Advice / Build / Lifestyle / Tiny House Budget & Cost

Let’s Talk Budget: Why are tiny homes so expensive?

“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 completely different from one person to the next. In this article, I’m going to prove that tiny homes are not really that expensive. I’m also going to realistically breakdown tiny house costs. Let’s do this!

OR skip to the cost breakdown of our tiny house

John's Expediton House - 0001

John and his expedition housetruck

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
Art Cormier Tiny House Cost

Art and his minimalist tiny house

Art Cormier is tired of having too much stuff, so he lives in a tiny home behind his small business. Anita wants to reduce her impact on the earth, so she designs a green-energy tiny house. Zee is an artist, so she builds an eclectic tiny home with handmade materials. John and Linda are retired and want a comfortable rig for full time travel. Laura and Matt want and off-grid tiny home in the mountains. And the tiny house stories go on and on…

Affordable housing is one reason why tiny homes appeal to so many people, but it’s not the ONLY reason. 

Tiny House Cost

Laura and Matt and their off-grid tiny house

If you want a tiny house, for any reason, you should have one. It doesn’t matter if you want to pay $10,000 or $100,000. Your budget is your business.

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 know the average tiny home is built for around $25,000 in materials. That’s makes tiny homes the clear winner (on average) for affordability.

Tiny House Costs

Common arguments on Tiny House Costs:

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

This argument is completely invalid. Adding square footage to a space is cheap! Walls and empty space aren’t the most expensive part of a build. 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. The great thing about tiny homes, is that prices don’t vary. A tiny home costs 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.

“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 tiny house that is built for $10k and one that was built for $20k (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. Goodbye $4,000 wood stove! 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 House Costs

“Tiny homes are being built for the homeless. They have to 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 tiny home homeless villages. That being said, tiny homes built for the homeless are a completely different animal. Here’s a photo of one from Opportunity Village:

Tiny House Costs

Tiny houses for the homeless 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. Still, they are far superior to sleeping on the street. I love the concept, but there is no point comparing the price tag of these dwellings to average tiny house costs.

The Average Tiny House is . . .

  • $25,000 in materials. You can argue that, but this is my estimate after speaking with many 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’s a difference.

The fact is, the average tiny home owner would rather spend $20,000 than $10,000 on the cost of their build. 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.

tiny house cost

My Tiny House Costs

Below I’ve listed my tiny house costs by item (most expensive to least expensive). I hope this is helpful in creating a realistic budget for your future tiny home.

  1. Trailer (with registration fee) – $4,850 We purchased a Tumbleweed trailer. It’s important to have a solid foundation. Of course, you could save money by refurbishing an old trailer. You’ll need to be experienced with the engineering needed to support a tiny house. Also, time!
  2. Kimberly wood stove & flue – $4,495 We splurged for the aesthetics, efficiency and off-grid capabilities.
  3. Windows & skylights $4,000 At the time Tumbleweed windows were custom ($$) sizes.
  4. Structural lumber & sheathing $3,000
  5. Solar system$2,800 We have four panels at 380 watts total, a solar generator and cables. 
  6. Siding$2200
  7. Insulation$1200
  8. Water heater$1,125 We wanted a tankless, propane water heater that was compact, efficient and vented through the floor.
  9. Composting toilet $960 It’s fancy. No one likes to clean poo.
  10. Refrigerator $870 We paid for the off-grid capability.
  11. Roofing$800 This is actually cheap for new roofing. 
  12. Build plans – $769 We purchased Tumbleweed Cypress plans.
  13. Plumbing. $700 Tanks, water pump, RV hose, filter, pressure regulator and piping.
  14. Mattress $450 
  15. Shower tub, fixtures and shower fan$440
  16. Light fixtures $400
  17. Front door$385 
  18. Propane heat blanket – $380 For extreme cold climates.
  19. Flooring – $330  
  20. Propane misc. – $310 Tanks, regulator and piping.
  21. Wood slab countertops $300
  22. Kitchen sink & faucet- $220
  23. Ottomans & couch cushion – $200
  24. Stovetop$176

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

TOTAL TINY HOUSE COSTS : $31,460 

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

As you can see, our tiny house costs are more than the average (which I estimate to be around $25,000). Why? Well, we splurged on certain items because we could afford it! I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

I built my dream tiny home. It’s okay if my tiny house costs more than yours. It’s mine.

I would never consider my tiny house outrageously expensive. Instead I focused on quality over quantity. My tiny house lifestyle affords me a smaller footprint, mobility and flexibility. 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 the REAL Tiny House costs? 

59 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Budget: Why are tiny homes so expensive?

  1. 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.

    • 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!

    • 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.

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  3. 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.

