Financial Analysis April 11th, 2012
My dream of building and living in a tiny house is important to me for a number of reasons. In current financial times, homes (or, the status quo “standard homes”) are something that we as a society have come to accept as necessary enormous expense–we take out loans we can’t afford to buy them, then spend the rest of our lives pouring money into heating, cooling, watering, fixing, changing, and generally maintaining them. Personally my idea of my future was shaken when I realized that the vast majority of people now have trouble affording their home–suddenly it seemed less prudent to dream of having a big fancy house, and more prudent to dream of a tiny house.
When you think about how much space you really use, I think you’ll soon realize that the space that you are actually occupying at any given time doesn’t need to be much larger than a college dorm room. It’s your stuff, the belongings and trappings that we hold as necessary for fulfilling lives, that take up so much darn space! People rent whole storage units to hold the belongings that cannot fit in their (already good-sized) houses! Simplicity and clean living are important to me, and I also love small spaces (maybe I’m part burrow-animal) so the tininess and simplicity of these kinds of houses greatly appeals.
You don’t need to hire a construction crew to build your tiny house–they are simple enough that you can do it yourself, and this is another factor in the low cost of a tiny house. Your basic self-built tiny house costs around $20,000 to construct. That’s the same as just the down payment on a regular house! You can even buy a fully-assembled tiny house, if your construction skills are somewhat lacking, but the internet is rife with information about how other regular people have built their own tiny homes. There are workshops and schools, such as the Yestermorrow Design School in Vermont, which help you learn the skills necessary to design and build your own tiny house.
There are many different ways to go about building your own tiny house. Some people build them from scratch, others have modified shipping containers or garden sheds or abandoned motor homes to be liveable and pleasant spaces.
I think the greatest barrier to achieving this dream is simply rewiring yourself to feel comfortable in what might seem like a different sort of space. Tiny houses often lack plumbing, instead using bar sinks and composting toilets, which might seem like a huge hardship to begin with, but it seems like universally all tiny house owners say the smell is not a problem. This also allows your tiny house to be completely off-the-grid–just add wheels and you can go wherever you want and take your home with you! Another challenge would be downsizing my belongings and lifestyle to fit comfortably in a smaller house–a tiny house means fewer clothes, books, and arty decorative knickknacks, because space becomes precious.
At this point, I would need a few things in order to achieve this dream:
-Around $15,000 to invest in building materials and plans
-The construction skills to actually build the thing (right now my woodworking/construction skills hover somewhere between “shaky” and “nonexistant”)
-A place to put the house
In the second spreadsheet, I’ve separated the possibilities of three separate scenarios. Really, any of these elements could be combined in infinite ways, but I chose to simplify it into three for the sake of ease:
Scenario one: I buy my own materials, take an intensive long-term course in learning to build and plan tiny houses, then use those skills to make my own plans for the house rather than purchasing pre-made plans.
Scenario Two: I buy the materials, take a short, weekend-long class on basics of tiny-house building, buy pre-made plans. The cost of this is comparable to the first scenario, because the only real difference in expenditure is time (taking a longer class and making one’s own plans vs. taking the shorter class and buying the plans).
Scenario Three: I buy no materials, take no classes, and purchase/make no plans. I just pay someone else to plan/build the tiny house for me (this option, however, is both more expensive AND less satisfying for several reasons.)
Additionally, there is the concern of land/property/where to put the house, which I had a little more trouble budgeting for. There are almost infinite options for how to do this, ranging from the very expensive (buying land) to the very inexpensive (living for free in your parents’/friends/WalMart’s backyard) and then the inbetween (renting a spot in a trailer park, working on a farm in exchange for parking your tiny house on their land, parking it illegally on the National Forest and dealing with the consequences, etc.) I had a difficult time budgeting for this because I’m not sure what the most legal, proper way to place your tiny house is.