We hear it all the time…Why do tiny houses cost so much?
Folks on the coasts or in big cities (who could easily pay $400-900K for a home) typically understand it, but if you are from a more rural spot where you can get a regular home for $70,000, the cost of tiny house can seem exorbitant.
In order to help you see where all that money goes when a builder creates a tiny house for you to purchase ready-made, I’m relying on a great breakdown from our friends at Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses. Then we’ll compare that with a DIY-ers cost breakdown.
Rock Mountain starts by laying out its goals: an 8×16 tiny house with average finishes should cost $35,000, while a larger one with great finishes should cost $80,000.
Why Do Tiny Houses Cost So Much?!
Let’s start with the materials and labor:
- $3000-8000 Cost of a real good trailer
- $2800 Windows
- $400 Single Entry Door
- $1200 French Doors
- $1000-5000 appliances
- $800 roofing
- $3000 lumber, sheathing, etc.
- $2800 insulation
- $300 Shower
- $500 electrical bits
- $500 plumbing bits
- $500 lights/fans
- $1000 Composting Toilet
- $600 flooring
- $2000-$5000 interior materials
- $500 finishes
- $800 cabinets
- $6 box of screws. Doesn’t sound like much until you have to buy like 30 of them
Right here, using his cheapest quotes, we have $22,060 in just materials.
But then he lays out the per hour rate of helpers:
- $45/hr typical rate for a rough or finish carpenter
- $20/hr typical rate for helpers
- $60/hr typical rate for a plumber or electrician
- $30/hr general labor, finish work, trim, etc.
Just to be fair, I looked up the average hourly rate on Payscale.com for each of these because labor costs will certainly depend on location. Even though Rocky Mountain is in Colorado where the cost of living is higher, not all tiny home builders are in expensive areas.
- $20/hr. rate for a rough or finish carpenter
- $14.45/hr. Rate for helpers
- $20/hr. For a plumber or electrician
- $14.33/hr. Rate for general labor
Tinyhousetalk.com answered “how long does it take to build a tiny house” previously and estimated 2-3 months if you work 40 hours/week: or around $8,160 of labor with Payscale estimates and $18,600 with Rocky Mountain’s estimates. (Note: I took the average wage from the four jobs and multiplied it by 480 man hours).
Right now, the cheapest Rocky Mountain could build you a home is for $30,220 — or just about what it estimated a small, average tiny house to cost. But they still have more expenses.
Rocky Mountain has other overhead that a DIY-er wouldn’t have, or would already be part of your household budget:
- Professional Liability Insurance
- Worker’s Compensation
- Business and Tax Licenses
- Tools and shop/office supplies
- Internet/ Phone
- “Time” be it design, running to the lumberyard, on the phone ordering long lead time items, coordinating with the client, or actually building the house
And finally, it’s a business, so ideally the owners are making a profit. These numbers make it very clear how a tiny house can cost “so much,” but they also show how one could save a lot of money if you are willing to build a tiny house yourself with salvaged materials and your own effort.
Even then, tiny houses will cost you money. Tom Wilson of New Zealand shared his DIY tiny house breakdown and admits it cost double what they had expected when they started out. All these prices are in NZD except the final cost which I converted to US dollars for reference:
- $32.83 E-book (Tiny house design and construction guide)
- $15.67 Ebook (Tiny house floor plans)
- $98.34 DVD
- $178.49 Plans
- $7,800.00 Trailer and transport
- $215.75 Truck hire + petrol
- $200.00 Demo depo windows
- $122.00 French door
- $25.00 Internal door
- $952.00 100 x 50’s and coach bolts
- Free (Found some) Underfloor insulation
- $810.24 Plywood
- $120.85 Foil roll and drill bits
- $670.00 Insulation (green stuff)
- $3,390.00 Roofing + cladding
- $600.00 Shower
- $284.88 100 x 50’s
- $90.00 100 x 50’s MSG10
- $106.63 Various Mitre 10 things
- $140.39 Flashing
- $70.20 More flashing
- $68.44 Head flashing, scribers, window facings
- $67.95 Nails + putty
- $55.50 Key cutting and transition flashing
- $103.12 Resene broadwall surface prep and seal
- $50.00 Stainless Steel Screws
- $161.50 More flashings
- $4.98 Mitre 10 sample pot
- $50.00 Toilet seat
- $244.95 Middle earth tiles
- $17.76 Sika boom
- $38.52 Nails and weatherboard soakers
- $68.05 Window flashing tape
- $277.08 Packers, sikaboom, paint, window tape, paint stripper.
- $303.75 Paint, paint, pva, plaster of pari
- $256.00 Stainless steel brad nails
- $180.00 Moving the trailer
- $30.00 Chandelier
- $1,268.00 Squabs for lounge + ottoman
- $1,420.54 Cedar panelling
- $120.75 Laminate flooring
- $49.98 Flooring underlay
- $2260 Kitchen cabinets, corner seating and storage stairs.
- $605.51 Weatherboards, Fascia, Scribers
- $316.28 Scribers + skirting + architraves + barge boards
- $36.71 Shower liner glue
- $36.92 Door latches
- $1,207.23 Electrician’s work
- $661.25 More Electrician’s work
- $750.00 Gas hot water
- Free Gas Cooktop (a wedding present)
Total: $26,634.04 (New Zealand dollars)
Total: $19,228 (U.S. dollars)
What you’ll notice is that in materials, the DIY version cost only a couple thousand U.S. dollars less than the builder’s version. But the DIY version only included an electrician’s labor and didn’t put a price tag on all Tim’s time and effort.
And remember, if you aren’t already in construction, a tiny house build might require a lot more trial and error, and therefore time.
There are always ways to cut costs on building a tiny house when you control everything from the 2x4s to the finishing touches and can scour Craigslist for great deals — and use free labor (yours). But as soon as a builder takes on a tiny house build, he or she needs to use higher quality materials and has to pay employees and overhead, which increases the price of a tiny house substantially.
In conclusion, if you can build a house yourself — do it! If you can’t, now you understand just what you are paying for: materials, labor, expertise, overhead, and yes — a little profit.
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Natalie C. McKee
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Yet though handicapped I just huilt a nice 10’x16′ th for just $1500 in materials and another $500 in labor.