  4. All I can say is that your materials costs seem very high to me. A few years ago I built a 12×16 building on my lot. The structure included double pane windows, an insulated door, a pitched roof with ice and water shield under asphalt shingles. I also dug a trench and buried conduit from the main house to the building and installed a 50 amp 220 volt service. The walls are double 2×4 construction 8″ thick) and fully insulated with studs staggered to avoid thermal bridging. There are two outlets on each wall and two light fixtures. The interior is fully finished in pillar foundation for it and my floor has 6″ of foam insulation. The exterior is sided with cedar shingles. My cost for the building came to just over $3,500. ALL the labor was mine. My building is heated by a single 1,000 watt baseboard heater that is more than is needed in Maine. I do not have a kitchen or bathroom facilities, but could easily add a stove, refrigerator, sink, water system and composting toilet for under $2,500. A 400 watt solar system with an MPPT controller, inverter and 450 amp-hour battery bank can be done for $1,600, but if you want to go solar your could save a lot by going with a pure 12 volt house and only having a small inverter for charging phones and stuff like that (It is certainly possible to get all 12 volt appliances and lights, except the stove which can be propane). That would reduce the cost of the solar system by about $400.

    What it comes to is that I think you spent a lot on expensive materials for aesthetic reasons. Consequently your costs are in no way representative of reasonable costs.

    Note: My primary experience is from boating where the square footage of a tiny house would be considered huge. I also completely rebuilt my 32′ boat for about $28K. That cost included an $11,000 diesel engine. Materials quality on the boat is certainly higher than in your tiny home. That refit included a new solid mahogany cabin house with 19 windows, all new systems (fuel tanks and other fuel components, all new furniture with custom cushions, Custom cabinets, toilet with holding tank, all new plumbing with water heater and solid bronze sink, solid maple counter tops, etc. In addition all finishes were done with marine grade finishes (varnish, paints, etc) which are MUCH more expensive than home finishes, I also installed a marine diesel fired forced air heating system. All woods used were either solid mahogany, clear douglas fir, teak or marine grade plywood (= expensive compared to home grade woods). The boat has a stove, refrigerator sink and bathroom as well as 2 beds.

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  8. Gah! I can’t believe the idiots who populate these interwebs. Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with everyone, even these trolls who wouldn’t know an original thought if it hit them over the head with a wrench.

  9. Well, I’m finding my state of New Hampshire getting more comfortable with tiny dwellers. See link for Harvard’s try/rent https://getaway.house locations in NH & NY. Also, Raymond, NH town selectman stayed in “tiny” for homeless vets idea with the Director of Liberty House, see link
    http://www.raymondareanews.com/news/cmnty-news/raymond/liberty-house.php
    Our Governor help pass the Senate bill 146, see link http://gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_status/billText.aspx?id=52&txtFormat=html
    Just an FYI if any of you need a place to park your dwelling.
    Myself, open to having a tiny dweller on my property but haven’t figured out a safe way to find that occupant. Craigslist can be scary to deal with. This particular situation would rely heavily on trust, goodwill, comradery etc. Too bad though, considering it abuts a stream, 2 floor barn for storage etc. I even could share my year round DIY workshop for someone if they needed to build their tiny house.
    Someone suggested to consider my property for a tiny community so I’m watching how Lee, NH will resolve with http://www.veteranresortchapel.com/ a generous guy looking to help with veterans too along that idea too.
    Should any of this turn out good for “tiny dwellers”, I’ll be the first to let you all know and perhaps you can have New Hampshire as your homeplace too.
    Best Regards 🙂

    • I left NH 7 years ago and have missed it everyday. I want to build a shipping container tiny house when I find someplace to land. I would love to live in the New England area again!

    • You don’t need to change your square footage, you just need to move to the middle of the country. I live in an 1100 square foot very comfortable house for 30k. Nice little Midwest town.

  10. Your use of average home prices is disingenuous at best. The cost per square foot is a more important measure of what a house costs. And using price per square foot, many tiny houses are extremely expensive. Now that would all be fine, if it is measurably better. Being in construction, I can tell you that from what I have seen and read, they are not better. They are just more expensive.

    Even with the total price being cheaper, it cannot appreciate in value like a regular house does. It will only decline in value over time. Regular houses increase in value, because of the land on which they sit. Land is scarce, so it will increase in value over time.

    Additionally, trying to live in such a small space is just not healthy mentally. There are plenty of people out there who have tried to live in a tiny house, only to abandon it, because it is too small. I’m all for people conserving resources and living small. But this is really nothing moire than a pipe dream, trying to live in 150 – 500 square feet. Build a 900 square foot home, over a full basement, on a large piece of land. One could live there forever, and even raise a family. That is as tiny as a house needs to be.

