The U.S. housing market appears to have cooled a bit in recent months but one small segment – you might say tiny segment – is enjoying enthusiastic growth.
It's the “tiny house” movement, the exact opposite of the “McMansion” trend that lured so many people into buying more house than they could afford in the 1990s.
Tiny houses are just that – dwellings that range from 200 to 800 square feet. They are popular with singles, naturally, because that's quite a small space for a couple or family.
But the biggest reason they are growing in popularity may be the cost. These dwellings can be built for just a few thousand dollars, meaning the owner doesn't need to take out a mortgage. Assuming they can find an inexpensive piece of land and connect to a sewer, the overall costs are usually well under $30,000 – often much less.
Someone with basic construction skills can do a lot of the work themselves. Many of the tiny houses going up in inner cities and on rural country lanes display artistic flair and whimsy, reflecting the personality of the builder.
Inside, these homes often have high quality fixtures and appliances, along with inventive design features to maximize space. Since you only need 200 square feet of wood flooring, for example, you can afford to use the best.
Because they are so small, tiny houses can go up very quickly, from start to finish. In the time lapse video below, a tiny house goes up in a day.
The tiny house movement is not exactly new. In the recent past hippies embraced these small dwellings as a way to uncouple from establishment society. A 1973 book, “Handmade Houses, a Guide to the Woodbutcher's Art," was a bible for some tiny house advocates.
The reborn tiny house movement has taken hold in Portland, Ore., where it is viewed as a way to provide affordable housing. Communities in the area have recently launched small developments of tiny houses to serve low-income and homeless consumers.
Tiny houses actually have deep American roots. Pioneers who trekked into the wilderness to start new lives had no choice but to build tiny houses, at least to start. Those first frontier homes were usually one-room structures, made from the materials at hand.
Over the centuries houses have gotten much bigger. Today, the average square footage of a U.S. residence is just under 2,500 square feet.
For consumers embracing the tiny house movement, there are companies and architects ready to design it and build it. Tumbleweed Tiny House Company offers plans, workshops and ready-made tiny homes.
When shopping for a place to build a tiny home, make sure you explore zoning and covenant requirements first. Most subdivisions with a home owners association (HOA) are highly unlikely to allow construction of a tiny house if it doesn't meet minimum square footage requirements.
Inner city neighborhoods, on the other hand, might be an ideal place since vacant land may be fairly cheap and the municipality eager to have new tax revenue.