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Tiny House Mistakes and Realities: Parking, Land, and Ownership!

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when wanting to live in a tiny house is that they don’t secure a place to put it.

If you want a long-term, reliable, comfortable, secure home, the best way to get that is to own a home along with the property it sits on, right?

So let’s talk about these issues below, and then I want to know what your thoughts are in the comments below. Thanks!

The Importance of Land Ownership for Your Tiny Home

Photo via Pixabay

Tiny Houses on Wheels Versus Tiny and Small Homes on Foundations with Land

If you know you want to own your own land and you want to stay in one place for a long time (you can always travel), then you don’t need to build or buy a tiny house on wheels.

Instead, you can design/build or buy an already existing tiny or small home on a foundation. Most likely the latter. What’s great about this is that in this scenario you become a homeowner and you get to own your own piece of real estate.

This is great because over the long-term, this grows in value. Here’s an important statistical fact you need to know:

STUDY: Long Term Effects of Homeownership Versus Renting

In 2013, according to the NY Times, there was a study done by the Center for Responsible Lending of Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances.

It reveals that the median net worth of homeowners was $195,400 while the median net worth for renters was $5,400.

But to buy a home, most of us need to get a mortgage. And the tiny house world seems to have something strongly against mortgages and debt. But…

Are Mortgages Really as Evil as we Think?

Since homes don’t appreciate in value (they actually depreciate overtime) and the land/location that the home sits on is what appreciates over time (especially long-term, like 20-30 years and beyond), then isn’t owning a tiny house on wheels without owning your own land just about the same as renting?

I think so!

In fact, it’s similar to RV ownership.

That’s why I believe the tiny house movement, in the long-term, is shifting towards tiny and small homes on foundations with traditional land ownership and yes… mortgages.

Because what’s worse than a mortgage?

Here’s What’s WORSE Than a Mortgage…

Paying for someone else’s mortgage through rent! Right?

This is why I love promoting traditional small homes that you can buy and live simply in without all the complications and drawbacks of tiny homes on wheels or the long-term financial drawbacks of renting.

So what are your thoughts on these issues? Do you agree, or disagree, and why?

And stay tuned for “part two” of this discussion where I talk more about the future of tiny houses.

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 161 comments… add one }
  • Lise Adams
    June 13, 2017, 2:23 pm


  • Meg
    June 13, 2017, 3:09 pm

    It’s not having a mortgage that is bad…it’s the culture that seems to think that bigger house = better (person, living situation, etc) and then get in over their heads. I was thinking of a THOW for a couple years but have just purchased a townhome instead…with a mortgage that is only $40 more/month than what my rent has been for the past 5 years. Easy to make the payment, building towards my future and not more ‘house’ than I need.

    • Alex
      June 13, 2017, 4:04 pm

      Congrats on your town house purchase! That’s cool that it’s only $40 a month more than you were paying in rent and now all of your payments help you build equity/savings (instead of doing that for someone else). Smart move!

      • Meg
        June 15, 2017, 9:28 am

        Thanks Alex

    • Eric
      June 15, 2017, 3:31 am

      But… your costs aren’t just $40 a month more than your previous rent. You have property taxes to pay. You have house insurance to pay. You have (most likely) other debts to pay as a matter of course, such as water, depending on where you live you may have sewerage charges too. HOA charges if your townhouse is part of a complex. Which may include the cost of repainting every x years. So, it is easy to see that your mortgage is only $40 a month more but that isn’t the whole story. What if the land is leasehold? How often does that get reviewed? And, do you have any control over the level of increases?

      • Meg
        June 15, 2017, 9:40 am

        Correct, there are HOA dues. And paying for water isn’t a new thing. Insurance…some pay renters insurance which is cheaper than when owning but is still an expense. I checked and the dues haven’t gone up for approximately 5 years, there have been no special assessments for things such as painting, road paving, lawn or pool maintenance, etc. which is all voted on by the residents and board members so there is some control over increases. One bill is actually gone…that for cable and internet which is included in the HOA dues. So my mortgage is $40 more/month than my rent had been, insurance is $42/month rather than renters insurance which I think averaged to $9/month, water the same, electric the same, no more cable/internet bill so saving about $60….so overall I pay a bit more/month, but have something I can sell in 5 years when I plan to move. It’s all about doing your homework, running the numbers and seeing what is best for you and your situation. THOW with no mortgage isn’t the only option for those looking to downsize and/or own their own place…whatever that may be.

        • Natalie C. McKee
          June 15, 2017, 11:11 am

          It looks like you really did your homework, Meg! That’s what’s important 🙂

        • Eric
          June 17, 2017, 4:40 am

          Paying for water as a separate expense may not be something new to you. But for myself it is. Previously we payed for water as part of our rates (property taxes to those in the US and other countries). Now we pay on a volumetric basis.

          And yes, it all comes down to what works for you. There is no one size fits all. And for those whose work takes them to various parts of the country THOW’s “can be” a very viable option.

  • jerry
    June 13, 2017, 3:10 pm

    I bought an old run down mobile home for it’s lot. I then tore down 50% of the MH and built a TH on it’s 12’wide frame as a ‘repair’.
    Then later took off the other 50% of the MH, leaving the tiny house.
    I bought it like many run down properties with owner financing cheaply, no bank needed, paid off in 5 yrs for less 40% than rent.
    Other ways are build a garage with a tiny house on top, side and never build the main house.
    Build the first part of an expandable house, never building the other
    I think a concrete foundation is worth the hassle and in most places costs less than a lumber floor.
    Note many places if you build something even illegal once sold become grandfathered in like Florida.
    Lots of ways around size, etc limits like living just outside the city.

    • Alex
      June 13, 2017, 4:05 pm

      Smart, Jerry! Thanks for sharing these ideas.

  • Bill Carlson Sr.
    June 13, 2017, 3:55 pm

    Banks will generally not lend for “off-grid” accommodations, and they don’t lend to acquire land (unless you convince them that you will add to the value via improvements).

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 14, 2017, 1:34 pm

      Good caution, Bill!

    • Eric
      June 15, 2017, 3:36 am

      Uncaution: So, convince them that you will build on the land. Just not yet as you are looking at various designs etc. Unless they are super vigilant it’ll fall off their radar and then when you pay off the land you don’t have to worry. In the meantime you can plonk a THOW or a THOS onto the site as a “temporary” accommodation until “your plans” are finalised.

      • Natalie C. McKee
        June 15, 2017, 11:47 am

        Not a bad idea 🙂

  • Christine
    June 13, 2017, 3:58 pm

    I agree! What you have not YET brought up is buying land and parking your THOW on it which gets you the land appreciation and saves initial investment money by having a house smaller than legal “on the ground” limits and permit fees while giving the freedom to travel or be ready for a move while keeping your home. Also when you take out a mortgage to build a home on a foundation, it is expected that the land be fully owned but if you live in a THOW, you can finance the actual land price. In really expensive areas, this is sometimes needed. Just thoughts. I am no expert. If you don’t like my thoughts – that is fine but please don’t slam me like I see some people do on these things.

    • Alex
      June 13, 2017, 4:08 pm

      Good thinking, Christine! I agree with you… If you’re alright with the size limitations of a THOW and can also buy the land it will be parked on then heck yes! One can even start with buying land, a THOW (if it’s allowed…check zoning), then build small home on foundation, and use THOW as an Airbnb or something like that to help pay mortgage on land/small home. You can definitely get creative! 😀

    • Jason
      June 13, 2017, 4:38 pm

      I like your idea, but in the county I built, you are not allowed to live in an RV on your own land. I wasn’t even allowed to sleep in my home while I was building it—so many miles spent commuting home each night.
      Because of this you may not be able to connect to a service meter for power, or be allowed to hook up to sewage/septic.
      But if your local codes allow than its a great way to go. Could even mix in the other ideas listed here- park your THOW and build a home overtime cashflowing every penny!

      • Alex
        June 13, 2017, 5:59 pm

        Good point Jason.

      • jerry
        June 15, 2017, 4:44 am

        You can ‘Guard’ your site and they’ll have a hard time arguing with that.
        Not sure why you’d want to hook up to utilities/monthly bills when it is cheaper to do your own?
        As for buying land in Florida at least banks can’t lend on just land. You’ll need a permitted home, building.
        Again build a ‘garage’ mother in law, etc first then just don’t build the rest.

  • Jason
    June 13, 2017, 4:04 pm

    This is great information! Tiny home resales get murdered. Plus you have to pay somewhere to rent a parking spot. So you downsides to a THOW but still pay rent???

    Small home on a foundation on your land is the way to go. No codes issues. It will go up in value and you can cash flow an addition when you need more space… like say having a baby.

    • Alex
      June 13, 2017, 4:09 pm

      Yes, absolutely! Over the years I’ve seen a lot of people obtain a THOW and shortly after move out of it. It usually doesn’t last long enough IMO. So we need to think long-term and come up with better solutions. These discussions help, I think!

      • Jason
        June 13, 2017, 4:29 pm

        I like the pioneer method. Just look at many 200 year old homes- A small box to start with several additions added over time.
        Why invest the capital for a home larger than you need. A single person can live in a small home (this website is proof) but most cities require 500sqft. A simple home can be built/purchased for $50k or ~$100 a sqft. A 15 year mortgage for $50k is $360 a month– which is less than you would pay to park your THOW.

        • Alex
          June 13, 2017, 6:08 pm

          Me too Jason. Pioneer method is a great example and I love the math you gave us there. Makes a lot of sense and I think that’s the right direction.

        • DJ
          June 14, 2017, 9:19 pm

          I bought a house considered small, about 700 square feet, just as the housing market was beginning to bounce back. I utilized all of the extra help for low income/ disabled people I could find. The purchase price was $37,000, and my mortgage was $25,000. A $178.00 monthly payment sounds great, right? But this house was in a small town, and everything was more expensive. The trash bill jumped from $30 to $80, phone and internet from $55 to $90, the water was the worst, almost $200.00 a month! And you had to buy propane in bulk, about $700.00 up front, instead of a monthly gas bill. Besides that, even having two “qualified” home inspectors, including one from HUD, they missed a lot of serious issues. The biggest one was that the main support beam in the crawl space was completely broken in half, the electricity was supposedly great, could pose the entire block, according to one of the inspectors. Wrong; it could’t even power a toaster and microwave at the same time without tripping the circuit breaker. There was an addition built by the Amish, so it was supposed to be quality craftsmanship, but the concrete floor was about a quarter of an inch thick, and the room basically built on a curb sitting on the ground. It was a nightmare, and the repairs formidable. I let it go into foreclosure, and bought the smallest mobile home parks around here allow. But still, thinking about future repairs is intimidating. I would rather have a THOW because the smaller a house is, most repairs/ replacements will be cheaper. I don’t really care about appreciation or depreciation. I’m not looking to increase my net worth. I simply want decent housing that I don’t have to stress over whether or not I will be able to afford it in the future.

      • Eric
        June 17, 2017, 4:48 am

        And Alex, I’m glad you have started this discussion. Because for many people a THOW “seems” ideal, until they actually do it. And then reality hits and bam, they flog it off. I would assume many times for less than what they paid for it. We’ve seen quite a few on this site, some which had previously featured as well, as THOW’s. So, seems like a double whammy for people in that situation.

    • James D.
      June 13, 2017, 5:38 pm

      Houses on foundations don’t necessarily go up in value… Like anything it depends on supply and demand and market trends… While houses on foundations can still depreciate and fall into disrepair and eventual can be condemned and torn down or taken from the owner by the bank if they failed to pay the mortgage or by the government under eminent domain…

      So called appreciation is only at best up to 1% annually… Low risk stocks and bonds give you more at 6-7% appreciation and about 7% of all homes are depreciating just because the home owner owes too much and is risk of defaulting on their loans… Less than a 3rd of home owners actually own the home, with the rest owing mortgages… Meanwhile the costs of houses and land are generally going up and availability is down over 30% versus the 1979 to 2007 period, and the population is still growing with fewer people living under the same roof making finding housing for all increasingly harder…

      While the hidden costs of home ownership ultimately means you still pay two to three times the original cost of the house by the time the mortgage is paid off… So even with the appreciation there is still no net gain in value from where you started… and you still have to deal with the high costs involved in home ownership even after the mortgage is paid off…

      Like property taxes, insurance policies, maintenance and repairs, updating and occasional renovations, cost of living, heating & cooling costs, utilities, etc.

      While one of the reasons people are putting their houses on trailers is because of code issues! The problem is many places have made things illegal if they don’t meet the minimum standards of what fits into the existing neighborhood.

      Building on a trailer puts houses into the gray zone of the law and thus has been used as a way to get around the code issues…

      Putting up a wind Turbine, flying the US flag, collecting and using rain water, farming on your own land, going off grid on your own land, running a fireplace built before 1989, living in a tree house on their own land, living in a tent on their own land, etc. are all examples of the kinds of issues people have run into across the country even when they own the land…

      So you’re not going to automatically be able to do whatever you want just by owning land… People have been sent to jail for thinking that was always true…

      So sure, owning the land can be the best option financially in the long run but it can be too high priced for many but the laws have to change before it’s a clearly good option to live as you wish because the rules aren’t consistent throughout the country and many places don’t give land owners full rights…

      Thing to understand is the tiny house movement isn’t just about living tiny but fixing the broken system we live under as well…

      • Jason
        June 13, 2017, 5:50 pm

        In your first paragraph you said homes don’t necessarily go up in value. In your second paragraph you talk about why they have gone up in value and will continue too.

        The costs you list are the same for anyone- I don’t care who you are. As far as taxes and insurance- small homes have lower assessments, so lower taxes.
        Codes are a great thing! Codes protect the buyer, the lender and the seller from poor construction and liability issues. (not to say that you can’t do better by exceeding minimum codes).

        Anyways, the biggest wealth building tool you have is your income. A small house will mean you can cash flow your life, pay the small mortgage off faster and invest to get real returns. As for a broken system- I dunno man, run for congress, start a militia, renounce your citizenship. But Taxes and Government will always be a hurdle in life- I recommend learning to limbo!