    • HI Matthew, and others,
      You have to take in to account that not everyone lives in an affordable area. For instance I live in Santa Cruz Ca, a beach town near Silicon Valley. Median home prices are 800k on very little land, enough for a small backyard possibly. Rent is on average 1500 monthly for a 1 bedroom say 400-500 Sq Ft. 1000-1300 monthly for a studio. All this if you can find something available. San Francisco, an hour north is far worse. Asking that much to literally bunk in a room. Call it crazy, because it is. But for those that are bound to this region for various reasons, a tiny home for 30-40K DIY build cost is a remedy. If you can find a place to put one of course. I currently rent and live in a 500 SQ FT home (traditional) with my young daughter. It’s ample size since we have very mellow seasons (if you can call them seasons at all) and find ourselves outdoors and at the beach or mountains much of the time. We merely cook and relax a little, and sleep in our rental. I would love to move and buy acreage and build or buy an ‘inexpensive home’ but I am tied to the west coast unfortunately for reasons beyond my control and have to make the most economical choice. I am planning on building a tiny house upwards of 375 SF with a large deck and on some forest land. For a little more in what I pay in rent, I could pay for the build in just over a year. Then live rent free for as long as I deem, and save for a down payment down the road. Much of the west coast up and down is increasing in price and making it very hard to afford anything unless you want to be a a slave to your working life and find creative ways to climb the economic ladder. As I see it, you have to make a minimum of 80K annually here to afford to rent a one bedroom and care for one small child. That being said with some standard outings, and decent food on the table. Maybe 65K if you can be extremely frugal. As a side note: I just returned from visiting a friend in CT. Median price for a home there, in Darien, 1.4 Milion. I never would of guessed. But I think you get the idea for some, a tiny home and/or on wheels makes absolute sense. Thanks all for reading,
      -Mark D

    • It’s awesome how much easier internet comments would be if people learned how to add “in my opinion” to their pronouncements. Then, comments like “really nothing moire (sic) than a pipe dream” or “900 square foot…. is as tiny as a house needs to be” might not sound so condescending, especially to those of us living the “pipe dream” already.
      PS – I bought one of those “regular houses (that) increase in value” back in 2006. Turns out you’re wrong about that.
      PSS – People who live in a tiny house on wheels often like the “ON WHEELS” part of it. Next time the economy takes a dive and jobs dry up, the tiny housers will be able to roll out of town, past the houses of the people who built a home they’re tied to but can’t pay for because their job left town already.

  11. We just sided an 800 Sq ft home for less than 1000. What in the heck did you buy that was 2200 for the size if your house? Same with roofing. I think yall are insane to.pay these prices. I priced out Pex for plumbing my home kitchen sink bathroom sink toilet and tub/shower. 300.00. Sorry I call bull on this tiny house crap. When I see people get a tiny house and say we have 120,000 budget then they go over by 5,000

    • What kind of siding are we talking about? Out in Los Angeles, 3/4 beveled cedar to cover 700sqft (that’s about how much we needed for our 125sqft house, including buffer) of walls was between $1,200 and $1,500 when we shopped around. Reclaimed siding is even more expensive, up to $5,000 for 700sqft worth of siding, but we were able to get ours for $2,200. Plumbing PEX is not expensive, but we chose to go with sharkbite fittings. They are easy to use and proven but pricier ($7-$15 per fitting). Plastic fitting for PEX are cheaper but crap. We probably have 15-20 fittings. Our $700 plumbing bill includes tanks, water pump, RV hose, filter, pressure regulator on top of the piping.
      I’ve never met someone with a $120,000 budget for a selfbuilt tiny house, and we’ve met many many people. Some people might end up buying a tiny house from a building for that cost, but self-built, the average we’ve found was between $20,000 and $25,000.
      Even though we have reclaimed materials, we often had to purchase them (not that many options for reclaimed around Los Angeles). It was built in about 1,000 hours worth of work and we paid about $6,000 or $7,000 in labor for a carpenter’s help, a plumber and an electrician.
      But please, go ahead and build a house with the same quality materials as ours, on a trailer as solid as ours, with appliances like ours and try to make it for under $20,000…

      • I agree…I get so tired of all of these critics! A big home is wonderful but not necessary or possible for millions of Americans. I am trying to convince my wife to go tiny as soon as we retire. We use less than half of our beautiful home on a weekly basis, and when the kids are finally gone (in a good way), I will be too old and uninterested in keeping up and maintaining the house and our one acre lot.

  12. Our tiny house cost about 80,000 to be built by a contractor and we love it. Your article is well written. People can say what theybwantbtonsay but we are mortgage free and debt free, can follow our dream job, updates will be cheap and easy, and monthly costs are cheaper. Haters will be haters but we are living the dream!

