Modern Tiny Houses, Big Fascination

This is the first published post on Hobo with a Laptop long before our 2017 reboot, and its most popular, ever –it went viral within days of publishing. It’s vintage Hobo, and to this day tiny houses still capture my interest so I can’t bare to remove it.

big-fascination-tiny-housesRecently I’ve been intrigued by the modern Tiny House movement.

Instead of a life of debt, uncertainty and monetary over-commitment, many people are beginning to explore the idea of ‘tiny houses’; little homes that are in the  neighborhood of 200 – 400 square feet and carry a cost ranging from around $10,000 to $50,000 US. And they’re beautiful.

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Many of them are on wheels to get around both literally, and figuratively –zoning is a bit of a headache and having it on wheels sometimes helps.

We’ve seen them on television, and those who live in one are quite passionate about their modern tiny house.

Personally, I think living lean and bootstrapping in Thailand for a year (so far) has warmed me up to the idea. It’s all you need. Low ecological footprint, low cost, no nonsense, and it’s not stapled to the ground.

The majority of these photos are of a “hOMe”, the first tiny house to really resonate with me and grab my eye. The hOMe tiny house costs a mere $65 US per square foot to construct, adding up to $22,700 US and change.

Add a composting toilet, appliances and cabinetry and that sets you back another $10k, give or take.

Grand total: $33,000

print-tiny-house-building-plansThe occupants (and architects) of this 207 sq. ft. home –the Morrison’s, embody a lifestyle many of us long for— a life free from soul crushing mortgage debt, lobotomizing work routines, a fixed address, and a healthy sense of well-being.

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For others it isn’t about freeing up additional funds or peace of mind: It’s about surviving a recession that won’t seem to dissipate.

Rising housing/energy/utility costs and environmental damage to peoples’ homes or environment are making them turn to this cheaper, more flexible living option.

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No matter the reason behind this new tiny house trend, it appears to be expanding. Tiny home seekers and dwellers are gathering online to swap construction tips, and discuss building code legislation.

Communities are springing up everywhere.

tiny house map canada usa north america
Click to view the Tiny House Map

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Although their return on investment looks great on paper, I’m more interested in the intangible.

The utility these (often mobile) homes provide their occupants while reconnecting them with nature, and making living a “digital nomad” lifestyle (of working online and living abroad, remotely) a little easier is liberating.

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How to Build Your Own Tiny House

tiny house america

Mainstream Discussion

Before I started looking at tiny homes in any serious capacity, I saw them as rental properties in the form of “micro apartments”. It seemed logical enough, especially in New York where the average $1,500+ per month apartment size ranges between 250 – 500 square feet.

Bloomberg / HuffPost / New York Times / Chicago Tribune

A little travel has helped me see the value and utility in living in a smaller home.

In the west, more people have seen micro apartments in movies than in real life –yet in South East Asia where I currently live, it’s already a reality for any income bracket.

As US public demand starts to shift the discussion from Micro Apartment rentals to Tiny House ownership, it will be interesting to see how things play out in the arena of building codes and standards.

If the pilot program is successful, officials could ultimately overturn a requirement established in 1987 that new apartments here be at least 400 square feet. (Source)

Up until present, it has been difficult or impossible for some people to get proper approval to build and live in a modern Tiny House full time.

Top 10 Reasons Why People Live in a Tiny House

10. It’s more normal than you think

Image: WSJ
Image: WSJ

 

The trend of living in smaller spaces is by no means new, and it’s been accelerating for decades. IKEA has thrived because of it.

People can hide their small spaces away inside cement buildings, away from prying eyes —but they can’t hide open data.

9. They’re not “just for poor people”

Tom Shadyac, who directed Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Nutty Professor, Liar Liar, Bruce Almighty, and I Am lives in a tiny house (video below).

So does Burt Shavitz, the famous owner of Burt’s Bees.

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For either of these gentlemen, living in a tiny house has been about their personal values before economy.

8. Less up-front cost, less debt

..less interest, less insurance, less taxes. According to an infographic from The Tiny Life; average mortgage debt starts at around $272,000, and carries with it an estimated interest cost of $209,704 on a thirty-year mortgage with 4.25% interest.

Infographic: The Tiny Life
Infographic: The Tiny Life

A Tiny House can cost between $10k – $50k. Generally speaking, it’s safe to say a smaller home could cost no more than a down payment on an average house, all in.

cost of average homes

An interest rate also feels a lot less soul-crushing when it’s a fraction of the loan size required to purchase an average home. You might not even need one. And since there’s less to insure, there’s less to pay in insurance premiums, too.

7. Less reliance on the grid

Less storage space, less things to plug in, and a mindfulness for water consumption greatly reduce reliance on current infrastructure, while saving heaps of money.

Rain water can be collected and used for showers or watering the garden, and solar panels can be added to rooftops.

Integrating your tiny house with its surroundings creates a better living space. A covered patio with a cement kitchen sink and bar table will survive all seasons, and look great next to a barbecue.

More time spent outside means less heat/cooling/electricity/water used inside.

Don’t be afraid to blur the lines between conventional “inside or outside” thinking.

Showering outside in the summer time is an awesome, organic experience, and cooking outside can bring family and friends together –while softly killing boredom and weening those with a technology/video game/internet addiction.

Smaller homes can make it easier to have the world as your living room, and create a simple life that is full of meaning and authenticity.

