What does a Tiny House Cost?

What does a Tiny House Cost?




Really, we need to be asking ourselves: What SHOULD a Tiny House cost? There are many differing opinions on this subject, and because you can’t simply call up Zillow or Redfin to get an estimated value on your investment, you get a wide range of answers. The costs of a Tiny Home have a huge range – from as little as $10k to over $100k – yet the square footage differs minimally. To understand why this is, I’ve listed several examples below, including a detailed breakdown of my own Tiny House cost.


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. Your reason for buying or building a Tiny House will make a huge difference in the overall cost. 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. 


Are Tiny Houses Too Expensive to Buy?

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

According to the above resources, Tiny Homes are less expensive to purchase than regular homes and RVs. They are about the same price as mobile homes but far superior in quality. And don’t forget, you can also build a Tiny House yourself and save a lot more money!

The average tiny home is built for $25,000 in materials.

“Why is the price per square foot in a Tiny House more than a regular home?”

Price per square foot does not work when comparing small or Tiny Homes. Think 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 2,000 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 2,600 square foot home (which is the average size of new homes being built in the USA by the way)? 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.


“My 1,500 square foot home only cost $50k! 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.

Click on the image below, or here, for tips on building a Tiny House on a shoestring budget.

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 is a wonderful concept. I fully support the effort many people are making to help others in need. That being said, tiny-homes-for-the-homeless are a completely different animal. Here is a photo 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. These are not homes, but merely temporary shelters.

I, honestly, don’t even like to call these structures “Tiny Homes” as I believe they are very different categorically from the home I live in. Calling these shed-like shelters “Tiny Homes” only belittles my home and causes people to say ignorant things, like accusing me of glamorizing the homeless community. I’m not homeless, and I don’t believe I’m glamourizing their hardships. I’m simply living within my means, without debt, unlike the majority of people in this country.

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. Read my review.

Windows & Skylights

$4,000

Egress Skylight, Vented Skylight, & 14 Custom windows

Structural Lumber, Sheathing, Etc.

$3,000

Estimated costs of lumber, sheathing, house wrap: Tyvek, & screws: Screw Solutions Starbit Head

Portable Solar System*

$2,800

Goal Zero Solar Generator, Cables & 2 x 90W Panels

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. Buy Here. Read my review.

Compost Toilet*

$900*

Get $25 off with this link. Brand: Nature’s Head.  Read my review.

Refrigerator*

$870

Brand: Dometic. 3-way power. Buy here.

Roofing

$800

Onduvilla 3D Shingles. Underlayment: Grace Ice & Water Shield

Build Plans

$769

Tumbleweed Cypress-20 Overlook Plans

Plumbing*

$700

Click here for detailed breakdown of plumbing.

Mattress

$450

I love sleep. Sleep is good.

Shower 

$440

Shower tub, low flow fixture, and shower fan

Light Fixtures

$400

 Read about my DIY copper lamp.

Front Door

$385

Bought new and trimmed to size. Read more here.

Propane Heat Blanket*

$380

For extremely cold climates. Buy HereRead more here.

Flooring

$330

Engineered hardwood

Propane*

$310

Tanks, regulator, and piping. Full breakdown on my materials list.

Wood Slab Countertops

$300

And a lot of work! They sure are pretty.

Kitchen Sink & Faucet

$220

Stovetop*  $176 Propane 3 burner. Buy Here..

TOTAL COST:

$31,160

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

*Off-grid and/or energy efficient item*

For a detailed list and photos of all materials, click here or on the image below:

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.

Watch a video of my Tiny House Cost Breakdown

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




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103 Comments

  1. louise
    August 24, 2016 / 9:23 pm

    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 🙂

    • Carolyn Beck
      October 17, 2016 / 2:43 pm

      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!

  2. August 16, 2016 / 6:02 pm

    Who has ever said “I purchased a 1,500 sq ft home for $40k! Why should a tiny house cost more?” and where do they live?? ?

    Here we can barely find a 900 sqft home for under $200k.

    • Rose
      September 30, 2016 / 3:03 pm

      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.

  3. Matthew Walsh
    July 31, 2016 / 5:38 pm

    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.

    • Mark D
      September 8, 2016 / 12:23 am

      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

    • December 27, 2016 / 3:09 pm

      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.

  4. Melissa
    July 29, 2016 / 2:25 pm

    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

    • July 30, 2016 / 7:18 pm

      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…

      • October 21, 2016 / 5:28 pm

        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.

  5. Emily
    July 18, 2016 / 2:58 pm

    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!

  6. Martine Paré
    July 18, 2016 / 1:19 pm

    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.

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