What does a Tiny House Cost?

What does a Tiny House Cost?

“Building an expensive tiny home goes against the tiny house movement.” This statement keeps popping up on online forums, and it annoys me. People love to preach about the backbone of the tiny house movement, but tiny houses are as diverse as the people who own them. There isn’t one idea that encompasses this movement, because going tiny means something different from one person to the next. In this article, I’m going to prove that tiny homes are NOT expensive. I’m also going to realistically show you a tiny house cost breakdown. Let’s do this!


Skip to my Tiny House Cost Breakdown

Me & My Tiny House

Why do people go tiny?

Below I’ve listed a few examples of why people go tiny. No one fits into every single category, and that’s okay.

  • Affordability
  • Reduced carbon footprint
  • Mobility
  • Flexibility
  • Minimalism
  • Off-grid capabilities
  • RV with year round comfort for all weather / locations
  • To use as temporary housing, guest home or a vacation house
  • Survivalist house in case of emergency
  • Exemption of property taxes
  • Non-toxic or chemical free home
  • Ability to design an artistic home with quality materials
  • Ability to build your own home in short amount of time

Affordable housing is one reason people go tiny, but it’s not the ONLY reason. 

Why are tiny houses so expensive?

Are they though? Let’s compare the price of standard homes, RVs, and mobile homes (or trailers). Tiny homes fall somewhere in between these categories.

I think the above averages speak for themselves, but you can also build a tiny house for less! Through my research, I’ve found the average tiny home is built for $25,000 in materials. That’s makes tiny homes the clear winner for affordability.

Common arguments I hear (& will crush):

“The price per square footage in a tiny house is outrageous!”

This argument is ridiculous. This about it, nothingness (or the empty space in between necessary space) is not the expensive part of a house.  Adding square footage is cheap! A 125 square foot tiny house will most likely have all the same systems (kitchen, bathroom, heat, etc.) as a 1,000 square foot house, just in a smaller package. As square footage goes up, the cost per square foot goes down. 

Every inch matters in a tiny house. Who can say that about their 2,000 square foot home? To properly design a tiny home you will need to purchase compact appliances. Small, energy efficient appliances are expensive. In a standard size home, you can purchase the cheapest appliances on the market and you will hardly notice the difference.

“I purchased a 1,500 sq ft home for $40k! Why should a tiny house cost more?”

First of all: LOCATION. If you purchased a home in Los Angeles it would cost more than if you bought the same home in the rural midwest. Tiny homes cost the same amount regardless of location.

Secondly, the maintenance, insurance, taxes and the cost of heating and cooling would be far greater in a 1,500 square foot house than a tiny house. You need to take that cost into consideration. Not to mention the cost of your own time. Cleaning and repairing a large home is time-consuming. Time is money.

Thirdly, see argument #1.

“I can build a tiny house for $7,000 in materials!”

Congratulations, you must be a resourceful and skilled individual! That being said, there is a difference between a $10k tiny house and a $20k tiny house (in the appliances for example). And, unless you have a warehouse of bulk construction materials, you probably spent a lot of time gathering and repairing reclaimed items. Nothing wrong with that, but time is money.

The appliances in my tiny house alone cost over $10,000! A tiny home built on a shoestring budget would have to be frugal with their choices. Also, many lower budget builds require restoring a used trailer, such as Macy Miller’s $11,416 tiny home. Macy is a trained architect and she received several items on her build for free (such as her windows). Macy’s tiny home is fantastic, but it’s also an anomaly. Not everyone has her skills, connections, and patience for restoration.

“Tiny homes are being built for the homeless. They must be cheap!”

Tiny homes for the homeless are wonderful. I fully support the effort many people are making to help others in need. We even created a tiny house calendar with several other tiny housers to raise money for homeless villages. That being said, tiny-homes-for-the-homeless are a completely different animal. Here’s a photo of one from Opportunity Village:

Tiny House Costs

These structures are built with donated materials. Often the electrical and insulation is very basic, and they do not have plumbing. The shapes are simple in architectural terms. I love the concept, but there is no point comparing the price tag of these dwellings to average tiny house cost breakdown. Speaking of…

The Average Tiny House is:

  • $25,000 in materials. You can argue that, but this is my estimate after speaking with dozens of tiny housers
  • Built with high-end materials and appliances
  • Unique and custom in design
  • NOT concerned with building the cheapest home possible. Instead, they want an affordable lifestyle. There is a difference.

The fact is, the average tiny homeowner would rather spend $20,000 than $10,000 to build the home of their dreams. That extra $10k might afford them better appliances, spray foam insulation, more windows, skylights, solar power, a wood stove, off-grid capabilities, a custom countertop, etc.

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Tiny House Cost

Tiny House Cost Breakdown

Below I’ve listed my tiny house materials from the most expensive to the least expensive item. I hope this guide is helpful in creating a realistic budget for your future tiny home.

ITEM

PRICE

NOTES

Tumbleweed Trailer 

$4,850

Including registration fee.