  13. First, please excuse me if i make any mistake, i’m french… besides the fact that people will build a tiny house for whatever reasons, i think that the cost of building it will depend on where you are. Here in Quebec, Canada, cost of building materials differ from the USA. For example, we built a homestead (and i mean we BUILT it!) and the cost of it all was below the 100K (including land, house, building for the animals, …) It was a 2 floor house, with a basement, the land was huge, the building for the animals was 18 X 32 and we had everything we needed (living room, kitchen, dining room, 2 bathrooms, 1 office and 3 bedrooms!!). So, now, after this building experience, i’m thinking of building a tiny for me and my husband (the kids are gone) and the cost would be around $12 000 not including the trailer, which is not that bad, right. And it includes a wood stove, a washer/dryer combo and everything you would want in a “normal” house. I’m already looking for free material, found a brand new door for the bathroom for free, a convectair for free, 2 inox shelves for the kitchen for free, … you can build something tiny for a fraction of what yours cost you and still have a pretty nice house with high end material, if you know where to look and if you don’t mind waiting a little for the right deal. Of course, if you have a lot of money in your bank account, that’s another story!

    Yes, i agree with one of the reader saying that contractors will see this tiny house thing as a good opp for them and they will charge way too much. I mean, we have a contractor here who now specialize in tiny houses and the cheapest one is around 60k, and it’s really… simple. With IKEA standard cabinets and nothing out of this world. Please be aware that there are people who will benefit from this tiny movement! A tiny doesn’t have to cost as much as yours to be high end efficient and off the grid.

  14. These prices are very unrealistic. Im in constuction and $1200 for insulation….really. $1200 for a tankless water heater. Omg i dont know what dealer your buying from bit your getting screwed. We by tankless heaters for $499 and enough insulation for a tiny home should run about $500 also. The trailer to moit it on should be closer to $1500 not 5k. These homes should be able to be nicely built for around 7 to 10k not 100k. Thats ridiculous. I have a 2995 sq foot home i had built new with purchase of land to was only 113k. You can buy the camper style version of tiny home. The ones you see in rv parks that have vinyl siding and shingles for around 21k fully loaded.

    • Have you ever built a tiny house for retail? I challenge you to build a tiny house of the same quality for under $10,000… And I challenge you to make some sort of profit off of selling a tiny house of similar quality for under $40 or $50,000. Make sure you include labor, insurance, workshop rental and other expenses in that too.
      You say they should be “nicely built for around 7 to 10k not 100k.” Nobody said they were being built for $100,000. Most we’ve seen were built for about $25,000 in materials. Most we’ve seen sold were sold from a business for $50,000 to $90,000.
      As far as material costs, our insulation cost $1,200, yes. We bought it from Home Depot. Sure we’re not experts at purchasing materials and we don’t have contractor deals. But, for a 20ft long house with 3-1/2″ thick walls, you’ll need about (30) 1-1/2″ foam boards, $17.45 per board and (30) 2″ ones, $21.65 per board. Weirdly enough, that ends up being $1,173… And yep, the tankless water heater we picked was $1,125. We picked PrecisionTemp because of the very small size and great performances. Sure you can find water heaters for $500, heck, they even sell some for $130 but they either aren’t as good as the one we picked or our significantly larger. You have to compare apples to apples. Also, good luck finding a new trailer that can safely carry a 10,000lb house for $1,500…
      Yes, we could’ve picked a crappy water heater for $130 but it wouldn’t have performed as well and would have taken more space.
      Yes, we could’ve picked a fridge for $150 instead of $870 but it wouldn’t have been a nice 3-way fridge that we can use off-grid.
      Yes, we could’ve picked fiberglass insulation for a lot cheaper but our house wouldn’t have been insulated as well.
      Yes, we could’ve bought a used trailer or a dinky undersized trailer, but we would’ve had to modify it heavily and it most likely would have fallen apart well before we reached 25,000 miles.
      Yes, we could’ve done without the skylights, but they are awesome and bring loads of natural light.
      Yes, we could’ve use a 5 Gal bucket for our composting toilet instead of the $960, but we would have to deal with compost much more often and it wouldn’t be as practical.
      Etc etc.

      You have to compare apples to apples. A Mercedes is always going to be more expensive than a Toyota, and most tiny housers realize that they can go with better materials for their own comfort and because they have to buy a lot less of it!

    • If you can actually build these tiny houses on wheels for less than 10k, I’d like to offer to put up some capital and go into business together. That’s fantastic! I know several builders who are offering the cheapest versions they can and still aren’t able to get their prices (costs, profit, etc) down below $30k. Start your business tomorrow and I’ll buy the first $10k house you have ready as long as its as nice as the one that the TinyHouseGiantJourney people have built.

  15. “Your budget is your business” however, one of the main philosophies behind this tiny house movement is being debt free and doing things on the cheap. If you care about these things there are cheaper alternatives, such as renting or shared spaces. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that with same time and similar resources you couldn’t build a modest sized house that is not on wheels. Similarly, the tiny home movement is skirting the taxes in communities of which, said people in tiny homes are taking a part of, you have to pay your fair share if you care about that type of thing, I’d rather pay taxes on a home, and support a community that I live in.

