All about the challenges of Midlife Finance

Tiny Houses, Large Dividends

Would you like to own your own houseyet be able to take it with you, if you must move out of the city, or out of state? 

A tiny house may be a good choice for your future.

What Are They?

These small houses, built on heavy-duty trailers, range from a few hundred square feet in space to considerably more. They include kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms, and often lofts that stretch the space even more.

     What’s especially interesting: for most states in the U.S. (perhaps all), if they’re built on a trailer, these small houses are not considered permanent construction. So you don’t need a permit! You can also use a wider variety of building materials to cut costs, without worrying about codes or restrictions. That’s what one young couple did, with their 128-square-foot house (not including loft area). They haunted Craigslist, scavenged items from the dump (and their parents), and ended up building their home for about $10,000. (Their how-we’re-doing-it blogis fun to read, too.)

Materials, Materials 

     One point they make strongly — you can keep costs down by purchasing via Craigslist, or even better, scavenging from the dump. (What ‘greener’ way than to recycle building materials someone threw out?) They bought their trailer secondhand, and scavenged bricks for a woodstove mantel from falling-down buildings near an old railroad. Not only did wood collected this way already have an appealing patina — it was also stronger. Even pallets can be used for building construction, if you have a yen for puzzles and Lego construction. (Just take care not to choose toxic-treated ones.)

Find Out More

     If you’re feeling uneasy about all this, start out small.

      One of several blogs on this subject is called just that: the Tiny House Blog. It has first-person accounts of a growing number of people who built their own tiny homes. Tiny House Design, also known as Faircompanies, gives you more ideas to choose from, as well as several plans for sale. They, like the Tiny House Blog, often feature videos, as well.

     Amazon has a number of excellent books on the subject, including Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter by Lloyd Kahn (no plans, but lots of ideas), or the more practical Compact Cabins: Simple Living in 1000 Feet or Less by Gerald Rowan. Books like these not only show what’s been built in the past (Jefferson lived in a tiny house when he first married!), but what’s possible now.

Or take one of the ‘Tiny House Workshops’ (from Four Lights) taught around the country.

 Don’t limit yourself to just your primary residence. Tiny home designs have been used for writing and artist studios, guesthouses, business offices, and even chicken coops. One of the things they do best: weekend and vacation cabins, like the one shown below.

A small home may be your ticket out of debt — and into your own place, debt-free. 

All houses shown in this post, with the exception of the one noted, are from the Tumbleweed Tiny HousescompanyTheir website is here. Plans are available — or purchase the buildings readymade.

6 Responses to Tiny Houses, Large Dividends

  1. This is an interesting idea. It wouldn’t surprise me if this type of housing becomes more popular in the future. The younger generation seems to be one that is “against” the same things that older people relished – like getting your license to drive and buying a car and forgoing buying large houses. It will be interesting to see if this type of housing catches on.

  2. I sure wish this tiny house phenomenon had hit when I was 20-something and on my own. I would have been all over it! Not only does it save you money with respect to house, there’s no way you can waste a lot of money on useless junk that, for many of us, ends up jammed into a rented storage space! That really saves money!

  3. Our first place was an apartment in University of Michigan married housing — I forgot how tiny it was until I threw a surprise birthday party for Husband, and invited 12 people. It was so crowded that my brother-in-law spent the evening under the table we used for meals. There literally was not enough room to sit down!

    We have considered moving into something like this when we retire…but we have a lot of stuff to get rid of first. Thanks for writing.

  4. I really love these tiny houses. They will not only save future homeowners a lot in building them but these structures are energy-efficient and require less maintenance. I would say that life is much much better even if your home is small but you feel financially secure rather than have mansions and worry yourself sick every night on how to keep yourself from being buried in debt.

  5. I’ve been considering a house like this for a long time. My biggest problem is finding somewhere to park it permanently. Even land where I live is expensive AND hard to come by.

    I’ve found that my ideal living space is closer to the definition of “small house living” rather than “tiny house living”. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 sq. ft. ( http://walletengineers.com/2014/05/15/small-house-living/ )

    However, as leverage to financial independence – tiny homes are exceptional! Housing expenditures are the largest single expense for Americans!

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