At Wind River, we are actively growing our portfolio of developer partners as the appeal of tiny homes for communities and short-term rentals continues to grow in the post-pandemic era. One question that developers ask us whether or note our tiny homes have to be on wheels, and if they can be removed once in place. Let’s discuss what it means to build Tiny Homes on Wheels (THOWs) and how this building category may benefit you as the developer.
It’s important to start by understanding the building category that tiny homes on wheels (THOWs) fall under. This is American National Standards Institute (ANSI) code 119.5, also known as the “Park Model Recreational Vehicle Code,” a national code that allows us to build and ship our homes anywhere in the country. Our tiny homes have aspects of both Park Model RV and residential code, as they are built with standard construction methods and designed for full-time occupancy. Our construction standards go far above and beyond the ANSI requirements. We build our tiny homes to last a lifetime. Once set in place, the wheels can be removed, though the tongue and axles typically cannot. Although most of our customers are placing their tiny homes in permanent or semi-permanent locations and may not need the axles or the wheels beyond the initial transport, here’s why THOWs may still be a good fit for your tiny home community.
Site Planning Costs
THOWs take the cake when it comes to transportation costs of prefabricated structures. Our tiny homes have bumper pull hitches, towable with a 1-ton dually truck. If you’re wanting to save some money on the build itself by foregoing a steel trailer in favor of wood-framed modular construction, be aware that your transportation and setup costs may well eclipse what you save in material costs. You’ll need a plan for loading and unloading a modular unit, often involving heavy machinery with costly hourly rental fees. With a tiny home on wheels, your transportation costs will almost always be lower.
Construction Costs and Timelines
The prefabrication industry is able to compete on the most important element standing between your initial investment and the beginning of your revenue stream: Timeline. This is a major benefit for both THOWs and modular construction. In a manufacturing facility, there are no weather delays. And at Wind River, we have insourced many processes that typically involve third-party subcontractors (and require more money from your pockets!). Our team of professionals does everything from manufacturing the heavy-duty trailer, to framing, spray-foam insulation, roofing and siding, interior skins, painting, systems engineering, and all finished cabinetry and millwork. By limiting the number of subcontractors needed in our build process, we can save our customers money. It also allows us to ensure quality control at every stage, which is at the heart of our culture and products.
Choice of Builder
Since the THOW building code is a national one, you are not confined to local builders. If you’ve been drawn to a THOWs builder across the country from you, the homes can be shipped. Although modular construction is similar, it requires a builder to gain compliance certification through each individual state they wish to serve. Modular builders in California may not be certified to build for an East Coast destination, for example.
Tiny homes on wheels are considered personal property as opposed to real property, which is different than modular and site-built construction. As a certified park model RV, you can claim depreciation expense tax deductions. Depending on your state, your property taxes can also be lower compared to buildings classified as real property. On the other hand, “real property” is an appreciating asset affixed to your property, which is a benefit of modular construction.
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of THOWs is their ability to be relocated in the future. If for any reason your tiny home community location isn’t performing as you’d hoped—perhaps you’ve nestled in a serene landscape that undergoes urbanization and is no longer the getaway destination it once was—the option to move your tiny homes to another property remains an option! THOWs are a movable asset that you can always take with you!
While a THOWs is built directly onto the chassis, the wheels can easily be removed. They can be skirted and decked in many different ways to give the appearance of a site-built home. Make sure to check out our extensive blog post on best practice recommendations for setting up a tiny home. Block and pier foundations provide direct support for the main trailer frame, and D-rings at each corner can be used to further secure the tiny home with tie-downs. Add your desired skirting and decking and you have a very attractive set up!
In addition to these across-the-board benefits, perhaps there is a situational reason why THOWs are the solution for your development:
- Renovating an RV resort
- Renovating a campground
- Parking within a land trust or conservation area
- Parking on a reservation or other area that requires mobile structures
- Parking in a flood zone
Factory Built Modular Homes
There are many things to consider when deciding between THOWs or modular construction. Often, when you change the build platform, you also change the building category. A prefabricated house built on a steel or wooden platform (as opposed to a chassis) falls under one of the following categories: HUD (US Department of Housing and Urban Development), or modular. HUD codes came about to regulate the traditional mobile home. Though it is a national code, there are many limitations on design and placement. However, unlike mobile homes under HUD, modular housing provides some exciting opportunities for the future of housing in America. This is prefabricated housing that is built to the same state or local site-built requirements and can be removed from its frame to be placed on permanent foundations. For this reason, they can be viewed as “real property” (an appreciating asset, affixed to a property) and qualify for traditional mortgage options. This is the direction that Wind River Tiny Homes is headed in the very near future. If you have a development plan for modular housing, reach out to us regarding our timeline for launching this new phase of our business, and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter below!