Tiny homes may have begun as an eco-conscious housing choice, but the idea has evolved into a much broader solution that is already being used to address myriad housing challenges. Reaching far beyond minimalists and eco-warriors, tiny homes are now being explored as a solution to housing veterans, the homeless, boomerang kids, and even aging parents. But that doesn’t mean that tiny home living isn’t without its own set of challenges.
From zoning restrictions to financing, there are administrative hurdles to building a tiny home. This is in addition to the realities of tiny home living, which require a change in mindset from societal expectations of housing. Before you start drawing up plans for your tiny home, consider these challenges, and how you’ll deal with them if you come across them:
Finding a Location
The first hurdle in tiny home living is finding a location for your new home. Many communities simply aren’t ready for the tiny home revolution. That can lead to problems in getting a permit, finding a builder, and locating suitable sites. Many communities have minimum square footage requirements, which tiny homes just can’t meet. Others restrict “wheeled” living units or those that are on trailers. Some simply won’t accept tiny homes in the community, forcing would-be buyers to look for land far outside of town, which presents problems such as inability to access water, gas, electricity, and garbage pickup.
One solution to the legal challenges of tiny homeownership is to give up the DIY approach and work with a local tiny-home builder.
“Before building a home of any size, a homeowner should always consult with their local planning office for zoning and building code information on a specific piece of property,” says Jim Greer, the National Tiny Home Brand Manager for Clayton Homes. “Building to state and local codes also helps homeowners meet many more zoning requirements, where a tiny home on wheels may not.”
If you are hoping to secure a mortgage for a tiny home, you are in for a challenge. Many traditional lenders don’t offer loans for tiny homes because the amounts are relatively small compared to traditional homes, and tiny homes don’t have good resale value. It’s a risk for lenders.
Again, this may be simply a function of there not being demand for these types of loans yet. With time, it’s likely that banks will realize there is a market for these loans and begin to offer them, particularly in certain areas where the tiny home movement is strong.
In the meantime, tiny-home buyers may be able to secure an RV or trailer loan or take out a home equity loan against their current house to finance the tiny home construction. It’s also possible to secure financing through a tiny home builder in some cases, particularly if the builder is constructing an entire tiny home community development.
The tiny home lifestyle isn’t for everyone. Americans like stuff. We have more than we need and it can be a challenge to part with it, but purging is a must if you want to live comfortably in a tiny home. There isn’t space for excess – even bulk grocery shopping will have to go.
In addition to paring down your possessions, you’ll need to keep the home tidy; the more cluttered your home is, the smaller it will feel. Of course, it’s much easier to keep a tiny home neat than a regular-sized home! Most tiny homes are also designed with custom storage solutions so that everything has a place …but you’ll have to make sure everything gets back to its rightful place!
For this reason, tiny homes may be best suited to individuals or childfree couples. It’s very tough to raise a family in a tiny home because there just isn’t enough room, and privacy is hard to come by. If you do choose to move the whole family into a tiny home, you’ll need to make a conscious effort to give one another space, establish ground rules for cleaning up, set strict boundaries, and make an effort to get out of the house.
One of the most unexpected challenges to tiny home living is isolation. Since so few communities allow tiny homes within their boundaries, tiny-homeowners often have to seek out plots of land that are outside city limits. These plots are often fairly large and may be located in rural areas far from friends, family, and amenities.
“I thought that being out in the country was what I wanted, “tiny-home owner Jonathan Bellowsrecalled. “I figured I would have my own land, have my own property, be my own master, but I came to find out that it’s very isolating. I felt very alone.”
Tiny Home Resources
These challenges haven’t let tiny home advocates stop them, though. If anything, the movement is growing. This is to be expected – as interest and awareness grow, and people come to understand the many benefits of tiny homes, demand naturally increases. In many ways, municipalities and the housing industry are still playing catch up.
If you’re interested in tiny home living, check out NewHomeSource’s archive of tiny homes articles – we dive into the legal aspects of tiny homes, reputable tiny home builders, a cost breakdown of building a tiny house, and more.
Liyya Hassanali is a Project Manager and Content Strategist for Kinship Design Marketing, a boutique agency that provides marketing strategies and content for architects, interior designers, and landscape designers. She is a 15+ year veteran of the marketing and advertising industry, working closely with her clients to provide written content that meets their marketing goals and gets results.
Liyya is passionate about home design and décor and is a confessed HGTV and Pinterest addict. When not providing content writing services for her clients, she can be found browsing home décor sites or spending time with her family.
William P Molnar
I’m trying to locate a tiny house to rent on a long term. Either in New Jersey or Pennsylvania. Any help would be appreciated.
Ms. Hassanali, thanx for the excellent advice. Im fascinated with the tiny house idea. Unfortunately, most of the stories ive read I suspect are not true, but are merely dreamy cincoctions fabricated by, likely, tiny house builders, and tiny house community developers. Ive yet to find a tiny house subdivision with 400sf houses on, say, 1000 sf lots. Sure, lots of make-believe about creating inexpensive living quarters and neighborhoods for lower wage employees, seniors, and homeless, but ive yet to see real pix and real subdivision maps. Too many restrictions slow down the process, and deep pocket folks want to protect, so to speak, their slice of heaven. Lots of barriers need to shrink, disappear, or change.