In my pre handicapped days such would take me 3 days to do.
Why is built well but simply with quality materials and put together with screws.
Just what is the justification of the very complex roofs many th have?
They just drive up the price , make them needlessly taller and make them more dangerous, harder to tow.
While one might need tradespeople to do plumbing, elecricial design, no need for them to do all the work.
Nor us it fair to put way too much overhead supporting too many workers on too few units.
Why are you building on trailers anyway? If these need to move a flat bed trailer rental is far more cost effective. Its not like most of these will be moved enough to justify it.
Or make them seperate as the trailer can be used between moves. Just don’t waste all that money and claim it is why th cost so much.
Good points, Jerry, but in most places, if the house sits on the ground, even on runners, and has electricity and plumbing, it has to be a minimum of 400 sf, so that is why we build on trailers.
Whole true sone places, hardly most, only urban areas like 5 % of the countty.
Many places have 150-200sq’ where you need no permits, etc.
For the same money as the trailer many lots with a dead mobile home could be bought for that.
Then just put the TH on the cleaned off mh frame, all legal.
Buy 2 TH and put them somewhat together or dog trot to get over 400 sqft.
Permit an expandable th and only build the first part.
There are many ways to skin the legal cat and if you are building, selling them you should be looking into.
that’s about what it costs me too,
the reason to build on trailers is to comply with stupid laws, that are part of a war on the poor.
I don’t know where you are buying your products but it sure doesn’t cost what you are saying. YIKES, don’t buy in Manhattan….LOL
Read Thereau’s Walden.
The tiny house “movement” has become a money making business, I knew it would happen when it started. It’s unfortunate that something that was meant to be money saving is now turned into a high profit movement.
Perhaps you work for someone else and they pay your salary?.
I believe every business deserves to make a profit. If you have the ability to make your own home, keep track of every dollar you spend, your time, and my guess is the expenses will add up and you will be astounded at the totals. Compared to the costs of much larger homes, i believe the tiny homes are quite reasonably priced. Materials + Time = the cost. If the cost of the home seems too much you always have the option, if you have the hundreds of hours, to build your own. I have looked into buying a smaller driveable RV. YES you can get one much cheaper than others, but compare the quality of the workmanship, the materials quality (what brand and function do they serve?). I would rather purchase a more expensive well built one with quality than to pay for a cheaper one with poor workmasnship, por insulation, and cheap appliances. You get what you pay for. namaste’, rachel
Namaste to you too Rachel. Please read my post again, it’s quite simple so there is nothing to defend as it seems you have done in your reply. I agree, in order to make a living people should be able to make a profit. However, when it comes to the basic need of shelter, the profit motive should not be as high as it has become in the tiny house movement. Best wishes.
Part of the tiny house movement is the DIY aspect which teaches us how to build shelter for as little cost as possible using our own labor along with hopefully the willing labor and hopefully exchange of labor of our friends and our family. That’s the traditional way of building a home and that’s still how to do it for as little money as possible. As soon as you hire a builder to do all of this for you, well, in my opinion, it’s a little foolish and maybe even delusional to think it’s going to be even close to as affordable as free labor + cost of materials (reclaimed or otherwise).
Alex excellent points. For a long time the online tiny house ‘movement’ has shown tiny homes, having lofts with ladders that younger more agile bodies can handle.
Our trek into tiny homes began in ’73 when we bought the book Handmade Houses: A Guide to the Woodbutcher’s Art by Art Boericke and Barry Shapiro. We are talking one of a kind no wheels, all reclaimed materials. Ever see that book? http://tinyurl.com/jvbr9vj
Then in our area around 2005 and even more so after 2008-09 we saw an upkick in the number of tiny home folks who either had had a traditional home foreclosed on, or were age 60+, retiring and downsizing. Their tiny homes tend to have stair setups.
Some do it yourselfers around here who want to have RV/mobile home coverage opt to pay a licensed electrician, plumber for a days work to make sure the tiny house is safe and so they can get RV or mobile home insurance.
Your wrong rachel..( hated to to tell this..) But I have built more then my fair share of garages,small sheds,large sheds and more.I built an awesome 2 1/2 car garage ( with cement) for under 3000.00.Like a few have stated on here..NEVER STOP searching for gentle used or new items found at Habitat For Humanity stores.I check around everyday or every other week.Someone just dropped off over 6000.00 dollars worth of NEW Cherry cabinets at a Salvation Army store.I bought them for 400.00.Watch auctions..!! 3 hardware stores around me went out of business and auctioned off the whole inventory..they were giving stuff away…260.00 dollar touchless kitchen faucet..20.00 dollars..( I bought all 4..)Home Depot or Lowes constantly have stuff on sale.Brand new LG fridge (1400.00 dollars) for 660.00 dollars.( Stainless..)That prices on that build sheet is WAY off..My build..( Not on wheels..) will be about 8000.00. That’s a 32 x 32/upstairs loft too.If you REALLY want to build it,take the time to RESEARCH..talk to folks in your area..check Craigslist..( someone is giving away a 32 foot RV Trailer..The hard work was already done,totally gutted..) for free…ya gotta be up to the challenge..
no law saying you can’t do it cheaper
Anna, why complain about it? You should start building tiny houses for NO profit.
Explain why it is okay for YOU to NOT do that but it isn’t okay for others. I’ll wait….
Anna, Re-read what you wrote per ‘The tiny house “movement” has become a money making business, I knew it would happen when it started. It’s unfortunate that something that was meant to be money saving is now turned into a high profit movement.’
Paul and others have commented on your posts and how they come off to them. And when you comment you should expect a response.
Having been tiny house mode since 1972, I cannot recall anyone amongst our tiny house peers talking about tiny homes being purely about living cheap or all about saving money.
Be it an island near Seattle, San Francisco, Paris, or back home here in the California Sierra, for us as a family, having a tiny house was/is all about less is more and living well in a small space with nice things that we actually love, need and use.
I INFERRED NOTHING. Reread what YOU wrote. Again, answer my LEGITIMATE question or admit that you are trolling this thread and the people who are building these homes for a living.