        • James D.
          June 13, 2017, 7:41 pm

          No, Jason, you’re ignoring most of the paragraph… My second paragraph is about how costs will grow, the opposite of value, and whatever value you think you’re getting, even at best case scenario, will pale in comparison!

          Sure, the land can increase in value due to simple increasing demand but it’s not the simple…

          Paying two to three times the original cost of the house after paying off a 30 year mortgage is far more than a 1% annual appreciation will get you in that time and doesn’t include all the ongoing costs that never end and can go up…

          Really, after 30 years you only gain at best a 30% increase in property value, assuming nothing bad happens to the neighborhood or the real estate market like a housing bubble crash… but if you paid two to three times the original cost of the property then you paid 200-300% to get a 30% gain, which is really a loss…

          The house may not even last 30 years before it needs major repairs and renovations and unless you keep it up to date then the value depreciates because whoever buys it will have to pay to update it…

          I also pointed out that most home owners actually owe a mortgage with 7% owing so much that the property depreciates! This is not a situation indicative of net gain…

          While growing population and reduced housing options has actually resulted in more homelessness and shifting population to high density cities with apartments, etc.

          Inflation negates much of the gains in value as well as a given value of money is less than what it used to be… and as eventually you’d need to replace about every part of house over the years then there’s a decreasing increase in value for materials that have increased in value, like hardwood floors but that’s mainly because they’re popular now but like fashion that can change and most of the rest of the house gets replaced and you’re paying for the up to date material costs, which reduces savings from the original purchase…

          And no, costs are not the same for everyone! Not all land cost exactly the same, not everyone pays the same property taxes, not everyone have the same costs of living, not every house is equally easy to heat and cool, not every house will last as long as any other and thus not every house will have the same costs over time.

          The main reason land value tends to go up is because there’s a finite amount of land and as long as population keeps on growing then demand keeps on growing… But not all land is desirable to live in, not every place has easy access to drinkable water and other resources, etc. People moving away from urban areas and moving into cities actually causes some urban areas to have reduced population densities…

          So there is land no one wants that in turn have very little value… and there are places that it depends on the local economy…

          Like what happened to Detroit after they lost most of their local jobs and entire neighborhoods became abandoned and now taxes are very high on those left and the derelict neighborhoods are struggling to come back even with an improving economy…

          Even, though the city practically sells most of them for as low as a $1 to maybe only a few hundred… A blight that has plagued that city for decades and is only now starting to recover… and should serve as a warning to assuming anything in the real estate market is a safe investment…

          The last housing bubble should have awakened most people to the fact the present system is inherently flawed and people can lose everything at any time…

          The risks are even higher now because the government bail out of the banks is not something that can ever happen again and they didn’t really address all of the reasons it happened in the first place…

          While we have looming factors like the baby boomer generation about to enter retirement and that means approximately 20% of the population may suddenly want to sell their houses… What do you think that will do the market?

          So yes, we can agree that Tiny Houses can be a solution and will allow for people to keep more of their income for a more real and consistent value… Even if you pay multiple times the cost per square foot for a Tiny House, it can still get you a net gain over the life of the home owner…

          But the system of housing and land ownership is plagued by abuse and unintended consequences which have eroded our rights and ability to live as we wish…

          Having a tiny house be illegal simply because it small, despite being build multiple times stronger than most big houses, has nothing to do with safety but keeping and protecting the existing system of housing.

          Factors like HOA, where you can be penalized for just painting the house the wrong color are trends that are part of the many problems with the existing system and what we must avoid to ensure Tiny Houses and other alternative dwelling options are true fixes…

          Sure, some codes/regulations absolutely are there for our protection, like most building codes, but that doesn’t mean all of them are actually good or that they are being used as intended or not abused to the point of essentially treating us like children incapable of making our own choices…

          When people can be thrown in jail for just doing something with their own land that has nothing to do with safety then the system is corrupt and not working consistently to our benefit…

          Examples abound, like a Minnesota man was sent to jail because he put a wind turbine on his property to be more green and not need as much energy generated by fossil fuels and the courts wouldn’t except anything sort of its total removal, it wasn’t enough to just remove the wind turbine but also the foundation he built for it, even if that meant destroying the man’s house in the process…

          A farmer is presently being sued for 2.8 million by the government for farming on his own farm!… and they want him to donate 30 million to land preservation organization…

          There are states that won’t let you catch and use rain water even to water your plants… Like in Utah it’s illegal to divert rainwater without a valid water right…

          And I didn’t even get into the housing restrictions that make not only tiny houses but many other types of alternative housing illegal in many places throughout the country…

          So let’s not pretend all codes/regulations are good… The idea of codes/regulations is good, but like any bureaucracy it is a system that can be corrupted and abused and at some point we have to realize this has happened and work together to fix it, which is one of the reasons so many are backing the tiny house movement as it helps bring these issues into the public awareness as well as offer some ways to actually fix it… It’s not just about living tiny…

      • Russell Stanley
        June 16, 2017, 5:03 pm

        While you bring up a lot of the costs associated with owning a home I can’t agree with all of your assumptions. The future value of any home is based on the old supply and demand principle. If the area increases in demand both the home and land will increase in value. As the price of material and supplies to build a home increase, the value of existing buildings also increase. Most homes are valued based on an amount per square foot for the location. As that value goes up existing homes go up. Yes, some areas it goes down but if you get either very lucky or plan very carefully you can make considerably more than 1% per year. For example, this is one of those unusual ones, I lived in a house built in 1963, when I was a child, that my parents purchased for $37,000 in an area that became very desirable in Silicon Valley. Using your 1% projected annual increase, in the last 50 years the home should be worth about $60,000. Hate to tell you but the home is worth $2,500,000 today. Yes, I’m sure there were a lot of repair and remodels during that time but the basic structure has not changed. Not all home purchases turn out this good. I purchased a new home just before the housing bust of 2008. I paid $260,000 in 2007, walked away from it in 2009. The bank resold it for $99,000 to another buyer who defaulted on it in 2011, it was listed for sale then for $55,000. It has since come back up to over $200,000. So even though I lost money on it someone else has enjoyed a nice profit. So location and timing play a big part in any home. If you plan on staying in one spot for many years you can make a nice profit or not, it depends on many factors but to say 1% is the best average you can do is not a fair statement.

        • James D.
          June 17, 2017, 3:10 am

          Russell Stanley, it’s not about fairness but what people can actually expect with any level of consistency…. Sure, there will be those who exceed the average but there will also be people who fall short… Exemptions are not the rule!

          Like any competitive market, there are winners and losers and one extreme doesn’t exist in a vacuum with no consideration of the other extreme and where most people can actually expect to fall…

          When a house is defaulted and sold at a lower price then it is a value loss… Regaining value for the next owner is not the same as appreciation and is more a forced trade off!

          It is also not something that can be counted on as you’re never going to have that many houses defaulted throughout the country to make it always a option, let alone have it be in a desirable location of your choice… Besides, you’re suggesting a benefit that comes by someone else suffering a loss… Even though in this case it was your loss, and you’re focusing on the bright side, that’s hardly a system of housing we should be pursuing as its only indicative of a flawed system that has the potential to get worse… a lot worse… Like the last housing market crash proved can happen… and some people who lose their home don’t always recover from the loss…

          Factors like supply and demand are also not a constant! At best you can only hope for relatively consistent trends that can last long enough to be taken advantage of but there can never be a guarantee of this…

          Detroit is a perfect example, in it’s prime demand was high and property values soared but then the economy tanked and the city suffered the blight of abandoned homes that fell into disrepair, pillaged, etc… Decades later and the city is still struggling to recover and the city still struggles to sell these homes at even a fraction of the rate of the rest of the country…

          It’s far more practical to take advantage of present rates and take properties that are under valued and flip them to sell at market rate… rather than gamble on some future gain you’re gambling you will actually get to see… Thus the real winners in the real estate market are the those who traffic the buying and selling of homes… Or those who leverage property for alternative incomes through renting and similar options, as they are either free and clear of the costs or pass it on…

          Value of a home also can decrease if you don’t keep it in good condition and meet modern standards… The going rate doesn’t matter if your house doesn’t meet the standards that rate is based upon… This is why it’s valid to invest large sums to renovate a house but only if the gains are greater than the costs… Not all people succeed at flipping a house…

          And it’s another factor that not all home owners will keep their house well maintained… and not all houses are built well enough that it is practical to expect to be able to keep them well maintain and not eventually need to rebuild at least part of the house to get it to sell at market value…

          All of this on top of all the other costs of home ownership, both the obvious and hidden costs that compounded with a 30 year mortgage can add up to a lot more than most people realize…

          The main market value of owning property is the equity leverage it can provide but it comes at a high cost and it’s not always easy to leverage that equity, provided you stay within your means and don’t end up owing more than you can actually ever pay…

          The market can also be unpredictable, so careful planning will only get you so far…

          Really, the flaws of the present housing system is one of the many reasons why there is even a Tiny House movement.

          Sure, it’s mostly an imperfect system rather than a obviously bad system, I’m mainly pointing out the flaws in the system and the reasons why it doesn’t work for everyone to counter the opposite extreme you’re presenting, but the problems are significant and reason enough to justify looking for alternatives.

          Compound this with the obsession over treating housing as investments rather than a tool to achieve a way of life that can actually lead to a state of happiness invariably leads to other issues like HOA’s regulating how you can live on your property, how the property must look, etc.

          Many of the zoning rules that prohibit the ability to live as we may wish is based upon the system of protecting housing as an investment system…

          Treating houses as investment is also what leads to the tendency for people to want houses bigger than they actually need… Rather than caring about how we can use the house to live well, we’re worrying about how the house design will effect its resale value…

          Ultimately, missing the point that houses are meant to be homes!

          Mind, medium incomes aren’t increasing as they should and the cost of living, energy costs, costs of goods, cost of furniture, and a multitude of other rising costs and effects of diminishing resources are making housing harder to afford…

          Part of this is how resources are managed… The obsession of treating houses as investments has often precluded how the land itself can be used…

          Options like growing some of your own food to utilizing alternative energy sources can help mitigate costs and make both housing and living in general more affordable and sustainable but we can’t achieve this as long as the focus is on treating houses as a investment to the exclusive of anything else…

          Even when dealing with social issues like homelessness, many a solution has been discarded or blocked because it was worried how it would effect property values…

          So, if we agree on nothing else, it should be that houses should be treated as homes and the focus should be more on how the houses and the land they are on can be best used to both our individual and societal benefit…

        • Randy Sharp
          June 17, 2017, 4:34 pm

          Not sure where we I am in the stream but…
          There are two driving factors that will change the housing market of the future.

          People are sick of banks, the stock market and the government. This has caused many to embrace what is called Minimalism. What is Minimalism? I would first go to Wikipedia for a start.

          Without embracing Minimalism don’t think about a Tiny House, which is a term that will one day be replaced by something more marketable. Personally I like Micro Home.

          The true Minimalist has completely different priorities than the average American. To the average American, more is better. To the Minimalist more is not only not better, but is a burden on their lifestyle. A Minimalist wants as little as possible to do with the banks, the stock market and the government.

          The other major thing that is now happening is the tele-commuting phenomena. A relative of mine just moved from California to New Hampshire. He and his wife sold their $800,000 3 bedroom home and bought beautiful house on 17 acres in New Hampshire. The cool part is they both took their jobs with their California salaries with them. Now they are quite happy, working from home back in New Hampshire and they report back in person once a quarter to the home office. Just imagine what this is going to do to the real estate market across the country.
          I myself have been studying this thing called Minimalism and I want to live in a small home as soon as I can. Trust me, it won’t have a mortgage attached to it.

      • Eric
        June 17, 2017, 4:54 am

        Try living in New Zealand… house prices have been rising by between 5%-15% per year since about 2012. Yes, does depend upon what part of the country that you live in, Auckland especially is horrendously expensive… basic 3 bedroom house price is in the $NZ 1 million plus range.

        Great when the average wage is around $NZ 37,000 if I recall correctly. /sarcasm

        • James D.
          June 17, 2017, 2:38 pm

          Eric, yes there are places in the world where the situation is worse… But the problems aren’t dissimilar…

          Issues such as the economy and average wage is one of the reasons people are having problems affording housing in the states too…

          We just haven’t reached the critical mass where enough of the population realizes there’s a growing problem to yet get enough momentum to get substantial change to the system.

          When even those who know there’s a problem may still worry about property value over whether or not they actually function as a home, whether the neighborhoods will look the same, and remain wary of any and all alternatives then there remains a lack of will and understanding of what it will take to ever fix the system…

          The precise reasons can vary place to place, country from country, but the basic reasons for these issues and the results are pretty common… It’s just a question of when our society will get around to seriously dealing with it…

          In the meantime, individuals like ourselves are doing what they can…

  • Judy Wagner
    June 13, 2017, 5:05 pm

    I absolutely agree! The cost of land and zoning restrictions are the issues that keep me from doing just that where I live in Colorado.

    • Josh Miller
      June 14, 2017, 1:33 am

      What part of Colorado are you looking at? I live in Lakewood and just bought a 5 acres property in Park Country fairly reasonable. The county has also recently revised it’s building codes that allow for smaller house sizes.


      My plan is to start with a THOW for mainly weekend getaways, add a septic system the following year because it is required by code and over time build a small house to live in when I decide im ready to leave the rat race sell my primary house in the city and retire.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 14, 2017, 1:39 pm

      Yea land in the North East is also quite pricey!

  • Jan
    June 13, 2017, 5:30 pm

    If you buy land then put a tiny house with wheels on it in Ontario Canada it is not considered a permanent structure so your property taxes don’t increase.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 14, 2017, 1:38 pm

      That’s interesting, Jan! Thanks for sharing.

    • Eric
      June 15, 2017, 3:52 am

      If you do that in Kapiti in New Zealand it IS considered a permanent structure and taxed accordingly. So, only gain for owner is the smaller cost of a THOW or similar.

