I’m frustrated. My partner and I are looking for a house to buy. The market is terrible, and there are no realistic options for us. So when I watched a documentary about a couple’s experience building a tiny home, it absolutely captivated me. I found out all I could about tiny homes and other alternative housing solutions.
What Are Tiny Homes?
In a few words, the tiny home movement is an effort to combat the prevalence of McMansions. It’s all about reducingthe size of the space we live in; many tiny homes are less than 500 square feet.
Tiny-home dwellers may downsize for a variety of reasons — environmental or financial concerns, or simply for flexibility and freedom. Most tiny homes are mobile, so you can take them wherever you want.
The Appeal of Tiny Homes
I was fascinated. I loved the idea of leading a minimalist lifestyle and not having more space than I need. In some ways, I was already accustomed to living with fewer possessions while traveling. How different could a tiny home be?
For millennials saddled with debt, the idea of a tiny home that costs less than $20,000 sounds like a great idea. Buying a standard house means spending money on a down payment, insurance, interest, and taxes, not to mention maintenance over time, which according to the Tiny House Movement could total more than $1 million with a 30-year mortgage.
My partner and I were ecstatic when we learned about the tiny home movement.
What if we bought an old van or camper and converted it? Using our own sweat and tears, we would feel proud of our accomplishment.
We could park it in my parents’ driveway or backyard and then drive our home across the country to stay with Emet’s family in L.A. for half the year. We could get rid of the junk in our lives. Maybe we could even travel the world!
I've met two people who have built or acquired tiny homes, and their stories inspire me. A good friend and her husband sold everything they owned, and with their 3-year-old son, they bought an RV and traveled the country for the summer.
I also met a woman and her husband who built a tiny home in the woods of Iowa, completely off the grid and within a two-hour drive of the church where they are both pastors.
Hearing their stories made me think it was possible, but I was still skeptical.
The Downsides of Tiny Homes
Sure, it would be awesome to travel the world in a tiny home on wheels, but the little rational voice in my head was screaming, “No! We don’t have remote jobs, so we can’t just pick up and go.”
We also need more than 500 square feet of space. We’ve been looking at houses and realized we need more than one bathroom so that we can host friends and have family stay with us. How can we do all that with a smaller area than our last one-bedroom apartment? Not to mention the difficult regulations that we would have to abide by if we built our own.
Most tiny homes have wheels to avoid the zoning laws in the city. We would have to find a place to park it legally. We might be able to put it in the backyard of a regular home, but the area must have the proper zoning to accommodate full-time camping.
If the tiny house has a foundation and isn’t on wheels, it would have to comply with building codes, which usually means it must be a minimum of 700 square feet. For that reason, many people turn to rural areas to build and park their tiny homes.
But we want to live in the city, close to my freelance gigs and my partner’s work, as well as to friends and family. It’s not practical for us to live out in the woods.
Tiny Home or Not Tiny Home? That Is the Question
While we struggle to find a standard home to buy, the fantasy of a tiny home creeps back into my mind. Could we have 100 percent remote jobs that allow us to go wherever we want? Could we build it from scratch and then not have to worry about a mortgage? And most importantly, could we really fit everything we own into a home that’s 700 or fewer square feet?