Tiny Houses, Prices Not So Tiny Anymore


Tiny House Trends: Price ranges may surprise you. 

(Sources include personal interviews with tiny home developers, valuation industry sources, Wikipedia, Housebeautiful.com, and internet industry pricing quotes)

In the United States, the average size of new, single-family homes grew from 1,780 square feet (165 m2) in 1978 to 2,479 square feet (230.3 m2) in 2007, and to 2,662 square feet (247.3 m2) in 2013, despite a decrease in the size of the average family. Reasons included increased material wealth and prestige. Tiny houses often range in sizes  from 200 square feet to 400 square feet. To put this in perspective, a single-car garage is about 200 square feet, a two-car garage 400 square feet. The price of these tiny houses often range from $20,000 to $40,000 (equipped with a kitchen, upstairs loft, tiny bathroom and compact amenities).  The tiny house is gaining momentum. Some cities are embracing them for "low cost housing" areas, some counties are approving tiny house camping and recreational areas, and of course rugged individualists are always creating tiny home hide-outs in the wilderness. Hunters like them for hunting shacks, but there is an emerging elite tiny home that can cost $70,000 to $110,000. These homes have every luxury ... except size.  

The small house movement is a return to houses of less than 1,000 square feet (93 m2). Frequently, the distinction is made between small (between 200 square feet with a few models going up to 1,000 square feet (93 m2)), and tiny houses (less than 400 square feet (37 m2), with some as small as 80 square feet (7.4 m2). Sarah Susanka has been credited with starting the recent counter movement toward smaller houses when she published The Not So Big House (1997). Earlier pioneers include Lloyd Kahn, author of Shelter (1973) and Lester Walker, author of Tiny Houses (1987). Henry David Thoreau and the publication of his book Walden is also quoted as early inspiration

Tiny houses on wheels were popularized by Jay Shafer, who designed and lived in a 96-square-feet house and later went on to offer the first plans for tiny houses on wheels, initially founding the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, and then Four Lights Tiny House Company (Sept. 6, 2012). A tiny house is often defined as an RV or mobile home with wheels that can be removed, and can be attached to the ground permanently. But they have much more design creativity and style than a manufactured home or mobile home.  Some people simply leave the wheel frame and towing frame on them full time (especially in areas outside of zoning requirements of towns and cities).

In 2002, Jay Shafer co-founded, along with Greg Johnson, Shay Salomon and Nigel Valdez, the Small House Society. Salomon and Valdez subsequently published their guide to the modern Small House Movement, Little House on a Small Planet (2006), and Johnson published his memoir, Put Your Life on a Diet (2008).

Tiny houses on display in Portland, Or.

In 2005, after Hurricane KatrinaMarianne Cusato developed Katrina Cottages. They start at 308 square feet (28.6 m2) as an alternative to FEMA trailers. Though these were created to provide a pleasant solution to a disaster zone, Cusato received wider interest in her design from developers of resorts, for example. With the financial crisis of 2007–08, the small house movement attracted more attention as it offers housing that is more affordable and ecologically friendly. Overall, however, it represents a very small part of real estate transactions. Thus, only 1 percent of home buyers acquire houses of 1,000 square feet (93 m2) or less. Small houses are also used as accessory dwelling units (or ADUs), to serve as additional on-property housing for aging relatives or returning children, as a home office, or as a guest house. Typical costs were about $20,000 to $50,000 as of 2012. By 2016, with greater luxury and amenities, values are rated from $30,000 to $99,000, depending upon quality and specific design features.

In Oakland, CaliforniaGregory Kloehn builds small houses out of found materials for an estimated cost of $40.

Small and tiny houses have received increasing media coverage, including a serial television show, Tiny House Nation, in 2014 and Tiny House Hunters. The possibility of building one's own home has fueled the movement, particularly for tiny houses on wheels. Tiny houses on wheels are often compared to RVs. However, tiny houses are built to last as long as traditional homes, use traditional building techniques and materials, and are aesthetically similar to larger homes.