  • Peter T.
    June 13, 2017, 6:10 pm

    If you are looking for land and cannot find conventional financing. There are companies out there that own the land and will finance. I bought 45 acres this way, here in Maine through a company called Blue-Green. They financed me for fifteen years at $200 per month. I paid it off about ten years ago and five years early. During that ten year period, I improved the property by adding an interior road to the building site. Added a nice little two bedroom gambrel, which started out as the barn / storage building. But, at the time finances were rather tight. So the barn became my home. Wood heat + passive solar. Plus I added solar panels for the bare minimum of electric power, at a later time (year seven). Put in a gray water system and installed a composting toilet. The house, excluding the frame, was built totally from used lumber and carpenter cast offs. I tore three old barns down too. By the time I was finished I had roughly $30,000 into it. And that is pretty cheap in this day! And like most people that build their own places, “it will never be fully finished!”

    • Alex
      June 13, 2017, 6:22 pm

      Interesting Peter thanks for sharing that. Great story!

  • Dug
    June 13, 2017, 6:39 pm

    Anyone want to create our own country ?? Lol

    • Marie
      June 14, 2017, 1:36 am

      Yes. Seriously. I’ve lived in the Boston area my whole life (I’m 39, single, female), and the cost of living here is friggin’ BANANAS!!!!!!!!!! As for rent, a 1-room studio around here runs at least $1000/month plus utilities – and that’s really on the cheap side. If you wanted to buy, you’d be fortunate to find a 1-bedroom, 625 sq.ft. condo – of course still decked out with its original faded 1970’s pastel pink carpet – for around $200k … maybe a little less pending the city/neighborhood. BUT, even though the housing market is this way (and NO ONE I know in my age group has been able to purchase their own home or comfortably survive), local governments do almost nothing about strict zoning laws that hinder people from finding alternative, affordable housing solutions. So anyway… yeah.. new country.. absolutely.

      • Barb
        June 14, 2017, 7:35 am

        I’m surprised that a few tiny home builders don’t get together and buy land for a tiny house community

        • Marie
          June 14, 2017, 6:12 pm

          Barb- yeah, that’s what I thought, too… but you’d be surprised how few people are interested in tiny houses or anything similar that would be “affordable” — it seems everyone is so paranoid about appearing “trailer park”, so they make fun of anything they think may be construed as such. So I find myself often asking people: (1) “Since when are you so fancy that you think you can be such a snob??” and (2) “Didn’t you know that 450 sq. ft. palace you’re renting for $1325 a month IS a tiny house??” So, yeah, especially when we live in such an UNaffordable area… it’s quite odd – and hypocritical – to hear your fellow locals gripe with you about the cost of living, but then call you insane when you offer tiny housing as your own personal solution to the problem.

        • James D.
          June 15, 2017, 1:00 am

          Actually, Barb, some have… Along with advocating for changes to the zoning laws with the local governments.

          They’re just few and far between and it does take time to create your own community from scratch but there’s a growing number of them…

          Mind, until the laws are changed many have to deal with the same limitations… But there are work around things they are doing in the meantime…

          Like leasing land from the government, which no one else is using… Just requires everyone living there to be off-grid and recycle their water…

          Setting up communities under RV Park laws, which in many places allows exemptions from local zoning regulations as long as the park is out of the way or closed off from the surrounding neighborhoods… and then just need to only follow the RV park regulations…

          Along with other loop holes in zoning laws that some are taking advantage of in order to establish Tiny House communities and villages.

          In terms of advocacy, some states have already passed some changes like Salem, Oregon recently added Tiny Houses to their local building codes to legally recognize them as housing…

          Some communities in Florida are experimenting with micro-communities where they basically take a lot that would fit a big house and allow up to 12 tiny houses to form a tiny self contained community… They just all need decks and a commitment to live there for a given time period and not constantly move…

          Other counties in Florida are working with eliminating the minimum size requirements for building codes that have to be met that can allow Tiny Houses on foundations…

          Texas has turned out to be a pretty big supporter of Tiny Houses…

          Georgia is open to Tiny House communities for the homeless and vets in need… There’s also at least one Tiny House farm type community where you can buy or rent lots of land…

          Places like Las Vegas, Nevada have gated communities that you can opt to live in with a Tiny House…

          Among other examples… They could just do a heck of a lot better job of advertising the fact they exist but many of them are still growing and it’s still a question if all will make it in the long run…

          While others are still trying to get the support needed to start a community and will start opening their doors at a later date…

        • S
          June 15, 2017, 6:37 pm

          Some tiny home builder did in Ohio, I think. But the only way they will let you live there is if THEY build your tiny home.

      • Alex
        June 14, 2017, 9:43 am

        It’s definitely frustrating when real estate becomes so unaffordable. I feel you. I encourage anyone reading in a similar situation to look into options. Oftentimes there are programs (government and non-government ones) to help people become homeowners. If you qualify they help you with down payment assistance and sometimes even have affordable homes that only those who qualify are allowed to buy. Does anyone know about anything like this in the Boston area?

  • Joyce Delap
    June 13, 2017, 7:45 pm

    Very interesting comments. I have been fascinated by the Tiny House movement b/c of the freedom it can appear to afford; however, again, that depends upon area of the country, zoning,etc. as you all have pointed out. I have already downsized and would love to downsize more upon ‘retirement.’ I never liked the idea of renting land….I just want to pay as little in real estate/school taxes as possible and the idea of having as many items off-grid as possible appeals to me….still studying the movement and how to achieve that…

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

      Yes there are still a lot of unknowns in the tiny house movement, for sure!

  • Barb
    June 13, 2017, 8:58 pm

    Thanks James for the info. I want to get a tiny house and am thrilled to pay for it with what I get when I sell my house. I now realize that I’d be better off with a small mortgage and available cash (especially when retired). There are few 55+ tiny house communities, so the search goes on. I want to have built a tiny home and I’m sure I’ll find what I’m looking for.

  • April
    June 14, 2017, 1:17 am

    Well written James D.

  • Richard Martinez
    June 14, 2017, 11:09 am

    We agree! Paying someone else’s mortgage through rental payments IS the worst. We already own a home and just bought some land to build a vacation/retirement home in NC. We are interested in the tiny home movement and have done a lot of research, but there’s still so much more to learn. Thank you for your blog, it’s been very educational. Keep up the great work!!!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 14, 2017, 1:40 pm

      Thank you, Richard! Glad you are enjoying the blog.

  • Randy Sharp
    June 14, 2017, 12:21 pm

    I have heard it said that banking is a necessary evil. Well if we can find a way around the necessary part it just leaves the evil.

    I am older (65) I remember when a car loan was 3 years and a home mortgage was 20 years not thirty. If we took 50% of the Pentagon budget each year and used it to assist people in starting out on the homeowner track our families would benefit.

    As a custom home designer in OC California, I can see just how the banking industry and the large residential developers has destroyed both creativity and affordability in the housing market.

    Thank heaven for the Tiny Housers. Finally an alternative to the treadmill. The creativity that people have shown in the Tiny house movement has been more than refreshing, it is inspirational to an old guy like me.

    Wheels or no wheels, I think it is simple. Wheels? Harder to finance and it better be a work of art or it will most likely loose value through the years. Foundation? Easier to finance ( if it meets code.) and will most likely appreciate in value. In my opinion, either way you go, own the land you put it on.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 14, 2017, 1:32 pm

      That’s some great advice, Randy! Thanks for sharing.

    • Alex
      June 14, 2017, 4:06 pm

      I agree… Either way you go (THOW or not), own your own land! Unless, of course, you are fortunate enough to have reliable access to land from a friend or family member. In those cases, THOW’s are great if you’re alright with the trailer size limitations/restrictions. Thanks, Randy, and I love your designs!

  • Alison
    June 14, 2017, 1:27 pm

    One of the best things that has come out of the Tiny House movement is the positive attention to living in a smaller space, and living within one’s means. My husband is a carpenter in a wealthy area and generally works on very large, very pricy custom homes. To each his own… but the people in big fancy homes are no happier than small-home dwellers. For most people, small homes are probably more sensible than tiny homes. But it is great to consider all options, and maybe get some tiny home communities that are like trailer parks, but with lovely custom stick-built homes, and maybe with ownership of the land beneath the tiny house. Owning land is a wonderful feeling, and if you need only a tiny patch, it should be more affordable. What we often see is people buying large pieces of rural land and parking their THOW there. That works, too, but is not feasible for everyone.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 14, 2017, 1:30 pm

      Yes it is good to see that people want to live within their means in something smaller, but I definitely want a little plot of land someday 🙂

    • Alex
      June 14, 2017, 4:07 pm

      I love your vision, Alison. I’m looking forward to a time where what you described is possible for those of us who want it. Tiny and small homes on small lots that you can own. That’s what we need. Not more THOW’s with nowhere to legally or affordably live in them!

  • Bob Thomas
    June 14, 2017, 1:35 pm

    Hi Alex,
    I agree, don’t pay someone else’s mortgage through rent!

    I’ve been living in a 221 sq. ft. wishbone tiny home for over a year and I absolutely love it! My only regret, I should have done it sooner!

    I live in a Village in NC with Tiny Homes (400 sq ft.) and Small Homes (401 to 1,000 sq. ft.). Over the past year I’ve met many like minded residents and now some of us are creating our own private Tiny House Village on land we will purchase. Counties and municipalities are more open to tiny homes and are relaxing their resistance as more Americans avoid the financial traps of conventional home ownership.

    There are huge benefits when you own your land; you stop paying someone else’s mortgage and dealing with infrastructure and management problems, YEAH!!! Remember, when you lease/rent your land it will increase 10% plus per year, based on monthly payments of $500 to $600 that will hurt.

    Use a tiny home village or community as a temporary solution! It affords you the opportunity make new friends and gain knowledge about the area before you buy land. If you decide to move your Tiny Home on Wheels (8.5′ x up to 38′) it can cost $2.00 to $2.25 per loaded mile, Park Models on concrete block piers (approx. 12′ to 14′ ft. wide x 29 to 33ft. long) can cost $1,500 to remove it from its piers, transport it to your new property and set it back on piers, this is a one day process. Skirting, stairs, decks will be additional, or have your friends help. Utility connections (electric, sewer and water) are very reasonable $400 to $600.

    We are a group of tiny home dwellers and will share our Tiny Home Lifestyle experiences with all that are interested…

    • Alex
      June 14, 2017, 4:11 pm

      Great info here, Bob. Thanks for sharing. I clicked over to your website and noticed you guys are having an event really soon that I didn’t know about. Next time let me know and I’ll add it to our workshops/events calendar.

      If anyone is in the NJ area here’s the link: http://unitedtinyhouse.com/2017-new-jersey-tiny-house-festival/

  • Lisa
    June 14, 2017, 2:49 pm

    in some areas, I think the tiny house thing can be a bad thing….in my small city, the council has put a temporary ban on building any home less that 1000 sq ft. And I live in a very small town….Even tho this town has many small homes that were built from 1920s on, the fear of people parking things on wheels that might not be esthetically pleasing, has caused this….And we haven’t even had that happen… the bad thing is, I thought maybe my husband and I might like to build a pretty and small home….800 sq ft,,, to suit us and to be able to have features we can’t afford in a large home…but not in my town! The tiny house thing has scared people into being afraid something ugly will get parked next door…..

    • James D.
      June 15, 2017, 2:00 am

      Lisa, I believe part of the problem is people really need to stop being so judgemental of how other people choose to live and believing in biased stereotypes…

      Like Tiny Houses are typically not ugly but works of art… In fact, there was actually a artist who built herself a Tiny House as one of many examples…

      Just because something is different doesn’t make it bad or ugly!

      Really, most of these Tiny Houses are hand crafted by artisans and crafts people in ways that most modern houses are no longer made. Things like crown molding, plaster embossing, hand made furniture and hardware, etc.

      Their smaller size also allows premium features and materials to be affordable enough to use… So a Tiny House can be built to the quality and standards of mansions but still cost less than most big houses. Especially, when you factor in all the hidden and long term costs of home ownership…

      Tiny Houses are also typically completely custom… In a world of mass produced products that is a very rare thing in our modern world… But this means Tiny Houses can be tailored to each owner to best suite their tastes and lifestyle in ways you can’t in most big houses unless you’re part of the mega rich…

      Think about it, why should only the rich be able to have custom homes and not worry about having their home match everyone else’s?

      Tiny Houses are also one of the last refuge for people to be able to affordably be able to build their own homes and do so themselves and on their own terms…

      So I strongly disagree with the idea that Tiny Houses bring ugliness into neighborhoods but rather the exact opposite…

      People are all individuals, each with our own uniqueness and it’s contrary to our very nature to try to make us all uniform.

      We’re not machines or hive like but yet we as a society have gotten to the point that we expect nearly everyone to conform to a single proprietary norm and are willing to enforce this to the point of taking a home away from someone or even throwing them in jail if they refuse to conform…

      Besides, most Tiny Houses are already built like houses and so it’s very easy to make them look like any style house. Especially, those built on foundations or are not meant to be moved very often…

      It makes far more sense to simply put in a style/theme requirement for a given neighborhood than a all out ban on everything that may be remotely different for no other reason than blind biased fear of anything different…

      Even a Tiny House on wheels can be skirted, have decks and patios added and essentially look no different than any other house on the block…

      While many a backyard can be hidden from view, along with gated communities, which makes an argument about appearance rather pointless if that was really what it was about…

      It’s mainly only those meant to be towed regularly that deviate from looking like houses because houses aren’t very aerodynamic and can be very heavy to tow… But even they can still look good and be built to very high standards…

      Mind, most of human history we have never really cared about sticking to some proprietary way of how thing should look for any real long period of time until modern times.

      Different styles of architecture, ways of constructions, etc. have resulted in a wide variety of structures throughout history, yet we seem to think conformity is somehow normal just because that’s what we’re used to now…

      Really, when we put things like how things may appear or how we think they should appear over real life practicality and would rather force people to be homeless or thrown in jail rather than accept anything different then we have to take a serious look at our priorities and realize just how messed up as a society we’ve become…

      Those who colonized and founded this country did so in order to have the right to live an independent life where they could live as they wished… Those are the actual roots of this country and we should get back to them because ultimately that is what really works and is true to our natures.

      Never mind how wasteful our society has become and how unsustainable the present housing market is and how it will ultimately lead to another housing market crash that will devastate this country in the long run.

