Tiny home living has seen an explosion in popularity since the rise of reality television shows like Tiny House Nation or Tiny House, Big Living or Tiny Luxury. One of the core tenants of the lifestyle is the idea of minimalism—living simply with fewer material things and less physical space.
Some people conflate the minimalism and smaller square footage of tiny homes with a lower purchase price. While this is true on paper—smaller square footage does equal a cheaper price—there are countless ways your tiny home adventure can rack up the price tag of an average-sized home.
That’s why it’s important to distinguish between tiny homes that follow the principles of tiny home living—minimalism and simplicity—and those that adhere to pop-cultural ideas of luxurious novelty.
If you are committed to minimalist living, believe in renewable energy, and don’t feel the need to indulge in building your tiny home out of luxury materials, you can actually save quite a lot through tiny home living.
If saving money is your goal, then there are clear money-saving benefits of tiny home living, including:
However, as with any niche lifestyle that possesses pop culture significance, if you really want to spend money on your tiny home, you certainly can. Some tiny houses—which are technically defined as having 400 square feet or less—can run as high as $500,000 on the market.
These expensive tiny homes often have unique stories, expensive area codes, are made from exotic materials, and possess expensive amenities and features that all factor into the price tag. Ultimately, however, the inflated price results from hype or tiny home fever. Tiny homes like these are simply stores of value for the wealthy, fulfilling the same role as luxury yachts, cars, homes, and the like.
It’s crucial to establish the difference between tiny homes that adhere to the ideals of minimalism and simplicity and those built on hype. The fantasy seen on TV is often at odds with the lived experience in an authentic, eco-friendly, cost-effective tiny home. This distinction is important when planning for your tiny home and prepping for tiny home living.
Now that we’ve broken down tiny homes into two philosophical categories—ones true to the minimalist lifestyle and ones intended to be expensive stores of value—we can explore the real options you have as a potential tiny home buyer.
The average cost for a tiny home ranges between $30,000 to $60,000 across prefab, on market, and from-scratch tiny houses in the US. However, as mentioned earlier in the post, you can spend a lot less or a lot more depending on your preferences.
You have a few options when searching for tiny homes:
Tiny homes can be purchased as prefabricated units delivered to you, mostly built and ready to be “installed,” either by you or the company you ordered from. Prefabricated tiny homes tend to have tiered pricing based on size, materials, and features.
These homes have a wide price range based on many factors. Some units can be ordered on Amazon for as cheap as $10,000, but don’t let the price fool you. These options have no modern amenities and are essentially re-marketed sheds—hardly livable.
A more realistic price range for tiny prefabricated homes with modern amenities—electrical wiring, freshwater tanks, and hook-ups to external utilities—falls between $30,000 and $60,000. The range goes as high as $180,000.
This often does not include the installation fee, nor does it factor in the cost of land or the pouring of the foundation. Some prefabricated units come on trailers, so you don’t have to worry about the installation fees or purchasing land and prepping the foundation.
Preowned tiny homes come with the benefit of already having been built and lived in. Plus, there aren’t installation or construction fees. If you are buying a tiny home and the plot of land it sits on, the cost will vary based on the many factors that affect the price of land. The land the house sits on could cost more than the tiny home itself.
The only material drawback to buying a tiny house on the market is that you lose the customizability of building your own or customizing a prefabricated unit.
Some people in the tiny home community view constructing (or at least designing) their tiny home as part of the ethos. When you draw up the plans yourself or consult with custom home builders, you have the greatest control over how your space is used.
However, as the builder (or commissioner), you are responsible for the cost of materials and labor. Even if you plan to do the building yourself, you need to factor in the element of time. It will cost you time to perform the labor, which is time you might have spent at work. In this sense, there is a cost to doing the labor yourself, even if you aren’t paying for it directly with money.
There are other costs you need to consider when shopping for a tiny home:
Now you have a much better idea of the tiny home options available to potential buyers. When deciding which option is best for you, consider more than just the price tag. Think about your lifestyle, needs—and construction abilities—when choosing between prefab units, already built tiny homes, or building one from scratch.
About the Author
Jenn Walker is a freelance writer, blogger, dog-enthusiast, and avid beachgoer operating out of Southern New Jersey.