Paul I re-read her comments and she may not see where some of us are seeing blanket statements. Anna Dell’Arciprete August 5, 2016, 12:35 pm The tiny house “movement” has become a money making business, I knew it would happen when it started. It’s unfortunate that something that was meant to be money saving is now turned into a high profit movement.
Namaste to you too Rachel. Please read my post again, it’s quite simple so there is nothing to defend as it seems you have done in your reply. I agree, in order to make a living people should be able to make a profit. However, when it comes to the basic need of shelter, the profit motive should not be as high as it has become in the tiny house movement. Best wishes’.
Think her comments that the tiny house movement has become a money making business, a high profit movement, comes off as a blanket statement and is simply not true. When she wrote ‘the profit motive should not be as high as it has become in the tiny house movement’ I was curious what is a reasonable profit margin for someone doing ALL the work?
Can only speak to the tiny house on wheels area we have lived in for decades where 99% of the 50+ homes were owner built. And the other 1% were custom made to order by outside builders.
To me its akin to me not wanting to collect all the goods, or take the months needed to make my own light weight mountain bike to get me where I need/want to go, and instead opt to buy from someone whose product I love and am willing to pay for.
The only two reasons I can see that they at built on a trailer is so the builder can build them in his shop and charge you for the trailer so it can be delivered. Or for zoning, on wheels it’s not a permanent building, it just a trailer parked on a piece of land.
Actually ours is on wheels so we can move it when we move per job changes.
This was great info and well organized. Thanks!
Although the breakdown of the costs of building THs seems reasonable, IMO, the prices are still way out of the reach of many people. It is for that reason alone that I’ve pretty much turned away from stick built THOWs to vintage park model trailers (think Spartan) and mobile homes, which are by far cheaper to buy.
In some cases, they are fixer-uppers, but the cost of restoration is in many cases less than what it would cost to buy or build a new THOW. Unfortunately, like most THOWs, they are subject to zoning regulations, so finding a site with no or little restrictions on which to place them requires diligence beforehand.
TH enthusiasts like Deek Diedricksen and others have proven that it doesn’t have to cost $20k or more to build THs, using repurposed/recycled materials. I feel that mainstream TH builders have strayed far away from that spirit of eco-friendliness in the name of profit, profit and more profit. Sad, isn’t it?
Now I’m going to look for my dream Spartan or vintage mobile home. Cheers!
Good point, Sally. It’s true. And I love Deek’s work because he shows us and inspires us to become DIY’ers. That’s the true way to build a home with very little money.
So I guess the answer to reasonable living costs is an apartment or a condo. So much for “freedom” – freedom from what? I thought “debt figured into that somehow, but guess not. Tiny houses are toys for the rich. Gotcha. Good luck with that.
I’m just a bit confused by your remark, how can you think $30k is for the rich ? That is EXTREMELY cheap for a home !
Sondra, I think you need to realize that the $30,000 is simply for a ‘home’ which at the largest, is 400 square feet (OK, add in a 200 square foot loft that is under five feet and you cannot stand up in it, add in a small porch, which you can screen in) … and these are Not legally permanent living quarters, they remain on wheels, which are covered up, and then placed on, in a Park Owner’s development, leased land … if you Are able to find a piece of land which is legally zoned for them, you must factor that cost in as well. Figure it up, whether on leased land, and those expenses, or on a piece of land that you have paid for in addition to the ‘home’, what is the square foot cost? It works out to be, in total, more than most homes which are on permanent foundations and with HUD stickers. Park Owners are making a killing on this trend, and individuals have a difficult time purchasing land on which to legally put these homes. It is not clear cut, by any means. Not to mention, there are many ‘scam builders’ out there, beware of Alabama, who will simply take huge deposits from you, do nothing, and then not return your money, forcing you to sue them. Not pretty, by any means, for those who are looking for modest and downsized life. For everyone, do your homework, to avoid being scammed.
Right on the Gov will not allow you just park your little tiny house anywhere. My property taxes are $3800.00 annually and this is county taxes only. Most states have restriction on mobile home & RV parks location, the big bad Gov see these parks as a revenue losing proposition. I live in Cary North Carolina and the going price for 1 acre land is $150,000 . If you don’t have a friend or relative who lives in the country best forget about the Tinhouse dream.
$30,000 is a heck of a lot of money when you take out a loan for it. After 10 or 15 years, you’ve paid back two to three times what you borrowed…and $60,000 to $90,000 is a lot of money for the average consumer.
your payment is $303 a month, make an extra payment a year to the principle and you cut that in half, pay your mortgage off sooner than later. $303 is not much for a mortgage payment, I pay $2700 a month for rent.
To some people, $300 a month is lot of money (me included) and many can not make the extra payment each month. I can see how it would be hard for somone who can make a $2700 a month payment for rent to fathom these situations, but thanks for your suggestion.
Sondra depends on where one lives. And what the home has in it etc. $30k can be very expensive if someone lives in a poor state yet not expensive in the San Francisco or NYC area.
Marsha Cowan $300 a month is a lot of money for a home? Even in low income areas rent for a small apartment can be $500 so how is $300 a lot of money if the home is owned not rented by the individual?
$300 rent? Where in the US can you even find anything at that amount? Maybe if someone rented a room in a large home, but that doesn’t really count as renting.
As mentioned apartments are at least twice that amount, let alone a home.
Most do not realize the static building costs..Bathrooms and kitchens are cost intensive…You are paying for highest cost fixtures in every house you build whether a tiny house or a mansion…Recycle is nice but not everyone has access to Tiny Texas Houses 80,000 sq.ft. of warehoused building materials salvaged and prepped for sale…Although I was amazed at the quantity and quality of what Brad has assembled, he still has the labor involved in tear down and handling as well as storage…I figure he makes at best $2.00 an hour for his magnificent work and skills…
There are good quality low priced kitchen and bath items out there, but a lot of tiny house builders are aiming at the high end buyers, so they put in the high end stuff instead.
