TinyHouse43's Building Blog

From Texas-sized 2 Tiny House For Three

Are Tiny Houses Too Expensive?

I follow several great FB pages/folks who share their tiny world with the masses, and the folks at Tiny Houses Australia posted a little graphic that was created for a quote someone else posted on another blog lamenting the often high prices of tiny houses and designs:

See The Post Here

What probably should have been a little blip reply from me turned into something that could easily have been posted here on the blog (that happens a lot with me you’ll find!), so I thought I’d share my reply below for what it’s worth.

I think this is a debate that will come up over and over again as the TH movement picks up steam and, for better or worse, becomes more mainstream, but the point I try to make in its essence is that going tiny is a personal decision for everyone involved. Not everyone wants to or can build their own house from Earth-friendly materials with composting toilets and rain water collection systems (though we’d certainly love to!). Some people will want a tiny house for a fully-loaded guest suite on their property with all the modern conveniences of a site-built house (granite countertops and stainless steel appliances included) and will have no problem forking over six-figures for a posh mobile get-away. Like most housing industries you’re going to find the high-end luxury units and bare-bones starter houses and everything in between. The important part is to find what works for your needs, your desired lifestyle, your life goals, and your pocketbook.

Humans spend far too much time worrying about what others think of their choices and thinking about the choices of others in my humble opinion, and its distractions like these that make us miss out on all the wonder and excitement the world has to offer us. I for one would rather be out there enjoying my little blink of existence with my amazing family and friends while making new friends and experiencing things I might not have were we to remain stationary along the way. 🙂

My reply is below. Happy Living! ❤

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I’m definitely in agreement about some of the tiny houses and even just small cottages I’ve seen being massively overpriced. It’s like buying a laptop vs. a desktop computer, though. The desktop is massive by comparison and has multiple components (CPU, monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc), whereas the laptop is one object with all those same peripherals built into the housing at a fraction of the size. Logic SHOULD dictate that the laptop would also be a fraction of the cost simply because they are smaller in size, but as my father explained to me more than a decade ago when I was complaining about this very topic, it often costs more upfront to make something so much smaller.

He explained that new technologies had to be created to shrink the scale of the big desktop components into sizes compatible with the smaller laptop shell and still manage to have enough computing power to be worth buying, otherwise laptops would have been more like the little LeapFrog kid’s computers: nice and compact but really just a toy. How does this apply to the TH movement? Think of it as having to create new techniques to take traditional building methods and materials down to the scale of a laptop vs. a desktop all in a relatively short amount of time compared to how long the stick-built methods have been around. Tiny Houses, like laptops once were, are still a relatively new product that is being gradually fine tuned into perfection, and like laptops vs. desktops they will (hopefully) one day supersede large site built houses as the preferred method of living. While this certainly doesn’t apply to Apple products because they are still not as widely available or mainstream as PC’s have been (though that, too, is gradually changing), one can look at any electronics store and find both laptops and desktops that are comparably priced and comparably specced out. It took probably two decades+ for that shift to happen, but happen it did.

I definitely hope the TH movement doesn’t take nearly that long to catch up with what I jokingly call the “reverse economy of scale” (you know, tinier houses but at larger volume…ha!), but like computers you, too, can also build your house yourself for cheaper than you can buy it pre-made right now today. And like building computers from the individual components vs. a “package deal” it does take a little more know-how and patience than simply plunking down a credit card at a big box retailer, but the end results are usually just what you want and need in the product for your tastes and uses at far less than if you’d paid retail. It’s not an ideal situation, and I absolutely agree that there are some designers out there that also may be taking advantage of the “fad” buyers that inevitably exist anytime something new and exciting becomes popular no matter if it makes sense to them or not, but I also feel like some of the builders have poured their hearts and souls and hand-craftsmanship into their designs to make them the very best product they can offer for those who simply can’t or won’t build their own house and yet want to be a part of the tiny house movement for whatever their motivations may be.

I know we will be relying on the expertise of others in the areas of appropriate trailers and actual structural plans because we ourselves are not experts in those fields, and I am glad to pay for their skills, experience, and willingness to share this traits with others even though they might not buy one of their pre-made houses as a result. That to me at least shows integrity and a general willingness to help others on their journey to the tiny life beyond profit margins as they very well could insist on selling only their completed houses at whatever price they want. We will then harness their knowledge by educating ourselves as best we can on proper tools, techniques, supplies, and rules of the road to ensure we follow both the building guidelines they have painstakingly created for the “average Joe” to read and follow, as well as follow our hearts to a design that fits our little family better than any store-bought model ever could. I’d be a liar if I said we hadn’t been wooed by the siren song of convenience at having a house built and paying conveniently financed retail price rather than building it ourselves for more work and less money (but all due at time of service/purchase), but in the end that choice is a personal one for each tiny house dweller to consider and prioritize. I’m glad both options exist, and I’m so thrilled to be part of a community that nurtures each other and discusses openly and respectfully the finer details and hot topics of the movement. Happy Building or Buying! -Meg

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