      Essentially, housing is the next civil rights movement and change is long overdue…

  • June 14, 2017, 2:52 pm

    I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. If you are DIY: take the founders of the TH movement like Jay or those like Zac Giffen or just the unknown DIY person. There are great savings and the cost is low. For the rest of us who can not do and maybe are disabled or not good w/ tools, it becomes a high debt life and huge ball and chain, with no where to turn, no where to go back to.

    My plan was to find a piece of unrestricted land I could buy to park on. But all the debt to pay just for maintenance makes that something I can no longer see in the future. It will leave me renting spaces. Though cheaper than a house. I do not think I will ever be eating much again or having much of my basic needs met very well.

    What I am saying here unless you can do all yourself, this lifestyle is a mucho expensive way to go and very stressful.

    Yes there need to be more TH and RV communities, w/ private spaces that do not cost an arm and a leg. Most those communities do really cost!
    Again those that have a friend or relative w/ a “STABLE” parking spot that they will give for free or cheap, will find it all the difference and plenty save that way, but again for the rest of us, trying to find affordable parking is not easy.

    • Regan
      June 15, 2017, 6:06 am

      There is other options too, like minded tiny space livers could purchase a house together and divide it up, or maybe go together and purchase a defunct strip motel and develop the spaces into their dream space. I’m surprised we don’t see many tiny home co-ops developed, where they pool money and resources and buy something and develop it to their needs. You see developed farms like this, but not much for the more urban dweller. Heck, you could even get a couple people together and purchase a mobile home on land and then renovate the mobile into a duplex, just treat it like a shared dwelling where the taxman is concerned.

      • Natalie C. McKee
        June 15, 2017, 11:58 am

        Yea it’s not easy, for sure! That’s one of our concerns — people buy tiny homes and don’t have a place to put it, and then they are needing a fast sale and go back to renting. I’d love to see towns and municipalities accept smaller footprint homes on smaller plots of land, and to ease up on overly restrictive building codes. If we could build a 400 sq. ft. house on half an acre, maybe more people could afford to own property rather than rent it out.

      • DJ
        June 15, 2017, 7:38 pm

        I have thought about dividing my mobile home in half. The mobile home park where I live only allows related people, one family, to occupy a home. I think most other parks do too. I think the only way I would be able to have an unrelated person live with me would be if they were my “caretaker.” And you would have to be sneaky, and not get the remodeling permits required, because I don’t think the city would approve of a mobile home duplex. I think it is a good idea though, and completely agree with James D. that our society is seriously messed up by havingcodes that force so many people to be homeless. Everyone having a safe place to live needs to be put above the desire for conformity in housing size and appearance.

    • DJ
      June 15, 2017, 7:03 pm

      Do you already have your tiny home? There is an RV park turned THOW in Florida where the lot rent is between $350 and $550, depending on the lot. That is the cheapest I have seen, at least for a site that isn’t way out in the boonies.

      • James D.
        June 15, 2017, 8:09 pm

        DJ, there’s some local… I forgot the name of the one in Florida but it has options down to $250 a month and it’s a full time year round park…

        A more specific example is Greenwood, Arkansas… Schaper Properties… That has a 5 acre property that accepts Tiny Houses and their rates are $250/month for 6 month lease. $200/month for a year lease. One month rent is required for deposit…

        Mind, many of these places can also offer a number of amenities with some practically like living at a resort with golf courses, swimming pools, lake access, storage units, gyms, etc. and they can still be a ten minute drive to nearby local tourist spots, near beach front properties, etc. So the rent can include more than just rental space charges for what it provides…

        Some like like the one in Nevada is a gated community that also provides security, as another thing to consider…

        • Natalie C. McKee
          June 16, 2017, 11:25 am

          Yes there are not TONS of communities, but they do exist! And sometimes you get a lot of bang for your buck, depending on what amenities are offered.

  • two crows
    June 14, 2017, 3:29 pm

    Here’s what worked for me:
    I found a foreclosed home [foreclosed because the owner died and his heirs simply didn’t pay taxes.] Meanwhile, someone [don’t know who — it’s complicated] tore out the entire kitchen, pipes and all.
    So the bank was stuck with a house it would have to hold the mortgage on itself and couldn’t get anywhere near market value for it without adding the most expensive room to build — something it had no intention of doing.

    So I had a fair amount of leverage on the price and got a 611 sq ft house which, on paper, is worth about $127,000. I paid $45,000 [considerably less than the asking price] plus another $15,000 to make it habitable [even with repairs/upgrades, I paid less than the bank was asking though I did have the headaches.]

    It still doesn’t have a standard kitchen but it does, now, have a kitchen sink so it meets the legal definition. So, if I ever decide to move [unlikely] the buyer will be able to get financing and I should be able to sell it for close to standard pricing. And, if I ever decide to add a recognizable kitchen, I can even ask market price.

    Such gems ARE out there — especially since the housing crisis of about 10 years ago. They just take some legwork to find.

    • Alex
      June 14, 2017, 4:14 pm

      Good deal! Thanks for sharing.

    • DJ
      June 15, 2017, 7:10 pm

      But you are still talking about an amount of money that is so far out of reach for a lot of people. I don’t think everybody on disability gets the same amount, but I don’t think any of us get more than $1400 a month, and mine is a whole lot less than that. I think a lot of people on these tiny house boards do not realize what true, extreme poverty is.

  • Jason
    June 14, 2017, 4:12 pm

    Great article Alex!

    I think its obvious that this is a very important subject that so many are so very passionate about. I look forward to reading your future write ups and continuation of this topic!

    • Alex
      June 14, 2017, 4:48 pm

      Thanks Jason!

  • Jim
    June 14, 2017, 4:43 pm

    All the arguments for and against renting vs owning, a THOW vs permanent construction, are peculiar to each person’s wants needs and desires, both short and long term.

    As discussed in earlier conversation, the locale, as it pertains to zoning, land use/deed restrictions, codes and etc., affect land use and ultimate appreciation potential if you buy/own land, whether it be for a THOW or permanent structure..

    Inflation expectations present a scenario that strongly suggest that you own something, (preferably well located land that you can utilize as your home), that fits your current and future use, needs and affordability, and that has been fully vetted by professionals, prior to purchasing.

    Although cash is the best way to pay for your land, ( and everything else you buy), there are many lending institutions, primarily in rural areas, that will gladly finance a piece of raw land for agricultural purposes, ( 10 acres for a few cattle, sheep or goats). If you happen to live in Texas, Capital Farm Credit has offices statewide and there are many credit unions and the few surviving S&Ls also make these types of loans. Many other states have similar lenders connected to the UDSA and other government sponsored farm and rural credit providers.
    As far as renting goes, be it for land, land and home, apartment or whatever, don’t think that the owner of your property isn’t passing through his interest costs, taxes, maintenance and other costs of ownership, directly to you, plus reaping a nice profit in the bargain.

    You will probably find that over the long run owning is cheaper than renting and you should have at least some equity build up.

    IMO, long term own, short term rent…

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 15, 2017, 12:00 pm

      All great points! And I agree — renting doesn’t mean you aren’t paying property taxes, etc., it just means that it’s rolled into your rent payment.

      • jim
        June 15, 2017, 4:01 pm

        Since everyone here is already “thinking outside the box”, no pun intended, about the tiny house movement, you probably just need to move a little further outside the box. As noted by another contributor, there are special situations that exist that offer the opportunity to live both small and economically in urban areas.

        Properties are available in virtually every state, that are bank repos, state, county and federal tax repos, condemnations and areas even areas that no longer qualify for FEMA flood insurance on permanent structures, but may work for THOW’s. In many instances these types of properties fall under special resale guidelines that require availability for nonconforming land uses, expedited permitting and even favorable financing options.
        You may have to turn over a lot of rocks and ask lots of questions to find something that fits your situation, but it may be well worth the extra effort.

        • Natalie C. McKee
          June 16, 2017, 11:11 am

          Very, very true!

  • Renee
    June 14, 2017, 4:49 pm

    I’m glad someone has finally brought this important fact to the top of the “tiny” table. I quickly realized the land has to come before the house to make it a good investment.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 15, 2017, 12:00 pm

      Yea if you look for land afterwards, you could be hurting!

  • mick
    June 14, 2017, 4:53 pm

    Here in Charlotte County Florida, I bought a small lot zoned for mobile or stick built house. Due to ridiculous local regs and greedy contractors, a stick built was over 6 figures. Ended up with a tiny double wide mfg house (575sf) which fit zoning. Spent high 5 figures after 1 yr of frustrations. Unfortunately due to change in family situation, may have to liquidate soon.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 15, 2017, 12:01 pm

      Oh no, Mick 🙁 I’m really sorry about that!

  • ~ Lesa
    June 14, 2017, 6:21 pm


    I will keep my comment brief;
    I couldn’t agree with your intro more , ‘ I think small homes on land — even with mortgages — are the future of the tiny house movement . ‘

  • Michael L
    June 14, 2017, 6:49 pm

    I’m curious… is this a reprint from somewhere? There’s no indication who the author is!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 15, 2017, 11:39 am

      Hi Michael — It’s Alex 🙂 If you scroll down to the end of our posts you can see who posted it (Alex, myself or maybe a guest poster).

  • Fiona
    June 14, 2017, 7:10 pm

    It is interesting reading all these comments and ideas. I live in Nova Scotia, Canada. I am only a few years away from retirement. My estimated pension is enough to pay for what I pay in rent right now, and it isn’t a palace by any means. So I have been studying THOW plans and reading as much I can with the idea and hope that I can have my own tiny house with barely any bills. Two things I have found here are; one, you can lease crown land. Two, in some areas in the province(rural) because of bylaw changes with lot sizes, there are lots with crumbling old homes, or just a foundation left that can be purchased quite reasonably as long as you do NOT build on the property. So a ‘trailer’ or ‘house’ on wheels can go on the property, and the property already has septic, well, and power available. Mind you, a new septic and well would more than likely be needed. So that is how and where I hope to ‘park’ my tiny home. This isn’t a well known option for people. Maybe there is something like this near some of you.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 15, 2017, 12:02 pm

      Wow thanks for this! That’s super interesting and a great thing to keep in mind.

  • June 14, 2017, 7:14 pm

    I do think this is what will kill the tiny home movement- many people falsely believe that living tiny is the answer to affordable housing. However, often we overlook the question, where to park it? Especially if you need to be in an urban area, or high priced location like California. Buying a piece of land is not typically feasible or cheap. Where I live if you want to be in town, it will set you back at least $175,000, but most lots cost over $300,000. You won’t be be allowed to park a tiny home on it, so you’ll have to bhod. Add in the costs to get utility connections and permit fees, probably at least another $100,000. Most likely you won’t be able to build less then 1,000 sf due to zoning codes. Expect the process to take about a year to get through all the red tape, which most likely you be paying rent during this time while building. This just is not realistic for anyone on a limited budget. You can always move somewhere less expensive, but that’s not always a realistic option if you want to be near work, family etc.

    As one possible solution, we came up with the idea of converting a vintage mobile home park that allows spaces for tiny homes. The space rent is $650/month which some have highly criticized! But when you compare the options of buying land which typically you can’t finance, then add in all your permit and connection fees, plus construction costs for having to build something bigger then you may even want, I think you’ll find paying space rent fee is a much cheaper choice. The average homeowner moves every seven years anyway (in California I believe it’s less even). So you’d still have the option of moving your home somewhere else if you like. (Something you can’t do with a condo or fixed foundation home).

    So although the idea of living in a small house on land you own sounds wonderful and idealistic, it just doesn’t seem realistic for those on a limited budget, that need to live be in an urban area, that are trying to live minimally and avoid the whole idea of indebtedness.

  • Doug
    June 14, 2017, 7:35 pm

    I agree with your point, but zoning restrictions still restrict where small\tiny mouses can be built. I’ve lived in my ~850 ft^2 1950s era house for 24 years. When it’s paid off in a couple of years, I’ll sell it and realize about $5-10K more than I actually paid. My goal when I retire in 5-7 years is to relocate in a fixed home of about 500-800 ft^2, somewhere in the southwest. Am actively looking to buy land now, but so far have not had much luck finding communities who will permit a house like this. Is there any guidance available on this withing the small house community? Sorry for the run-on question, but information is hard to come by.

    • Doug
      June 14, 2017, 7:36 pm

      Whoops! By small\tiny mouses, I mean houses!

  • Steve
    June 14, 2017, 9:30 pm


    While I agree with your premise the biggest difference besides greater space between the house and house on wheels is the property taxes you have to pay. They can be significantly more for a home with a foundation comparetively. I don’t know the property costs are For each state but it’s worth looking into as part of the decision making process I believe.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 15, 2017, 11:16 am

      So true, Steve. Thanks for bringing that up. It’s definitely part of the process of making your choice, and where you are buying land can make all the difference.

  • Bigfoot
    June 14, 2017, 9:41 pm

    First, James D – great post ! I think you nailed all the main issues in a very concise manner. Thanks
    I believe getting a piece of land is essential & really the first step. Unfortunately, to get a piece of ground that will “allow” you some freedom (disgusts me to have to even phrase it this way) you just about have to go rural. Most all the cities & municipalities have just too many restrictive laws, rule, & regulations & generally high tax rates as well. I’m in Levy County Fl which is a large & fairly poor county. I am not in a designated town/city. Residential/ag zoned land starts at about $5k an acre & goes up from there. In the 20 years I’ve been here, I’ve seen the property go from $3k an acre, up to $15k an acre & back to where it’s at now. I believe we are in one heck of a real estate bubble & it’s a good time to sit on the sidelines.
    You could build a legal/code house of 300 sq ft with no problem in my area & it’s zoned ag/res so having farm animals & gardens are not a problem. Also, there are plenty of homes & mobile homes that have an RV parked & obviously hooked up next to or near their main residence, not necessarily legal but I have been driving past these things for years.
    All real estate is local & the coming real estate bust will unfold differently everywhere. There will be plenty of deals.
    I suppose the main problem being rural is employment or having a long commute.
    For those contemplating buying property, I highly recommend getting a copy of “Finding & Buying Your Place in the Country” by Les & Carol Scher. It’s an older book but loaded with indispensable information.

