What You Need to Know About Tiny Houses

Updated on November 9, 2019
Dreamworker profile image

Dreamworker believes that keeping life simple and uncomplicated is one of the best ways to enjoy it!

People purchase or build tiny houses for many reasons. Some make sense, others, not so much.

For example, some think that buying or building a tiny house will cost less than doing the same with a standard home. However, this is not necessarily true, especially if one's goal is to use the unit for full time living.

On the other hand, if the only goal a person has is to create a small vacation home for brief or temporary living, it likely is true that doing this can save money. In fact, you can even buy prefabricated tiny houses on Amazon quite reasonably. A friend purchased one, and it has suited his needs perfectly.

Tiny Houses are popular but know the pros and cons before you buy or build one.
Tiny Houses are popular but know the pros and cons before you buy or build one. | Source

Tiny House Benefits

There are many benefits when it comes to owning a tiny home. These include but are not limited to the fact that they

  • force a simplified life due to their small size (as little as 140 square feet),
  • are easier to clean,
  • use less electricity and water than a standard sized home and
  • can be less costly to build or purchase than a standard home.

Problems

Many people like these little houses because of their small size, but this is the same reason why they present problems because limited living area eventually translates to limited level of comfort.

After awhile people tire of having to climb up stairs or ladders to access bedrooms and tripping over belongings.

Also,unlike other forms of alternative housing, it is very difficult to find a legal spot to park a tiny house because its small size (140 to 400 square feet) eliminates it from being classed as a recreational vehicle, house, mobile home or camper.

If more than one person lives in a tiny house, each soon discovers that their home offers very little privacy.

In short, over time one can become very uncomfortable when living in a tiny house.

Financials

Costs can vary from as low as $6,000 to as high as $180,000. The largest size to be designated as a tiny house is 400 square feet, but some are as small as 140 square feet. So while the cost can be high, the living space can be extremely small.

Some people try to save money by building one themselves. But unless they know what they are doing, they could be asking for trouble. This is because tiny houses carry all the problems and dangers that are involved in the construction of standard-sized homes.

They come with or without wheels, but as noted above, regardless of their size, they can cost just as much as a standard home.

Here are a few more to things you may want to consider before buying one of these tiny living facilities.

Are Tiny Houses RVs?

People mistakenly assume that a tiny house can be used like an RV. While people make an attempt at doing this, they need to understand that these units are not RVs and are not legal to be used as such.

They are built of heavier materials which make them unsafe for driving on public roads, they are also bulkier and less aerodynamic and therefore are not categorized as RVs.

A Tiny House Is Not Legally a House

These units may look like houses and use housing-type construction materials, but they do not qualify as houses because of their size, which is one reason why it is so difficult to find places to park them.

Also, many can be set on solid foundations, but they some people put them on wheels and used them for travel. Driving tiny houses on government roads and highways is illegal in many places, however, unless it is for the purpose of moving them from one place to another.

Some people purchase these units because they don’t want an RV for living and/or travel. But what they don’t realize is that tiny houses are not good choices for long distance travel, because they are far too heavy and cannot stand the rigors of the road.

Those who buy them to use only as vacation cabins or smaller versions of houses and such have much more success with them than people who want to use them as recreational vehicles.

A Tiny House Is Not a Mobile Home or Park Model

Like mobile homes and park models, many tiny houses sit on wheels. However, mobile homes and park models are larger and are constructed differently. They generally are not built to handle the rigors of highway travel. Other than moving them from one place to another, driving them on public roads is against the law.

Mobile home parks and campgrounds rarely welcome tiny houses to sit on their properties, because they are not vehicles that fit the profiles of their residents’ vehicles.

Tiny Houses Are Not Travel Trailers

Tiny houses are much smaller than travel trailers. Some measure as small as 140 square feet. They are built out of heavy standard housing materials, have fixed walls, and are not aerodynamic in design.

These things make driving, maneuvering, and parking them awkward, difficult, and sometimes, dangerous.

Their size makes water supplies limited and sometimes requires the use of alternative types of toilets, such as those that compost rather than using water.

Lack of Flexibility

  • Tiny houses are not flexible when it comes to maneuvering them in and out of parking spots, because they are bulky and heavy.
  • They often are limited by zoning regulations and people who do not want them to be parked near their homes and businesses.
  • These units are high, heavy, and often have unbalanced weight ratios that can make tipping over a dangerous possibility.
  • They definitely are not vehicles that are meant to be driven on steep, slippery mountain roads!

Drivability

Tiny houses that are on wheels must have a vehicle available to tow them from one place to another. They are often damaged when driven in rougher than normal conditions. While people do tow them, doing so is not easy due to their weight and design. Furthermore the cost of an appropriate tow vehicle can be quite high.

Many tiny houses also have partial second floors, which can make them susceptible to wind damage and bridge accidents during travel.

Limited Living Space

Even the well-designed units will lack room for many of the most basic needs. Tiny houses do not have slide rooms and therefore cannot expand to add space to living areas.

Due to these size limitations, many tiny houses lack basics amenities, such as large eating areas, places to hang clothes, and comfortable seating and eating areas.

At the same time, the size of these units makes them less expensive to heat and cool and easier to maintain.

Appliances

Tiny house appliances are of residential types, but are much smaller than one will see even in an RV. This limits cooking options and can force owners to use laundromats, because there may not be room for washers and dryers in the house. Access to water may also be limited.

Appliances also take up a good deal of space that might otherwise be used for storage. This limits the number of belongings people can keep in their units, but adds to the odors that come from dirty laundry that must sit while awaiting washing.