    • There’s some truth in what you’re saying though I have nothing against taxes. I want to pay them so that I have an enjoyable place to live, whether it’s in a tiny house or another dwelling. I don’t necessarily agree with how my taxes are used, but I don’t have anything against the concept. But you’re right, we met many tiny housers that are just intent on avoid to pay them.
      You’re also right for the same amount of money and time you could build a larger house. Though for the same budget and time frame, you’d most likely have to settle on lower quality materials just for the simple fact that you’d need more of them.
      People like to debate what tiny houses were originally started for. Is it to live cheap? Be good on the environment? Just minimalism? Debt free? Tax free? Have more time on your hands? Create another source of income? Fix the housing market?
      People keep saying that the main reason is to make a cheaper house. I completely disagree that it’s the main reason. It’s A reason for sure, but certainly not the main one. Technically, the first on that was built on wheel was done so just to evade building codes because of a desire to be even more minimalist than what could be done with a house on foundation. The benefits of that are indeed cheaper cost of living, better on the environment, better on personal health, more time on your hands, etc… People do it for a wide variety of reasons. Out of the several dozens of tiny houses we’ve visited, rarely was “a cheap house” the main reason behind people’s desire to go tiny. Most of these DIY houses had a materials cost of about $25,000, and that’s often including some level of reclaimed items.
      I think people see the value more in the money they can save with the lifestyle than in the money they can save on the build. They realize that the real benefits are the longterm ones, not the short term quick savings they could accomplish on a build. They realize that, if they can afford it of course, they can use better materials and appliances and it might cost more in the initial investment but it’s for longterm comfort and quality of life. Someone who’s only intent on going the cheapest possible when they could’ve splurged a little might have a harder time living tiny in the long run. There’s a difference between being cheap and being frugal… I think most tiny housers are on the frugal, but more importantly, everyone approaches the concept for different reasons. It might be cost of living, it might be something else entirely!

      • I would disagree with property taxes. It turns you from an owner to a renter. Think about it – if you have to pay a fee to continue staying somewhere, do you really own it?
        Many places have no property tax for that reason. It means you are essentially renting your home from the government. You have no other item that you must continually pay taxes on to own. (Cars pay taxes – registration – for public road use, but you can drive them on private roads or still own them without that. And the fees are FAR lower).

    • A claim that tiny houses are meant for “skirting taxes” overlooks the fact that tiny houses on wheels are registered just like any other trailer or RV. So yes, taxes are paid. In many states, including Florida where I live, a homestead exemption on an older smaller home means that I pay similar fees/taxes as my neighbors for my 200-square foot tiny as they do for a home five times the size. Also, moving my home means paying for fuel, which all include taxes. And there’s tax charged to the landowners who rent me their space. And because I live tiny, I have a lot more time and money to spend in my community giving back, all while I pay taxes.
      I’m not sure that the folks who are serious about living tiny are “kidding themselves” about being able to build a modest sized house that is not on wheels. The “GIANT JOURNEY” part of this website doesn’t happen if she builds a 1000 square foot house on a foundation. For most tiny house people, the ability to pack up a home and move where the jobs are or where the adventure lies is a huge attraction.

  16. I don’t care what this author thinks says about justifying the ridiculous price for many tiny houses. From what Ive seen on hgtv not many of those tiny homes have “high end appliances” the author is rambling about. Also, the wood used on many homes is not some sort of expensive type. In my opinion, the builders of these homes charge these ungodly amounts because they for one know some people will pay it and the other is why build something that people want and not charge much for it. In my book if you’re spending over 30k to 35k for 200 square feet then you’re not the sharpest tack in the box or money is no issue for you. Lastly, if you were to build your home out of teak or cherry wood and put Viking appliances then we’re talking high end, otherwise don’t get scammed. Or, come down to South Texas where I’m very sure you’re dream tiny can be built for a lot less.

    • If you base your assumptions off of things you’ve seen on TV, it shows the worth of your arguments… Then you come and tell us that our house wasn’t worth $30,000 in materials? Were you here with us during our build? When we went to the hardware store to pick materials? When we spent hours online looking for the best appliance for our application? Were you here with us during that whole time? If that’s what TV shows make you feel like, then I haven’t been giving producers enough praises for making the most realistic TV shows!
      Still, it doesn’t give you any rights to assume someone isn’t “the sharpest tack in the box” just because you don’t understand the reasons behind people’s choices. And it doesn’t give you an “all knowing” status either.
      Sure you can build houses cheaper, we’ve expressed it in the article, showed examples and explained why most of the ones we’ve seen are around a certain price range. Yet, it’s not convincing enough, TV still wins the argument…