This increase in popularity of tiny houses, and particularly the rapid increase in the number of both amateur and professional builders, has led to concerns regarding safety among tiny house professionals. In 2013, an alliance of tiny house builders was formed to promote ethical business practices and offer guidelines for construction of tiny houses on wheels. This effort was carried on in 2015 by the American Tiny House Association. In 2015, the nonprofit American Tiny House Association was formed to promote the tiny house as a viable, formally acceptable dwelling option and to work with local government agencies to discuss zoning and coding regulations that can reduce the obstacles to tiny living.

One of the biggest obstacles to growth of the tiny house movement is the difficulty in finding a place to live in one. Zoning regulations typically specify minimum square footage for new construction on a foundation, and for tiny houses on wheels, parking on one's own land may be prohibited by local regulations against "camping." [25] In addition, RV parks do not always welcome tiny houses. DIYers may be turned away, as many RV parks require RVs be manufactured by a member of the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RIVA)..

Tiny houses on wheels are considered RVs and not suitable for permanent residence, according to the RVIA. From RV Business: "The RVIA will continue to shy away from allowing members who produce products that are referred to as 'tiny houses' or 'tiny homes.'" (However, the RVIA does allow “tiny home” builders to join as long as their units are built to park model RV standards.)" 

In 2014, the first "tiny house friendly town" was declared in Spur, Texas; however, it was later clarified that a tiny house may not be on wheels but must be secured to a foundation.

In July 2016, Washington County, Utah, revised its zoning regulations to accommodate some types of tiny houses. 

Smaller homes are less expensive than larger ones in terms of taxes and building, heating, maintenance and repair costs. The lower cost of living may be advantageous to those 55 and older with little savings.[32] In addition to costing less, small houses may encourage a less cluttered and simpler lifestyle and reduce ecological impacts for their residents.[33] The typical size of a small home seldom exceeds 500 square feet (46 m2).[34] The typical tiny house on wheels is usually less than 8 feet by 20 feet (2.4 by 6.1 m), with livable space totaling 120 sq ft (11 m2) or less, for ease of towing and to exempt it from the need for a building permit.

Small houses may emphasize design oversize, utilize dual purpose features and multi-functional furniture, and incorporate technological advances of space-saving equipment and appliances. Vertical space optimization is also a common feature of small houses and apartments.

As small houses may be attractive as second homes or retirement houses — two out of five owners are over 50 — their increased utilization may lead to development of more land. People interested in building a small home can encounter institutional discrimination when building codes require a minimum size well above the size of a small home. Also, neighbors may be hostile because they fear negative impacts on their property values. There has also been opposition based on this fact, due to concerns about increased taxes.

Not necessarily cheap: (Quotes from NEW ATLAS) published 10/1/2017

As was the case in our look at the market back in February, we've focused on high-end tiny houses that cost over $70,000 and include outstanding features, interesting design, or notable technology. We've also highlighted firms we're familiar with, but do urge readers to carry out their own research if considering splashing hard-earned cash on one of these. All except one are based in the USA (the other is in New Zealand).



Escher - New Frontier Tiny Homes

Nashville-based New Frontier Tiny Homes' Alpha was one of the most notable tiny houses of 2016, and its successor looks similarly impressive. Based on the same basic design as the Alpha, the Escher increases living space and adds a second bedroom to make it suitable for a family of three.

The Escher's large sliding glass doors and novel garage-like door open the home to the outside. Its interior measures 300 sq ft (27.8 sq m) and includes a living/dining area with stow-away table that seats a dozen people. The kitchen looks high-end and boasts porcelain counter tops, a mini-dishwasher, and stainless steel appliances.

There's one bedroom downstairs in the Escher and another upstairs, plus a home office and a bathroom with shower, sink, composting toile, and a large walk-in closet.

The Escher can run on or off the grid and will set you back $139,900 and up, depending on options chosen.

Covo Mio - Covo Tiny Homes


If you're the kind of person who likes the idea of a totally connected home but wants to downsize, the Covo Mio, by Portland's Covo Tiny Homes, may be of interest. The compact tiny house measures roughly 330 sq ft (30 sq m) and is jam-packed with smart home technology.

