Building "Tiny Homes"

37 Replies

Hello BP Family,

Does anyone in the group have experience building or living in these super cool  "Tiny Homes"

I'm brainstorming a strategy for 2016 and looking for some feedback on the subject. 



Hi Mike,

I do not have any experience with Tiny Houses, but my husband and I are interested in them as well.  We were considering putting 1-4 of them at the back of the 35 acres on which our home is located in Texas.  The difficulty I am having is figuring out what the demand would be for this type of vacation rental.  We were thinking of starting with trailer mounted houses, so that we could sell them if it didn't work out.  I would be interested in anything you have uncovered in your research!

Hey @Leigh Ann Smith

I think you have a great strategy in mind starting with trailer mounted houses! If you take action on this strategy please let me know and I'll update when I break ground on my first tiny house. I look forward to hearing more about this!

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@Leigh Ann Smith and @Mike Alder I was thoroughly researching these 6 months ago, and it seems the hard and expensive part is the zoning set from the cities/towns.  I think because of square footages they are not considered 'homes' but more of an equivalent as a camping ground zoning regulation. Again I'm not 100% sure on the exact problems, but know it's a case by case basis. Good luck!

@Nick Britton , I've finally found an advantage to living out in the country with no city water and sewer.  There's also no zoning!  Because we are in an unincorporated area, I believe there will also be no hotel tax, though I'm still looking into that.  On the negative side, we'll have to put in a septic system, but that's not a deal-breaker.

Is there anything else you learned from your research that might be helpful?  I am wondering about pricing of the rentals (AirBnB, etc.) compared to other types of properties.

I would assume in areas that do have zoning that needs to be considered you would be fine in areas that are zoned for trailer parks. I was curious how much these cost to build per sq ft and how many sq ft they average? 

Leigh Ann Smith there is a very interesting guy building tiny houses with salvaged materials just outside Gonzalez, TX off of the highway. I did a tour and these houses were beautiful. The owner is making a tiny house village for artists. He has YouTube videos and he probably has some about zoning. Since he is selling the houses he may have an idea how much demand there is for them generally.

@Caroline Ortego , we stopped by and looked at the Tiny Texas Houses one time.  They are amazing! That guy is actually not selling them anymore.  He is focusing on developing a tiny house community and teaching people to find and use salvage materials to build their own houses.  Too bad! 

@Lance Wakefield , the size seems to depend on whether or not they are built on a trailer.  We are looking at one on a trailer that is 8' x 18', so 144 sq. ft. and they want $33K for it.  That's $229/sq. ft. which seems outlandish, but it's important to remember that it has a bathroom and a kitchen.  If you built a 1,440 sq. ft. house with 10 bathrooms and 10 kitchens, the price per square foot would be high, too.  They pretty much always are going to come in high on the per sq. ft. price because of that.

For tiny houses built on the ground, they seem to run more in the 200-300 sq. ft. range.

I have a 7x14 tiny house on a lakefront property where we spend weekends fairly often.

@David Rollings , was the house on the property when you bought it or was it something you added?  100 sq. ft....that's some tight quarters!  How many people does it sleep?  

we slept 3 toddlers and 2 adults in there last weekend. We added the tiny house. We have a half log cabin on the property as the main house. Some of us prefer tiny. We have a bunk above a futon plus two fold up cots for sleeping. 

@Leigh Ann Smith

If you are going to have them on a trailer, based on the costs, I think just buying some camping trailers would be more cost effective.  If you want to have them trailerable so you can sell them in the future and not have standard house moving fees, you might consider container house.  These fit the tiny house size and cost model but can be trailered out at reasonable cost if you need to relocate them.

@Mike Alder I just completed a "tiny apartment" on the end of a SFR - 180 square feet. I also retained a building lot next door to it where I plan to construct two tiny homes (no cost figures as yet). In my county a legal home must contain: a bathroom (incl. a sink, toilet, shower or tub), cooking facilities (incl. another sink), sleeping quarters and a closet. Other requirements included their own control / source of heat and 24/7 access to their breaker box (more because this was a unit attached to another and they want to make sure one party can't lock another party out of access to heat and power. ) Anyway, I fit all these requirements into a room 8.5x21ft. Attached are photos of the kitchen & bath. If a home contains all these items then square footage isn't the issue. However, there are neighborhood HOAs that require houses of a certain size. Certain costs don't scale - a sewer tap costs the same whether you are building a tiny house or a mansion. I prefer not to build on a trailer - that has utility & width limitations. It also can create accessibility issues due to the need to raise it off the ground. And in this part of the country you are vulnerable to frozen pipes by allowing too much air to circulated underneath.

Is anyone else not sold on the tiny house fad? From an investment perspective, the cost per SF is very high and I do not see them paying back/working well as an investment strategy. Curious what others think.

@Chris Seveney they are quite popular in PDX we call them ADU accessory dwelling units and usually are above the garage... IE an apartment.. but for the urban dweller they can rent those for 800 to 1200 a month so a nice income on your exisiting sfr.

One of my buddies is contemplating building a developemetn of them in Roseburg Oregon he owns quite a bit of acreage there  and in our state every parcel has zoning period .. so this is a project that has to go through the subdivision map act.

but in Oregon they embrace small lots.. ie 1 to 1500 sq ft lots are common.

@Chris Seveney The concept isn't that much different than apartments... I think you would attract a different (maybe better?) demographic. I'm not sold on the house on wheels concept because I don't need that in my county to create a legal dwelling. I think using them as "infill" on existing lots with existing homes would be a pretty good strategy. Even zoning for SFR frequently allows for an "accessory dwelling unit" (ADU).

Good points. Where I am located (fairfax county virginia) zoning is extremely restrictive and ADU's are not allowed. When I built my house I finished my basement and put a wet bar in and had to sign a waiver noting it would not be used as an apartment and if it was there was a substantial fine involved.

Well @Chris Seveney I suppose if you or a group of persons wanted to change the policies then you could do some homework and petition for such. This wouldn't mean that HOAs would have to accept them. The mindset of the powers that wrote such restrictive laws may have changed since the big crash, etc. But then again, it kind of sounded like you weren't thrilled with the concept to begin with - and maybe you wouldn't want your neighbor to have backyard tenants either...

I've researched this.  The most expensive part of a home to build is the kitchen and bath upwards of $200 a sf,  your bedrooms and living areas are more like $40 a sf to build.  If you look the you tub videos on these homes and they cost about 30k to build with the owner doing most of the work if you subbed out to professionals more like 50k because sub contractors have to cover thier set up and overhead cost.  For example roof labor on one of these is probably $800 but only $2,000 on an 1,800 sf home 10X it's size because much of the roofers cost is the overhead and getting all his guys their to set up is like $500 per job.   You can build a modest 3bed 2bath 1200-1300 SF about 100k but you get 3 times the rent.  Conventional construction just makes better business decision. 

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