      • You wrong. When you build a full size home say 2500 sq foot for 100k. Looking on line for appliances doesnt justify the 100s of labor hours that go into build a full size house alone. In other words if a contractor can take a year to build a 2500 sq foot home for 100k and make a profit that a tiny home that could be build in a month or two should be significantly cheaper by labor costs alone

      • 500 work hours is 500 work hours… If the contractor charges $40/hr, that’s $20,000 whether it’s on a big house or a little house… And I know most builders, even the very good ones, take at least 400 hours building a good tiny house. And that’s not including any of the research, design, customer support, etc etc

    • I have to wonder about someone who takes HGTV seriously. I built a tiny as well and this article is absolutely dead on. How about getting off the couch for once and doing your own research. Oh wait….that’s too difficult. Watching a scripted, fabricated TV show is much easier. So while your dreaming, how about holding your opinions until you’ve actually built one.

      • Wow…how rude. I watch the DIY channel myself to get really good ideas on what I’d like in my tiny house or ideas or the type of materials I’d like customized. That IS research to start with so we have a basic idea of what to start pricing. How about holding your opinions completely if they’re nothing but trashing people?

  17. I’m in the process of tearing down an old farmhouse to re-use the lumber for my tiny home. It won’t be on wheels, it’ll be built up off the ground, though, like the old-timey farmhouses around here. So, no trailer costs for me, Minimal lumber costs. By the time I’m finished, I expect to have between 7,000, and 10,000 in it. Really the lower end, because I also have an older model RV that I’m taking some things for tiny house use. Such as the small sit-down shower/tub. Possibly the generator and converter as well. The RV will be another remodel project down the road… I’m reusing the huge windows from the farmhouse. 4 rooms of tongue and groove wood (ceilings, walls, and floors) have already been pulled,de-nailed, stored and stacked. The heart pine siding is in excellent shape. The cost of my sweat equity however, is enormous. I’m old, disabled, and in constant pain….But this dream keeps me going.

  18. Without placing any judgement on either camp, I feel that there are two competing sides to the tiny house philosophy. One side might be the called the Conspicuous Non-Consumption Class, they want a perfect mini-house that has all the high end amenities and finishes that say “I’m cultured and I’m doing this by choice.” They can live in a tiny home without any break from or friction with friends, family, and society at large. They aren’t losing any social status by “living in a trailer”. The other camp could be considered an extension of the beach bum/ hobo/ shanty boat culture of old. They are primarily interested in practical ways to reduce living expenses. I think any person who applies themselves can build a functional shelter for practically free. Will it be stylish or code compliant? Probably not. When I was considering buying a sailboat years ago to cruise blue water, I got some good advice. Go with the boat you can buy now, you’ll never find the perfect one that you’ve built in your mind. It’s a fantasy. Every day you wait is a day lost.

  19. Interesting but what about the costs of daily living like the land to put the home on, electrical/gas hookups and any other costs one could expect on a daily/monthly basis?

  20. Hi Jenna! 🙂 My name is Ashley and we are preparing to build a tiny house on wheels near Savannah, GA for our family of four (though we hope to add to that number soon enough). 😊 We are currently budgeting and saving for our own tiny house line by line (we are thinking of building on a 28 ft trailer). Just curious what is included in the structural lumber & sheathing line vs the siding line? And does any part of this budget account for the wood used on the interior walls of your home? These are probably silly questions, but we’ve saved about a third of your total so our home is becoming more & more of a reality. Thank you so much for all of the inspiration and information. We appreciate y’all so much!

  21. It’s bizarre how many people see a tiny house *for the first time* and feel a rush of attraction and excitement, and then jump straight into assuming that everyone else who loves tiny houses must be motivated by the same things.

    So if you make a choice they consider “different” then you must be wrong. And they’re going to tell you about it! 🙂

    But after those same people see a few houses, and hear a few stories, they eventually begin to appreciate all the variety. And there are some awesomely different tiny houses out there, built by awesomely different kinds of people. There’s a lot of great stuff going on right now, if you’re open to it!

  22. Great article! There is a ‘funny’ knee jerk reaction when the cost of anything is mentioned. If you built a tiny house for $9,000, someone would scoff and say they could do it for $14.97. If you bought something 75% off the original price, someone would invariably shame you by saying you got ripped off. The topic of money, within *any* community or trade, stirs up strong emotions for some people. After building hOMe, our jaws dropped to the ground when we saw that we had built exactly what we wanted without sacrifices for just over $33,000: we were elated. Within moments of us making that information public, a mob of trolls sprung out of the woodwork and were appalled that so much money had been spent. And how many times have we heard “I could buy an RV for $24.13 that’s nicer than your tiny house”? What we have come to realize is that for a lot of people, $33,000 may as well be $1Million. That figure is so high for them that they just don’t see a way to reach it. Realizing this has helped us have compassion and understanding for the strong reactions we have seen at times. The beauty of the tiny house movement is that there can be something for nearly everyone. Between high end homes to those that cost just a few thousand dollars (when using reclaimed materials and getting sponsors), the possibility of building a tiny house can be afforded to a heck of a lot more people than the conventional housing market…and that’s a beautiful thing.