Jerry D., From what I understand, mounting on a trailer allows tiny homes to be classified as non-permanently structures (like many manufactured homes, aka mobile homes or “trailers” and RVs) which have different building codes, many of which are voluntary (http://aceee.org/blog/2016/08/mobile-homes-move-toward-efficiency). This has obvious advantages, especially with regard to “wedging in” a bathroom, emergency egress requirements, energy efficiency, etc., etc. However, those code advantages often come at a substantial price, with many municipalities (like mine) having laws against full time habitation of RVs (where trailer mounted tiny homes are typically classified). The argument is often “safety” due to the “substandard” codes. This is typically ridiculous in the tiny house realm, as most are built as good, or better than some stick built homes, manufactured homes and certainly “off the lot” RVs.
While some places do have laws about full time RV living or living in vehicles full time, they are unenforced and unenforceable. No one has the resources to stalk van and RV and TH dwellers and prove they’re full time. High end finishes are a choice that drives up the price of TH; we need a choice of normal finishes so that people with tiny incomes can buy tiny houses.
Hmmmm. . .not to sound too critical, but in my part of the country, a builder could build that same tiny house for about $10,000 less (again, take your plans to Lowes or Home Depot or other building store worth their salt and they can estimate the costs for you by square footage and using all new materials). I think it’s funny that we want to add in labor costs for the DIY-er when the whole reason to DIY is to save on labor costs, so the idea of spending one’s own time and energy on the project is a given and not considered a cost, but a savings. The time and energy spent on building one’s own home the way one wants it is priceless, so leave the so-called labor prices for DYI out of the equation.
Again the attempt to justify some of these outrageous prices on some tiny houses has proven ludicrous. Most of the high price is because the builder knows that eventually somebody will buy it at that price, and he can make a great profit, as can his laborors. I was a contractor long ago…so I am not guessing here, I know.
In our free enterprise market, the consumer can control the prices by NOT buying when the price is too high. This will force the producer to bring down the price to a more reasonable range. However, our impatient “must have it now” consumers help the producer keep up his prices by buying the product at the too high price just because they can and don’t want to wait for the price to come down. There are enough of these consumers out there that the producers don’t have to be concerned about those of us who want fair prices.
The bottom line is this…greed rules. Most of the high end builders do not live in tiny houses nor live the simple life style of tiny housers. They have to have big bucks to keep up their lifestyle, and they get that by high profit on all their builds, even tiny houses. However, there are builders out there who are fairly priced. You just have to look for them pretty hard. The DYI-er can get with other DYI-ers and help each other to build a home, and even if you have to contract out some plumbing or electrical, you will still save much money doing it yourself if you seek savings and are willing to work, and if more than one house can be done at once by the plumber or electrician. So the tiny house dream is within everybody’s reach with or without a builder.
I understand making a living…I will never understand making a killing.
Marsha, clearly you get it, the “labor cost” is added in purely to boost the argument of this contractor. Many people have also built as they could afford to buy, to stay out of debt. This web-site, I guess because these tiny house builders pay them has become an info-mercial for all the high end contractors. Sad to me, a movement for self reliance, saving energy and space, affordably is being taken over.
Regardless the cost of many of the homes on this site, it’s still a great catalog for many ideas. A great layout can be copied by a DIYer who will build for less.
Find someone with experience (Habitats FH) in framing to help with the heavy lifting then do the rest yourself or contract out the jobs you may not be comfortable with (i.e. Electric, plumbing).
Well said Marsha
I think this is helpful so people can see all the items that are involved; obviously the materials and labor, as mentioned, will not cost the same in every area. I do agree with another poster that the overabundance of builders who are creating Tiny Houses out of top-notch brand new materials kind of leads me to believe they’ve missed the point. However – if people are in the market for homes like that, than why not provide them? Of course there are going to be people with more money than sense (as in every situation), so if someone wants to pay $75k for a “tiny home” that is actually just a trend they’re into at the time, nothing wrong with someone building it for them and making a profit, in my opinion. But the rest of us who are actually interested in simplifying our lives and downsizing (or using the space for something realistic and not a ‘luxury vacation home’), we can cut those costs by a large amount to meet our budget (also as mentioned, by doing a lot of the work yourself and using salvaged/recycled materials). I wouldn’t think that people who want to spend $15k or less on a tiny home would even approach this type of builder, just like you wouldn’t go to the Mercedes dealership and ask them why they couldn’t sell you a new car for $5,000.
Templer, You have summed it up, for builders there is no profit in it.
Good points, right on target
Sorry, I disagree. There is always profit in labour charges. Not as much as with providing materials with exorbitant markups, but profit nevertheless.
My husband and I are waiting for the arrival of our Tumbleweed tiny house in mid-October. we had it made to order,. Made for our needs,. So I consider it a custom built house Therefore the price will be more.
I appreciate everyones comments and information. My husband and I have been looking into building our own THOWS. I find alot of helpful information here. We also plan on using recycled materials for our home. And fortunately there are plumbers and electricians in the family to cut the price of the build.
Templar, in Texas and there is a place called “Tiny Texas Houses” and they are pure salvage, I’m sorry I can’t remember the web site right now. Maybe you get in touch with them and get some ideas or be pointed in the right direction for some help to finally build your dream.
Very good article, and very thought provoking. Like so many things in life, there is a high end way to do tiny houses and a very very low end way as well. It all depends on the person and what you want. If you want a turnkey tiny house with all new “stuff”, then it’s going to cost you. However, if cost is your primary concern and you have the time to shop salvage sources and want to plan your build around the materials you can get cheap or free (and build it yourself), it’s possible to build a tiny house for a fraction of a professionally built tiny house. Even the base (the trailer) could probably be gotten cheap or free by salvaging an old camper if someone wanted to do it. Again, it comes down to what you want…. Do you want to have someone build it, have it all be new, and have it quick? Or do you want it to cost as little as possible, don’t mind taking the time to salvage for materials, and want to do the bulk of the work yourself? Luckily, each person can choose.
Sad fact is, as the tiny house on wheels movement has grown over the years you now have folks who want to make big money building tiny houses that in reality need NOT cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Have a good house plan and room to store items that will be needed for the tiny house that you buy on sale at Lowe’s, Craigslist, Habitat for Humanity stores, and then the building will go faster and cost less money. In our are of the Sierras we have a lot of tiny homes where friends have helped each other build the beautiful tiny homes they own debt free.
Exactly…. There are choices… So what if some people are earning a living as builders of tiny homes? How does that effect a personal choice for an individual diy build. I do not understand the conflict between those who say the TH movement is supposed to be xxxxx supposed to be? Didn’t anyone ever tell you that “supposed to be” is what ever you want it to be?
