Good news, bad news: it’s incredibly easy to start the process of buying a tiny house. There are so many awesome builders out there ready and waiting to turn your dream home into a reality.
Why is that bad news, you may ask?! Because it's easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of it all and overlook some serious considerations. Here’s our list of the top five things to consider before you do take the plunge.
I’m about to tell you a dark and dirty secret that you’ll never hear about on your favorite tiny house show but every tiny house dweller knows about…almost all tiny houses are not “legal dwellings.” EEEEKK!!! I’ll be honest, this is the single biggest turn-off for most people who think about moving into a tiny house.
But here’s the thing — while most tiny houses aren’t technically legal, they’re not technically illegal either. That is, you’re not going to get in trouble for living in a tiny house. On the other hand, since your tiny home very likely won't fit within your city's local zoning codes, the city could make you move your house at any moment.
Before you freak out and lose hope, there are some simple things that can help insulate you from the worst-case scenario of having to move your house against your will.
If you’re still with me then you’re one big step closer to owning your dream tiny house! Yay! Time for the next major killer of tiny home hopefuls: financing.
Financing your tiny home will very likely be an uphill battle -- even good credit won’t save you from this pitfall. Unlike a normal house, tiny houses aren't eligible for mortgages and there currently aren't any financial institutions that will give you a loan secured on the value of your tiny house (aka a mortgage). Tiny houses are too new to the market and the demand is too small for banks to draw up the evaluation algorithms. Unfortunately, that means that if you have to go to a bank, you’ll almost certainly end up having to take out a personal loan, which typically means worse terms and higher interest rates.
3. Finding Land:
We’ve put the two biggest problems behind us! Hurray! At this point, whether or not you buy a tiny house is entirely in your hands. For the next three considerations, you mostly just need some willpower and determination to succeed.
Zoning regulations aside, finding land is often easier than it might seem. In our experience, and the experiences of other tiny home dwellers, it generally doesn’t take too long and you’ll often find some good options. This, of course, depends on where you want to park your house, but if you’re willing to face all of the other obstacles, don’t let finding land get you down.
Just a couple of considerations. First, being off-the-grid will help you, big time. If you don’t have to worry about electrical, water, or septic hook-ups, then you've got a lot more options. Second, if you need hook-ups, don’t expect the land to be cheap... though you’ll often get a lot for your money. We pay $750/month for our parcel and get subsidized landscaping from our landlords (we do the work, they pay for materials). The plot is around 10,000 sq. ft. with hook-ups, beautiful views, and lots of privacy.
4. The Move-in Hurdle:
Living in a tiny house can be liberating, exciting, beautiful, and empowering... but for the first few months after your move in, it will be chaotic, stressful, and require you to think on your feet, all the time. Do you know how to repair drain lines? Build a deck? Handle busted water heaters? Call out contractors on low-quality work? Install small improvements on your house (e.g. curtains, hooks, etc)? Me neither... but we had to learn how to do all of these things and so much more within our first three months of moving in.
We’re no exception either. If you want to move in to a tiny house, expect to have a handyman on speed dial or prepare to get your hands dirty fixing problems for yourself. On the plus side, it's been incredibly empowering to learn how things in our house work!
5. Getting Rid of Your Stuff:
The amount of stuff you’ll have to get rid of will largely depend on your house design. Ours has a walk-in closet and tons of storage space…so much that we ended up not even using half of it, even after emptying out our storage unit! If you add some outside storage on top, then you could avoid downsizing altogether and have plenty of storage space.
At the same time, getting rid of your stuff can free up a surprising amount of money and mental load. Before we moved in, we limited our stuff to about two full car loads (we drive a Mazda hatchback). We did this in stages. First, we moved out of our cottage and sold all of our furniture to the people who were moving in (amazing…) and started renting exclusively furnished apartments. Second, we sold any remaining high-value items through Craigslist and eBay. Third, we had a yard sale to slim down whatever was left. We also donated a fair amount and, to be honest, we didn’t have a whole lot of stuff to begin with. But we're happy to report that there is absolutely no "thing" that we miss or regret selling.
You’ll just have to figure out the best way to solve this problem for yourself, but try to remember that right now, all the things that you’re not using are losing value. You’re losing money simply by owning crap that you don’t use. Why not take this opportunity to sell as much of it as possible? Then, when you’re getting ready to move into your wonderful dream home, you’ll have extra cash to fill it with meaningful objects (we made close to $5,000 selling our stuff).