Tiny homes are freaking everywhere. They've taken over cities roads, and, more importantly, the television, replacing important and compelling searches for private islands in the Caribbean with a quest for as little square footage as possible. People are actively and happily seeking to live in mouse houses.
What is going on here?
"Are tiny houses popular? According to Google Trends searches, yes," said Tiny House Talk. "Right now, they're about as popular as they've ever been. But why? It stems down to becoming a homeowner and enjoying a life without a mortgage."
The whole idea of the tiny house movement seems antithetical to what many of us have been striving for our whole lives: a place to put all our stuff. No, really, a place to legitimately put down roots. Space may be at a premium in many areas, but that hasn't stopped many people from moving up, not down.
"The average size of a new home built in 2014 was 2,453 square feet, up from 1,660 square feet in 1973, the earliest year for which U.S. Census data is available," said US News. "Only 8 percent of homes completed in 2014 had fewer than 1,400 square feet, according to census data."
But tiny homes eschew the notion that bigger is better. Ask many authorities on the topic and they'll say that a "real" tiny home maxes out at 400 square feet; many are living much smaller than that and boasting about it. When it comes to living tiny, size matters, only in reverse.
Are the spaces cute and clever? Sure. With a minimum amount of space, you naturally have to find ways to maximize function.
Certainly, from a budget standpoint, tiny homes make sense. Check out these options, all of which you can buy for under $50,000. This prefab tiny home is less than 10k!
And this modular tiny home designed by BIO Architects and called DublDom comes in a 280-square-foot version and a 431- square-foot option, and can be constructed IN ONE DAY. Downside: Currently, you can only get it in Moscow. Dasvidaniya.
Small House Bliss
About that budget. Yes, with enough cash on hand you can buy a tiny home outright and not have to pay a mortgage. Sounds great, right? But, frankly, having to sleep on the dining room table or climb down a set of rickety stairs from the loft that's not tall enough even to accommodate a compact human in the middle of the night to use a bathroom the size of a cruise ship shower - that may not even have running water!—is enough to say a big fat "No!" to the whole idea, savings notwithstanding.
Mobile or not
Of course, part of the promise of tiny homes for the shiny, happy people you see on TV is the ability to spend spend less on housing and more on fun and adventure. And, for many, that means being mobile.
When you're not tied down, you can go anywhere you want. Presumably, this is a temporary condition for those who are not retired, because: jobs. And money. Even if you don't have a mortgage, ya gotta eat, right?
But constant mobility has its downsides. The idea of not knowing where to set up next might be exciting for some; for us, the lack of permanence is anxiety producing. And then there's the question of water.
"One of the parts of building a tiny house that many people worry about is tiny house plumbing. This is one big area where your tiny house will be very different from a regular house. While normal houses generally have permanent access to water because they're on the grid, when your house is mobile, there's no guarantee that you'll always be near to a water source that you can hook up to," said The Tiny House.
It's when the conversation turns to how to get water out of your house that it really gets sticky. Not tethered permanently to a piece of land? You're talking about composting toilets and dump stations to offload waste water.
Umm, no. Really, no. I have to wear two pairs of gloves just to clean my perfectly nice toilet connected to my perfectly nice plumbing.
All part of the fun
For a lot of tiny home enthusiasts, the challenges are all part of the fun. Not that emptying waste water is ever fun, but you get the point. Which makes one wonder: Are
we experiencing a permanent shift in the American dream? Is homeownership just not the thing anymore (homeownership with more than 300 square feet, anyway)?
Is it generational?
Not so fast.
"The Tiny House Movement's growth is largely among the young and child-free, but it's gaining momentum among seniors, too; some 40 percent of tiny house owners are over age 50," said Senior Planet. "After all, what better time to downsize, personalize, simplify and save -- either alone or by buying a plot with friends and forming a tiny house community? A finished build-it-yourself house averages around $23,000, and plans and kits are available online. To have a house custom built runs around $50,000-$60,000. That's a few hundred thousand less than a tiny Manhattan apartment and an alternative to a Florida condo."
Is tiny home living overrated?
So, beyond the freedom factor, budget and otherwise, what's the draw of tiny homes? It's a question that's being asked by more than just us. And, curiously, the answers aren't always glowing.
"Tiny homes offer the escapist fantasy of having less: less square footage, less responsibility, and less stuff. The idea has been particularly trendy in recent years," said Tech Insider. "Tiny homes have been the subject of countless Pinterest boards, articles, and blog posts, with many claiming they are the homes of the future. But the reality of small living is not always easy, and often not cheap either."
Their article profiles several people who ended up ditching their tiny homes because: they got pregnant and realized they couldn't raise a family in 130 square fee; they had zoning issues and didn't want to be permanently impermanent; it was too isolating being in the middle of nowhere; and they just missed the comforts of home - a real home with real bedrooms with doors and everything and a kitchen with actual full-size appliances that doesn't double as a study space and a gym and a guest room.
Makes sense to us.