Regardless of income, profit margin, Housing status, bank account, etc…. We all create our own reality and we are responsible for our own choices… I really dislike others telling me what my dream life is supposed to be according to thier standards.
I desire a th on wheels for freedom to move my home along the journey of my life… I didn’t choose homelessness 2 years ago and not one person or agency helped me out of it either.
I rent a room now for 700 and put my extra cash even if only a dollar into a jar for my school bus conversion… Which some th people will say isn’t a th at all bit it’s my dream….. Not anyone elses…
Oh and 300 a month is less than 33percent of an SSI income of 900 a month… Still cheaper than average 40 % housing expense across our nation….
Thanks Kymberley! You made a great point.. Just because there are tiny house builders out there who’d like to turn building tiny houses into a business doesn’t mean that it’s stopping anyone else out there from saving up money, scrounging around to salvage materials, and working to build their own DIY debt-free tiny home.
Anne Stansell nowhere in the article did the author note that the costs noted were for ALL tiny homes. The costs shown are pretty standard for nicer tiny homes here in California.
In fact in my large tiny house area of California most tiny homes are owned by high tech professionals, retired folks who are not on food stamps/SNAP, unemployed, etc.
The premise of this article as stated is “Why are tiny homes so expensive” so, no where in the article did they specify that they meant only some tiny homes.It was written solely from the viewpoint of a contractor. Those prices may be standard for California, but that is not average for much of the rest of the United States. If you live in an area of high tech professionals and retired people who are well off, then I can see why these prices make perfect sense to you. As you may have noticed there are a lot of people, who do not share your experience. I guess we will just have to agree to disagree.
I’ll spend $70 grand for a 2000 square foot home–not for a 500 sq foot home
When all is said and done you are better off buying a nice travel trailer, or better yet a nice 5th wheel tag along. Much cheaper, and more room. The cost of the tiny houses defeats the whole purpose of them. This is more because of builder greed, than it is materials. I built a 20′ by 20′ shop behind my home 4 years ago for $5600.00, completely finished inside except appliances. I can assure you the appliances would not have cost an additional $60,000.
Your commenters shows suspicions confermed , many of you well educated ones know lots of facts from book education yet never seemed to have learned a broad set of knowledges. You know this world has become mostly a group of specialists who know more and more about less and less where as us generalists know less and less about more and more. Some who have wrote in are like me, we know how to get things done. We know how to hook the dots together and if we don’t we know who to ask where to look and we understand what we read. We also have a well designed BS detector built in gained by collecting wisdom as it flows by.
Mark Knudsen could you be more specific about the book smart life dumb folks who ‘never seemed to have learned a broad set of knowledge’s’ posts? One can be well educated and know how to get things done, and done well.
Thanks for an excellent article. You make some good points, HOWEVER…
You focus in the wrong direction. In 1972, I purchased my home, stand-still concrete slab, for US$9,400. My mortgage payment was US$63.
For years, I kept a 1971 filling-station receipt for US$2.11, all the money required to fill the tank on my truck.
The problem is not profiteering. It never is. The problem is the imbalanced exchange rate.
You quote an hourly $15 or $25 or $45 for skilled technicians, but my experience tells me they are under-valuing their worth. To maintain equity with inflation, their value is several times those prices. Unfortunately, we have too many capable hands chasing too few dollars.
Obscuring the mix is the unsubstantiated belief in a falsehood: fiat currency has some sort of inherent value. As any toddler can explain, paper money such as America’s federal reserve notes only offer other federal reserve notes as their medium of exchange… and are good for starting fires. By definition, fiat currency has zero value.
Despite this reality, the MainStreamMedia constantly promote the delusion the opposite is true. And thereby illustrate their untrustability. But that is a different rant.
Natalie, quoting prices in paper money cheapens the inherent value of skills and experience of technicians… then add their diminishing abilities as wear-and-tear takes a toll on their bodies. That last cost is substantial.
Business is a balance between a willing buyer and a willing seller. If the product/service shows value to the buyer, let’s have our transaction.
If no value seems apparent to both parties, the transaction stalls.
Naturally, of course, the above does not apply to government agents. But that too is an altogether different rant.
Like any custom home, you either build it yourself or you pay someone to build it or a portion of it for you. Ask yourself the following: Do I have the time, let alone, the skills to DIY? What is your time worth? As a general contractor, my time is worth a lot, since I make my living by building what my customers request. Most of my quotes are lump sum bids for predefined work, using readily available new materials. It is one thing, in the name of cost saving, to allow my customers to do certain tasks, like demolition and cleaning or to provide various items for installation, like plumbing & electrical fixtures. But as a licensed contractor, for me to use whatever materials the customer finds, that may or may not work, is untenable, as I must guarantee my work when it is completed.
You know it’s funny but when they started out I could afford one but now that they have seen that they will sale they have gone up on all of the prices so now all I can do is look and dream.
There is no need to take umbrage and get all shirty just because somebody has a different view of what tiny houses mean. There is room for a wide range of prices, purposes, designs and skills. If you are able to DIY or can afford to buy and end up with something that suits your needs then the fact that somebody else is doing something else is not a problem worth fussing over. It may be overpriced for you but quite a bargain for someone else. There are always ways to get things done on a budget and no need for luxury materials and finishes if you can’t afford or don’t want them. You can start with cheaper placeholder windows/doors/flooring whatever and upgrade if and when you get the money. Today I could have scooped up 340 square feet of hardwood flooring for free if I had a car. I can’t afford a car and neither can most of my friends but then I’m content with my painted plywood floor so I’m not going to cry about the lost opportunity.
The biggest problem with a THOW is, and likely will continue to be, finding a legal, affordable place to put one.
I’m not sure why you’re comments were labeled schizophrenic either. I thought they were well expressed with no judgement intended. I find you have great communication skills. Thank you for your comments.
Those breakdowns are legitimate for legitimate businesses. It is more cost efficient to just use new components than to waste time (money) scrounging around. Even habitat for humanity does that. In this capitalist country, are contractors not entitled to a fair profit? Why not maximize profits when able to get you thru the times when you sell nothing? If you average it all out over time–they’re not getting rich–maybe not even getting by.
