Melissa has always dreamed of having her own home, and is constantly working toward that dream.
The classic American dream has an important centerpiece: the house, surrounded by a white picket fence, stately, spacious, and splendid. However, times are changing, and so is the American dream. Many people cannot afford large homes in this economy, and there is a new focus on being environmentally friendly in our culture.
Tiny homes, usually defined as homes taking up less than 500 square feet, are quickly catching on; you might have seen them on TV in the shows Tiny House Nation and Tiny House Hunters. Tiny homes are often on wheels, so you can take your house with you when you move, and can be custom built to suit your needs. But is a tiny house the right choice for you, or do you need a larger home to live comfortably? Should you join the growing tiny house movement? Here are some pros and cons to consider when deciding to buy or build a tiny house.
Pro: Tiny Houses are Cheaper Than Traditional Homes
Tiny homes are often cheaper than normal-sized houses because they take up less square footage, and they can be built with recycled materials. According to Teri Page, a tiny house blogger who writes on Homestead Honey, the average cost of a tiny house runs between $25000 and $35000, much less than the typical American home.
The cost of building a tiny house will vary based on how expensive it is to get a building permit in your area, whether or not you are doing the labor yourself, what materials you use when building your house, and whether you install insulation, electricity, and plumbing.
If you do all your own building and use recycled lumber, you can have yourself a house for a very cheap price tag, and avoid needing a mortgage entirely. This allows you to take the money that would be going to a mortgage and applying it elsewhere: debt payments, a retirement fund, stocks, or being able to splurge. Tiny houses could solve the country's problem with affordable living, and make life easier for many people.
Con: Tiny Houses Become Easily Crowded with Multiple People
Moving into a tiny house when it's just you isn't so bad, as long as it's something you really want and you are willing to downsize. But moving in with a significant other, or a family with children, into a 200 square foot space can be very difficult. There is little privacy, and it is hard to avoid getting into each other's space. If arguments flare up, there is nowhere to go to burn off steam. Consider your family's personalities and needs before making a decision that will change their lives in a big way.
No privacy can also make it awkward if you have growing kids (kids need privacy to develop a sense of independence, and also need space to play), or if your relatives are staying over. If you sing in the shower, or do other things in the bathroom, everyone can hear you. Parties at your place are probably best moved outside, or hosted elsewhere due to the lack of standing room.
Pro: Tiny Houses are Very Customizable
If you are designing a tiny home for yourself, or working with a builder, you can custom build your tiny house to suit your needs and personal style. You can build a rustic little cabin on wheels, or a modern-style trailer, or anything your heart desires (that's within your budget). You can really get creative with it. If you need a couch, you can build one into the living room with retractable seats, and move it in and out at will. You can build a downstairs bedroom if you have guests, or turn that room into your personal tiny office. You can get the kitchen appliances that you need in tiny sizes as well, so you don't need a huge kitchen. The layout, color scheme, and individual pieces of furniture are entirely up to you.
Pro/Con: There Won't Be Much Space for Your Things
Tiny houses are tiny—it's in the name. This means that there isn't a lot of room for material goods, so if you want to live tiny, you're going to have to downsize.
Some will see this as a pro, because they are choosing to live a simpler, minimalist lifestyle. Their objective is to have less clutter and live cheaper, and it will be harder to justify large purchases because large objects literally won't fit in their house. These people may also argue that downsizing will make you think about what's really important to you, so the only things that are in your home are the ones that matter.
Others will not like having to cut down on their wardrobe or their decor. They may have hobbies that require space, and may grow to resent needing to do these things outside. They may also have pets that dislike not having much space to run around, but are unwilling to give their pets away. Think carefully about your lifestyle and whether you are willing and able to downsize before buying a tiny home.
Pro: Tiny Houses are Environmentally Friendly
A smaller house generally means a smaller carbon footprint. By taking up less space, the tiny house frees up more space for nature. If the tiny house is built with recycled materials, less energy is tied up in its structure, because new materials don't have to be created for it.
Energy usage is also low after the tiny house is built. It is much easier to heat a tiny house in the winter than a larger one, and the same rule applies for cooling in summer. Tiny house occupants also tend to use less water and electricity on average. Many prebuilt tiny homes come with solar panels and a rainwater catchment system, so this reduces their use of water and electricity further. Living small is living green.
Con: Tiny Houses Are Illegal in Some Places
The tiny house movement is relatively new, and not all local building codes allow for such small buildings to be used as residential structures. Before you decide you want to build a tiny home, check into the legality of it in your area, and see if you are allowed to get a building permit. It would be awful to start living in your dream house and end up getting evicted from your property.
