Tiny homes — dwellings with between 200 and 400 square feet of space — have gained popularity as people seek to reduce environmental impacts and lead more transient lifestyles. While the movement may seem unique, it has become a part of mainstream culture for younger Americans. An estimated 2,000 to 5,000 tiny homes are sold per year, with more DIY homes popping up in states like Texas, Colorado, California, and Florida every month.
Not all tiny home projects are lived in year-round. A slew of homebuilders create these micro-homes as guest houses, remote work facilities, or rental properties in highly populated areas. We assessed the reasoning behind this alternative lifestyle, the benefits of tiny home living, and gathered some actionable steps for a pain-free transition in our guide and infographic below.
Benefits of tiny home living
No matter what type of tiny home you choose, there are benefits to be derived from this lifestyle. From financial incentives such as smaller utility bills, lower taxes, to environmental gains including opportunities for renewable energy usage and sustainable material incorporation. Many micro-home dwellers report increased happiness levels after adjusting to this minimal way of life.
Aside from the monetary benefits of tiny home living, these small dwellings lead to reduced environmental impact and make it easier to use renewable energy. Because of their size, tiny homes require less lumber, plastic, and metal fixtures, reducing the natural materials salvaged for the home. In fact, some tiny homes are made from 100 percent recycled materials, further reducing their environmental impact.
- Tiny homes are significantly cheaper to update and may have fewer maintenance issues throughout their lifecycles.
- Renewable energy options such as solar panels allow homeowners to reduce their carbon dioxide emission rates and still live comfortably.
- Rainwater barrels and composting toilets are more eco-friendly add ons that can be used to create a self-sustaining home.
According to the American Enterprise Institute, the average living space per person in traditional homes has doubled in the past 42 years. Even though American families continue to shrink and accumulate debt, the housing market shows little signs of slowing down anytime soon. In turn, many people are looking to alternative housing options that allow them to become homeowners without being swallowed up by debt or high interest rates. The tiny home movement was born directly out of this need, as 50 percent of 18–34-year-olds rent housing because they can’t afford a down payment on a typical home.
Tiny homes provide homeowners a wide breadth of savings opportunities:
- Tiny homes have an average cost of $23,000, comparable to an average down payment without looming mortgage fees and high tax rates.
- Because of their limited space, smaller homes also encourage their owners to practice minimalism, allowing them to save income for retirement or traveling.
- Tiny homeowners, on average, make around $500 more a month than their peers in the suburbs which can help grow a bigger nest egg for the future.
Planning your tiny life
After learning about the pros and cons of tiny living and the effect this lifestyle can have on the environment and your wallet, you might be considering this as a legitimate lifestyle choice. However, there are steps that must be taken to optimize your living situation and save yourself from potential problems down the line.
From learning about your city’s housing regulations to reducing your spending habits, here is a breakdown of how to plan for your new tiny life.
1. Select your tiny home's location
While tiny home living has skyrocketed in popularity over the years, city regulations are still playing catch-up. Permanent living in an RV, which is what many tiny homes are considered, is actually illegal in some cities. Once you have figured out where you want to live, if you plan to put your home there long-term, check into your city’s housing regulations and take the proper steps early on to get your housing plan approved. This will save you time and money in the long run, and allow you to move into your new living situation sooner.
Below are the top five cities for a tiny house:
- Fresno, California
- Spur, Texas
- Asheville, North Carolina
- Durango, Colorado
- Rockledge, Florida
2. Build your new home
Once you have an idea of where you want to live, the next thing you need to decide is whether you want to build your own home or buy a premade tiny home. While designing your own home allows you to customize it to your preferences, it’s a lot more work and those without a construction background may choose to have a professional build their new home.
Below is an outline of steps to take when building your new home:
- Rent a small Airbnb to test tiny home living.
- Set a budget.
- Decide if you will build it yourself or buy from a builder.
- Decide on must-have features and draw a floor plan or look for homes that have those features included.
- Find the proper utility hookups and electricity options based on your preferences.
- Research materials and decide if you want to use salvaged materials or brand new.
- Buy your new home or starting the building process.
3. Downsize by room
A question many people have while considering tiny home living is how to get rid of all the items they have accumulated over the years. Downsizing can seem daunting, but when taken room by room, it's doable. For example, when downsizing your kitchen you should aim to get rid of all single-use appliances such as an ice cream maker or waffle iron. Any movies and books should be digitized to save space and rarely used beauty products and clothes should be donated. When downsizing, it’s important to focus on your needs and only keep the items that help you accomplish those needs in an efficient, space-saving way.
4. Create a budget for your tiny lifestyle
Taking a hard look at your monthly spending patterns will serve multiple purposes on your journey to a minimal life. Not only will it help you become more aware of what you spend your money on, but it will also help you move more money into your savings which is important to build up before you strike out on your own.
Get started on your savings journey by following these tips:
- Track your spending habits with an app like Mint to track your spending habits.
- Pick one or two categories to cut back on and set a max monthly budget for each.
- Stick to the monthly budget, moving the extra income into your savings each month.
- Make note of problem areas for the future so you can continue spending less and saving more.
- Research outdoor and cost-effective hobbies to take up once you move into your tiny home.
5. Buy less, but better
Living in a tiny home means your shopping trips are limited to only the necessities. But when decorating your space, it’s important to choose furniture and other items that serve multiple functions. To maximize your space, look for well-made products that will last you a long time to ensure your tiny home won’t cause you any additional stress.
Some examples of multifunctional and well-designed furniture pieces are:
- Bed or couch that folds into the wall
- Hideaway dining tables
- In-wall storage
- Stools with removable lids for storage
- Convertible couch
- Floating shelves
As houses across America double and triple in size and the average family size continues to shrink, the tiny house movement has taken off as an affordable option of home ownership and a great lesson in materialism.
Regardless of whether you are interested in living in, renting out, or optimizing your tiny home, it’s important to stay protected with mobile home insurance so you can explore confidently.