If this site only shows home-made ugly shacks I’ll probably stop looking. It’s the attractive homes–regardless of the cost–that inspires one. Don’t granite counters look nicer than plywood?
With near zero interest rates has anyone got a bank to finance one of these tiny houses on wheels? Where would the bank look for it when you default? Who appraises these things for the banks? How do THEY know what they’re worth? Anyone INSURE one of these investments? Without code inspections, how can anyone be certain these wooden structures won’t catch fire from an electrical short inside the walls? How does anyone know if they are structurally strong enough to withstand 7omph highway trip? Or hurricane? Or tornado? Anyone try to insure against theft? What if you come home to find your home gone? Are you out your 50k? Never on wheels for me. We all want safe cars, appliances, etc.
Affordable housing and tiny homes are two completely different animals.
Does not the media scare us with terror constantly so that people demand more and more military spending when it is already obscene? We can all have houses and healthcare instead of military bases in every country. The real crooks aren’t these small building contractors. Wake up! I’ve built on military bases–I could write volumes about waste…
(By the way, if they can ship shipping containers they can surely ship completed cheap tiny homes from some poor part of the world. When will that start?)
Might just come down to how much you think your government should help its citizens with basic living rights. In a capitalist country, no one else will help.
In reference to your inspection questions, look into NOAH. I am a NOAH certified build for the very reason of giving my customers the assurances of third party inspections.
Hi Templer, I lost everything in a fire, there’s govt. assistance being thrown all around me, but I’m ineligible for everything, about to move for the 15th time, work mostly 100 hours / week, still barely surviving. wanna swap notes with me? acbike ‘at’ g mail. com
I don’t understand all the arguing over how much some of these tiny houses cost. If you can’t afford it don’t buy it. No one is forcing you to. If you can and want to build your own with recycled materials that’s your choice. More power to you. If builders want to put a lot of high-end materials into their builds what’s the problem? Obviously there’s a market for it. Not everyone wants to live in recycled or sparse surroundings. And please don’t be offended by that comment. I respect those that want to live simply and inexpensively but it’s not for everyone. Be happy that there are people out there that want to have a smaller footprint but have the money to pay more. Don’t tell them that they can’t live the way they want to. Each to their own, live and let live and all those other saying that tell us that we all have the right to live as we please. I’m sorry that some of the prices are outrageous! I can relate. I live in the Denver area where housing and apartments (where I live) are out of control! I look at all the McMansions around me and wonder what they do for a living that they can afford these houses. I also wonder who cleans them! 🙂 But you know what? It’s none of my business. We chose the best we could afford and so did they. Build your own place if you have the time and the talent to do so. If you don’t find a builder that you can afford. Ask him to be economical but don’t expect him to charge so little that he can’t make a profit. That’s what he’s in business for. He also has to pay for labor and materials and those aren’t cheap. I have the choice to go to the dollar store or to Nordstrom. No one is making me go to either. I go where I know I can get the best deal for my money. And when I can afford to buy a house I will purchase what is available in my price range.
Most people that build themselves do most of those steps listed themselves. I personally have a saying I go by and believe is accurate and the real reason tiny house’s cost so much to buy from people who build them for sale. “The Sharks are in the Water, and they can Smell Your Money.” Tiny houses on wheels cost according to length and how modern you want to make it. If you want simple, the cost is significantly lower, if you want it to be the next flying saucer with all the latest gadgets expect to pay big.
I read the article and wanted very much to find fault with the numbers. I am doing this myself, right now. I am smart, experienced, and capable, and yes, I found some numbers I might want to take issue with. However, I also found some things missing, which should have been included. And some of the numbers Id like to take issue with, really aren’t that far off. All in all, it looks good. I still don’t like the high costs, but the truth is, some of the little things I spent less on, I really intend to upgrade later on.
I am alone and have no issue using a 5 gallon bucket as a composting head for a while, but only because I’ll be buying a “Nature’s Head’ ($960 + shipping) later on. The real truth is, you can save money early on by using crap, but some of that is really false economy. Still, the final reality is, you are either going to do it, or you’re not, and if the only way you can get started is going as economically frugal as possible, then that’s what you have to do.
There are different kinds of people. Those who hedge, hem and haw, get scared (not a fault or flaw – just part of the process) and use the high cost as the doorknob they will turn to leave the issue behind. Others, like me and many, many others, ask themselves just one question: “How can I get started?” You will find those ones in, or working on, their Tiny House. Damn the torpedoes, the costs, they cautions, and the complaints – we want to get in out of the rain.
We built our tiny house ourselves. 540 sq. feet on a foundation for just under 17K
One solution if you do not like the quality of a used r.v. is to but an old used r.v. and gut it and rebuild it with high quality materials.
One solution if you do not like the quality of a used r.v. is to buy an old used r.v. and gut it and rebuild it with high quality materials.
I’m a national mortgage underwriter and have been for a decade. I’m uniquely aware of the cost of residential property everywhere in the United States, from major cities to rural areas. There are many places in the United States where you can buy a very nice 800-$1,000 square foot home for $40,000 (or less), but many people don’t live in these locations. Much of the US population lives in cities of 100,000 people or more. In these cities, homes range anywhere from $75,000 to $250,000. Major metropolitan areas with 1,000,000 people or more typically range from $120,000-$400,000. In larger cities on the coasts, it’s rare to find a house of this size for under $300,000 (and that’s the low end).
There are places in the country where building permits alone might cost the amount someone could pay for a tiny house. There also places where $90,000 could literally buy you a 5,000 square foot mansion
It’s all about perspective. I don’t understand why people here are rude to each other, and discount each other’s experience. If you live in an area with low housing prices, then a $50,000 tiny house might seem ridiculous. If you live in an area where the median home price is $400,000 (like over 30,000,000 Americans) that same amount might seem perfectly reasonable (compared to the cost of land, materials, labor, permits, overhead, etc. in these area) or even appealing.
To the people insulting each in the comments, you are ALL right. In your area, and based on your experience, costs to build and operate a business might be lower. They also might be higher. I appreciate that everyone shares their experience so that we may all learn more. I don’t appreciate when those with only one experience criticize those with another experience. That doesn’t contribute to educating or helping anyone achieve the dream of homeownership.
