The tiny house movement came about with the fall of the real estate market. Housing costs were unstable and, as folks moved toward cities to find jobs during the recession, housing became scarce and supply and demand in these flourishing towns became unbalanced. This forced many to turn to alternative housing ideas in an effort to afford a space near to their employment.
As the economy stabilized, a generation came about who put value on experience over “stuff” so the tiny house boom flourished and it shows no signs of decreasing. People from young college students to retirees are seeking THOWs (Tiny House on Wheels), ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units), granny flats, and park models as alternative ways to save money on housing, adopt a more minimalist way of living, and put their energy into making memories over hoarding collections of tangible items they may never use.
So, if you are thinking of downsizing and going tiny, what route is best for you? Considering everything from skoolies (remodeled school buses), THOWs, and all forms of ADUs can become overwhelming, so here are five things to consider when deciding which tiny is right for you.
The term “tiny house” is relative. Many define tiny houses as any dwelling under 400 square feet, while others assume 100 square feet per person living in the home. You need to determine how many square feet you will need for whomever will be living with you.
When you are making this decision, be sure to include pets, visitors, as well as whether or not you plan to build a sleeping loft. These things will all be crucial in choosing the right tiny for you.
It is a good rule of thumb to stick as close to a 20 foot trailer as possible if you plan to move your tiny often. This means, if you need a larger home than what that would accommodate, you may want to consider a park model, granny flat, or other form of ADU over a THOW.
In order to design a safe THOW, custom companies like Small House Solutions will consider the length of your trailer, how many axels are necessary to pull the weight you plan to build, etc. You will then need to consider every material you use to build, from the frame to the exterior siding, to insulation and appliances as all of those will add to the weight you’d be towing in a THOW.
If your needs are more consistent to residential sized appliances and main floor living and sleeping space, an ADU probably better fits your needs. The slightly larger floorplans an ADU offers allows for more customizable options with the only change being that they are not built on wheels.
The Department of Transportation holds to strict guidelines for towing a home or RV. This means that a tiny cannot be more than 13.5 ft high nor wider than 8.3 ft. If you require a larger space, you can build a park model and have it towed to your location for you by a professional. These are one time charges that are affordable and worth it for reliable transportation for your tiny home.
Whether or not you build a THOW you should also consider if you have a vehicle capable of pulling your tiny home’s weight. You will also need to decide if you feel comfortable towing something so large in a safe manner. When pulling a trailer that is 20-40 feet in length with 12,000-18,000 lb. of house, things are more likely to get damaged in transport. Additionally, you cannot just pull into a regular gas station for a fill up on the road. You must consider the additional fuel expense, time for travel, and maneuverability when towing a home.
If you are uncomfortable with the requirements of pulling a THOW, you can consider hiring a professional moving company whenever you want to be on the move, or you can opt for a park model build or other form of ADU. This will still be a smaller home, but it will remain parked in one location.
Life on the road almost requires flexible employment, retirement, or the ability to work remotely. Unless you have built a savings from which you can live on the road for a determined amount of time, this is a must-have. THOW living is incredible, but you want to ensure a steady income stream to take care of things like a blown tire or other road trip emergencies.
Parking full time allows you to work a traditional 9 to 5 job and allows you the financial freedom of extra income since your mortgage will be far below the national average and your commute will likely be much shorter since ADUs allow you to legally build in the backyard of an already existing city home.
Deciding to downsize and go tiny is a big decision. Be sure you do your research and check all angles before you choose which tiny is right for you.
Written By: Brynn Burger for the Tiny House Magazine Issue 67