    • James D.
      June 15, 2017, 3:00 am

      Thanks Bigfoot, this is something I think we’re all passionate about here.

      And very good point that options are also limited by income and whether one has to travel a convenient or inconvenient distance for that income…

      There are jobs that allow people to work from anywhere but they’re not jobs everyone can do or always make a good living from and if one has to deal with even a small mortgage then it becomes increasingly hard to find the right balance of location and job availability to sustain that lifestyle…

      But there are options people may not have considered, like besides the Tiny House movement there is also a Permaculture movement where more and more people are growing their own food and even making a living farming on even a single acre of land…

      Incidentally, starting a farm is one way to get some exemptions from local zoning rules…

      There are also other ways to pay for land, like being caretakers of a property or providing some other service to the land owner that allows for mutual benefits instead of always currency exchanges.

      Like minded people can also join together and create a community on land they all share ownership of for mutual benefit to help lower costs and pool resources.

      While establishing a community could also increase the range of options by providing more ways to provide income and pooling of resources can mean the ability to turn land that is otherwise undesirable, like a desert, into a prosperous oasis… After all, that’s how places like Las Vegas started…

      There are homesteaders in Arizona, for example, that have turned otherwise unlivable land into a virtual garden of Eden… which opens low cost land that otherwise no one else would want as viable options to consider…

      On a more extreme note, mainly just to help open people’s minds to other possibilities they may not otherwise consider, we do have the technology to create artificial islands…

      Gaillard Island, for example, was created by the Army Core of Engineers to create a refuge for colonial nesting seabirds and shore birds in coastal Alabama…

      Northstar Island, in Alaska, was created for oil drilling and extraction from the Northstar Oil Pool in the Beaufort Sea…

      Along with many other examples throughout the country and throughout the world… Places like Dubai have artificial islands for hotels and airports, for example… Disneyland in Tokyo is also on a man made island… Among other examples…

      Many of them are just not for more than temporary living but at some point someone is going to take advantage of the fact that 3/4’s of the surface of the planet is covered by water and creating artificial islands can be a way to start making use of all that space…

      It’s just a question of how long before the need for more spaces forces us to expand into areas we would otherwise avoid but short of colonizing the moon and Mars, it’s something that could actually happen in our lifetimes…

      But the point is being creative and thinking outside of the box isn’t limited to just how the houses are built and designed but also the places we can put them and how we can make them a practical way of living…

      Like many things, it’s usually only impossible until someone figures a way to do it…

      • Bigfoot
        June 16, 2017, 6:00 pm

        Glad you mentioned agriculture, farming , & exemptions. I don’t know all of the laws for the 67 counties in Florida. I do know there are many counties where if you have agriculturally zoned land, you can build structures on that land with no permits. I knew someone who did this, he had just 2 cows. This might be an option for some.
        There are many avenues you could take here. You could lease out your land to someone wanting to run an agricultural enterprise therefore deriving some income & being able to build what you want without a lot of interference. Get inexpensive seedlings through the state & grow timber to maintain your ag exemption. There’s a fellow down the street from me has 20 acres, only growing veggies on just under 2 of those acres as the rest is fairly wooded. He just built a greenhouse & did NOT need a permit.
        There are indeed a number of people making a living growing food or specialty items on an acre or less. People will always need food!
        I believe ag land is a great place to look for someone needing a caretaker or just wanting a presence on their property as there are a lot of absentee property owners or ones that only occupy their property part of the year.

        • Natalie C. McKee
          June 19, 2017, 12:29 pm

          That’s a great idea Bigfoot! Someday I want a couple goats, so I need to look into those options. Thanks for sharing.

  • victoria
    June 15, 2017, 9:32 am

    Thank you for bringing all this up. I have been interested for a long time, but could not even consider moving a THOW around myself. And have wanted to do this, find property with something small but livable already there. Though if I found the right land with the right zoning, my brother the carpenter said he would build for me. I have not found the place that I felt at home yet, where I could afford to buy, but I am glad this forum is looking at this realistically. If there were an affordable community forming in the southwest US, I would like to hear about it, please!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 15, 2017, 11:08 am

      Yes small homes can be a great option!

    • Judy
      June 15, 2017, 2:41 pm

      Victoria, minus the carpenter brother, I could have written the same. I live in Colorado and would love to find a tiny/small home affordable village where I could own the land as well as the a dwelling somewhere here in the southwest. It seems there are many like-minded folks interested in the same and this area is ripe for someone with the energy, experience and vision to take this on. I have the latter, though not the two former qualities.

  • marc
    June 15, 2017, 9:42 am

    What we really need is a state by state, maybe even county by county accounting of what is allowed. Some of us are looking to relocate but navigating the law is daunting from a layman’s perspective. My wife and I need to relocate from California because the cost of living is just too high. We want an acre with a little cabin or house. Having been in the ministry for twenty years we weren’t able to save all that much, but do have some resources. We know about tiny. We lived on our 36′ trawler for 12 years and live in a mobile home now.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 15, 2017, 11:06 am

      That’s the tough part! I know from the research I’ve done that the laws aren’t just different state by state or county by county, but town by town. So that’s thousands (maybe millions?) of towns in the US, and the laws can change any day. It’s pretty tricky for any one entity/group to keep track of it, otherwise we’d love to provide that resource.

      • marc
        June 15, 2017, 11:19 am

        Understood Natalie. Maybe a few comments from people about locations that are tiny house friendly.

        • James D.
          June 15, 2017, 7:53 pm

          One resources is the American Tiny House Association, they’re an advocacy group and their site provides some links to each state to find some information on the local zoning rules…

          It’s not comprehensive or that easy to navigate but it’s a starting point that can help get you started.

          States like Texas, Oregon, Georgia, and Florida has some notable trends towards legalizing Tiny Houses… Not in every county but much of what’s happening in those states can spread to other states eventually…

          Like Salem, Oregon recently added Tiny Houses to their building code regulations so they can be legally recognized as housing…

          Parts of Texas are known to have little to no regulations blocking Tiny Houses and so people have opened up communities in many of those locations.

          Georgia has issues with housing for homeless and vets and so have started to allow Tiny House communities and there’s at least one based around a farming type community that will sell or rent lots for people to live in the community in their Tiny House.

          And there are other examples… States like Idaho can allow a house that meets HUD building code as long as it’s bigger than 150 sq ft… Other states have something similar but pushed its minimum to 250 sq ft…

          Some states allow in urban areas anything to be built as long as the land is at least 10 acres… Some only require two acres and at least 50 feet away from a public road…

          Some places have exemptions for properties that are run as a farm… Some trailer parks can also operate with exemptions…

          Others are starting to eliminate their minimum size requirements to allow Tiny Houses on foundations that still meet building codes…

          Yet others are experimenting with Accessory Dwellings/Granny Flats to help families allow family members to live on the same property…

          But there are still many places where the rules are very strict and virtually nothing can be built… Even regular big houses because the lot sizes have been sub-divided too many times and no longer fit the minimum size requirements… So in some parts of the country people are stuck with whatever is already on the property…

          It’s very inconsistent and it can drive people insane trying to figure it all out as there’s really no rhyme or reason to it as many of these rules have little to do with actual housing and more to do with protecting property value, insuring local government can collect property taxes, or just a general bias to anything different and new that makes it hard to make any changes…

          Like assuming anything different is automatically dangerous… This can drive local officials to evict you and condemn your home even if it’s the safest and strongest structure in the world…

          Some of the rules were also written over a century ago but they’re still on the books, which is one of the inherent problems with bureaucracies as they tend to be loath to change and progress can be measured by decades…

          Needless to say it’s very maddening but there has been some progress as noted above and those who advocate for change will continue to do so, with growing numbers as more people become aware and the fact the need for changes effect a wide range including those wishing to live in other alternative housing options like Earthships, earthen houses, Cob Houses, and those wishing to make our society more sustainable and eco friendly, etc.

  • Jane K.
    June 15, 2017, 11:19 am

    We are having a tiny house built and will be living in Tennessee. There are quite a few places in that gorgeous state (which has no federal income taxes) to place your tiny homes. I, for one, am very excited about living in a tiny home and I believe there are many good reasons for doing so. I know for a fact that there are insurance companies who insure THOWs and banks that supply tiny home mortgages. I’d much rather pay $300 per month for rent than pay a large mortgage bill, high electric and water bills, property taxes of $3000 per year, etc. You nay-sayers will not get me down!

    Here in a link where you can find communities and private land all over the country to place your tiny home. Make sure you also click on “maps” for private owners’ land. http://tinyhousecommunity.com/places.htm

    • Jason
      June 15, 2017, 12:16 pm

      Hey Jane,

      Proud owner of a small home near Nashville. 2 acres- 800 sq ft. stick built.

      A bit of math here: $300 a month rent for a tiny home is $3600 a year.
      My monthly utilities are $60 electric, $20 for water, $500 a year in taxes. So $1460 a year.- $2100 less than your rent.
      My 65k in construction cost puts me at a $400 mortgage. I assume you paid for your THOW and didn’t build it (could be wrong). A 30k tiny home loan/personal loan comes with an 8 year repayment at 10% interest (based on my research). That’s $450 a month.. yes it’s paid in 8 years but its still a THOW 250sqft at best and you are still paying rent- but would it have not increased after 8 years?

      I really do not see the financial benefits of paying rent to park your tiny home over buying land and building a small home.

      Here’s my house- https://tinyhousetalk.com/jasons-800-sq-ft-gambrel-roof-small-home/

      • Alex
        June 16, 2017, 1:22 pm

        Thanks for sharing your numbers (math) with us Jason! Math doesn’t lie!

      • Jane K.
        June 16, 2017, 3:30 pm

        A few comments:

        1. Tiny homes can be much larger than 250 square feet.

        2. Small homes like yours cannot travel.

        3. We live in Illinois. Our mortgage, electric bill, water/garbage bill and real estate taxes total about $21,000 per year. In Tennessee, our mortgage, water/garbage, and rent will be about $8,500 per year.
        (We will not need electric – our home will be solar.) Plus, no federal and state income taxes will save us at least $18,000 per year. Do the math – that’s huge savings for us! Plus, I’m not saying we will rent forever. My husband’s pension (coming in about 7-10 years) will help us to find permanent land.

        Besides, you are living your dream. Why not let us live ours?

        • Alex
          June 17, 2017, 6:04 pm

          Thanks for sharing your numbers with us Jane. It’s a reminder that there’s really no one size fits all solution and yup tiny is relative!

  • Jerome Frankel
    June 15, 2017, 9:06 pm

    would like info about what can be built around a 1000 sq or less in the southern california area below los angeles.

  • Annette
    June 16, 2017, 2:19 pm

    Wow! This is a welcome post. Just look at all these comments!

    People really want and need to find a tiny house/low cost but quality solution that competes realistically with the advantages of living in town.

    There should be no trade-off. We need tiny houses in the city.

    Those who are working toward the relaxation of urban regulations so that tiny houses can be legally located/parked/lived in FT in backyards and driveways within suburbs and inner cities, near employment, public transportation, schools, hospitals, and utilities, will be the heroes of this story and the future.

    Rather than being scattered all across the wilderness, off-grid etc., will not increasing the density of inner city living, letting tiny houses/ADUs take advantage of existing infrastructure, be the best solution to lowering carbon footprints?

    It’s possible.

    • Jason
      June 16, 2017, 2:30 pm


      Comes down to money and its effects on politics. The very wealthy donate, so do large companies via lobbyists. The wealthy don’t want small houses reducing property values (in their mind). And builders don’t won’t competition for their profits.

      Going to take a whole lot of grassroots and frankly big money to make a real push. Any of you North West people have access to the Bill Gates fund?

      • Annette
        June 16, 2017, 2:46 pm

        No pessimism allowed.

        Not all homeowners are wealthy. These days many – perhaps the majority – are struggling to meet the demands of expensive real estate.

        Were property owners able to exploit a viable income source — e.g. hookups and a parking area installed in his or her back yard through which income might be realized, such that could defray his or her own mortgage payments, I bet such an accommodation would be very popular.

        Standards will always need to be applied — the character of neighborhoods should not be detracted by hillbilly junkyards.

        But, with tiny families trying to manage aging Boomers, this could be the right time to shovel new legislation through zoning laws.

        • Natalie C. McKee
          June 19, 2017, 12:32 pm

          I think part of the reason tiny homes end up in rural areas is simply because there’s more space there to put them. Not that there isn’t space in backyards/driveways for ADUs or THOWs, but cities have apartment buildings because going UP is sometimes the only option. That being said, allowing for smaller homes in the suburbs, rather than way out in the country, would be a GREAT compromise.

  • Cap Nemo
    June 16, 2017, 2:32 pm

    Zoning laws do not protect traditional home values during a recession, banking scandal, etc., so housing values are only current market value driven. Small homes do not drive down property values. Why? People who want to live in small homes don’t want to live next to Mansions, they would rather live with people in a same small home community. So zoning laws are worthless, always have been, and prone to political persuasion based on a false sense of security of property value increases which 2008 proved wrong. Watch the movie The Big Short, nobody in the banking industry went to jail, so it’s going to happen again.
    Builders of all kinds mark up materials so any building on wheels will depreciate faster (ask the RV industry or look at the condition of old mobile homes and you will see where you are headed) so the combination of the two makes the unit even more difficult to resell. Who wants to buy a used Tiny Home with a moldy bathroom in it, I don’t.
    Small units on small foundations have a better chance of retaining their value because of the land it is on.

    • James D.
      June 17, 2017, 4:14 am

      Cap Nemo, while Tiny Houses can be put on wheels and in many ways treated like RV’s… They are in fact not RV’s, nor do they usually follow RV practices like material markups…

      Tiny houses, by their nature of being something constructed with the same tools, materials and construction methods as traditional houses, are generally built to higher standards than RV’s…

      Mind, RV’s are intentionally not designed for full time living but Tiny Houses are!

