They’re not all that new as a conceptRachel-Maxwell
The tiny-house movement isn’t exactly new. Back in the 1840s, Henry David Thoreau spent two years living in a 150-square foot cottage at Walden Pond as an experiment in simplification. But he wasn’t the first. Those in search of tranquility have long been seeking to carve out their own small spaces since the dawn of time—whether it’s an actual house or a cave. Now we’re seeing the resurgence of simplicity with a shift toward minimizing and downsizing (here’s how a minimalist lifestyle can change your life in the best possible way). Hence, the craze that gives rise to such shows on HGTV like Tiny House, Big Living (THBL).
A tiny house is generally one that’s under 400 square feet, says Chris Dorsey, founder of Dorsey Pictures, the producer of THBL and several other tiny-house television series. (The average American home is around 2,600 square feet). They’re generally built on trailers for mobility, but they can be built on foundations. “What attracts most people to tiny homes is that they are redefining the American dream by owning a home with little to no debt while traveling the country and even working on the road,” explains Dorsey. “With a tiny home, people can design their own space that fits their personal interests and tastes at a much lower cost than a standard custom home… and because everything is smaller in a tiny home, you can pick from top-of-the-line finishes at more affordable prices.”
That being said, Dorsey, along with every other expert we spoke to on this topic, warns that when it comes to the question of how much does it cost to build a tiny house, there may be subtle or even hidden expense that add up fast. Here’s what you need to know.
They can cost anywhere from $10,000 or $180,000Segen/Shutterstock
“What’s cool about tiny houses is that they can be built to match anyone’s lifestyle and budget,” says Dorsey. They can range from $10,000 to $180,000, but the average falls somewhere in the range of $30,000 to $40,000. “Some people are shocked at how much tiny homes cost while others can’t believe how inexpensive they are. It all comes from a perspective of the average home value where you live. Someone from Los Angeles could never imagine owning a home for so little, while someone from maybe a rural Midwest city may have sticker shock,” Dorsey explains. Watch out for these surprising costs that come along with buying a home for the first time.
How much it will actually cost to build your own lilliputian living quarters will depend upon a combination of factors, including what locale you’ve chosen, whether you will build on a foundation or on a trailer (figure $25,000 if you’re building on a foundation, and $35,000 if you’re building on a trailer), the complexity of the building plans, how much you plan to do yourself, and the materials use. “You should budget at least $65,000,” says Ryan Fitzgerald, owner of Raleigh Realty, and “you might be spending $25,000 on building materials, alone.”