I would love it if the comments on this page were moderated to screen out the nasty ones and support the polite, informative ones. I also think it might be helpful to add an area in the sign in boxes where people may indicate where they live, in order to provide perspective and context to their comments.
Thanks for the perspective, Jen!
My husband and I are building a tiny house, and our budget is only $12-14k. Yes, it’s on the lower end, but we carefully choose what we spend our money on. We do have some luxuries of building it ourselves at our own pace, and we did talk to some companies about getting discounts on materials, but I firmly believe if you decide to build at lower costs, it can be done. Maybe that includes certain sacrifies or creative thinking, but it can be done. Anyone who is interested is welcome to read about our adventures in building at http://www.emandemtinyhouse.com. I recently wrote an article on our own budget, with all of our costs broken down so far. We hope you enjoy!
Thanks for sharing, Emily! And I totally agree, it can be done for much less. I’ve seen some great tiny houses built for less than $10k.
DIY’ers are better off as builders always markup materials. Hire your own crew and you are still better off. Kits are more efficient and there is less waste.
OK I looked at the list. There are a few things on the list that are way too high. Windows- I had double pan widows installed in my home-8- the cost was 1,050.00. They also are the ones that look like they have separate pans of glass and can with stand 125 miles wind. Single fan light entry door brand new cost me 250.00. An apartment size stove 265.00 brand new. Apartment size refrigerator with freezer on top 250.00 brand new. Apartment size front loading washer and dryer, that can be stacked or side by side 900.00 brand new. An Rv low flush toilet is way cheaper. Just wondering where they buy their materials.
Nearly a decade ago, I invested in 5 acres in the Missouri Ozarks. At the time, I was living in the expensive Florida Keys. For several years prior to investing in my property, I was frequently traveling with my son up to the Ozarks to visit family. I drove a Toyota dolphin motor home that seemed perfect for these trips. My son and I would often camp and would meet up with family off of the beaten path to camp. We rented cabins and I found between renting cabins or using our small motor home that campsites could be quite expensive. The gas prices were also high. We did however, enjoy our excursions off of the islands and our keys retreats which gave us time to get off of the rock, come up to the mainland and enjoy uniting with family. We sometimes would meet up in other States as well. We enjoyed this lifestyle so much that I decided that I was going to buy my own campsite! I knew I wanted at least 5 acres because that is the minimum desirable amount of land to own in Missouri. You can hunt on 5 acres and set up a shooting range and not have to worry about neighbor’s being to close. I was on a limited budget due to the Florida keys being so costly. Although, we had a three figure income as a family, it took most of that to sustain living a average middle class lifestyle in the keys. I wanted to raise my son in a nice, decent neighborhood. I did not choose the most extravagant neighborhood, but the best family neighborhood on the island that we lived on. Doing this on my own and knowing I needed a low mortgage with no penalty for early pay off, I looked on Ebay everyday for a year before I found what I thought would be a great 5 acres that we could use as our own campsite and stop throwing our money towards others. The campsite chosen was less than four miles away from rivers and local swimming holes! A place in what was referred to as “no man’s land” ~ “God’s country” ~ ” The last frontier” due to it being an area where very few people lived, but now many people live out in this last little piece of paradise where arrow heads are still found, the water is clear and the fishing and hunting is great! Our first trip to our property, we pulled in our tiny Toyota dolphin RV and I found it great to have a campsite we could call our own, a good investment with land prices rising and I knew that land would always provide security and protection regardless of what was happening in the next new world we were now living in after 9-11.
I found an old Dodge Ram truck for $400.00 that would be the perfect old truck that I planned to keep on the property in an area full of unimproved roads. I knew as time went on, the roads would change as more people would buy land and move in and they have. I was also searching for something that could be kept on the property to make camping easy and a place to share with family and friends. Long story short, I found the perfect TH! It was built on a boat trailer and was one of the first portable Tiny Houses and possibly, the first. The guy that built it used many reclaimed materials including an old, used boat trailer. Even after using reclaimed materials and building it himself, there were over $10,000 in receipts! I eventually attached the very tiny house built on to an old boat trailer on to my truck and towed it from the keys to my property. I was very fortunate to get a good deal on my tiny house $6,400 and on my land. We used it as a keys retreat for awhile and then when it was time for my son to start High School, we got rid of tons of stuff and moved on to our land that was a move I never would have imagined making but we took the plunge and made it! My son lived in the tiny house during his entire four years of High School. I stayed in a temporary Airstream and then found a repossessed portable building that was only $3,000 and just a couple of years old. WOW! Another great deal. I turned it in to a modern day cabin and used as many reclaimed materials as I possibly could and was lucky to find tongue and groove pine boards from the local mill at an awesome rate! I already had another portable building that I was using on the property to store things in. I noticed that it looked similar to the 14′ X 30′ building that would be my cabin. I attached it to the back and then my cabin turned in to a one bedroom cabin! Two years ago, I added on a large bathroom and put in a Jacuzzi Whirlpool tub that was brand new and I only paid $50 for it at a garage sale. For the most part, my cabin is built although, I do have some unfinished work that I work on a little at a time. For six years, I have been using carpet and padding in my living room. I found this gently used carpet at an auction for only $40.00! I just recently found a super deal at Habitat for humanity resale shop on brand new oak laminate flooring that was left overs from a job. I have found many items that I have used at this resale shop! If I were to buy it at a hardware store, it would have cost $600! I paid just over $100 and will be installing it soon. I have saved thousands using reclaimed materials or materials that are new, but left over! I have lived, breathed, watched and kept up with the Tiny movement since before it even really began. Why am I sharing this? To tell other’s that one does not need to spend an astronomical price on these tiny houses and cabins being built. If one just pays attention and keeps their eye out for items they could use, they can be found! They can be found in every state! Remember, once you put the basics together like wiring, insulation and walls, you can take your time doing the finish work or adding on. I keep a building on the property to put items in that I have found at a super deal to use later when I am ready for them. Not to long ago, an RV shop closed it’s doors. I went over there during the last week and purchased brand new solid oak trim pieces for only .50 cents each. I am a woman in her fifties doing this. I also battle with an illness. I feel like if I can do this and make it happen, then anyone one can! Never give up hope! Live your dreams one board at a time and remember that you do not have to pay someone else astronomical prices construed from people seeing a demand for these homes and jumping on the wagon to make a good profit. So many people tell me that I am living the American dream by living in a small cabin out in the woods. I am living proof that if a person sets their mind to their desires of their hearts and with a will, there is a way. You just need to carve out your path, your foundation, your abode having patience and jumping on deals when you see them. I live mortgage free and rent free in a cabin in the woods on a parcel of 5 acres with no zoning! I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. Is this what your wanting? Is this what the tiny movement was supposed to be about and not what it has become? Stop dreaming, wishing and talking! Take the steps in to the world of financial freedom and freedom from a high paced life full of stress. One day share with me what you have done! I would love to hear real stories about the one true tiny house movement that began with one road and spiraled in to many.
