If HGTV and feel-good news stories about homeless solutions are any indication, the tiny house craze isn’t fading anytime soon. It seems everywhere you turn, people continue to talk about the benefits of domestic downsizing. But what is it really like to live in 500 square feet or less? After the cameras stop rolling or the excitement wears off, are people really saving money and enjoying a life with less? The case can be made that they aren’t. Check out four reasons why living in a tiny house might cost more than it saves you and leave you wishing you’d chosen a different dream:
Construction Markups Are Typically Higher
You might want to build a little house, but it doesn’t mean that your contractor will feel the same way. Builders would rather spend the time and effort on larger structures that cost more so that they are paid more. Thus, if they do agree to build a smaller house for you, they typically inflate their pricing to help justify their time. Want proof? The average cost per square foot for a tiny home is $200 to $400, while the average cost of a traditional home is just $151.
Tiny Living Isn’t Really Sustainable
Yes, tiny houses provide sustainable solutions for the environment. They can improve water efficiency, reduce energy consumption and conserve construction resources. But can you really live in one and continue with these savings long-term? Unlike a traditional home that can accommodate life changes (like births that add occupants to and illnesses that might restrict or even prohibit movement in tight spaces), tiny homes are not easily adaptable to the obstacles life occasionally throws at us. This means you just might end up having to ditch your tiny abode (probably at a loss since little houses —especially those on wheels — don’t appreciate in value like traditional ones) for a larger one in the future.
The Fees Add Up
Many tiny houses are mobile. You can move them from place to place, but only if you can find a place to park them when needed. Zoning and land use laws will dictate where and for how long you can reside in any one spot. You will need to follow local jurisdictional rules and pay any applicable fees and probably rent for the length of your stay. Even if you decide to build your house on a foundation, you will need to consider the cost of the land it will sit on. And regardless of location, homeowner’s insurance can be expensive; you will have associated utility costs (or the added costs from buying equipment so you can live “off the grid”); and you might even rack up storage fees for the items you can’t fit into your home full-time, as well as cleaning fees for washing your clothes at a laundromat.
“Specialized” Often Means “Expensive”
You might be buying smaller items — smaller appliances and smaller amounts of food and grocery products — but that doesn’t mean that things are going to be cheaper. Unfortunately, there is not a huge demand for nonstandard-sized appliances, meaning getting them will be harder and more expensive for you than for those people who can fit mass-produced, readily available, standard-sized ones into their homes. Likewise, it will probably be more expensive for you to maintain your pantry since you won’t be able to buy in bulk or take advantage of sales to stock up on deals due to your lack of storage space.
So What’s the Bottom Line?
Think long and hard before hitching your home to the “tiny house” wagon. Just like you’d consult a doctor before starting an exercise program or an h1b lawyer before working abroad, you should do your research and decide what makes sense for you, your budget and your long-term goals.