Is the tiny home movement a fad, or is it here to stay?

Published May 25, 2016   Posted in Having some fun

It seems like stories about tiny home living are all over the place these days, and the idea of dramatically downsizing your home into something just a tenth of the size appears to be catching steam. But, is it all just a fad?

Pinterest: Tiny homes: Are they a fad or here to stay?I don’t think so, and for good reason. While not right for every family, a tiny home can change the landscape of homeownership and enable easy debt-free living to almost anyone willing to give it a try.

And as for resources, they are everywhere. One of my favorites, TheTinyLife.com, is run by a guy named Ryan Mitchell who writes about so many angles to tiny home living. Looking to build your own tiny home? The Internet once again has you covered. Check out TinyHouseBuild.com or TheTinyHouse.net for a good start, but resources are literally all over the damn place. Google it and yee shall find. A lot of it. And quickly.

The resources are only out there because people are doing it. A lot of people. Yeah, just a ton. Hell, there’s even a couple television shows about tiny home living, like HGTV’s Tiny House, Big Living and Tiny House Hunters. FYI TV has a show called Tiny House Nation.

Tiny Collingwood Shepherd Hut (tiny home) on wheels

Tiny Collingwood Shepherd Hut on wheels

In other words, the tiny house movement is all over the place through virtually every form of media. People are writing about it. Networks are televising it. Folks are downsizing and moving in left and right. Though I acknowledge that some of the attention that tiny homes get is due to these things being so new and “different”, the tiny home is probably here to stay.

Why are tiny homes so popular?

Think simplicity. Think 10 minutes to clean all the floors in your entire house. Think tiny mortgages, too – if any mortgage at all! Speaking of mortgages, 68% of tiny house people have no mortgage, according to TheTinyLife.com. Compare that to more than 70% of traditional homeowners that DO.

Here, enjoy some other stats:

  • Almost 80% of tiny house people own their home
  • The average size of a tiny house is only 186 sq/ft
  • The average tiny house can fit inside the average traditional home almost 12 times
  • More women own tiny homes than men: 55% to 45%
  • Nearly 90% of tiny house owners have less credit card debt than the average American

Okay, but what defines a tiny house? Despite what you may hear, there are no hard and fast rules regarding where the maximum sq/ft threshold between a true “tiny home” and just a small house really is. That said, tiny homes are traditionally smaller than 500 sq/ft. Some, like this tiny house, is only 84 square feet and was built for around $10,000 – the cost of some people’s annual vacation! The humanity.

Why are mortgages rarer in the tiny home community?

People build their own tiny homes with their own two hands. Often, future tiny house dwellers will purchase floor plans off of a tiny house designer or manufacturing company, then get to work by utilizing salvaged wood and other materials acquired very cheaply, not to mention cheap labor (friends and family). Tumbleweed was one of the first companies to enter this space and offers a wide variety of tiny home floor plans, workshops and pre-built homes. Tiny home building eCourses are available too around the Internet as well as this list of tiny house builders.

Tiny homes are much less expensive to build and maintain because, naturally, there isn’t as much TO build and maintain. Most homes range in the neighborhood of $10,000 to $15,000 for smaller, sub-100 sq/ft models to upwards of $100,000 for larger and nicer homes with upgraded fixtures. Tackling the job yourself will be the cheapest option provided it’s done right. Hiring a contractor mid-way through to fix your screw ups, of course, will add to the project’s bottom line, so plan accordingly and honestly assess your skill set before getting yourself in too deep!

Do keep in mind that tiny homes traditionally do not come with land, so finding a place to park the house is another consideration to the overall bottom line. Most campgrounds do not consider tiny homes to be recreational vehicles (even those that sit upon a movable trailer) and often do not allow these homes into their grounds. This is one reason why I prefer RVs to tiny homes.

Tiny homes are here to stay

Tiny homes are no fad. While still in their relative infancy, these extremely small homes offer people a simpler way to live. With less space comes less surface area to maintain and pay for, reducing the cost of living and making these homes more accessible to more people.

What say you? Do you believe this whole tiny house movement is nothing but a fad, or do you think living small in tiny homes is here to stay?