Thank you for your comment Jackie. Buying some forested property and living in our own self-built tiny home on our own land is our dream. Very inspiring! 🙂 We are currently building our dream tiny home and are taking our time finding the perfect property like you did.
Nothin’ like talking dollars to bring in the comments and get people stirred up. I figure there is room for everyone in this game, the builders and DIY’s alike. Seems most important to me to get the local municipalities and jurisdictions to go along with placing TH in areas where lower cost housing is needed. We should find ways to support one another to make this happen. Pulling together will get us a lot farther than worrying about what someone else is paying for their TH. In the mean time, you get to figure out how to pay for your own either DIY or built home.
Good points! Thanks Kathryn!
I didn’t read all the comments but the few I did read I agree and disagree. 1. These are not “houses” they are nice versions of a camper trailer. 2. They are made of nicer materials however there is not much material needed due to size.
With this said I live near the ome of the biggest camper manufacturing areas of the country. They pay a good salary but no $45 hr unless you owned the factory. They start and finish if I remember correctly 3?+ Units a day.
With all this said how can they sell theirs for say $$18,000 and one smaller in size cost $70,000?
Just trying to justify the cost.
Gold plated trim work.
I own a piece of land in OK that is vacant and would be perfect for parking THOW for a short time or longer if deciding where to go. It is zoned lt industrial, but I have used it for an impound lot for vehicles so possibly can park tiny houses as long as they are on a trailer. I’m wondering if $100 a month for a rental space is too much or maybe too little. Any suggestions on how much to charge for a space?
Depends where in Oklahoma you are at. If near/in a city with access to grocery etc $100 might be fair or to low. Or if in a small town it could be a fair price. Would this be space rent alone or also include water, power etc?
If the lot was used as an impound lot for vehicles you might want to see if using it for a human shelter would be allowed due to vehicles having sat and perhaps caused oil, radiator fluid etc to pollute the ground.
I am not sure who to contact, there are people making comments on this issue I would prefer not to be a part of anymore. I keep getting email replies when I have not opted for. I think some people are too oppositional, whatever the reason may be, who have disabled the intellectual and even compassionate discourse regarding this issue. Is there a moderator? If so I would like to not be contacted anymore regarding others’ replies.
At the bottom of the TinyHouseTalk email notifications there should be this information at the bottom.
Want less email? Unsubscribe from all follow-up comments or modify your Subscription Options.
Beth, are you affiliated to this discussion other than being a subscriber? Just curious because you seem to make many comments on other people’s posts some of which have no reply capability. Or is everyone able to enable that feature? Anyway, it’s a little ironic you are giving this info. if you are not the moderator because it is some of your comments I would like to not be a part of. Either way I am asking you, again, please stop replying to my comments.
After reading the article and most of the comments a point is being missed. Not everyone is a DYIer so they have to purchase something already built. With that being said the builders have left out people who are lower income or on a tighter budget. Yes build the higher end tiny homes but also build lower end or more simple ones that are more affordable to lower income brackets. There’s a difference in profit margins but profits can still be made by building both lower and higher range tiny homes.
I still think most tiny house builders, with the exception of Tiny Heirloom and their counterparts, are building more simply for the average buyer. Reality is that it still costs X amount of dollars to pay for materials and labor. — Tiny House Talk Team
This is a great article, Natalie. Thoroughly researched, well-written, informative, and helpful. Thank you.
Hi – Alex here – I can’t seem to find the comment you’re talking about. Sorry about that! 🙁 If it wouldn’t be much trouble, would you mind sharing it again?
There are numerous approaches to this idea. I helped a buddy build his and the total cost was $4K. His approach to this project was to gather up used materials that were going to be thrown out. What that meant for him was that 1. There was no deadline so he could gather materials as he moved along. 2. He would go to construction sites and or even the local dump to find wood materials and paint that was slated to be thrown out. His labor was himself and friends, until it came to the point where he needed someone to help out with something technical. As this article points out, they are a business, so of course they have to make a living at it. However, if your budget is smaller and you’re very willing to put in the time and of course the labor, yes, you can build for much less. Once again, I think it’s more of a matter of time and your willingness to commit to a specific goal. By the way, I hope the images are actual builds of theirs, awesome designs! Love the wood and paneling that you chose to use.
Yes, Rod — exactly!
You seriously can not justify the price of this crap. you can buy a new double wide manufactured home for $30,000 less. O and they are on trailers and you can drive them anywhere you want. bassicly yall can go fuck off. My crew just built a four bedroom house with a full basement for around $75,000. these companies are ripping you off, find private contractors way cheaper. I am building a hunting cabin on a trailer and the whole thing is costing around $5,500. If you break down the cost most of the pluming and electric can be done in an hour. If it takes a company 2-3 months to build a tiny house, that company is trash. You are being charge way to much considering the structures are pre-built. If it is a custom build just go there and watch how people are just standing around. You are paying people who are on site that cant do anything until most of the build is completed. You are being ripped off. Go private!!!!! Stay away from these companies.
The average tiny house I have seen around me goes for 60,000 dollars I have seen 400 sq ft on the wheelhaus website going for well over 120,000 dollars. There is no reason why people are paying these prices for tiny houses when you can get a modular home at around 1,000 sq ft for about 50,000 dollars. Just check out modular home expo they also have a tiny home for 18,000 dollars