Local building codes may have specific requirements for your tiny house, such as a minimum ceiling height and a certain number of windows to escape from in case of a fire. You may want to consult with a local building inspector to learn about the code requirements in your area before you start drafting the architectural plans.
Over in Charlotte, North Carolina, there has been a lot of concern over tiny houses potentially causing a drop in property values for houses nearby. It might also be a good idea to see if you are welcomed in the area by your potential neighbors. Be a good neighbor and do your research.
Pro: Tiny Houses are Portable
Unlike traditional homes, you can take a tiny house on wheels with you when you move. If you work remotely and have a truck with a hitch, you could even travel around the country, living a nomadic lifestyle. You could potentially keep your tiny house with you for a long time. If you ever decided to live in a different home you could keep it and use it as a guest house in the backyard, or rent it out on Airbnb for others who are curious about the tiny home life.
Con: Tiny Homes Depreciate in Value
Unlike a traditional house, a tiny house on wheels will depreciate in value like a car or RV. This is due to the wear and tear that comes with being lived in and transported around. If you have a tiny house on a foundation, it will still depreciate in value, but the land it is on may or may not appreciate over time, depending on the need for land in the area.
Pro: Tiny Homes Are Easy to Clean
Tiny houses can be very easy to clean, since there's little room for clutter and you only have to cover a small area. With fewer possessions, it will also be easier to wash your clothes and do the dishes. In tiny homes, it is hard to lose things, so if you have a tendency to forget where you put things, it will be easy to find them again. You can get it sparkling clean and make your home truly shine.
Con: Tiny Homes Are Difficult to Live in if You're Disabled
Disabled people may have their own difficulties with tiny homes that others may not think about. If you're in a wheelchair, it can unfortunately limit your options for getting around a tiny house. Homes with lofts are out of the question, so you will have to design a home that suits your needs, and this may cost more money, or may require you to use more space. Disabled people may not have the luxury of being able to build their own home, so they will need to hire labor. If you have medical difficulties, getting out in the case of an emergency may be harder than in a traditional home with more ways out of the building. Anxiety and depression may be made worse by living in such a small space. Look at your needs and capabilities before choosing to build a tiny house.
My Opinion on Living Tiny
Personally, I think this would be a good option for me, for a while. As a millennial who needs to live frugally in order to save for the future, having a minimal mortgage or not having a mortgage at all is very appealing. The environmental benefits are also a great thing, and I think that tiny houses will continue to grow in popularity in this changing world. If I were to ever get into a serious relationship where my partner would live with me, however, I don't know if I would continue to live in my tiny house. It would depend on his and my needs at the time, I think. Being able to design a custom house is extremely fun, though. I would probably enjoy a career as a tiny house builder, someday.
Tiny Houses Are Not for Everyone
Tiny houses are an amazing solution for some, but they are not for everyone. There are many pros and cons to living in a tiny home, but ultimately it depends on you, your preferences, and your situation. Hopefully, these pros and cons have helped you learn more about what living in a tiny house is like, and have given you an idea of whether or not a tiny house is right for you.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 Melissa Clason
Marlene Bertrand from USA on August 01, 2019:
Tiny houses are quite fascinating. When my husband and I first retired, we considered buying a tiny house. We lived in an RV for 14 months with no problems, so I feel we could survive living in a tiny house. Even so, we opted to go ahead and build a regular house. But, I still think the tiny house would have been a doable option. Your article is excellent for pointing out all of the pros and cons.
Liz Westwood from UK on December 20, 2018:
The pictures bring the article to life. You did a great job.
Melissa Clason (author) from Fayetteville, NC on December 19, 2018:
Liz: Finding pictures for this article was one of my favorite parts of writing it. People can get really creative with their tiny house designs. I think one of the main reasons people choose a tiny house over a trailer is the aesthetics.
Susan: I really hope that more wheelchair-accessible tiny house designs are made in the future. Maybe an open floor plan, one room design with no loft and a ramp could work.
Bill: That sounds awesome! Good luck with building.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 18, 2018:
We are actually going to do this in the spring. It was interesting to hear your thoughts on it. Thank you!
Susan Hazelton from Summerfield, Florida on December 10, 2018:
You did a great pro/con argument for the tiny houses. I couldn't live in one because of my wheelchair. Otherwise I might like to give one a try.
Liz Westwood from UK on December 03, 2018:
You put the case for and against tiny houses very well with great illustrations.