Go Small to Go Home: The Rise of the Tiny Home Movement
Swapping simplicity for square footage, a lot of people have chosen to go small to go home in the rise of the tiny home movement. A tiny home is characterized as a standalone dwelling of 400 square feet or less. Among the reasons cited for their surge in popularity—aside from the cute factor—is the freedom they bring their owners. Smaller homes are easier to maintain, more affordable and have considerably less impact upon the environment than the average American residence, which measures out to 2,600 square feet.
Now before you get the idea this frugality is achieved at the expense of comfort and luxury, keep in mind, these dwellings can be outfitted to the limits of the owner’s budget and imagination. Many are built using exotic (sustainable) woods, state of the art entertainment systems, granite counters, LED lighting and other amenities typically found only in larger more expensive homes.
With an average cost of $40,000 to $60,000 to build and furnish, suddenly, that lakefront home in which you’ve always dreamed of living is doable because you have more cash to put into the land upon which you choose to build. (As long as zoning laws are amenable—more on that below.) It gets even better though, because you’re also looking at much smaller utility and water bills. Even better, if you go solar, you’ll get away with paying next to nothing for electricity.
Insurance can be more affordable too, as long as your home is certified through an organization such as the National Association of Alternative Housing. Because many tiny homes are on wheels, they are sometimes considered recreational vehicles as opposed to permanent homes; so insuring them can be tricky. However, tiny homes built on permanent foundations and tied into city systems qualify as houses and their insurance rates can be determined using a homeowners insurance calculator.
While we’re covering caveats, be apprised every community in every state won’t necessarily share your enthusiasm for a standalone tiny home. After all, less square footage means less property tax revenue. However, most cities will readily embrace them if they are built as an accessory dwelling unit to a larger single-family home. So before you charge out, buy a prime plot of land and set about building your dream tiny home, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the zoning laws in the city and state in which you intend to build.
In addition to the benefits tiny homes afford their owners, the community at large realizes a number of advantages. Because of space constraints, some owners forego washers and dryers, which opens opportunities for laundry services as well as laundromats. Similarly, with a much smaller refrigerator than the typical home, grocery shopping happens more frequently, which means people in tiny homes tend to eat fresher foods. This opens opportunities for farmer’s markets and other vendors of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Of course, these realizations also illustrate tiny home living isn’t for everyone. Living smaller requires people to completely rethink the typical American lifestyle. Large collections of “stuff” have to be laid aside. That grand piano you’ve always loved will have to be traded for an electric keyboard. Parties and overnight guests are also difficult to accommodate. And, couples need to be sure they can be comfortable without “neutral corners” to which they can retreat, should they require occasional alone time.
On the other hand, with considerably more disposable income available, a whole new world of travel, the arts and other cultural experiences open up for tiny home dwellers. Ultimately, it’s not for everyone, but for those who can embrace the lifestyle, the benefits are significant.