    • Congrats on a beautiful hOMe that you love. And for being so compassionate about the responses you’ve gotten. I, for one, am in the “how did you spend 33,000?” because I would assume the price was higher! Great work!

  23. THANK YOU! My husband and I completed (mostly) our 38′ long thow in January with a total cost of over $70,000. I think it’s crucial that people understand that not everyone can build a tiny house for $10,000 in 2 months time like some would have people believe. We began with a $35,000 budget and found things to be much more expensive than we planned and that we have expensive tastes! Could we have built for less? Yes! It would’ve taken longer (time we ultimately didn’t have) because, as you pointed out, time is money and procuring materials and talent takes time! It saddens me to get emails or messages from people asking if they can build a certain plan for an unbelievably low amount because it’s their dream and they’ve been led to believe that a 28′ thow can be built for $5,000 in 2 weeks (joke but you get the picture). People need to research and develop a plan that’s right for them. Not everyone has the same skill set or even desire to build their own home, much less use reclaimed materials or low quality/cheap products. Thank you 100 times over for this article! We’re not alone in building a larger, more expensive home.

  24. I chose the RV route–sort of. I bought a cargo van and had a custom interior put into it so I got to choose what features I wanted where. My van was diesel fueled and I didn’t want any propane so I maximized solar power and asked for a diesel furnace. I also put in a desk with a real desk chair. And a wet bath and large fresh water and holding tanks. The house part of my vehicle cost about what your tiny house did. Probably my van cost about what your tow vehicle did. It was perfect for me and I spent three winters traveling in it before mobility problems made me give up the traveling lifestyle. I miss the freedom of that traveling with all the comforts of home and being able to park nearly anywhere–which, I suspect, is easier in a conversion van than in a tiny house. But I love looking at what people have done in their tiny houses to make them right for them. Some very creative minds out there.

  25. I love the idea of a tiny house and when I started watching some of the videos I thought it might be something I could aspire to. However, once I started watching more videos I realized that they can end up being expensive for someone with a low income. I was a bit disillusioned and upset that my dream was not to be, but reason prevailed and now I say “each his/her own”. It’s sad that people can’t even agree on diversity for tiny houses let alone the intolerances we see elsewhere.

  26. Your opening paragraph really hits home for me. In the late ’90’s and early 2000’s, I worked for a California firm specializing in straw-bale construction. We did many straw projects that ranged from tiny cottages to luxury mini-mansions (not so mini, as it turned out). We took a lot of heat suggesting that we were not green enough, were against the spirit of straw-bale, that we could not be ‘real’ green builders if we built anything large, modern, for wealthy clients, etc. It seemed that everyone had a differing definition of what it meant to be a green builder. For some it was all about square footage. For others it was about embodied energy of materials used. Still others insisted that it had to be linked to a specific spiritual practice. After several years of this, I became very disillusioned with the whole green building ‘movement’–not the ideals, but the self-righteousness and self-assuredness that there is only one size, one style–even one spiritual practice–that qualified a builder or project as ‘green.’ I believe that many of these zealots lost sight of the fact that for any movement to truly have impact, it has to meet people where they are. As eco-groovy as living in a cob dragon might be for some (I have nothing at all against that), it is unlikely to have the kind of mass appeal required to move the majority of folks to consider alternative materials and methods. To insist on narrow definitions of what constitutes green (or tiny) will only result in narrowing its overall appeal and marginalizing the movement to eventual obscurity.

    Kudos to you for having the courage to address this. You cannot hope to please everyone, but I believe your work (writings, videos, TV appearances, etc.) is doing much to help people imagine a ‘tiny’ that could work for them. Keep up the wonderful work!

  27. Quick thoughts; first, you’ll pay about the same for an Airstream with similar amenities and square footage–little more for the trailer, little bit less for the tow vehicle since an Airstream is a lot lighter. So for getting a long lasting RV, it’s not that out of line.

    The rub, really, is that most people who want a tiny home either want or need (code regulations) not only a tiny home, but a tiny home that can be towed. So you need a 3/4 ton or 1 ton pickup instead of a compact car or no car at all if you like, a $5000 trailer instead of a few concrete footings for a few hundred bucks, RV style appliances instead of small home appliances, and the like. I could built a home of the size and amenities our gracious hosts have for $10k or less….if only code would allow.