Kimberly wood stove & flue

$4,495

Splurged for the aesthetics, efficiency and off-grid capabilities

Windows & skylights

$4,000

At the time Tumbleweed windows were custom sizes. $$

Structural lumber & sheathing

$3,000

Estimated

Solar system

$2,800

Brand: Goal Zero. Four panels at 380 watts total, a solar generator, & cables.

Siding

$2,200

Reclaimed siding purchased from retailer

Insulation

$1,200

Rigid Foam. Read my build tips here.

Water Heater

$1,125

Brand: Precision Temp. Read my review here.

Compost toilet

$960

Brand: Nature’s Head.  Read my review here.

Refrigerator

$870

Brand: Dometic. 3-way power.

Roofing

$800

Brand: Onduvilla. This is cheap for new roofing.

Build plans

$769

Tumbleweed Cypress-20 Overlook Plans

Plumbing

$700

Estimated for: tanks, water pump, hose, filter, regulator, and piping. More info.

Mattress

$450

I love sleep. Sleep is good.

Shower tub, fixtures and shower fan

$440

Light fixtures

$400

 Read about my DIY copper lamp.

Front door

$385

Bought new and trimmed to size.

Propane heat blanket

$380

For extremely cold climates. Read more here.

Flooring

$330

Engineered hardwood

Propane misc.

$310

Tanks, regulator, and piping

Wood slab countertops

$300

And a lot of work! They sure are pretty.

Kitchen sink & faucet

$220

Stovetop  $176  Brand: Atwood. 3 burner propane.

TOTAL COST:

$31,160

“Holds onto your butts!”– Samuel L. Jackson, Jurassic Park

*For a detailed list of the above items (and more), click here

You may notice some items are missing from the above list, such as hardware, electrical, and miscellaneous build materials. These items, as well as my decor and furniture, are not included in the total. I also hired a finish carpenter, plumber and electrician intermittently during my build. The cost of labor is not included in this total. The REAL total cost to build my tiny home is somewhere between $35,000 – $40,000. I did receive several sponsorships which saved thousands of dollars. Thank you! If you’re interested in gathering sponsors for your build, read this article.

My tiny house cost breakdown is more than the average. Why?

Because I built my dream tiny home. It’s okay if my tiny house cost breakdown is more than yours. It’s mine.

I would never consider my tiny house to be outrageously expensive. Instead, I focused on quality over quantity. I splurge when I wanted to and saved when I wanted to. My tiny house lifestyle affords me a smaller footprint, mobility, and flexibility. It also allows me to work part time and travel the world. That’s real freedom and affordability.

I don’t think my house “missed the point” or that “I am in the tiny house movement for the wrong reasons.” In fact, I would never say that about another tiny houser. You have achieved your goal of owning a tiny house, and that’s wonderful.

What do you think of my REAL Tiny House cost breakdown? 




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91 Comments

  1. Becky Jean Bogart
    January 22, 2017 / 7:37 pm

    Thank you for your post. It gave me a ball park figure and a base to start with.. I now know where I may cut costs or increase them to meet my own taste.

    • January 26, 2017 / 7:41 am

      Thank you. That’s exactly why I wrote this post and shared my personal costs. Build YOUR Tiny House to YOUR budget and preferences.

  2. bryan
    January 21, 2017 / 1:50 pm

    I bought a plastic storage shed 10 foot by 8 for 500 dollars from home depot. Has a door and a roof INCLUDED in the box. I might mount it to a trailor. I think you people are getting carried away with all your DEMANDS. My advise is to buy a nice plastic storage shed and insulate it and maybe reinforce it with boards. And maybe add a window if you want.

    KEEP IT SIMPLE !

    • January 26, 2017 / 7:42 am

      That might work for you, but some people want to build their own home and customize it.

    • American
      January 26, 2017 / 8:17 am

      If I pass a $500 plastic shed and a bunch of housewares and personal effects strewn along the side of the freeway I will know who it belongs to.

    • February 18, 2017 / 7:35 pm

      Thanks. That is exactly what I want to do. I have a settlement coming for $12,000.00, I have been homeless bouncing from place to place awaiting disability which I finally won. This is my 1 shot at age 47 to have my own home with a little money. Can somebody please help explain how to start? I just want a couple windows, insulation, electric, plumbing,basic appliances. I’m a great decorator and live simple. Is my dream achievable?

  3. January 21, 2017 / 4:47 am

    tiny houses are of course cheaper.
    it is a matter of where to park. and that costs a lot probably more than renting a room if you want to do it legally!

    • February 18, 2017 / 7:45 pm

      I am getting a check each month so I could rent land after it was built. I live in Pottstown, PA and the rooms for rent are crackhouses. I am 47 and want my own, simple home. I’m disabled and need to plant my roots for the remainder of my life. Renting a crackhouse room isn’t stability which is what I need after years in and out of homelessness awaiting disability. This is my only shot to own something that’s mine. Don’t know how to start outside of buying the shed or trailer. I am greatful for guidance anyone can give.

