2. Aside from the cost of the house, what are other potential expenses?
There’s no question that going the tiny house route can significantly reduce living expenses. The cost of building one yourself averages under $25,000, while having a builder do the job roughly doubles the cost. Utility bills are obviously lower than for a larger house and, usually, so are such things as food expenses: With less storage, people cut back on what they buy. But it is more difficult to get financing for a tiny house — although there are now more options than a few years ago — and the rates tend to be higher than for a conventional house. Also, if you choose to put the house on a foundation, you’re likely going to have to buy land or pay rent to use it. If, instead, you want your house to be more mobile, you don’t just need a vehicle powerful enough to tow it — and the gas and maintenance costs that come with that — but also a trailer that’s suitable. There are now trailers designed specifically for hauling tiny houses, and they can run from $4,000 to $6,000. On the road, RV parks and their hookups are the easiest option, and some are starting to set aside sections for tiny homes. The fees can range from $25 to $75 a night or $400 and up a month.
3. Are you sure you’ll be able to live in such a small space with another person?
It’s an obvious question, but one that needs to be given serious thought. You’d be living in a few hundred square feet of space, so you won’t have much in the way of privacy or solitude. In short, you’re always going to pretty much be in the same room as your partner. This could be good for your relationship, but it’s also why veterans of tiny-home living suggest that you may want to try a small rental space first, such as a studio apartment, or a tiny-house vacation rental.
4. Are you prepared to make tough decisions in culling your possessions?
Ask any tiny-house owner who has done this, and they’ll tell you this can be the hardest part of embracing a minimalist lifestyle. Getting rid of stuff is no small matter for people who have been accumulating things for decades and have held on to them largely for personal and sentimental reasons. “Downsizing is a huge challenge for just about everyone, particularly seniors,” said Pat Dunham, on her website Tiny House Advisor. “They have all their mother’s stuff and everything they’ve saved from their kids all these years. I really believe people need help making these decisions.” Adds Ryan Mitchell, who runs the Tiny Life website: “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from people whose parents have left them all this stuff. They don’t want it, they don’t need it, but they feel so guilty about getting rid of it.” Then there are things that aren’t even about sentiment. “My wife asked me why I had a dozen coffee cups when I always drank from the same one,” said John Kernohan, who with his wife, Fin, runs several tiny-house festivals. Tiny-house veterans will tell you that the culling process usually gets easier over time, and that once people move into a home, they become much less acquisitive, first out of necessity, then habit. Still, many can’t toss out family mementos and end up renting storage units.
5. Do you have an active social life?
The consensus among those who have long been involved in the tiny-house movement is that the older people who seem to adjust best to the lifestyle are those who spend a lot of time outside their homes. If you’re spending most of your days in such a small space, its limitations can seem more frustrating and constraining. That’s less likely if it’s more a home base from which you regularly venture out to engage with the community. Conversely, if you like to entertain, a tiny house probably isn’t for you for obvious reasons, including having a very basic kitchen. That’s why it’s important to give a lot of thought to what truly makes you happy.