What happens when the median price of a home in our country continues to inflate? When the square footage of newly constructed homes continues to rise while the amount of people living alone or in two-person households is now greater than 50%? What happens when students crippled by the rising cost of education can’t afford a traditional home? We interact with people daily that are actively searching for a solution to the many-pronged housing crisis in America. The tiny house industry is booming as a result, and broader acceptance continues to gain traction. But before you make the decision to go tiny, you’ll need to understand what all it entails. Because, of course, if the solution were that simple everyone would be doing it. Below we’ll talk about some important things to consider before taking the plunge.
the rise of minimalism
The average American interacts with about 200 square feet of their home on a daily basis. Hot spots include the bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom. Our society tries to teach us that things can buy happiness. We fill our homes with more and more stuff, and our minds often become cluttered much the same. When our homes will no longer fit all we have, we buy bigger homes to accommodate even more. But the necessities of life are largely intangible, and the beauty of the downsizing movement is the undeniable truth in living happier with less. A house, in the end, is just another thing. It won’t bring you happiness on its own, but it can be the perfect vehicle for bringing into focus what truly matters. At Wind River we like to say ‘less house, more home’—a house should fit your life, not the other way around.
traits of happy tiny home dwellers
How do you know if a tiny home is right for you? Our happiest clients, the people that have been able to make the transition to tiny seamlessly, are those that approach tiny living not just with a wealth of knowledge, but most importantly, a positive attitude and outlook on life. They are pursuing the tiny journey to facilitate some goal or motivation that has already existed in their lives for some time. Their tiny home is a natural progression of living their values. They understand the reward of working to achieve something. They are patiently invested in the long haul so that setbacks are viewed as opportunities. These are people that I describe as “not easily inconvenienced.” Let’s face it, not everyone is cut out for the tiny lifestyle, and that’s perfectly fine. It’s better to get real about where you stand and what you expect from a tiny home well before reaching out to a builder.
Going tiny is synonymous with trailblazing. The industry is still in its early years, and some people will look at you funny and question your plans. Don’t let one naysayer ruffle your free-spirited feathers. One day, tiny living will be more widespread, with broader understanding and appreciation for the lifestyle.
Additionally, things like finding a place to park and negotiating with city planning officials can seem daunting, but all that work will pay off tenfold when you’re living a lifestyle in line with your values. And the trailblazing work you do may help the next person traveling down a similar path. In this way, every tiny home journey is an act of service for the next person. Expect snafus, but know that there are resources and advocates for what you’re trying to do. Be flexible and open minded—and yes, persistent. Tiny living often requires a pioneering spirit.
Finding better financing options for tiny homes is an industry-wide initiative. Currently, tiny homes don’t qualify for traditional mortgages, but with the recent and projected tiny home boom, the list of lending partners is always growing. As you’re making the decision to go tiny, do a little investigating to build out a budget. While the price point for a tiny home is lower than a traditional single-family home, be prepared to dive into terms and rates of RV-style loans or personal loans. When you reach out to a builder, ask them to recommend their preferred lenders.
When you’re getting ready to go tiny, have the big picture in focus from the beginning. Think about what your ideal site plan looks like and start researching how to create that for yourself. Perhaps you can locate a blog or YouTube channel by someone who has accomplished what you’re aiming for. Maybe they’d be willing to speak with you and answer your questions.
If your dream is parking on rural land, start researching zoning ordinances in your area and find out what’s legal. If your budget allows, you can contract out that research to a permitting consultant who will put together a “findings report” for you and advise you on your next steps. If you locate land you want to buy but it isn’t zoned properly, talk with the city planners to find out what’s needed to get the zoning changed.
If you want to join a tiny home community, start researching the ones that interest you and be sure to contact them early on to inquire about a waiting list. Check out our blog post about some tiny home communities on the East Coast and learn how each one is unique from the next. There are many pros to living in a tiny home community. The utility connections and communal spaces can provide creature comforts you may not otherwise have. The developer normally aids you with home setup and utilities are often included in the lot lease. Additionally, your neighbors will be like-minded individuals who have made the journey themselves.
choosing a builder
You’ve either found land or secured a spot in a community, and you have your site plan. Now it’s time for the fun part: contacting a builder. Often builders are booked out several months, and you’ll want to secure a spot that fits in your overall timeline. Ideally, you’ll want to be making progress on all fronts simultaneously. Being organized and frequently checking in on your to-do list is crucial. It’s like cooking Thanksgiving dinner—lots of things going on at once to make for a great (and delicious) result. (By the way, you probably won’t be cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner in a tiny home.) Get in touch with us here at Wind River if you’re ready for this next step.
living with others
Going tiny means more than just living in less space with less stuff. Unless you’re living alone, it means less privacy. As many people discovered during quarantine, sometimes close quarters with loved ones can stir up tensions. Other times, it can work out wonderfully. You’ll need a closeness with your partner and/or your children that allows for open communication when tensions ride high. Patience with others is key when sharing tiny spaces. Have conversations with the members of your household and make sure everyone is on board with a cohesive tiny living vision.
gauge your readiness
Things we sometimes hear that are red flags include needing the “biggest tiny house possible” or “needing lots of privacy.” While tiny homes offer a solution to the increasing median home cost, especially in urban areas, it is a lifestyle all its own, and if it doesn’t suit you, you may be trading one headache for another. Additionally, if you’re wanting to tour the country regularly, a traditional RV may better suit you. Tiny homes, while mobile by design, are not meant to be moved as frequently as your typical RV. This is especially true for the larger Park Model tiny homes that exceed the legal width of 8.5’ and require special permitting to move. Our customers are usually looking for permanent or semi-permanent set ups. Of course, part of the allure of tiny homes is their mobility, so moving every year or so is common and more in line with the design of the home.
A few tips to gauge your readiness: Map out the square footage within your current home and try living within that space. Even better, stay in a tiny home for a few days or a week. Operate for a month on a minimal wardrobe and begin downsizing your kitchen appliances. Take note of kitchen gadgets and household items that only serve one purpose and try living without them. These are great ways to begin your transition to tiny.
Still reading? That’s a great sign! Tiny dwellers are often dreamers, undeterred by a little hard work. They understand that sometimes challenges can be more meaningful. Our team at Wind River understands this on a personal level. To get to where you want to be, you have to be ok with going against the grain and creating a space for yourself. If this article reinforces your resolve, then you’re probably ready for the tiny road ahead.