      Though, it’s also part of the reason why a Tiny House can weigh a lot more than a RV and will thus be harder to tow, along with not being as aerodynamic… But solid construction means they’ll generally last a lot longer and options like metal roofs can last 50-100 years.

      Besides, bad designs and construction can plague any house and you can have a moldy house on a foundation just as easily if it’s not properly built and designed…

      Houses on foundations can also depreciate for various reasons, like the house falling into disrepair, drop in local economy, neighborhood blight, mold issues, etc.

      Build a wooden house on a concrete foundations and didn’t seal and insulate the sub floor means you can end up with r0tted floors, mold issues, etc.

      So don’t get hanged up on just what kind of foundation it has and just make sure the builder puts in things like a good ventilation system, ways for moisture build up to quickly evaporate even when it gets very humid, etc.

      • Cap Nemo
        June 20, 2017, 3:57 pm

        You must be a Tiny Home builder. Tiny Home builders mark up materials. A 2000 sq. ft. home that costs 200k is $100.00 per sq. ft.

        A Tiny Home that is 200 sq. ft. is costing anywhere between 40 to 70K or anywhere from $200 to $300 per sq. foot. I have seen the related costs. There is a major collusion between Tiny Home builders when it comes to marking up materials and even appliances in the final price of a 200 square foot Tiny Home. You are not telling the truth.

        • James D.
          June 20, 2017, 4:42 pm

          Sorry Cap Nemo, but no…

          First, the national average is up to $137 per square foot now and the range is between $80 to about $176 per square foot for how it can vary across the country… But that’s only for standard construction that only has to meet but not exceed building codes…

          Second, the price per square foot is just a average that includes all costs and not just material costs.

          So factors like how much work was done, what was included and not included, what construction and architectural methods were used, etc. all determine that rate.

          Something build to very high standards, such as a completely custom made structure with the highest end materials and level of craftmanship can have a cost of up to over $2000 per sq ft.

          It’s just like the cost difference between getting wood ready to be used for construction and wood that’s rough cut and still has to be refined… Any and all work involved in the process adds to the costs and it’s not a simple matter of just materials.

          Something hand crafted with meticulous detailed work will cost you more than a mass produced product because it requires more work to make, but the costs results in something that’s more unique and can be custom versus one size fits all of a assembly line produced product…

          Costs also go up when you go smaller because you’re squeezing more into a limited space and doing more work to get everything to not only fit but for the space to work practically and not reduce functionality when scaling down.

          So it’s not a mark up when it actually costs more to do!

          Third, cost per square foot also doesn’t tell you what is in every square foot… So when you squeeze more into a small space then you’re of course increasing the cost per square foot…

          Essentially empty space, where you don’t need to run plumbing, where you don’t need to run wiring, etc. doesn’t cost much at all to make, especially interior spaces that also don’t need to be insulated if they’re not in contact with the exterior, and there’s a lot of empty space you don’t actually use in a big house but in a tiny house every square inch has to be usable!

          Fourth, costs can also vary depending on the level of engineering and material costs used…

          Tiny Houses have less room to use low efficiency materials and high efficiency materials usually cost more… Like having a double to triple paned custom glass window that can provide a high R-12.5 to R-20 will cost thousands each but will ensure the tiny house will be extremely efficient and even with thinner walls than a big house they can still provide a significant amount of insulation… Among other material and manufacturing choices that may cost more but work better in limited spaces.

          Some Tiny Houses, like the one built by the “Performance Guy” exceed LEED standards by multiple times… and this helps ensure the low cost of living that Tiny Houses can provide…

          Fifth, there’s also things that aren’t common in big houses but can be common in Tiny Houses that can raise the costs as well.. Such as being able to function off grid…

          Things like a Solar Power system can cost anywhere from $500 for a basic system to just power the lights to over $15,000 for a system that will power all appliances and allow the owner to operate completely off-grid… This alone can turn a $50,000 Tiny House into a $65,000 Tiny House…

          Along with other factors, like there are safety and structural issues that Tiny Houses, especially on wheels, have to be able to account for that most big houses don’t…

          Like most big houses don’t need to be engineered to the point that they can withstand both and earthquake and a hurricane at the same time but Tiny Houses do because they have to be able to survive being towed along highways at up to over 60 MPH…

          Tiny Houses that can be moved also have to meet codes for multiple parts of the country and not just one local area like most big houses do… A Tiny House often has to be able to handle both arid and extremely humid weather, as well as extremely hot of up to 135 F to lows of -100 F if they are to be able to go anywhere in the country.

          These are not features that come free just because it is built like a house but has to be engineered into the structure and everything that goes into it..

          Equipment like HRV’s and ERV’s can allow ventilation in almost any environment without the Tiny House losing too much heat or effecting its level of humidity but they aren’t as cheap as simple air vents would be…

          And there’s many more examples…

          So let’s not pretend there’s no reason for the price…

          However, Tiny Houses, regardless of price range, all offer a lower cost alternatives to big houses constructed to equivalent levels…

          A $100,000 may have a high cost, but it’s basically something built to the standards of what would otherwise be called a mansion!… And those would go into the millions if you had build a big house to the same standards…

          All Tiny Houses also have lower costs of ownership, repair and maintenance, lower costs for insurance, taxes, costs of living, far easier to heat and cool, can be renovated at much lower costs, etc.

          So regardless of price, they offer long term cost savings for the life of the house.

          It’s just like big houses, there’s a range of offerings from basic tiny houses to luxury tiny houses… Some Tiny Houses are specially designed for ADA compliance so the elderly and physically challenged can more easily afford a home that suites their needs… It will still cost more than a basic home but it will be far more affordable than doing the same to a bigger home…

          Along with other benefits, like a smaller home means you need less land for the house and that gives more space to do other things and don’t need as big a plot of land to still be able to use it for what you wish…

          So no, I’m absolutely telling you the truth!

  • david
    June 16, 2017, 2:58 pm

    This caught my eye: “Here’s What’s WORSE Than a Mortgage…
    Paying for someone else’s mortgage through rent! Right?”
    Wrong. A common fallacy of non-economists, but wrong:
    When you don’t want to build a tiny house (on wheels) on the cheap, or didn’t know of that possibility, and have to choose between burdening yourself with life-long debt or renting a modest place and saving even just a few hundred a month and investing this in REAL ASSETS regularly using the cost average effect and a minimum of ONE crash (indeed), you are well off to BUY a modest place outright. No debt, no worries.
    This is not “theory”, it is reality, across all past 100 years.

    • Alex
      June 17, 2017, 6:01 pm

      Good point, David. One just has to commit to investing the few hundred bucks you mention into real assets. Ideally, people should do both, don’t you think?

      1) Own a home, pay your mortgage, pay a little extra on it every month so you can save tons of money on interest over time, AND
      2) Set yourself up to invest in real assets (stocks/bonds/ETFs) every month too

      Why not do both?

      • Cap Nemo
        June 20, 2017, 4:33 pm

        Hello Alex,
        Why is my reply post below awaiting moderation when the original post was offered to this forum. Anyone promoting their business or someone else’s should be held to an open rebuttal process on your forum. Please advise. Here is the post below in question, a reply to Jason D.

        There is a post by one of the founders of NOAH where he admits they were banned from last years Tiny Home Jamboree in Colorado. This post was on The Tiny (R)evolution blog which challenged the NOAH process and validity of it’s certification. Obviously the Tiny Home Jamboree people have questioned the practices of NOAH to ban them altogether. This was the NOAH founders post below.


        Read more at https://tinyhousetalk.com/tiny-house-mistakes-and-realities-parking-land-and-ownership/#tAeaU0WOd4Ld5wI6.99

        • Cap Nemo
          June 20, 2017, 4:40 pm

          In the feedback to the above article, one of the founders of NOAH posted this , his own reply.

          Martin I’m sorry you were “stood up” I have never personally not returned a phone call. I assure you that you were not stood up. We were signed up to be at the Jamboree with high hopes of publicizing as much info as we could about our service. After securing our travel and lodging we were sent an email banning us from participating.

  • Jason
    June 16, 2017, 3:26 pm

    Okay since no one has brought this up.

    I have deep concerns about the safety of THOW. Minimum building code is well the minimum. Some builders do the least and others go above it. However, all homes must pass codes to be occupied (occupancy permit).
    This includes mobile and modular homes, they must meet minimum building code. The electrical, plumbing, and structure must be right before you can move in.

    THOW do not get inspected by anyone! Can this design handle a snow or wind load? Does the plumbing cross electrical wires-which can cause a fire in a few years? Are there two appropriate exits in the even of a fire- in case one is blocked?
    Truth is- you don’t know. You hope that the company you bought from did you right. But you don’t know.
    But hey they gave me a warranty! – So you think this small company will be around in 5 years? Who can you sue when the company no longer exists? How will this affect my resale value? Who does home inspections on a THOW?


    • James D.
      June 17, 2017, 3:53 am

      Jason, people generally want to be safe in what they live in so more often then not Tiny Houses are built to far exceed building code… It’s a rarity that they are ever below and more often than not it’s usually because it’s a conversion and not a true Tiny House.

      But there are ways to be sure, for the same basic safety as RV’s those builders that offer RVIA certifications means they meet those standards and if they’re legit means they get inspected to verify this…

      Of course some companies can lie and the lack of enforcement in the RV industry means it may not mean much but generally a company wouldn’t last very long if they made defective products…

      A more significant certification is NOAH as that actually states the structure is suitable for full time living… Unlike the RV building code which only really address basic safety concerns of RV life but doesn’t require they be built to standards suitable for full time living.

      These are 3rd party certifications, which is basically a service by industry professionals to give their testimonial that they certify the structure meets code….

      Some builders also create their own certification, like Incredible Tiny House offers RVAH, which is kinda a hybrid of RVIA and NOAH but can be more comprehensive as they take pictures and videos documenting the build throughout the process to create a provable record of how the house was build and certified by industry professionals that it meets or exceeds building codes.

      Such records also help with ownership as it provides you details of how the walls are constucted and if you need to, you can easily reference them to do repairs or modifications as you’d know exactly where the pipes and electrical are in the walls…

      Builders who also sell the plans to their models also means you can take those plans to a professional who can tell you how well it is designed…

      While the fact tiny houses can be completely custom means you can have the house designed and then built to whatever specs you desire…

      Mind also as Tiny Houses start to become legal it means more and more will have to show they meet code…

      Like when Salem, Oregon added Tiny Houses to their building codes it meant not only that tiny houses could be legally recognized as housing there but that those tiny houses had to meet or exceed code just like any other house… They only provided an exception for the loft and insisting on residential code stairs, as a matter of practicality for tiny houses, but everything else had to code…

      Similarly, Cape Coral, Florida is considering removing the minimum size requirements for houses constructed in the area… This won’t allow THOWs but Tiny Houses on foundations would be allowed if they pass this change and those tiny houses would still be required to follow the other zoning rules and building codes as all the other houses in the area had to follow…

      And there are also various ways to test the performance and tolerances of a house… It’s just a lot easier and cheaper if the builder provides a way to prove it as the house is being built rather than doing it after the fact…

      • Cap Nemo
        June 20, 2017, 4:13 pm

        There is a post by one of the founders of Noah where he admits they were banned from last years Tiny Home Jamboree in Colorado. This post was on The Tiny (R)evolution blog which challenged the NOAH process and validity of it’s certification. Obviously the Tiny Home Jamboree people have questioned the practices of NOAH to ban them altogether. This was the NOAH founders post below.


      • Jason
        June 20, 2017, 4:56 pm

        I went to the NOAH website. So their inspectors come out to inspect the homes and then will approve them as certified to the NOAH standards.

        But… although they are 3rd party, they are funded by builders and industry suppliers. It’s $500 for the sticker to place on the tiny home.

        There are no governmental regulators inspecting the homes. No standards listed on the site for construction.
        This is pure “pay for play” a false sense of security for builders to pass along to buyers.

        Until these homes are inspected like regular houses, or even manufactured homes, I’ll never just assume they are safe and well built. Again, what good is a warranty if the company is gone. How can you exit if it catches fire and the door is blocked?- no egress. Will the roof leak or collapse under wind/snow load.

        You are playing a game of chance with 10’s of thousands of dollars. Oh and forget about resale value.

        • James D.
          June 20, 2017, 5:28 pm

          Jason, you seem to want to argue the potential negative to the extreme and ignore everything that suggests that isn’t the case…

          These 3rd parties are typically more reliable than government agencies because they’re directly accountable to the public and they rely on their reputation for people to use their services.

          These 3rd parties are also run by industry professionals who would ruin their careers if they gave false testimony as they are basically providing an affidavit that they certify the structure meets code…

          These inspections are also not limited to just the 3rd party but also local government inspectors for fire safety, etc.

          Along with often hiring local professionals who also would not want their reputation hurt by doing a poor job.

          Besides, for NOAH and RVAH, these inspections are documented with both photo and video evidence of the inspection, which is proof of what they are certifying!

          So you can take the evidence into any court of law to prove the house meets or exceeds code. You can also take that evidence to any expert you wish and have them also verify it…

          While things like warranties and worrying about companies going out of business is true of anythings… Not all construction companies succeed and not all insurance will ensure you won’t have any loses… Regardless of whether they’re in the Tiny House or Big house business… Besides, many are in both!

          Plenty of people lost everything in the last housing bubble crash… So that’s always a concern but there’s are no guarantees, just levels of risk and you have to decide for yourself what level of risk you are willing to take but keep in mind that without any risk, you’re never going to get any home because there will never be one without at least some risk…

        • James D.
          June 20, 2017, 5:43 pm

          Btw, Jason, there are builders who make PreFab tiny homes… Even some notable national companies have started offering them…

          So it’s not like you don’t have any choices yet…

          In states like Oregon, now that Salem, Oregon passed legislation that adds Tiny Houses to the local housing building codes… Builders in the area who want to take advantage and build legal structures will indeed have to show they meet code…

          The only exemption they put was for the lofts because of the practicality for designing a small space, but in every other aspect they have to meet code…

          Hopefully other counties and parts of the country will start adopting this and then we can be even more sure that everything will meet code…

          Though, many of us will continue to have them built beyond the code minimums ;-p

        • cap nemo
          June 21, 2017, 2:19 pm

          NOAH’s website doesn’t offer the names of it’s officers and states what NOAH isn’t yet they collect money from unsuspecting people anyway. You are right, Jason

        • James D.
          June 21, 2017, 8:15 pm

          cap nemo, they don’t just collect money… They provide a service…

          All inspections are documented and includes all images, photos, and videos taken of the inspection… This in turn is made available to all concerned parties for review, and they cover the key phases of construction to show start to finish…

          So they’re not just taking money and providing a simple certificate and sticker you can slap on the house!

