The Tiny House Movement May Fail. What Then?

The Tiny House Movement May Fail. What Then?

When a certain lifestyle becomes popular, and everyone starts wanting “in,” the sudden popularity can kill the entire movement. Sometimes I wonder: Can the Tiny House movement sustain this growth?

Consider the RV industry. . .

Prior to the birth of the manufactured RV in 1910, the first unofficial RVs were homemade. These units were custom built pieces of art, made by regular people. I imagine the first RVs were very similar to the first Tiny Houses on wheels. Neighbors and friends must have noticed these cozy homemade RVs. Some of them may have even been inspired to make their own. Then, one day, a savvy businessman began building and marketing his own design, and people bought them. It was a successful business.

Over the years, RVs became more standardized. Customizations are now unheard of, or very expensive. Regulations have been put in place, discouraging DIYers from building their own models. Businesses, who have lost touch with the soul of the RV movement, started mass producing units for cheaper and cheaper, but selling them for the same price or more. Quantity, and manufacturability, is more important than quality for most RV manufacturers. Now, there are so many RVs in the world, they are no longer special.

So, I wonder, are there too many Tiny Houses?

I’m torn. As a Tiny House owner, I love that others are embracing the movement. I don’t mind when people buy a Tiny House from a builder or Tiny House company. I don’t mind that there are more and more builders starting businesses. Most of these small businesses have something new and interesting to bring to the movement. What does make my stomach turn is the mass-manufacturing and the forgoing of customizations. Some companies are doing this to save on overhead and to expedite the construction process. But I see this as the beginning of the end…

Before we all know it, “Tiny House parts” will be manufactured in China and Tiny House models will be displayed for sale at big box hardware stores. If something breaks in your Tiny Home, there will be Tiny House repair shops with specific Tiny House mechanics to fix it. Tiny House villages will look like cookie cutter neighborhoods. And, worst of all, there will be more regulations which will only hurt small businesses and DIYers. Eventually there will only be a handful of models and designs you can purchase.

The Tiny House movement could be over soon.

I’ve heard some of my fellow Tiny House friends mention that the bubble is about to burst. One former business savvy individual predicts this will happen in about two years. What will I do then? Will my homemade Tiny House be grandfathered-in or condemned? I don’t know.

Some people have even told me to post my Tiny House for sale while the market is still on an upswing. But, whatever happens in two years or ten years, I don’t think I can ever walk away from my home. I just hope that no one will try to take it from me.

What are your thoughts on the state of the Tiny House movement?

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14 Comments

  1. Marc Fournier
    December 7, 2018 / 3:01 pm

    who cares if they are not hand build and 100% custom ? If the person buying that Industrial tiny house with 1000 replicas, and that person is happy with it ..what is it to you ? how can that bother you? the person is happy..it probably cost him less, he knows its not custom and hes content with that…as are 100s of thousands of RV owners. The tiny house movement is a success. The most important part of its success was to make people realize that it is possible, that you can live in a 14ft tiny house up to a 40ft tiny house, on wheels or not. Just that is success by itself. It has allowed me to hop on board and build my own, and im happy with that. Tiny house mouvement should not be exclusive to customs builds, self builds etc. I see too much of this on youtube, where people are so quick to brag about this and that on their tiny house, ”oh i have this hidden compartment and this one…I never use these features..but hey look at me”…if anything bugs me…its people that think its ”in” and show off their Tinys. Just be happy with what you have, if RV manufacterers start building them, they cant stop us from building our own. You can still build your own house, people have just lost the know hows to do so, but nothing stops you…so same goes for Tinys and no governement official will stop me from living where and how I want to live..if I decide to live in a tent, I will…or they will have to drag my ass out of it physically.

    • Garrison
      February 8, 2019 / 6:43 pm

      @Marc Fournier: Because of what happens to a market when they are not hand built and 100% custom…that doesn’t just affect you, it affects everyone else so who cares if one person is happy if the rest of us have to suffer because of it. I am a former home builder, real homes not tiny homes(and not just a manager either, I actually built them. I didn’t call in subs. You’ll understand why that matters in a minute), and we’re dealing with the outcome of this situation right now and, quite frankly, had it not been for people like me, there would be no reason to have tiny homes in the first place, but we broke everything. Production homes in the 1940’s were fantastic deals! Your average American could pay them off in five to ten years without even feeling it in their budget. Slowly and surely though more builders got into it and then more regulation came in and now custom built homes are few and far between. Those that are custom built are incredibly expensive by comparison. This all might not seem like a big deal until you consider that once almost all houses were production built the quality dropped substantially in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s until we got the dog crap houses we have now. When the cost to build dropped because of lower quality the sale prices skyrocketed. Do you genuinely think that home prices should be where they’re at around Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, etc.? The majority of Americans will never pay off their home, not because of the way they spend their money, but because we built crap homes and sold them to people who had no idea what they were looking at and they cost a heck of a lot of money to fix which is less money going towards purposefully inflated mortgages.