  4. KeepsItRealGurl
    January 18, 2017 / 11:47 pm

    It just doesn’t make sense…. A website that sells manufactured homes, single & double wides and park homes has 4oo sq ft park homes for sale at $4o – $55K and on the same sight 8oo – 12oo sq ft single and double wides are $25 – $5o K.
    Obviously you get what you pay for and everywhere is different but the 4oo sq ft park house looks exactly like the singe/double wides just smaller.
    This is just one example but other websites also have similar costs for the two different homes.

    I just don’t understand why they cost so much more for smaller.

    Some ppl are paying $5o – $6o grand for a 192 sq ft tiny home and ppl can do w/e they want with their money but no way in hel would l ever do that. For $5o -$6o k it should be at least 6oo sq ft.m

    Imma supporter of tiny living, l can’t do it now as we have 5 kids and l value adult time w/o having kids in a loft 3 feet away from us and l never would have wanted to live in a tiny home as a teenager so I’m not gonna do that to a kid.

    Most states are really so far behind this as Democraps squabble over why they won’t allow tiny homes, all the crooked politicians need to wake up!

  5. January 18, 2017 / 11:21 pm

    Nice Artikel..
    what are the estimated total costs for size 6 x 10M ?

  6. H
    December 30, 2016 / 1:02 pm

    It’s not the fact that anyone really cares about how much you spend on a tiny house but more as to a question of why do Tiny houses cost just as much as normal size homes.

    I’m watching the FYI channel and they are showing Tiny homes in my home state of California and they were showing homes @ $250,000 for only 709 square feet. And where it was located you could literally purchase a home three times the size for that price. So why on earth would idiots spend just as much for way less space? Ideally you would think less square footage should require less money.

    • January 6, 2017 / 6:07 pm

      I didn’t watch the exact same show that you did but I’m assuming you can purchase the larger home for that price with a mortgage tied to it. It’d be spending more money in the long run which keeps people tied to working longer hours in order to pay off the price.

      That cost alone doesn’t mention the price of utilities and other bills that take up most of people’s income. So in theory the larger house would become more expensive in the long run. A tiny house is more expensive upfront but that’s it. Also, depending on the way the house is built, your utility expense wouldn’t be as high as a normal house since you’re downsizing. Less physical space to heat, light, cool, etc. Plus, it sounds as though the show was angled more towards buying a tiny home in which you’re absolutely right and it is more expensive than building one yourself.

      But why? One reason that it is more expensive to buy a tiny home is so that realtors (who have noted the significance of the tiny home) can actually make a profit off the house you’re buying. You don’t sell products at the same price it took to make it, you’d make no money. Half the allure to tiny homes is that there is no mortgage or ultimately spending less in the long run. If you’re a tiny house realtor with no banks to give you that profit in the long run you wouldn’t have much of a business. So that’ll rack up the price in order to create a profit. If you’re a buyer who has that kind of money than go ahead. It’s also possible that the interior is made out of more expensive materials to give off a feel that it’s like a regular house. But these are just my rationales as to why it’d be so expensive.

      Overall, you gotta be informed on how you want your tiny house and why you’re getting one and if buying or building is the right option for you. There are tons of people who don’t pay that much for a tiny home and still look awesome!

    • Walt
      January 11, 2017 / 2:29 pm

      The price of the home mentioned here is determined by costs alone, not the location involved. As soon as you start considering lots then the costs of said lots is more than anything tied to the area you decide to live in. To say a tiny home costs $250k is subjective to the location where it is placed and should not be scrutinized the same way. Unless these tiny homes are plated in gold or you paid for shipping for every single item of your tiny home then there’s no reason for a tiny home to cost that much.

    • February 18, 2017 / 7:51 pm

      My point as well. The whole point of me wanting a tiny house is due to my financial limitations and because I want to live simple!

  7. Emily
    November 24, 2016 / 8:59 pm

    What someone wants to spend on any house is their business, their buck, and not really up for scrutiny. We all spend our money how we see fit. I appreciate the shared information. Whether I choose to build a tiny house or not, having this info gives a great outline to start from. For someone who is very interested but clueless on what it would take (me), it’s quite valuable.

    That note aside, the reason someone chooses to build/buy/live in a tiny house doesn’t have to live up to anyone else’s expectation. I currently live in a 1200 square foot duplex with my family of 5. It is the total lack of efficiency of the 1200 square foot that causes a tiny house to appeal to me. They are designed so well! Every inch is used. Every item is multi-functional. That’s genius! A 500 square foot tiny house functions much better than my duplex. Personally, I would aim for a 1000 square foot tiny house on a slab. I have three growing boys, one with special needs, that I home school. For our family, we need a bit of “school space.” And that’s the beauty of a tiny home! I can design it to be PERFECT for our needs and functions in our everyday life… which I get to predicate and NO ONE ELSE.

    Thank you for sharing this personal information. I, for one, am grateful.

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