When it comes to the price of a tiny house the cost can vary greatly. We’ve seen them as cheap as $10,000 and as expensive as $150,000+ for approximately the same square footage. In this article, we explore the reason for such a vast difference in prices and how to figure out if the price of your tiny home or one you’re looking at buying is priced competitively or not.
As seen above the price of a tiny home has a huge range and this is due to a number of factors. But to determine if a home is priced properly we first have to figure out a standard to compare it too. For example, a traditional house usually uses the Price per Square Foot metric as a way to value the house and also compare it to other homes on the market. This helps you figure out if the price is competitive or not based on its price, square footage, and the other comparables on the market that are for sale or have recently sold in and around the area you are currently looking to buy your house at.
However, with smaller homes, this metric breaks down as the cost of construction is not in direct proportion to the square footage. The vast majority of the cost house comes from the foundation, kitchen, bathrooms, and systems(think plumbing, electrical, mechanical). And just like big homes, tiny homes have all of those things except without the 100s if not 1000s of additional square footage a big home has that is simply space. This blank space square footage is extremely inexpensive when added to a house which is why you see the price per square footage of homes come down considerably as the floor plan gets bigger and bigger.
That’s why you’ll see that within such a small footprint of a tiny house you can see dramatic swings in price per foot from around $100 per square foot to over $700 per square foot! So, because there are other metrics to determine your tiny house price, we typically don’t recommend using the price per square footage model - at least not as a sole metric to determine the value of a tiny house.
There are a few main factors that have a big impact on the price of a small house. Length, Quality, DIY or Pro, New or Used, and Certifications.
The overall length is something that is more important than square footage when it comes to the cost of a tiny home. The length of the tiny house has a big impact on the weight, which determines the trailer chassis size and axle count. Going from a single to a double axle can add multiple thousands on the cost and going from double to triple affects the price event more. We’ve seen single smaller axle tiny house trailers for as little as $2,000 and the larger triple axle trailers up to $15,000 if it’s built well and using the top-notch axles, drop axle kits, tires and wheels.
As a quick comparison on price, a quick price to length metric can go a long way - at least for figuring out if the tiny house is priced somewhat competitively or not.
The quality of each tiny house can vary greater than what you’d typically see in the traditional residential market. This is due to the fact that the residential market has established a relatively predictable standard for what the market expects. However, in the tiny home market, no such standard has been universally set.
This is due to the fact that the market is much newer and that tiny homes serve a much wider variety of purposes and audiences. Tiny homes are homes, rentals, vacation homes, business showrooms, home offices, ADUs, campers, etc.. In addition to this, tiny homes are built to have a true luxury quality in 200 square feet or to be very minimal and basic using reclaimed materials and the like. You typically don’t see that same true luxury quality in regular homes except in the mansions and larger homes above 5000 square feet.
Quality should absolutely be looked at from an objective point of view. A few helpful things to consider when it comes to overall quality is finding out what kind of flooring, countertops, cabinets, and trailer chassis were used and the type of roofing, tile, and insulation materials were installed. This will give you a good idea of the level of quality the home was finished with. Just considering materials, a very high-end quality tiny house can easily have materials that add $20k - $50k onto the price tag.
But quality goes beyond just the materials.
This has got to be one of the main reasons you’ll see so many used tiny homes with huge price differences. Of course, a DIY build can be done much cheaper than a professionally built tiny house and that reflects on the market. Just like the materials, there is typically at least a $20k - $50k difference when it comes to a DIY build vs a professionally built small home.
Is it worth the extra cost to buy a tiny home that was built by a professional builder? We think so. There are so many factors to consider when buying a used tiny home but this is definitely something to not overlook. Of course, the budget sets many limits but if possible always buy a tiny home with a good history. Take a look at how, where, and who built it for starters!
If your tiny home or a small house you’re looking at buying has a certification from a legitimate 3rd party organization then you’ll likely see at least a $5k - $10k higher price tag for it. This is because to get that certification, the builder, whether DIY or Professional, had to follow specific guidelines to build the tiny home and use specific materials to pass inspections from that 3rd party organization.
This is also something we highly recommend looking for when it comes to a used tiny house. We typically see that an additional $5k - $10k in upfront costs can save the homeowner that amount, and more, over the life of the tiny house. We like to think of it as the first layer of insurance. And beyond that, you’re buying peace of mind that your tiny home was inspected to ensure that it was built properly and safely.
Of course, if the home is new or used will have a dramatic effect on the price. If it is new, you’ll also find a pretty wide range of prices depending on if it’s a model or a completely custom tiny home.
You can find some new model small homes as low as $40k on the competitive side of things and as high as $110k. New customs tiny houses usually start around the $75k range and go up from there.
As you can see, the prices can be all over the map. We recommend really honing in on your budget, Must Haves, top priorities, and the ultimate goals that you’re hoping to achieve with your tiny house.
The good news is that there are plenty of options out there to fit any size of budget and any type of lifestyle! If you'd like to dive deeper, make sure to check out the Tiny House Buyers Guide.