    I am reminded of a conversation I had with my brother–then something of a gadfly city council member out in the Bay Area–about how he didn’t like trailer parks, and my response was that if you want to get rid of trailer parks, you’ve got to modify city codes to allow homes of 500 square feet or less that would be more robust and durable. It was a battle he had no chance of winning, sad to say.

    • I personally feel your opening sentence is off the mark. An Airstream or any RV does not have similar amenities. The RVs are designed & built for vacation/short term use….not 365 days/yr use. The materials are aluminum, laminate & formica in many cases. The design is not centered on long term living. The quality of the appliances are nowhere near the quality that most Tiny Housers buy for their homes. And as the article clearly points out customization is a huge part of the tiny house allure. Square footage may be the same but the quality of the materials, appliances and workmanship is far greater in a custom tiny home.

      • Dana, granted most Airstreams are not used year round, and granted they use very different materials, but the goal of both is about the same–long lasting liveability. Something like 70% of all Airstreams ever made since 1936 are still in use. So the comparison indicates that the price for a tiny home is not incredibly out of line when you’re looking for something that will give decades of trouble free use. See what I’m getting at?

    • Hi Bike, This comment is out of order, I can not find the reply link to your later comment. Weird. I DO take your point. I think Airstreams are actually a bit more expensive then the majority of tiny houses. So many people are building their own & keeping the total costs below $50,000. Either way, a tiny house is totally worth the money….as is an Air Stream!!! Cheers!!

      • Well, that takes the wind out of an argument! Agreed, and blessings to you.

        Saw an interesting tiny home thing out of Auburn U. where they were more or less using a lot of the same techniques I’d use on a storage shed to make an actual, liveable home for poor people on Social Security. With you, I am guessing that most people who want a tiny home are going to want a little bit in the line of amenities, and I’d also guess a lot of cities wouldn’t tolerate homes of 500sf or less. (OK, I know from my brother’s experience that this is the case in some places) But it was interesting.

  28. I have been following your story (awesome blog and videos BTW!) and a few others the last year, and I think there is one tipping point that people rarely articulate well: the difference in choosing between a RV (trailer based) or Tiny House (trailer based) to suit your wants and needs. The argument and cost differences between a “regular” house and a Tiny House is relatively distinct, however between both a mobile RV and a mobile Tiny House there are more specific choices for the buyer/builder to choose, since likely the cost is in relatively the same ballpark. Things I have thought worth considering are:

    – How often you plan to move the thing; which then leads to considerations about whether you want it light weight and aerodynamic vs heavy, secure and well insulated (you guys did way more RV style travel in your Tiny House in your first year than most people probably would plan!)
    – Related to the first, if you do plan to move it often, an RV built by a licensed manufacturer is easier to register, insure and site (well at least the rules are clearer)
    – But, since the costs are similar, you would pick a Tiny House if you were interested in heavy customization of the floor plan, fittings, appliance and just about everything; where as an RV you are generally more bounded by what the manufacturer had themselves envisioned (if you do make customizations they are more like alterations, and therefore more expensive)
    – The time to acquire and or build your home also varies between the two and individual situations will have different requirements here

    At the end of the day, both do achieve the same goals of downsizing your life, reducing total cost of living and giving an element of nomad-icy not possible with a regular house and so I think it is important to acknowledge the similarity of the lifestyles and mechanisms, whilst acknowledging the final choice for many people will come down to the nuances as listed above. My family has yet to finally decided between the two, but we know we want to stay tiny and enjoy the outdoors more either way 🙂

    Note: I suspect the average price of an RV you quote is blended across both motor homes and trailer RVs, which is probably higher than the trailer RV only average

    • Excellent points, Rob. I’ve been wanting to build a tiny house for many years. I took the seminar with Jay Shafer in 2012 – bought all the books – read all the blogs, bought a set of power tools, but, for me, it comes down to quite a few circumstantial issues:

      – Having to rent a space to build it for however long that would take.
      – Having to buy a big truck to pull it (though I could hire movers, one isn’t mobile without one.)
      – Having serious limitations on where you can park one, including RV parks.
      – Having to buy land to place it (and then still having limitations in legality.)
      – Lastly, being a single female with a back injury makes it difficult to build without a partner or large community.

      So even though I am an artist who would LOVE to build one, I’m probably going to go the route of buying a high-end camper van, like a Road Trek or something similar.

      Perhaps one day when more laws allow tiny homes, I may purchase land and build one on it. Until then, it doesn’t appear feasible for me.

      Cheers to all those out there who have, however! Very inspiring. ( ;

  29. In relationship to the cost of buying a home in the greater Los Angeles area is out of the price range of most and an 800 sq. ft single or one bedroom apartment in Glendale is going for $2,000/mo., the price of a tiny house can be quite reasonable. As you pointed out, it comes out to whether you’re building it yourself and what amenities are on your “must have” list.

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