Tiny houses are popping up around the country as more and more people are deciding to downsize their lifestyle.
In fact, the tiny house movement has grown so big it has become a pop culture fad that has taken over our television with a whole new genre of reality shows, including Tiny House Nation, Tiny Luxury, and Tiny House Hunters, just to name a few.
Although pop culture hype and the romanticism of tiny homes suggest that it’s the next big real estate trend, many real estate and architecture experts are now wondering whether tiny living, as it’s defined by the tiny house movement, is really sustainable. Erin Anderssen of The Global Mail asked, “…how small can we shrink without wreaking havoc of a different kind? Are tiny homes really sustainable?”
So when does a small home become too small? Is this movement just a real estate trend? Or are tiny houses here to stay? Let’s take a look at why, after more than a decade, the tiny house movement is only growing in popularity and why so many people are gravitating to this lifestyle.
How did the tiny house movement get its start?
Jay Shafer, who started Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, is credited with fueling the tiny house movement. In 2002 he designed and lived in a 96 square foot home in Portland, OR. Shortly after he built his own tiny home, Shafer was commissioned to design a tiny house for a client and out of that commission, his business began.
Although he has found great success in building tiny houses, Shafer says that it was never his goal to build tiny homes. In an interview with Tiny House Talk, Shafer stated, “I set out to build an efficient house. When I took out all of the unnecessary parts of the house, it turned out to be a very small house.”
What defines a tiny house?
The definition of a tiny house is somewhat subjective. According to The Tiny Life, the typical tiny house, or micro house, is between 100 and 400 square feet. However, U.S. News suggests this movement can encompass any home that is less than 1,000 square feet.
However you define the exact size of a tiny home, there is one thing all tiny house experts seem to agree on – tiny houses are designed to enable simpler living in a smaller, more efficient space.
Why join the tiny house movement?
There are many reasons people have decided to join the tiny house movement, but the two reasons at the top of everyone’s list are always: 1. environmental concerns and 2. financial freedom. Let’s look at the numbers to see how tiny houses can reduce a homeowner’s environmental impact and save money.
On average, it costs $10-$40,000 to build a tiny house. That’s $140,000 LESS than the median cost of a home in the United States. To add to that, the average electric/gas and water bill combined for one tiny house homeowner is a mere $40 per month over a year, while the average electric bill, on its own, runs around $107 per month. A low mortgage combined with super low energy bills add up to more than a tiny savings, and are more than enough reason to consider joining the tiny house movement.
Are tiny houses not for you?
You’re not alone. In fact, Dak Kopec, director of design for human health at Boston Architectural College, suggests tiny houses may be a great solution for young singles, but not just anyone. In a recent interview, she said, “these [small spaces] may be fantastic for young professionals in their 20’s. But they definitely can be unhealthy for older people, say in their 30’s and 40’s, who face different stress factors that can make tight living conditions a problem.”
Even some current tiny home residents don’t recommend this lifestyle for everyone. Elaine Walker, in an interview with U.S. News, said she doesn’t recommend a home as tiny as her home for a couple or family.
Melanie Sorrentino, another tiny house homeowner had this advice, “My advice for anyone looking at a tiny house – or any lifestyle painted so perfectly – is to try to imagine whether you can grow as a human being in that space.”
Tiny living is not just having a smaller home. It encompasses a lifestyle of living smaller, slowing down, and having more flexibility to do the things you want to, rather than having things. This lifestyle is not for everyone, but it also doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. And for those who choose to embrace it, it can mean leading a fuller, more simple life with fewer financial burdens.