          The only issue is they’re self regulated and primarily composed of Tiny House advocates but there’s nothing inherently wrong with this…

          For example, ACCT (Association for Challenge Cource Technology), AEE (Association for Experiential Education), and AMGA (American Mountain Guide Association) all working together for challenge courses, climbing equipment, and team building industries because all three overlap in skill sets and equipment, they work together.

          Similarly, they are not a government agency, but organizations that work together to ensure the safety of those industries, and they are a self-certifying body with a good track record.

          So that alone doesn’t mean what they offer is worthless… Are they the answer to all our regulation and standards needs… No, Tiny Houses still need to be officially included in the IRC, etc. but they’re not cheating anyone and are a definite step in the right direction as they’re one of the only options available that will recognize both profession and DIY builds and specifically addresses concerns about whether the structure is safe for full time living.

          RVIA is more widely recognized but won’t recognize DIY builders and won’t certify a structure for full time living at all… and they’ve started to stop accepting new Tiny House Builders because of the small market… So startups will have to look elsewhere…

          While NOAH still follows the NFPA 11192 (used for RVs), ANSI 119.5 (for park model RVs), and IRC (used by building officials for permanent dwellings)… along with updating as those standards change…

          Part of the reason you don’t see specific names is because the organization isn’t all self contained. Aside from members, they actually make use of 3rd party inspectors that include InterNACHI (Internation Assocaition of Certified Home Inspectors), among others.

          Takeaway is…

          > NOAH is a boot-strap start-up of recognized tiny house leaders.
          > NOAH uses industry leading, licensed 3rd party inspectors.
          > NOAH offers input for DIYers before, during, and after their builds to streamline the process.
          > NOAH inspections cover individual units, not just a manufacturing facility.

          The practice of keeping a photo and video record of all inspections parallels the typical municipal building inspection process for site-built construction or placement of a dwelling on a chassis (i.e. industrialized building/manufactured home).

          So, even if you discount their certification, the documentation and evidence they provide is useful and can be given to anyone for it to be independently inspected and verified.

          Can it be run better, sure… but the alternative is no standards and no proof of build quality… While they’re still an evolving organization that’s still trying to establish the network of connections to give their certification weight in the industry… and that takes time…

        • cap nemo
          June 22, 2017, 12:02 pm

          You are on the right track Jason, the website you speak of does not name the officers of the organization and it also states What It Is Not which should be warning but they will take your money anyway.

        • James D.
          June 23, 2017, 1:56 am

          Cap Nemo, stating what it is not is a sign of honesty and not deception… They’re not promising anything they can’t offer!

          They pretty much define what you’d be paying for… Like pointed out before, at the very least the detailed record of the build at all critical stages of construction has value even if you discount the rest of what they are offering and the fact they have at least one known insurer who will officially recognize the certification is at least a option to consider…

          Just note there’s a difference from being prudently cautious from just spreading FUD.

          Sure, they’ll take your money… So will every single other 3rd party certification organization out there. Doing inspections and providing records that can be accessed online 24/7 isn’t a free process!

          Anyway, people should also check out Pacific West Tiny Homes, Inc. which is a subsidiary of Pacific West Associates, Inc. as they also offer tiny homes certification… Though, unlike NOAH, they’re more like RVIA as they certify you meet RV and/or manufactured home standards and don’t try to cross over to trying to describe them as housing or accessory dwellings… Meaning they’re not declaring the THOW is suitable for full time living…

          But they’re an alternative that caters specifically to Tiny Houses, unlike RVIA… and since RVIA has started to decline any new membership from Tiny House builders, it may be one of the few options available for new builders…

  • Lisa
    June 17, 2017, 5:38 am

    i guess my issue is cost; i have land but from what i’m finding, putting a tiny house on a foundation will likely cost double that of a THOW, because of permitting, foundation, etc. it sort of defeats a lot of the purpose in my opinion. whatever reason you get into the tiny house movement, paying a mortgage and paying substantially over $100,000 for a house less than 400 sq ft just seems wrong. i need to figure out the fine line in what is allowable so for example, if required to use a foundation, does putting a larger park model on land and anchoring it count? stuff like that.

    • James D.
      June 17, 2017, 3:14 pm

      Hey Lisa, yes… Beyond the growing costs in the real estate market there’s also substantial costs in being able to use land and build up your own property.

      Buying a piece of land doesn’t necessarily even mean you have full property rights… Land in or near protected areas may also restrict whether you can farm or otherwise alter the land in any significant way…

      There’s this case of a farmer who bought farmland near one such protected area… He understood the limitations and tried to stick to them and only tilled the upper surface of his land, not going deep at all, planting only locally acceptable species of grain and the land if officially designated for farming…

      But the government is still suing him for $2.8 million, despite sticking to the rules, and if he loses the case they’re also demanding he donate $30 million to land conservation organizations.

      In many ways it’s a form of group insanity that we’ve let it get this far and maddeningly have let it continue with so little protest…

      There are some valid reasons to require permits, inspections, etc. Everyone wants to be safe and generally good neighbors but the system is plagued with abuse and unintentional consequences that never seem to give anyone any pause as to whether we’re doing it right or not…

      Along with a general problem of how the laws work in that the language and details of the laws, along with how it can be interpreted, limit how it can work.

      Like some obstructions to letting people be able to live as they wish is simply because the laws spelling those rights out don’t mention them… Understandable when many of those laws may have been written over a century ago when those options didn’t exist but often there’s no leeway for what many of us would call common sense…

      The whole system really needs to be scrapped and redone from the ground up but that isn’t likely to happen any time soon. So we are left trying to navigate the often clearly broken system that no longer truly serves the needs of the people…

      On a more helpful note… Have you considered any other alternatives?

      Tiny Houses can also be on skids and there are foundation systems that don’t require you embed the structure into the ground.

      A Triodetic, Multipoint Foundations, system is a option you may want to consider…

      Pier foundations can also be done at reduced cost to slab foundations… If the zoning allows raised above ground structures then you can usually avoid the need to perfectly level and clear the ground…

      There can also be exceptions to PreFab houses, modular houses, and structures like sheds that still meet HUD building code…

      Shed conversions are a popular option to achieve a tiny house, with some companies building them to pretty high standards and even offering to have them plumbed, wired, and insulated before delivery…

      Mind, for THOWs, the custom trailer usually costs around $4,500, give or take depending who they get it from and how custom it is… But that’s basically the foundation and you can swap that for anything else that will serve the same function…

      Some Tiny House builders will even sell you the completed shell without the trailer at reduced cost…

      Along with kits where they’ll sell you the materials and the plans and you then have someone local do the work of constructing it… with the possible bonus of having it customized to your needs…

      While you can look into exemptions like if the land can be designated for Agriculture/farming… depending on what they allow in your area, it could give you more options…

    • Cap Nemo
      June 20, 2017, 4:23 pm

      Lisa, you are correct there is a significant amount of greed and deception along with collusion of high pricing between Tiny Builders that is leading people to investigate further. If a 2000 sq. ft. house cost 200k that is $100 per sq. feet including appliances. A Tiny Home builder worth his salt should be able to build a Tiny Home that is 200 sq. ft. for $20,000. If they can’t , don’t buy from them they all are colluding on a marked up pricing concept that has been hidden from the American public for decades. The recession and the housing scandal of the early 2000’s has exposed it. Watch PBS’s Frontline video entitled Poverty, Politics, and Profit. It is eye opening to say the least.

      • Jason
        June 20, 2017, 4:33 pm

        Hey Cap,

        I agree that $200 per sq ft is crazy. But there has to be some premium right? Smaller jobs mean higher cost- as a norm- right?

        40sq of shingles is cheaper per sq then 4. Same with Drywall, lumber, electrical outlets ect.

        Tradesmen would rather spend weeks at a big site than a day and a half where a larger % of their time is spent setting up and closing down.

        But then again- No cranes needed to bring in large pieces of material. No digging or excavating needed. And since you build most of these in a warehouse- controlling cost should be simple.

        So ….um… yeah they are ripping people off! Also, whats that home warranty good for if the company is gone?

        • Cap Nemo
          June 20, 2017, 4:55 pm

          They are not fooling people who know, they are preying on people who don’t do their homework or are infatuated with the TV hype which also is misleading. You can’t put drywall on a unit that is on wheels. The walls will crack, the tile and windows will too.
          OSB is an inferior product, we have tested it.
          I don’t care who engineered the trailer it is on, they didn’t engineer the road or roads it will travel on, so the frame will twist and bend and you will have water leaks just like the RV industry has known for the last 75 years.
          All it will take is for one Tiny Home on wheels to fall over on an SUV full of children or a family and the lawyers, the government, the insurance companies will call for a national recall of all the units, to simply have them remove the wheels and the trailer is now useless.
          There is a different set of rules and regs for units on wheels and most engineers worth their salt will tell you don’t do it, they are too heavy and will become moving dangers with time, most likely after the warranty runs out. Insurance costs and construction costs will skyrocket and the builders who scammed everyone will already have left the business for good to try and escape prosecution and lawsuits.

        • James D.
          June 20, 2017, 5:06 pm

          Jason, nope… Most houses aren’t built custom and to high standards that not only meet code but far exceed it…

          What houses are built like that are usually called Mansions!

          Something made and tailored to your specific needs and lifestyle is not going to cost the same as something basic and made for one size fits all where you’ll have to do any customization after the fact…

          Needing things like off-grid functionality means you’re adding the cost to supply your own utilities to the house…

          Want it to be towable and liveable in any part of the country, then it has to be built far stronger than a regular house and be able to adapt to a wide range of climates, which most regular houses never have to deal with because they are never moved!

          Let’s also get serious on how the housing market is for various parts of the country where it’s not easily affordable…

          There’s also differences in costs of materials… Not all big houses are going to use high costs materials because they can just use up space with lower cost materials even if they don’t perform as well…

          A big house can have walls over a foot thick but a tiny house has to make every inch count…

          But stronger materials also tend to last a lot longer… Having a roof made from Zinc means it will probably out last you, for example… But it’s not cheap material and costs a lot more to install than an asphalt shingle roof, which won’t last anywhere near as long…

          So there are differences to account for…

          Besides, there’s a lot of other costs involved with home ownership… If you buy a big house for say $290,000 under a 30+ year mortgage then by the time everything is paid off and all the other costs of home ownership over those 30+ years will mean you’ll have ended up paying a total of just over $1,000,000!

          Initial costs are only a small part of total costs of home ownership…

        • Randy Sharp
          June 20, 2017, 6:58 pm

          There are alternatives.
          It’s still in concept, but I am using a model like this.
          The primary structural is 12 x 18. Add modules at 12’x12′.
          No drywall, raised slab foundation, truss roof , Marvin windows and doors exterior, apartment appliances including a stackable washer and dryer, full bath with walk-in shower for two. Home depot cabinets and countertops.
          I am going to keep the subs to a minimum. The costs are going to be a bit different, especially the profit margins that the the contractor makes and the subs as well. It’s different.
          So if the cost of construction can be brought in at the old $100/sq.ft. That would be pretty good.
          I’m not a tiny house builder, I’m a semi retired architect who was a custom home framer back east 22 years. I sure know how it doesn’t want to be done.

        • James D.
          June 21, 2017, 8:52 pm

          Btw, Cap Nemo, Tiny House on wheels have been around since the 70’s… Exactly when do you expect these disasters to happen?

          Even the Tumbleweed type Tiny Houses that helped bring THOWs to public attention have been around since 2003…

          Fact is a structure built to meet or exceed residential housing standards is a order of magnitude stronger than any RV structure…

          There are tiny houses with drywalls, tiled bathrooms, etc. that have been towed several thousands of miles all over the country that don’t have a single crack.

          There are tiny houses that have over 40,000 miles on them and are still in good condition.

          Even some of the DIY models, like the Tiny House, Giant Journey THOW has over 25,000 miles on it and it has been all over the country… There are Tiny Houses in regions where they get over 6 feet of snow and they survive just fine… There are Tiny Houses in Florida that have withstood the last three Hurricanes and are still intact…

          Sure, there are risks… Just like with anything… But you seem to not appreciate the amount of work that actually goes into a typical Tiny House and what they’re actually worth when built to high quality and often totally custom..

          If you’re really worried about safety then you should realize that true safety doesn’t come cheap… You want a house that reduces virtually all risks then it’s going to have to be built far beyond the minimum standards…

          Like there’s a 6000 square foot house built in Florida designed to withstand 300+ winds… It cost over $7 million to build or over $1200 per square foot but it’s a virtually hurricane proof house that the owners never have to worry about…

          Some things simply cost more and if you actually knew anything about building then it would become glaringly obvious why!

          It also helps to understand what you actually get for the money instead of erroneously assuming that nothing matters but material costs, which you don’t even include the costs of processing the materials…

          A tree log is going to cost you a lot less than finished wood ready to be used in construction or furniture making because of all the work it takes to convert the wood into a usable form…

          Construction is full of such work costs…

          Sure, you can DIY and save… But do you have the commitment to dedicate over a year of your life to building a house? Even people who do Skoolie conversions can take up to over 5 years to get it done if they also have to still work for a living.

          What’s your time worth? Let a lone the time of others you may pay to do work for you and how much work is required to turn raw material into finished product… Let alone any other variable on costs you obviously never considered.

          So stop acting like everyone is trying to cheat you… Costs vary, and for valid reasons!

