A decade ago, tiny homes would have been considered adorable—but ultimately unrealistic.
Now, the tiny house movement is booming. A 2018 survey by the National Association of Home Builders found that more than half of US adults would consider the possibility of moving into a small home at some point in the future. Millennials in particular showed the strongest interest at 63% overall.
But what drives traditional homeowners to follow the tiny house trend? And what can the tiny life give them that traditional homeownership can’t?
Here’s why so many people are choosing to downsize their current lifestyle for the tiny home life.
Living in a little space can be daunting. Some would-be tiny house owners wonder if they can stay in such a seemingly cramped area. And for most of us, it’s hard to shake the “bigger is better” idea that’s become so ingrained in American society.
But “bigger is better” isn’t necessarily true, and tiny homes are a good example of why.
One major reason many people make the leap to the tiny life is for financial advantages. For most US homeowners, a third of their income or more goes straight to putting a roof over their heads. Traditional homeownership comes with a hefty price tag: a median monthly mortgage payment of $1,100 for American homeowners.
Traditional homeowners may spend 15 to 30 years paying off that debt. This, in turn, might be the reason why about three-quarters of Americans are currently living paycheck to paycheck.
We work hard for that bigger house. But for tiny house owners, the cost isn’t worth it. Furthermore, it may even seem counterintuitive to them to spend hours working to afford a place they rarely spend time in.
In contrast to traditional homeowners, 68 percent of tiny homeowners have no mortgage at all. The cost of a tiny house varies from as little as $10,000 up to $150,000, depending on the desired lifestyle and the kinds of amenities and upgrades the homeowner opts for. However, most tiny homeowners will only pay between $30,000-$60,000 for their new dream home.
What’s more, custom tiny house construction can be had for a fraction of the price of a traditional home, for anyone willing to jump in and design their own floor plan! This, of course, is in addition to the countless affordable new construction options already on the market.
These days, some of the most popular tiny homes are built onto a trailer base, which offers several advantages.
First, it avoids some of the complications and added expense of constructing the foundations of a traditional home.
Second, it makes the structure road-towable—meaning you can take it anywhere! Tiny homeowners can uproot themselves and travel without worrying about their mortgage or hotel stays. From regular weekend trips to long-term travel, it’s much easier to make every place you visit feel just like home.
Furthermore, they have no ties to a traditional neighborhood, and no need to keep their home rooted in place unless they want to be there. This offers significant freedom to explore and travel over traditional homeownership.
Of course, it’s hard to ignore the fact that RVs and trailers have long been on the scene for this exact purpose, but tiny houses offer a few extra benefits. First and most important is the fact that tiny homeowners get to travel in their real, permanent home—not a mass-made structure designed for recreation. They also tend to be higher-quality structures, as they’re designed for long-term living rather than leisure travel.
It’s becoming more and more common for consumers to open their wallets and shell out a little more money for eco-friendly options. Efficient lighting, eco-friendly vehicles, and biodegradable products are flying off the shelves.
With tiny homes, anyone invested in doing their part to help the environment can take things to the next level. One researcher even found that people who move into tiny homes can downsize their ecological footprints by 45% on average.
From the very start, tiny homes have a smaller ecological impact than their traditional counterparts. Needing fewer building materials in general, these homes require fewer trees to be cut for lumber, as well as less fuel for transport. Many newer homes even allow homeowners to opt for recycled supplies to be used as part of the construction.
In addition, tiny homes can save energy as well. With fewer (and smaller) electrical fixtures and appliances in most tiny homes, these tiny spaces require less space heating, hot water, and lighting.
Tiny homeowners, as a rule, also generate far less waste than they would in a traditional home. Less space means fewer purchases and possessions, as well as less tossed packaging and trash in the long-term.
Finally, tiny homeowners tend to have better connections with nature and spend more time out in the world they’re trying so hard to protect. Often, this interaction with the great outdoors is what helps to further cement their drive to protect the environment.
Ultimately, the tiny house craze allows homeowners to live up to their own values and make their home eco-friendly while living their dream lifestyle.
Back when the Census Bureau first started tracking house sizes in 1973, newly built homes were around 1,500 square feet. In 2015, that number jumped to almost 2,500 square feet. On average, we currently have among the biggest homes in the world.
But research suggests that this so-called “McMansion Effect” hasn’t made us any happier. House satisfaction remains stable, even as our house size, floor plan complexity, and mortgage prices have risen steadily.
By contrast, tiny houses are rarely larger than 500 square feet. And when you put them on a trailer bed, they shrink even further to 150 square feet or less to keep the structure towable.
This downsizing trend makes tiny living the cousin to the minimalist lifestyle. Tiny homeowners often express the desire to stop chasing “stuff” in order to keep up with the Joneses.
This becomes a great deal easier in a smaller home. When every inch of a small space must go to the items that are truly necessary, there’s little room for knick-knacks and clutter. Instead, homeowners tend to place more value on finding high-quality and long-lasting belongings that make sense in a smaller space, and they work to stop accumulating clutter that adds little joy to their lives.
This, in turn, means their lives require far less upkeep. Less clutter overall means less time spent cleaning a messy space. Even repairs and minor design changes happen on a much more reduced scale and at a smaller cost.
One of the joys of tiny life is learning to maximize your living space, making it a place that’s truly your own—without the needless mess.
People adopt the tiny house lifestyle for a huge variety of reasons—but these reasons often boil down to the freedom to live as desired.
Free from an obligation to pay for a long-term mortgage, tiny house owners often find themselves working less and spending more time enjoying life. And that new lifestyle can look very different for different types of people.
One study from the University of North Georgia studied common motivators for downsizing to a tiny home. The researchers' findings showed that tiny homeowners appreciate getting time back for a number of different goals.
Some tiny home enthusiasts felt that downsizing would help them escape the “slavery” of the consumerist lifestyle while taking control of their life and their time. Others wanted to cultivate more meaningful relationships with friends and family, seeking a happier and more fulfilling lifestyle.
Still, others wished to live their lives to the fullest by embarking on new opportunities, rock climbing, traveling, or eating good food. And some wanted more time to pursue hobbies they enjoyed, like making good food, studying, or biking.
Whatever drives them, tiny homeowners find that their new lifestyle offers an autonomy they might not have been able to find with traditional home living.
The tiny life offers huge advantages—once you finally take the leap! Starting a new lifestyle can be scary, especially when it involves downsizing your current lifestyle. But it’s clear to see why so many people think the benefits of the tiny house lifestyle far outweigh the costs.
If you’re interested in learning more about the tiny house lifestyle, check out our other posts to help you decide if this is the right step for you.