6. Conservation

Curb side trash is also greatly reduced. Living in a tiny house with smaller storage space reduces frivolous purchases, and often new purchases mean you’ll need to purge an existing possession.

Less products purchased or consumed mean less packaging in the trash, and a smaller ecological footprint.

A tiny house makes downsizing a past-time, like collecting things, only backwards.

5. Quality upgrades

Because everything is smaller, compromises in terms of quality to reduce costs aren’t necessary.

The savings created by living in a small home means that you’ll have extra money left over to think more about quality than economy, when renovating or making new purchases.

4. Resale market

As energy costs continue to rise, many will be looking for small, energy-efficient homes. It could likely be easier to sell a tiny house over a giant one with 3+ bedrooms and an open-concept living room.

At the end of the day; a smaller, more affordable house is much more attractive to a larger percentage of the population, than a bigger, more expensive house.

3. More time

Less time spent vacuuming, cleaning down surfaces in un-used rooms, and less decorating. This might not fly with Stepford Wife types.
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2. Stand for something

Choosing to live in a tiny house stands for something.

We live in a world that is heavily overpopulated, and isn’t it time we started making more effort to live like it?

Akin to those who prefer to adopt to improve a life, rather than create another one, living sustainably is morally defensible in much the same way.

And regardless how you’ve decided to make a family, tiny houses work for families, too. There are many families already living in tiny houses, and you can find one awesome example of a “Tiny House Family” here.

1. Be mobile, be free

One of the biggest obstacles people have in mid-life that prevents them from taking any risks, or making any substantial changes in their life, is their mortgage debt.

If you take a career risk with kids in the mix, some worry about “stealing food from their children’s mouths” –when they should be looking at their mortgage as the malevolent force that puts their family at risk– not their quest for happiness and reinvention.

Do away with the mortgage, and unshackle those unbreakable, invisible chains that keep everyone tied to a dream that has been long-since manipulated into a new form of reliance and slavery.

And what more effectively literal translation of this method is there, than to have wheels under your affordable tiny house?

Top 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Live in a Tiny House

There are obstacles that can prevent one from making the shift to a tiny home that are non-negotiable.

These reasons were adapted from Tiny House Talk to reflect the most common obstacles I’ve heard both from both fellow hobos, and typical homeowners.

  1. Your spouse does not like or approve of the idea, and they’re more important to you than the size of your house —big or small
  2. You have children that hate the idea, and are accustomed to living in their own space (ie. cranky teenagers)
  3. You would have to move because of archaic building codes surrounding little houses in your area, and you really don’t want to do that
  4. You or your spouse are loyal to your possessions, and cutting back is not an option
  5. You care what the nay-sayers think; at the office, in the family (yes, your mother in-law), your friends, and trolls on Facebook

“Hitting my head all the time” was a heavy concern, but the outcome of that lay in the tiny house building plan you choose, your height, etc. I’m 6’4” and this Tiny House building plan looks “tall friendly”.

Does the tiny house trend have substance or is it a passing fad? Let me know what you think of tiny houses in the comments, or check out MorningChores for an expanded look at the cost of a tiny house.

Want more tiny houses? Click here to see every post that relates to tiny houses on Hobo with a Laptop.

Nomad Blog - Michael Hulleman

Tiny House Building Guide Plans
Related: Learn Some Technical Info: Read the Interview with the Morrisons
Sources: Imgur, TinyHouseBuild, TinyHouseLiving


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12 comments

  1. driving it around would be awesome… but why not just buy a truck instead, and modify the crap out of it? hehe

    1. That would be a really cool idea, too. Or decking out a shipping container.
      This site just launched today, let’s see where it goes!

  2. I’ve been drooling over Tiny Houses too, for a while. Or daydreaming of someday living in an Earthship, which would be equally amazing!

    1. Earthship, you say? Cool! Yeah, I am debating what to do when I eventually return to Canada from Thailand, what to work towards. Can’t decide between the East coast or Ontario. I figured I shouldn’t force myself to decide –and look into Tiny Houses while I figure it out 😉

  3. “Passing fad”? I don’t believe so. As more and more realize that material things, life long debt, and non stop working for someone else is not the way to happiness and contentment, the more people will opt out on
    “the old American Dream” for the New American Dream…smaller is better and more “stuff” isn’t more happiness but more heaviness.

    1. Completely agree with you, Deborah. A little more time and I think we’ll be seeing a lot more tiny homes.

    1. I don’t think they will. And if they do, people will relocate and become a taxpayer in some other city or town.

      On one hand, tiny houses solve a municipal problem, but on the other, governments don’t want Grapes of Wrath shanty towns, either. So we’ll see.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing the photos and story of this couple’s Tiny House process. I am at the beginning of my journey and found this intriguing and inspiring.

    1. Very pleased to hear, Evelyn! And you’re very welcome. I had a real kick out of writing and researching this piece. It was only intended to be a one-off article before getting more into the subject of off-grid living –but I couldn’t resist!

  5. Wow that is a Great deal when you are fed up with some of the tenant in build Freedom to not be bugged by the individual who is being an ass…. Home will be Freedom to whatever. …on your terms. ..What Canada’s about. Pamela Mitchell.

  6. Pingback: The Ups and Downs of the Digital Nomad Lifestyle: Meet Mike from Hobo with a Laptop - Intentional Expat

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