          There’s no magic solution to get around costs… You either work within a budget constraint or deal with the fact that certain things will cost more than other things…

          Different price points can be reached but everything involves compromises in dealing with what’s possible at any given price point…

  • June 19, 2017, 1:56 am

    Getting land and Th on a foundation is the b e s t way to go I think. Skip the mortgage though because anything can happen, practically speaking you can be out of work for six months and your house is gone no matter how long you’ve had it. To make it easier for farmers to sever unusable farmland is important for the Th movement, otherwise it’s trailers. Or changing the laws for more than a certain size residential unit on a property or agr land. It wouldn’t burden communities with new mini-burbs… really it would be like a few tiny houses scattered in the country, most times where many wouldn’t want to live anyway. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Looking for land takes hours of searching it’s exhausting. There is land out of there for cheap, less than 10k but much of it is more remote areas which is not always ideal especially for Th’s in winter. Either way a Th on foundation is ideal and sets the example for new home ownership by personal investment and hand crafting especially for the less adventurous sort or those who can’t live on a trailer.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 19, 2017, 11:36 am

      Yes I think it’s a good idea to own land!

  • Randy Sharp
    June 19, 2017, 2:56 am

    I was having dinner today with an associate. We were talking about the Tiny House phenomena. The subject turned to a what if scenario. I will present it to you guys the same way.

    Let’s say you were one of the new tele-commuting types and made a reasonable salary or maybe average for the US. Let’s say $42,000. Maybe that’s two people I don’t know.

    If they saw an opportunity to enter into a rent to own agreement to purchase a small or Tiny or micro what ever you want to call it., but it is on a raised slab foundation that is both heated and insulated with the latest technology. They live 20 miles from a major city but where they are going to rent to own the environment is most definitely country. I used the example of Sacramento, CA.

    They pay $750 per month “rent” but if they stay there 10 years their rent goes down to $500/month for 5 years. After that they own the house free and clear. The only stipulation is that their tiny home is a part of a condominium arrangement with 19 other tiny housers that are perhaps 100ft from each other. Kinda like a country condominium.

    The condominium arrangement also includes a share in a 1/2 acre garden plot. Electric is free because it is generated on-sight and there is also a large barn structure that has additional storage units within as well as community gathering place for community functions and perhaps even a fish pond that 1s maintained buy the condominium association.

    You can walk away anytime, but if you stick it out 15 years, you now own your own home. Oh yeah, the only downpayment is that you agree to put in 160 man hours assisting in the construction of your house. You are assisting professionals that have built many of these in a very systematic and efficient manner. Your time is more a guarantee to the property developer that you will maintain your tiny house well and really get attached to it due to the sweat equity you have put into it. Not to mention the fun it would be to be helping a team that knows exactly how to get your tiny house built.

    No banks are involved period.

    The bet I made with my associate was in favor of such a deal, he being from California felt that people are not reliable enough to enter into such an arrangement.

    Who’s going to win the bet?

    • James D.
      June 19, 2017, 8:52 pm

      Hey Randy, rent to own is already a option in parts of the housing market… But you present a pretty good deal situation with the amenities, free electricity, possible discount for working the 160 hours on the house, etc.

      Especially, in California and how costly housing can be there…

      Sure, 15 years is a long commitment but it’s nothing compared to a 30+ year mortgage that over 2/3 of all home owners go through… So it’s definitely a viable plan…

      Worse case, you can always hedge your bets with a contract arrangement with a diminishing returns early termination fee for at least the first 5 years… Or a security deposit you can refund them after a period of time…

      • Randy Sharp
        June 20, 2017, 12:18 am

        I will admit I found myself defending human nature. We, in America have a hard time diferentiating between community and communism. In Scandinavia it is a common thing for the condominium association to get together and do maintanance on the property. themselves.

        The scheme we were discussing was a hypothetical one but I did spend a little time later on putting some numbers together. With a big broad brush I did so. At present, I have a client who purchases gas stations in California. They do not use a bank because they are investing capital from a Royal Family. They will spend more money on a 1/4 acre lot than the entire project I spoke about earlier. The number that I have heard is 7.9% per year ROI (return on investment).

        When I estimated on a napkin sketch the scenario of building 20 Tiny Homes with the amenities I mentioned I almost fell over when it came out 7.9% per year for ten years.

        There is something very interesting about the tiny house person. To me, on wheels or not is a personal choice, but there is something that all Tiny House enthusiast have in common. They are not afraid to write their own ticket and the heck with convention. To me, that’s a spirit that I admire.

        That spirit could be a great glue that would hold a community together. In my scenerio I was betting on the people doing exactly that.

        • James D.
          June 21, 2017, 9:46 pm

          Agreed, for many the Tiny House Movement is a return the ideals of community, being good neighbors, respecting nature, being self sufficient, and free to live life as anyone may wish…

          Many of the Tiny House communities and villages that have been created are already demonstrating such attitudes.

          There was even this one case I’m aware of where neighbors in a area with rising housing costs decided to join together to buy a single property with a big back yard space that’s out of sight and they basically formed a secret micro-community of Tiny Houses there… Sharing responsibilities, etc.

          And this overlaps with other related movements, like those wanting the right to choose other alternative dwelling options like Earthships, Cob Houses, etc. as well as environmental and conservation movements…

          So there’s a lot to appeal to a wide range of people…

          Besides, everyone likes rooting for the underdog… Especially, when there’s real potential to make the world a better place…

  • Bryan Anderson
    June 20, 2017, 3:07 pm

    If you rent, you will not only be paying all of the taxes/costs of maintaining/operating the home/apartment as well as the mortgage, but you will also be paying above all those costs so that the landlord can make a profit.
    When you purchase a place, you still pay all the taxes/costs of maintaining/operating the home/apartment and the mortgage, BUT…you don’t pay extra so that the landlord makes a profit, because YOU are the landlord.
    Buying IS LESS EXPENSIVE than renting. (plus you can make changes to it that you want to (unless there is a HOA or problem with codes).

  • Cap Nemo
    June 20, 2017, 5:13 pm

    Just read what they are doing in Detroit. They are not on wheels, City of Chicago planning on doing the same.

  • Randy Sharp
    June 21, 2017, 6:02 pm

    I don’t know if this helps or not.

    A couple of years ago I spent several months designing a 10×20 THOW. I too thought I would enter the THOW market in some way. When I got the price from a local Trailer manufacturer, I thought, gee I can pour a nice slab for that much. And as I mentioned before, I decided , as a designer, I want no part of designing something that is meant to be lived in full time, but does not comply with the local building code. Many reasons for that.

    I believe the way to go is to build a small house that can be built in a modular way. Someone mentioned putting a THOW on wheels and a septic system, and then adding on later. I do have a plan for doing such a thing where you build the basic module 12×28 that would be in essence a studio. It’s built from high tech panels that can be used in several different arrangements. You then add onto the studio in front on top in back or all three if you like. Build a section, get it paid for, build the next section.
    The add-on modules are 12×12. Exterior finishes are whatever you can imagine, wood, corrugated metal, clapboard, shingle. Just like a full size house.
    By the way, NO SHEETROCK. Wall panels, we are shooting for R-22 and roof panels R-36 or so. The slab is heated so when you get up in the morning in winter, the floor will be toasty warm.

    It’s not ready for the public, but if you like, I could share info with you guys. The website above is old info and is mostly for DIY folks who are building larger homes etc. Really tired of it and want to get mostly into Small House design. I love the spirit and the people sound more like me.
    If you like, you can be part of a focus group I just started up. You can see the concept on my new website, but it is by invitation only for the next six months. I am happy to share it with any of you guys though. I am sure there are lots of things I haven’t thought about.

    • Jason
      June 22, 2017, 11:56 am


      What do you think of my place. Stick framed on concrete and block foundation.

      I like a block foundation because I will be adding onto my home. In fact I left the “addition wall” completely empty and ran the HVAC main trunk line to line up with the addition. With a slab foundation – adding on means getting out a jack hammer. Unless you don’t add any plumbing. In that case you would need to run ducting though the attic, or use a single room system. I don’t have an attic, so yeah nice and tall block so I have room to fit under it.

      I’d be happy to join any talks you have.

  • Randy
    June 22, 2017, 12:15 am

    This is a great discussion.

    Can someone point me to a THOW that actually meets any of the building codes in the US?

    • Jane K.
      June 22, 2017, 11:55 am

      Contact Incredible Tiny Homes in Morristown, Tennessee. I believe they do.

    • James D.
      June 23, 2017, 2:12 am

      A lot of them meet or exceed the building codes, the problem is that’s usually not enough to have them legally recognized…

      But Incredible Tiny Homes is one of the few that went the extra step and developed their own 3rd party certification called RVAH… Similar to both RVIA and NOAH, it certifies their houses meet safety codes and meets or exceeds building code standards…

      While now that Salem, Oregon passed a law that now adds Tiny Houses to the legally recognized building codes in that area… Any builders who gain legal recognition there means they met the requirements of the building code there…

      Some other high end companies like Clayton Homes, also offer Tiny Houses that meet building codes for most of the country… Though, they’re more a PreFab home maker…

      Cornerstone Tiny Homes, Wishbone Tiny Homes, and a couple of others have also started building houses on foundations, which of course have to meet code like any other housing structure and are legally putting up houses where structures like Accessory Dwellings are legal…

      Organizations like NOAH also list their members, so you can see who gets their builds inspected and certified to NOAH standards… For a larger list…

      But you should also go by consumer reports on the builders, like any other business… Along with seeing whether or not they will build the type of house you want…

  • Max
    January 10, 2018, 10:56 pm

    I am going through the past 3 years of email subscriptions collecting ideas to build my house. I actually have very little interest in anything on wheels. It’s not legal in any place near where I want to be and a real challenge.

    I just want to say is what I think needs to happen is a cap needs to be put on home values. The problem is wealthy keep remodeling and upgrading homes to be bigger and more expensive. The problem them becomes a growing gap between wealthy and poor. If someone wants to build a larger house or remodel it to be nicer go ahead and let them if they have the means, but the rest of us in society should not suffer by ending up with yet another house on the market that is unaffordable to the majority. There should be a maximum value that a house can be sold at no matter how big or luxurious the homeowner wants to dump his wealth into.

    What needs to also happen is people needs to start tearing down large homes and putting up small ones. I know the last thing people want to hear is more regulation but we seriously need to fix the affordable house situation and there needs to be a fund to do this. This may as well be science fiction still because all affordable housing movements have failed (where I am at).

    In the mean time, posters have brought up most of the problems with tiny homes and why I am not looking into them, and I’m just looking for ideas to build a small home on my property trying to meet minimum code. (they just passed a law in my county that now requires any new home to have a garage). I am hoping a loophole to that would be saying a shipping container is a garage.

    Also a lot of people on here have mentioned farming. That is very difficult to find zoning that allows that in reality. There are even people getting sued by the city for having a small garden on their lawn. I think this was in the news somewhere in Florida recently.

    The most important thing of all is electing officials that won’t keep making it harder for us (like building a garage as if it’s going to protect your neighbor from seeing your car).

    Also one of the best things that I think could happen is zoning needs to be more flexible. What is stupid is the county can actually be making money if they just allowed people to do more with their land and taxed it. Instead of saying absolutely no use of your property until you can afford to build a 300k house, they should allow us to use the land and just tax the use and monitor it to make sure people are turning their property into a sewer. It would be a win for everyone. A win for the county and a win for people having more rights to their property. For example I am not allowed to put a shipping container on my land because it’s considered storage secondary use. I can’t have a secondary use unless I have a primary use of an expensive house. Well why not just allowing a storage container but tax it and sign a contract where it’s not doing harm to neighbors. The zoning needs to be more flexible!!! One size does not fit all and zoning needs to get caught up to this fact.

    • Max
      January 10, 2018, 11:02 pm

      I meant people AREN’T turning their land into a sewer. That’s probably one of the biggest concerns for allowing people to live on their property without an actual code house. The problem is there are a lot of bored people out there coming up with more ridiculous codes. They gotta find something to do to make their job look like it has value I guess.

      • January 11, 2018, 4:47 pm

        Our new development (6-7) small homes will be somewhere in between the THOW and the conventional single family home. These small modular, expandable designs will meat International Building Code. We are not sure how we want to approach the financing question yet, but people with good credit and a down payment shouldn’t have any trouble mortgaging these dwellings. The units will include a generous 1 car garage on a 1/3 or 1/2 acre lot.
        I’m not sure if it is appropriate to show the website here, but it is shown in the website section of the leave a comment line. Alex, you know better than I on how to give people this info.

        • Max
          January 12, 2018, 12:54 pm

          Thank you Randy, I am looking for the link but do not see it.

          This kind of brings up another problem I have personally not with tiny homes but with tiny home communities. I understand the need for affordability and what not but I am against forcing people to live in dense communities. I struggle living in a dense community where people are rude and it is full of nonstop noise. It is extremely unhealthy for myself and society in multiple ways. The inability to get a descent nights sleep every night and such ignorance for fellow neighbors does not promote health or happiness and has a ripple effect out into society. Tiny homes in dense communities are a necessary way for the poor to have housing but they are far from the solution to the housing problem. While I might not be as bad off as a lot of people financially, downsizing to a tiny home is the only way I can improve my quality of life living situation that has continued to decline my entire life.

        • January 12, 2018, 1:41 pm

          At the risk of doing something that I am not supposed to do, the website is:

          Things are very much preliminary. We do not have Planning Dept. approval for the project as of yet, but I can say that it is in a semi-rural area of New Hampshire. 2 hours from Boston.

          We are still in Design Development, but the idea here is to give people elbow room, a garage, their own septic system and well. Possibly a community solar array system but not really off grid.

          There will be much more info forthcoming once all the entitlements are in place.

        • Max
          January 12, 2018, 2:40 pm

          Thanks Randy, In the context of this and being asked for the link I don’t see too much of a problem with it.

          These are cool. I think I would need to get a variance in my county to even be allowed a detached garage on 1 acre. One of my main goals is to have a garage but it being a requirement for construction certainly complicates and makes it more expensive just to get a food in the door. It might be a way to get a building plan approved, then build the garage last though and there are always extensions. And if your county is decent enough to let you stay on the property during construction (to protect it) then that’s your foot in the door. I have a long way to go in this process. It would be much easier if I lived closer to the building department 🙂

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