Dear People Who Live in Fancy Tiny Houses…
Do you actually love living in a fancy tiny house?
You look so freakin’ happy in that Dwell Magazine article or Buzzfeed post, but c’mon, you can’t tell me that you don’t lie awake at night, your face four inches from the ceiling because the only place your bed fits is above the kitchen sink which also acts as your shower, and think, I’ve made a terrible mistake.
Tiny Houses intrigued me for a while. But as I continued my research, I became more claustrophobic (something I don’t normally suffer from!) when I thought about them and imagined living in one.
I’ve lived in SRO (Single Room Occupancy) rooms just as small as this one:
No toilet or shower inside that room. At the SRO I was in, they were down the hall too.
So I’ve been in small spaces. I know what they’re like.
What appealed to me about a tiny house was the entire idea of ownership, of no mortgage, no huge utility bills.
Although I usually run like hell from YouTube Comments, in between all the stabbing that inevitably happens in them, there were people who brought up some good points about the shortcomings of tiny houses.
There were questions I never thought of for myself — duh! — and as I considered them, I was reminded that the entire “movement” began because just one guy thought it would be fun to build a tiny house on a trailer. From there, it caught wildfire and became what’s being called a “movement.”
Like most things in this country, we’re being sold a bill of goods that won’t match our expectations.
There seem to be very few posts about people regretting their Tiny Houses. Even when they decide to move to something larger, it’s always spun in a way that sounds ever-so-positive.
It’s all marketing.
A lot of people (people who stand to make money off the tiny house movement itself) say things like “If you build it, the parking space will come.” This was the cavalier attitude I took at the start of the process. Once we started the build, we began to look for a place to park it. We looked at RV parks and were turned away (no homemade trailers allowed), we looked at unrestricted land that was way too big and too expensive, then we finally found a small rural neighborhood that seemed fine just to have it turn out that our house was stolen[.]
Boldfaced emphasis added by me.
Hey, if you drag a shipping container into no man’s land, turn it into a sorta-house, show it off on YouTube, and then get a ton of inquiries from curious people — well, are you going to sit there day after day answering each question?
Oh hell no.
You’ll do a book and then sell that to people.
Because, you know, why put that one-size-fits-one information up for free on the Internet when there’s a buck to be made? Make them pay to see there’s no there, there.
I finally began to realize that while building code restrictions do need some modification for the modern world — at least in terms of the amount of minimum square feet that would grant a Certificate of Occupancy (while all other Codes are being met) — the entire Tiny House “movement” is really based on
fleecing suckers making a buck from people who don’t stop to think beyond their inexperienced imaginings.
All that being said, I still like the idea of a small house and I’ll repeat that this guy was absolutely brilliant in getting his:
And I think Canada has the right idea when it comes to laneway houses. I don’t know how applicable that idea is to other areas, however. But I like that the local government worked to accommodate them. By establishing the legitimacy of such houses, a market is created and that changes the rules for insurance, for re-sale (“People won’t buy small houses!” “Yo, look around you!”), and — yes — even getting a dreaded mortgage or loan (which, you know, would come in handy if you need surgery and have to raise money for it without begging online).
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do this?
Visit one. You need to figure out if are the type of person that would thrive in that situation, or if it would be a challenge for you. If you think you would thrive in it, then all I can say is jump in. It’s a lot of time and money and mental energy, so it’s good to have an honest conversation with yourself first because you do see a lot of people building a tiny house and then selling it within a year, and it’s just because they got infatuated with the idea. That’s not to say that tiny houses aren’t a viable option for a lot of people. They’re just not a viable option for everybody. In fact, I think tiny houses are great, but really most people should be targeting small houses. 400 to 800 square feet, or if you’re a family, maybe 1,000 square feet or so.
Boldfaced emphasis added by me.
Small house? On a foundation? Without wheels? With plumbing? Yes.
A Tiny House? No.