Access to the interior is gained by a Schlage Z-Wave door lock, while a Bluetooth sound system and LED lighting are integrated with a Wink Hub to offer smartphone control. An Amazon EchoNest thermostat, USB charging ports, 50-inch TV, and a sit/stand desk are also installed.

The Mio's layout is simple and comprises a living room, office/TV area, kitchen and breakfast bar on the ground floor. Its small bathroom has a toilet and shower, while there's a single bedroom and storage loft upstairs. Electricity can come from a standard hookup or an off-grid solar setup.

The Mio is sold in multiple configurations, so while all the high-end tech and luxury materials fetch around $100,000, those looking to save some money can buy the standard model without all those extras from $59,999.

Traveler XL Limited - Escape

Well-known Wisconsin tiny house firm Escape recently announced a new updated version of its 2015 Traveler tiny house, the Traveler XL Limited. It features Escape's usual contemporary styling and impressive build quality but can sleep up to 10 people.

The Traveler XL Limited measures 344 square feet (32 sq m), split between a living area, kitchenette, and bathroom with bath/shower, toilet and sink. It comes with two bedrooms as standard: one master bedroom on the ground floor, plus a loft bedroom accessed by ladder. Another loft bedroom that fits two beds is an option, as is a sofa bed. All-in-all, there's almost enough room to sleep a football team.

The Traveler XL Limited starts at $78,500, with optional extras like off-grid solar power and battery kit hiking up the price considerably.

Denali - Timbercraft Tiny Homes


Alabama-based Timbercraft Tiny Homes' Denali is an attractive tiny house that looks like a cottage on wheels. It measures a huge 37 feet (11.2 m) long, and its exterior includes a small outdoor shower and two decks, which can be folded upward when the owners need to hit the road.

Inside, the home looks finished to a high standard and is very spacious, boasting an 11 feet (3.3 m)-high ceiling and large kitchen with full-size appliances. Inside the bathroom is a toilet, bath/shower, sink and washing machine, while a pipe ladder provides access to a small storage loft.

There's just one bedroom in the Denali, but it's generously proportioned and has plenty of space to stand up straight and walk around.

The Denali starts at $89,000.

Millennial Tiny House - Build Tiny

The biggest challenge when downsizing to a tiny house is arguably the lack of storage space, and the Millennial Tiny House, by New Zealand's Build Tiny, has some of the most interesting space-saving ideas we've seen in a tiny house so far.

The home measures 23 x 7.8 feet (7.2 x 2.4 m). Inside, its center is taken up by a living area with generous underfloor storage, while a hanging chair offers a place to sit. A sliding staircase can be pulled out from the wall manually to offer access to a sleeping loft above.

Elsewhere in the Millennial Tiny House lies a bathroom with shower, sink, laundry area and a composting toilet on wheels, as well as a kitchen with full-size appliances. The kitchen provides access to a loft office above with a ladder and cabinets to climb on.

The Millennial Tiny House costs around $86,700 for a full turnkey version of the home, though cheaper price points are also available for DIYers comfortable taking on a basic shell.


Honorable mentions


Zyl Vardos' Damselfly House has the firm's signature curving style and is currently on the market at a reduced price of $99,500. Finally, Timbercraft Tiny Homes designed another tiny house with similar styling to the Denali that's called the Ridgewood, but you'll need to contact the firm for the price of that one.

The tiny house, tiny home movement is already impacting society in the United States, Europe and other places. It in some ways is a reaction to the rising cost of housing, but it is also a reaction to affluence and to the need for simplification. Some people want to downsize. Some people want to up-size with another "remote" or movable home.

Will tiny homes become the new slums of the poor, or gathering places for wealthy people seeking something different?

No doubt it is of appeal to the imagination of many Americans. Native Americans must smile with these types of innovations. They suggest that "Our tepees qualify as tiny houses. They only lack electricity and modern conveniences."

My friends in Mongolia, who live in "Ghers," remind us that 90 percent of the population outside of the cities in Mongolia still live in their rounded tents, even in weather conditions when temperatures often drop to 20 or 30 degrees F. below freezing.   

These trends remind us of the old phrase, "There is nothing new under the sun."