own or buy one already constructed.
You might want to try Tiny Home Builders who offer both education and practical help. You can either build it yourself or let them build it but still be involved in the process. They mainly supply tiny homes on trailers rather than permanent dwellings.
They also have a marketplace where owners can buy and sell a secondhand tiny house.
Next is a great company called Tumbleweed. They supply a large selection of tiny home RVs that are custom made to your requirements. They are also an RVIA certified manufacturer.
They have lots of information and help to get you started on their site so we suggest you head on over and check out Tumbleweed houses for sale.
Jamaica Cottage Shop provides craftsman built tiny home dwellings that come complete and ready to live in. Their buildings are a post and beam design and they are specialists in supplying homes for off the grid living.
Both Tumbleweed and Tiny Home Builders also hold workshops where you can get hands-on with the tools and materials they use. It’s also a great way to hang out with other enthusiasts and talk to them about living a tiny lifestyle.
We hope this introduction to tiny home living and where to buy them has helped you to decide if this way of life is for you.
If you do make that choice and go tiny, we’re sure you will love every minute of your big adventure.
Featured photo credit: Earthworm