Common Questions About Tiny Homes

Tiny homes have been a hot topic in home design for several years now, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still burning questions out there about these unique houses.

How Much Do They Cost?

This is one of the most common questions about tiny homes. People have an idea that they're generally more affordable than regular homes, but they want to know more about the pricing specifics of a potential tiny primary residence or tiny second home.

Data from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) shows that in 2015, the average size of an American home was 2,802 square feet and the average cost was $468,318. In contrast, the average cost to build a tiny home was cited as $23,000 when built by the homeowners themselves and between $30,000 and $50,000 when built by a professional.

Tiny homes typically clock in under 400 square feet, which can seem a little tight. On the other hand, some estimates suggest that almost 70 percent of tiny homeowners live mortgage free—a pretty appealing trade-off.

contemporary tiny home design in grassy field

Can You Finance a Tiny Home?

That low rate of mortgages doesn’t mean it’s impossible to finance a tiny home, though. Some companies that build these houses secure finance options by joining the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and building their homes to meet the standards set for RVs. Doing this not only allows the builders to get financing for construction, it usually gets the home built quicker.

Are They Safe?

Some worry that tiny homes aren’t sturdy and safe enough to actually live in. The answer to this question is a bit complicated. Tiny houses and their construction are widely unregulated, meaning they're not subjected to the same building codes regular houses are. In fact, these houses are more similar in some regards to RVs or trailers, due to how they’re built.

The safety of a particular tiny home really depends on how it was constructed and what measures were taken to make the home secure and safe. As a general rule, they're neither safer nor more dangerous than regular homes.

tiny home surrounded by trees in pouring rain

Where Would I Store All My Stuff?

Many people considering making the switch to a tiny dwelling wonder where, exactly, they would store all their belongings. Folks who do move into tiny homes make a big effort to reduce the amount of stuff that they own in order to accommodate a smaller space. However, that doesn’t mean these houses have no storage.

Many tiny house builders cleverly incorporate storage in unexpected places, such as in shelving, bench seats, couches, or even trap doors to under-floor spaces. Additional storage can be added beneath cabinets, and hooks placed on walls to store items like pots and pans. Some tiny house owners have gone as far as to adding storage in the steps leading up to their front door, neatly hidden and making a great use of space.

storage doorway area in small cozy home

Where Do I Build a Tiny Home?

Most tiny home residents park their house on their own property or on the property of someone they know, like a friend or relative who has given them permission to do so. Some tiny house owners travel from place to place with their house in tow, giving them a home wherever they go—the weights of tiny homes range between 3,000 on the lower end and 15,000 on the higher, putting many of these models well within the towing range of a powerful truck.

As far as where these homes can reside, they're a new enough phenomenon that there aren't many zoning ordinances about them. This is gradually changing as they gain popularity, though. Some communities welcome them, others are putting up restrictions. Before building your tiny home, or parking in a lot you think is safe, check for local laws regarding these homes.

What About Heating and Cooling?

Many wonder how tiny homes are heated and cooled throughout the seasons. Most of these homeowners opt to use small propane heaters or electric space heaters. Another option is to use a wood burning stove, although that may be too much for such a small space in all but the coldest climates. For cooling, small window unit air conditioners are effective.

Are They On the Grid?

One of the most compelling features of tiny homes is that they can function either on or off utility grids. Tiny home plumbing can be connected to a local municipal supply, or rely on a tank system filled up periodically. It's up to owners and constructors of these buildings (like maybe you, for instance!) to decide how fixed in place or movable they are.