Tiny Homes have great appeal for those looking to downsize or to add a vacation rental to their rural land. But, how much do they cost to build, and is it wise to DIY it? Tiny Home builder and owner of Sierra Tiny Houses, Steve Davis, gives you the inside scoop on Tiny Homes.
We’ve all seen them (and maybe even lusted after them) on home and garden shows: adorable tiny homes that make downsizing look easy and oh-so-chic.
They come in all shapes and sizes, are typically eco-friendly, take very little effort to furnish, are quick-to-build, can travel with you, make great rental homes and appear to be super-affordable.
Plus, according to a recent poll by National Association of Home Builders, over 50% of Americans (and over 60% of millennials) would consider living in less than 600 square feet. And Architectural Magazine recently named three southern states, Texas, North Carolina and Florida, as the top states for building tiny houses.
But...how much does it really cost to buy, or build, a tiny home for your rural land?
As we learned from professional tiny home builder and owner of Sierra Tiny Houses, Steve Davis, it’s probably a bit more costly than those reality shows have led you to believe.
Reality Check: Your Average Pre-Built Tiny Home Costs More Than $10-$20K
Despite what you may have seen on reality shows and read on DIY blogs, Davis says your average pre-built tiny house costs more than most people think:
“At some point, maybe due to the TV shows, people got the idea that it only costs $10-$25K for a pre-built tiny house. And the reality is that for a commercial company, with the tools, overhead, facilities costs, etc. that would be impossible.
“Our average home costs between $60K & $75K. We have sold a few for $55K. For that, you get a solid, high-quality home with nice finishes. There are thin-margins in this business, but we don’t get into it to be rich we do it because we want to make a difference.”
Getting A Tiny House For Less Than $55-$75k Requires A Lot Of DIY-grunt work
However, if you have the time and knowledge, building your own tiny home can be a rewarding and money-saving experience.
However, according to Davis, it’s no tiny feat: “Not a lot of people have the time to build a tiny house on their own, and for those who decide they want to, it takes lots of nights and weekends.”
“I’d say the average professional tiny home builder spends 2-3 months building a home with a crew of 2 or 3. So, if you’re doing it yourself or with a friend, it could take significantly longer.”
The other advantage of using a tiny house builder is their expertise.
“Tiny home building isn’t like building a standard house, there are idiosyncrasies like wheel wells, installing the right types of RV-outlets and fixtures and stuff like that which can be new for even experienced home builders. Just dealing with correct placement of a wheel well can be a challenge if you don’t plan ahead.”
Another key consideration for DIYers is the amount of weight your axles can bear, which makes every interior fixture choice—from the weight of your cabinets to your countertops and bathroom tiles—count when it comes to design.
However, if you’re up for it many companies do provide tiny home building workshops, plans and home kits.
Just keep in mind, it may not wind up costing you much less when you factor in your time, materials, outsourcing and inevitable DIY-errors.
How To Save Money On A Custom Tiny House
If you’re not a DIYer and wish to get closer to that 55K mark, Steve recommends the following:
“Aside from reducing square footage there are other things we can do to reduce the price, like changing the wall coverings, changing the type of siding, doing a 10-gallon water heater instead of tankless (if you’ll not be living in the home full-time)—all that adds up.”
When building a tiny house as a more permanent feature on your land, it’s also important to research other costs to do with zoning, insurance (tiny homes on wheels are insured like RVs) putting in a well, septic or hooking to existing utilities, installing a driveway or purchasing an RV pad.
If you’re purchasing a mobile tiny home, it also pays to buy from a builder whose products are certified as RVs.
Says Davis: “This gives you a lot of financial advantages like better resale value, insurance and financing. Banks won’t finance a mobile tiny home if it’s not certified as an RV, and you’d be getting an RV loan, so that alone can save you a lot of money.”
For non-mobile tiny homes built on a fixed foundation, insurance and financing vary so be sure to check with your lender early in the process. These homes, also called accessory dwelling units (ADUs), require building permits from the city or county because they are on a permanent foundation.
If you’re buying a pre-built tiny house on wheels, you’ll also want to ask your builder about shipping costs.
Where Not to Skimp On Your Tiny House
Your tiny home’s purpose will weigh greatly on where you may decide to skimp or splurge.
For example, if you’re considering a tiny house as a vacation rental, you’d probably want to choose higher-end fixtures and possibly go for more square footage to accommodate more guests.
If you’re considering the home as a full-time residence for yourself, you may choose to spend more on a functional kitchen and tankless hot water heater.
Then you also have to consider your plumbing/sewer needs—are you okay with a composting toilet or are sewer hookups a necessity?
Davis also stresses the importance of a high-quality trailer: “DIYers often think they can take the trailer off an old camper and use it, but that’s really not a good idea. A good tiny house trailer is really important, which is an expense you don’t normally have with a home. You want a lifetime warranty on it because this is your home and this is its foundation.”
All in All, Tiny Homes Are Still A Fraction Of The Cost Of Traditional Homes
As house prices continue to go up, the tiny home movement continues to gain ground.
They’re also popular vacation rental homes, and rural areas tend to have more relaxed zoning laws for tiny houses—which can make them a sound income-generating investment for your rural land.
- The average tiny home costs more than the average person thinks. Pre-built Sierra Tiny Houses, for example, run from $55K-75K.
- You can DIY a tiny home, but it takes a lot of time and specialized knowledge.
- Those who wish to DIY it can benefit greatly from attending workshops, purchasing professional home plans and/or using a house kit.
- If you hire a builder to build your tiny home on-site on a foundation, be sure they understand the nuances of tiny house building and get all the required permits.
- When buying a tiny house on wheels, try to buy from an RV-certified builder so you can get proper financing and insurance.
- Don’t forget to factor in other costs, such as an RV pad, sewer hookups, electrical, shipping costs, etc. as listed above.
- Know where to skimp and where to save based on the intended purpose of your home.
For more information on Sierra Tiny Houses, visit them online at: www.sierratinyhouses.com.
To learn more about building your own tiny home, check out our previous article: “Beginner’s Guide to Build it Yourself Home Kits” .
Want to try out a tiny home before you buy? Here are 9 Charming Tiny House Rentals in the South.