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What is a Tiny Home?

A small dwelling, typically under 600 square feet.

What is a Tiny Home?
There is no specific definition of a tiny house, that being said, it is generally thought of as any small dwelling, typically under 600 square feet. Tiny houses can be built on foundations, both traditionally stick-built and as modular units, however, most tiny homes are built on trailers and are commonly called a THOW (tiny house on wheels).

Why go Tiny?
Financial – a smaller home means a smaller build cost. Because the home is built to the same, or better, standard than a traditional dwelling you can expect it to be as durable and have the same longevity as an infill home. Additionally, as a result of its size, the home is less costly to repair and keep up. The energy costs are also much smaller and since many tiny homes are built partially, or completely, offgrid, can be as little as zero dollars per month.

Simplicity – living smaller means less consumption by its very nature. With less space to put things you will invariably buy less stuff. It is also natural to start wasting less food, buying fewer clothes, and being far more intentional about adding value into their life with their purchases.

Environmental – small homes and less consumption mean a smaller footprint. With less waste and trash, a tiny house reduces the burden on the landfill and sewage treatment systems as a whole. Furthermore, the more offgrid the home becomes, the less utilities will be required and therefore reduces the environmental impact of their production.

Speed – With less architectural services, site work, and no necessary permitting, tiny houses can start as soon as the producer can fit you in their queue. Many tiny houses can be delivered in as little as a couple of weeks, though most depend on the speed of the greater supply chain system and take from 1-2 months to produce from delivery of the trailer.

Where can I place a THOW?
A big challenge that people face with their tiny house on wheels is finding a legal place to put it. Codes and laws change in every jurisdiction and often don’t specifically address Tiny Homes. Many places will tell you that you cannot live in a vehicle on the property for more than 30 consecutive days (because they consider the tiny house an RV). There are a variety of options for abiding by (and getting around) local regulations. You can inquire about the rule in your particular jurisdiction by reaching out to your permit/planning department directly.

Tiny House Challenges
Placement – working with a municipality, neighbors, or other homeowners can be a difficult task. Most homeowners will need to perform a lot of due diligence to discern whether a tiny house is the best solution for them.

Financing and insurance – financing and insurance can also be major challenges. While some products do exist to finance a tiny house, they can be difficult to obtain and often have several barriers. Homes may need to be certified by a specific third party, or be licensed. Builders may also need to provide verifications of the homes build standard. Additionally, APRs can be highly variable.

Value – tiny homes on wheels, because they are temporary by nature, don’t provide value to an existing property. While the homeowner can get income from renting the house, they are not a tangible site improvement that can pass their value on with a property sale.

Recommended Resources

What is Design-Build?

What is Design-Build?

A single contract with the project owner to provide custom design and construction services.