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Comments

28 responses to “Is the tiny home movement a fad, or is it here to stay?”

  1. Jim Wang says:

    I love it because it’s showing folks an alternative to the “norm.” Much like how FIRE is showing people they don’t need to work 50 years before retirement (as long as they’re willing to sacrifice some of the trappings of “normal” life), tiny house living is showing that you don’t need a massive house if that’s not your thing.

    Whenever we travel, we don’t stay in the fanciest of hotels because life is lived outside of the hotel. Is it much different in life? We spend time at home but what percentage of the time? Does it make sense to get a big house when you spend most of your waking time outside of it?

    The answer will depend on the person but these lifestyles have shown folks a way if they choose it.

    • Steve says:

      Definitely an alternative, Jim! And some of these homes are truly amazing in how they use space. It’s incredible what we can do with efficiency when we are FORCED to be efficient. The bigger the home, often times, the less efficient that we need to be. 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing these stats–very interesting. It seems to be growing in popularity and while some of that may drop off when it’s no longer new, I think it’ll stay around as a viable option to traditional home ownership. I’m curious about what demographics are living in tiny homes. Though I know some people with children do, it seems much less common, understandably.

    • Steve says:

      It’s true that tiny homes are less common for those with children, but there are exceptions. I’m glad to see it growing in popularity; like Jim said, it’s showing folks an alternative to the “norm”, which is a very, very good thing. 🙂

  3. Ernie says:

    It’ll be interesting to see what the next generation of home owners do. Last night after the Minimalism documentary I was talking to a mom who said that both her kids want to live in a tiny house some day. I thought that was interesting. Perhaps my boys will want to live in one, too, after growing up listening to me complain about all the time, energy, and money it takes to maintain a home!

    • Steve says:

      That’s a good sign, Ernie! Though after years of going through school and seeing all the nonsense out there, I wonder if that tiny house view will still be there. It’s easy to get caught up in the status quo!

  4. Kyle says:

    Tiny homes have been around for a long time. They were just called trailer parks, were viewed negatively by most of society and were owned by low income blue collar people.

    Now the same type of dwelling is owned by educated white collar people and is all the rage. From watching videos on Youtube, it seems to be a side effect of a lot of people finishing college and not being able to find a good job, so they don’t want to get a traditional mortgage. Whether that will continue is the question.

    • MM says:

      This is so true! People always lived in tiny home (single wide or double wide) and were looked down upon – now it is all the rage because the non-blue collar folks are into it.

    • Steve says:

      Very true, Kyle. I think the biggest difference here is people are living in tiny homes because they WANT to, not necessarily because they have to. And when people WANT to, they do some truly awesome things to these homes, using space incredibly efficiently. Seeing some of these homes has given me ideas on how to improve my own living space.

      • Well said. If you’ve ever been through a trailer park, those homes are frequently NOT well cared for. Junk gets piled high – inside and outside.

        The opposite seems to be true in the tiny home movement. Those owners seem to care for their homes.

  5. Tiny homes are interesting an great I think for singles and possibly couples. I think I would struggle a bit raising a family, but maybe I should try it to find out! Trial tiny home vacations!

    • Steve says:

      That’s very true, Jolly Ledger – you can rent out tiny homes on vacations. It wouldn’t be completely the same, but at least it would introduce you to the concept. Always worth a shot – you’d at least have something to talk about even if you didn’t like that living arrangement. 🙂

  6. I’d be curious to know if they are as popular in the north as the South? Thought being in the winter you are trapped in a small hone and can’t do as much outdoor living.

    • Steve says:

      I’m not exactly sure, but I’m also not aware of any specific areas of the country where their numbers appear to be higher. To my knowledge, they are pretty much all over the place, though I would admit that warmer climates might lend a little easier to this kind of living. Then again, heating a 150sqft house would be no sweat…and cheap!

  7. Apathy Ends says:

    I don’t think it’s a fad, and even if the extremely tiny houses don’t stick around, I think there will be a trend of people sizing down traditional houses 1000 sq ft instead of 2500 for example

  8. I think one of the main reasons I have become so obsessed with a minimalist lifestyle (aside from all the benefits (financial and otherwise)) is because I dream of one day being able to move into a tiny home (and use my house for rental income). I also love the idea that you could travel the country (maybe even the world!) in one, never having to pay for a hotel. I definitely think this is here to stay (especially for millennials who may view it as a better option as opposed to owning a traditional home).