Personal Privacy

If two people occupy a tiny house, they can forget privacy. There are no “rooms”—other than a bathroom area—and beds may serve double uses.

If someone wants to take a nap, he or she may not be able to do so, because the sleeping area is being used for some other purpose during the day.

Storage

Storage areas for cooking utensils, cosmetics, small appliances, clothing, and medications are limited in a tiny house.

Therefore, owners must organize and pack carefully if they are planning to live or travel in their unit or be willing to sacrifice many essentials they would normally use for daily living.

I saw one video recently where an owner talked about having to give up his oven due to space limitations, even though he loved to cook!

Sleeping Quarters

Tiny houses generally have sleeping lofts that must be accessed by steps or a ladder. This is a major inconvenience, especially if a traveler must get up at night to use the bathroom.

Some have sofas that convert to beds, but this too is an inconvenience.

Uses

  • People who sell tiny houses push the idea that they can be used as investments, but selling them is tricky due to their limitations.
  • They can be rented out, but finding spots to place them for this purpose is not always easy.
  • They do make good guest spots for family visitors and are nice for weekend travel, but using them for long distance vacations or long term vacations would be a problem due to the issues mentioned above.
  • In truth, the best use for those wishing to buy a tiny house is to park it on a permanent property and use it either for full-time living, vacations, or rental purposes.

Placement Issues

Zoning laws have not caught up with the tiny house movement. This means that most still require new homes to meet size requirements and be placed on solid foundations or do not permit homes on wheels to be placed on private property.

Although they are considered to be recreational vehicles, many campgrounds do not welcome them, because they (and the lifestyle they represent) do not fit in with their way of life.

The laws are changing slowly, but these problems still persist for tiny house owners.

Inevitable Changes

As with all trends, the tiny house movement is changing, because it is only normal for people who find that something is not as comfortable or as enjoyable they thought it would be insist on changes.

As a result, tiny homes are getting bigger, more luxurious, and more expensive to the point that, before long, they will have changed into standard-sized cabins or be sold and replaced with recreational vehicles.

People may park them on their own land and then build additions to make them more palatable or may even build small homes and make the tiny house the addition.

This is what happened to the RV industry. At first, the units were small, towable vehicles with basic amenities. Today, they have morphed into 45-foot-long behemoths that house every imaginable luxury item. It’s the nature of the beast.

Is a Tiny House Right for You?

Other issues to consider are discussed in the video below, and you should make sure to watch it.

As an investment, a tiny house might be a good choice for some. But for full-time living, overall comforts, cost, and travel, they may not be the best choice. This is because they are not:

  • easy to drive and park,
  • easy to locate parking spots for vacations, and
  • not so easy to sell.

Tiny houses are popular now, but their popularity likely will wane once people realize that they

  • are hard to drive,
  • lack many basic comforts,
  • are awkward to use,
  • give you no privacy, and
  • limit the possessions you can have with you.

It has been my experience as a 50-year RV enthusiast that people who start small because it costs less and is easier in some ways generally end up selling what they have and buying something larger and more usable.

I believe this is what is going to happen to the tiny house movement. In the end, people want to enjoy their living and travel experiences. You cannot do this if you are not comfortable, and tiny houses are not!

Do you think you could live comfortably in a tiny house?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Sondra Rochelle

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    • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra Rochelle 

      3 weeks ago from USA

      I have always believed that informing people about potential problems is very important. Contrary to what you may think, many people do not do research but do jump on bandwagons before knowing both sides of the story. Of course there are pros as well as cons to everything and of course tiny houses work well for some people, but it's best to know the downsides before signing on because to not have this information could cost people a lot of money and many problems. This article was written for the purpose of protecting people from problems as there are tons of articles out there that do not voice these positions. People need both.

    • Eric Zzzzz profile image

      Eric Zzzzz 

      3 weeks ago from Florida

      Yes, your article is informative. However, it is also very one sided. As one who has actively followed the TH movement for several years now, incl. daily thru my Twitter feed @TinyHomesRule(ofLaw) I literally could go point-by-point in your article and provide a pro (as opposed to your con) counterpoint to virtually every point you made. Basic one, not all tinies are on wheels. There are plenty of tinies on permanent foundations. If one does their research, they will find plenty of information about tinies and be able to make knowledgeable decisions. There are plenty of ways to "kick the tires," so to speak to also decide if tiny living is for you. There's overnight rentals throughout the country, there's TH festivals to check out a variety of tinies (homes of different varieties, skoolies, yurts, etc.), there's workshops by qualified builders and those living the tiny lifestyle. In short, there is zero reason for anyone to go into tiny living blindly. Is it for everyone? No. But then living in this country's avg. 2,600SF "traditional" home isn't for everyone either. Are there downsides to going tiny? Sure. Are there downsides to living in a 2,600SF home? Sure. In short, there's no perfect world. But, going tiny isn't the downer this article would make one believe and there are a number of people living tiny who will easily confirm that. Just do your homework. You may surprise yourself and do your wallet, mental health and the environment a major favor.

    • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra Rochelle 

      3 weeks ago from USA

      It's not for everybody but many who give it a go seem to like it. Lots of YouTube videos online about this...watch some and see what you think!

    • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra Rochelle 

      3 weeks ago from USA

      I had you in mind when I wrote this one. Hope it works out well for you. Good Luck!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      This is super-interesting. Wasn't aware that people seriously did this. It must be quite a challenge. Watched the house tour video. Residents have to be quite organized. Thank you for sharing!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      We will be moving into a tiny house in April and we are super excited. You give a very realistic appraisal of them in this article.

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