      This same scenario is happening to tiny homes. Manufacturers are coming in and charging as much as regular houses for these things and they’re almost all framed incorrectly, using wood of all things (roll my eyes) and cheap materials like LVP (Don’t get me wrong, I love LVP because I have a dog, but the stuff is cheap and takes very little time to install…like most of the materials being used in tiny homes). I don’t care if the person buying is happy or not because what they’re buying is eventually going to make it nearly impossible to build one yourself which in turn just exacerbates the issue tiny homes were suppose to help solve in the first place. It is near impossible to build your own home aside from being in an unincorporated or unrestricted area, both of which are disappearing. Even if you do have the experience of building a home like I do it is equally nearly impossible to do by yourself because all states have some sort of time requirement on the permits for the house to be completed forcing builders to use subs, it has NOTHING what-so-ever to do with “people have just lost the know hows to do so”…no they haven’t. There’s more millennials in the skilled trades then there ever were baby boomers, so that statement is totally false. These codes by the way, contrary to popular belief, were not put into place by the state governments, they were put into place by the trade organizations which, surprise, are also in charge of licensing contractors. So for you to state quite arrogantly that these manufacturers will not stop you from building your own later on down the road, news flash, that already happened to real houses so what on Earth makes you think that wouldn’t happen to tiny houses? And considering that they do physically drag people out of self built, unpermitted dwellings on a regular basis and then condemn and bulldoze the lot, I think it’s safe to say they will have zero issue doing the same to you when you violate the requirements that will come about from whatever trade organization pops up from these manufacturers.

  2. meena
    August 25, 2018 / 7:29 am

    What does make my stomach turn is that many people think they are buying tiny house, when in fact so many new manufactured “tiny homes” are not tiny at all. With fully fitted bathrooms with bathtubs!, with TV rooms!, kitchen with standard size appliances some even with kitchen islands!… Not right, it’s not tiny house they are selling… Or when this lady decided to buy tiny house (video on youtube, and she just thought all the houses were too small. As if people have some wrong idea about tiny homes, just being simple uneducated into something they want to live out, but not really know what is it all about?

    Anyway, not to be all negative.

    I believe those who truly like to live tiny, or small, won’t give up on this lifestyle.

    I personally don’t live in a tiny house. The legislature over here in EU wont let me legally to do so, BUT… Since a small child I always liked small spaces (my parents had to stop building a laundry room because I loved the small room next to the staircase… and yes, it became my room until I left home 🙂 ) . Now, all grown up and after living in apartments and even a house, which on purpose I chosen the smallest one… now I live in a city, in studio (345 sq ft) which I think is still that little bit big (but it’s got small balcony, which is such a pleasure to have in a city) …

    What I want to say, all in all, nope tiny house movement wont dissapear. It may shrink, because many people just decide it’s not for them. But for those as yourself others, including us, not owning a tiny house, but tiny apartments…. living small or tiny is the way to live. And nope, I don’t think we are minimalist in a way of “minimalist movement”, we just don’t need so much stuff 🙂

    Sorry for lengthy post. Also to add, I very much enjoy your Youtube channel as well! And loved your report on the “bee” converted van while you travelled in the UK.

  3. JDA3 WI
    June 23, 2018 / 8:22 pm

    I’m a semi disabled man and will be looking to buy a tiny house (used) so I think the market going though a maturation process is a great thing for people such as myself. My plan is to live in my tiny home here in WI and follow my son to college in MI a few years. Then go where the wind takes me, or if my son needs residency for grad school in another state I can move out a year ahead of him.

    My hope is to find people who have an existing home with land to rent to me. It seems that around here in SE WI that is the best bet for being able to park a tiny house with the least amount of hassle.

  4. Mike
    May 28, 2018 / 12:46 pm

    I see the point of your article. Still, do what you like, live how you want to live and let the price points in some market or another do what they want. Just look down on the newcommers with their US assembled, foreign made modular units. Maybe even write a country song about them.

  5. April 24, 2018 / 10:40 am

    I don’t think you need to worry about the movement ending–there is a much bigger conventional housing market, and a much bigger RV market, where individuals still overcome barriers to entry, no? The main challenge in that regard is really not Chinese manufacturing (tiny homes do NOT fit in shipping containers well!), but rather regulation. As long as building codes allow you to do your own wiring and carpentry and plumbing, you’re good that way.

    My take is that the movement is at a crossroads as many question whether they really want to own a one ton pickup in the name of the environment, and then whether they really want to have a home they can tow, or whether what they really want is less home than most builders want to build, and less home than most city councils will allow to be built. What one might want to do is to simply buy a plot of land, install a well and community septic, and put a maximum house size in the building covenants and see what happens.

  6. Es
    April 24, 2018 / 8:20 am

    It’s not dying, just going through the stages of maturation that every concept experiences. Lovely ideas go through the grassroots movement, eventually get picked up by mainstream society / businesses, have regulations put in place as they become more mainstream, and eventually become a normal part of our everyday. I think that tiny houses becoming a normal part of society / mainstream is a good thing because it signifies a movement away from materialism and the capitalistic notion that more is better / bigger is better.

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