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Ms. MoneyPennies – yup, the ability to just up and move these homes is an incredible benefit. Tiny homes can be more difficult to move around than a more traditional RV (because of how campgrounds and cities classify tiny homes), but their mobility is definitely something that people take advantage of.

  9. As a landlord of single family homes in an urban city, I see this as a very small niche market, and probably not practical for anyone who prefers city living. It’s very cool, but it takes a special person to be able to live in such small quarters. This coming from a guy who has lived in a 600 square foot rowhome. That being said, I would consider it if I was single. I don’t think my wife and kid would be too thrilled, even if I convinced her she could stop working!

    • Steve says:

      Yup, this kind of living is definitely not for everyone, though I am personally been amazed at how EASY living small is (I live in a 200sqft RV). It’s just a change of patterns, really. Not nearly as difficult as I thought it may have been.

  10. I would definitely love to see smaller dwellings stick around for a long time. I do wonder, though, if lots of people who are doing tiny homes now will eventually realize they want more space. Thinking about my grandparents and dad when he was growing up, they upsized several times, never to anything extravagant (the first house was like 600 square feet for a family of 5 — think they maybe got up to 1200 or 1300 sq ft for their last pre-retirement home, nothing extravagant!). They didn’t upsize because of marketing, or because of pressure to live in a McMansion — that wasn’t a thing yet! They didn’t do it to keep up with the Joneses, either — they just simply wanted to be able to move around without being on top of each other. But even if they don’t last, I think the impact of the tiny home movement is super positive, and helps us reset the baseline downward a bit, at least for those of us choosing to be more conscious of our consumption of resources as well as our own finances! We simply don’t need 1000 square feet per person, and it’s crazy to build houses to those specs!

    • Steve says:

      I’m right there with ya, ONL! There are some perfectly legitimate reasons to upsize your home, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with finding out that tiny house living isn’t for you. I can definitely respect those who actually gave it a true even if they find that they need something bigger. That’s okay – those homes certainly aren’t for everybody. 🙂

  11. I tend to think tiny houses are a bit of a fad right now (once you get a dedicated HGTV show, you have to be, right?), but I love the philosophy behind the movement: eliminating waste, saving money, and focusing on what’s really important. The funny thing to me is that people have been living the tiny house lifestyle for decades in RVs and trailers, it’s just gained a new aesthetic appeal without the engines and hitches. Whether it lasts or not, there’s definitely some appeal there to me, though I agree that I prefer mobility and a road-ready design.

    • Steve says:

      Like you, I am very much onboard with the whole tiny home philosophy, especially if you’re looking to stay relatively stationary. While you can move tiny homes, there are far better options in my humble opinion. Thanks for the comment!

  12. I think it’s here to stay. More people = less space. Less space = higher prices. Gotta do what you gotta do!

    I downsized by about 500 square feet and am enjoying it so far. Homes in SF are already kinda tiny in relation to everywhere else in the States!

    Sam

    • Steve says:

      Yup, you and me both – the name “tiny house” is a marketing gimmick in many ways, but living small I don’t believe will fade away…though the average home size, unfortunately, will continue to get bigger and bigger.

  13. Jennifer says:

    I am currently researching tiny homes. My children are grown, I’m on my own and I own land. The cost to build a septic system, “normal” house, increased property taxes due to building versus purchasing a tiny home on wheels with composting toilet, are making me lean towards debt free tiny home living. It almost feels like a no brainer. I could afford to travel every year. I would appreciate feedback on this…pros, cons.

    • Steve says:

      Debt free tiny home living is truly wonderful. Most of us have WAY more space than we actually need anyway. Reducing that down and living debt free is definitely the way we now prefer to live.

      The biggest con to traveling in a tiny home is accessibility to land. Many RV parks around the country don’t consider tiny homes to be RVs, so you will probably be looking at other options. Admittedly, I haven’t looked too deeply into that since we opted to go for the traditional RV route.

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