Tiny homes are an excellent investment for people that are just starting out on their own in life and want to begin the journey on the right foot.
These sorts of buildings are usually bought by people looking to get their own place but can’t afford to buy a traditional home or by families that already own a house but are looking to use the tiny home on wheels as a guest house or moveable living space.
Tiny houses are by no means a comfortable fit for a large family or even for more than two people, but they can provide you with pretty much everything you might need.
You’ll have access to all of the necessary facilities, with the key ones being a kitchen and a bathroom, and you’ll have a roof over your head and a warm place to sleep.
If you also include the fact that the average cost of a tiny house is far lower than a traditional home, you have a pretty good deal on your hands.
Except, how low are the prices of these tiny house buildings exactly?
While the tiny house trend is still in full swing, things have somewhat quieted down in recent years in terms of articles that cover this particular topic.
A few years ago, you could easily find multiple articles that claim you could buy or build a tiny home for as little as 20k. There were also a few that claimed that you could even spend as little as $10,000 for your home.
These pricing claims are obviously laughably wrong, and they’re estimating that you can get a living space for cheaper than you could buy a fully equipped camper van.
If you really try, you could probably find a “house” for as little as $10k; however, your square footage would probably be the same as the average restaurant bathroom at those prices.
Tiny house builders that specialize in this craft can probably give you a close estimation of the price of the final product, but you’ll need to sit down with their engineers to determine that.
Prices usually gravitate around the $30,000 mark, but this is just a very low-ball estimate, and the actual price usually has at least another $10,000 added to it or more.
Sites like Tumbleweed have prices that start at around $60k, but these are pretty high-end small homes, and you might be able to find companies that can do the job for about half that price.
Additionally, building your own tiny home is generally cheaper than buying a new home from a company. At the end of the day, there is no correct estimation regarding the eventual cost of a tiny house.
However, If you’re looking to build a custom home yourself, then you’re going to need to take into account the prices of building materials, the exact floor plans, and exactly how many square feet this entire structure is going to take up.
There are also zoning laws that need to be considered, tiny house insurance, building restrictions that need to be obeyed, and so on.
Luckily, most construction companies and tiny home building companies already know the regulations, so while it may cost you a few more bucks, both options will easily handle all of the paperwork for you.
Keep in mind that when we say “build a home yourself,” we mean engaging the services of a standard professional builder instead of a tiny home builder. This does mean that you’re going to have to pay the construction company instead of the tiny home company.
And while it is true that this will result in the construction process costing you about double as much as it would if you actually built it yourself, it’s unlikely that a first-time housebuilder will be able to make anything that’s any stronger than a house of cards.
Unless you work as a full-time construction worker, you’re more than likely going to waste your time and money before you give up and ultimately call the professionals.
We recommend that you skip that particular step of the construction process and instead focus on the elements that you have more control over, namely the building components.
The biggest advantage of building your own tiny house over buying a tiny home is the ability to choose exactly which materials go into the construction.
We should mention that there are companies that actually allow you to choose what sort of materials your home will be made out of, but most of them use the same basic skeleton with very few variations.
Regardless of whether you go for the buy or build option, the materials in question will be the deciding factor on whether your tiny living experience is going to be a modest affair or if you’re looking to go all-in on the luxury tiny homes.
In this article, building materials will refer to items like the floorboards and the roofing instead of simpler things like the countertops.
You’re free to throw caution to the wind and handle the interior design portion of your small space customization with whichever items you might like. Still, you’ll need to be careful when picking out the building materials themselves.
We’ve already established that you’re not going to be able to build your own home, and you won’t be able to get any builder or company to do it for anything under $30k.
The question now becomes how much you’re exactly willing to invest in your home and which materials you can afford to save money on without reducing the quality of the house.
In general, the labor is about half of the tiny home cost, so a good way to estimate how much you’ll need to spend is to simply tally up the price of the materials and then double it.
Estimate: $3,000 - $5,000
There are going to be many different sizes of trailers that you’re going to be able to find and use as the base for your home.
The more moderately sized 20-foot ones usually come in at around $3000, and the 30-foot ones generally cost somewhere along the lines of $5000.
There are obviously going to be discrepancies based on the trailers, the exact width and length, the material they’re made out of, and many other factors.
However, most of the time, you’ll be able to get away with spending somewhere in the ballpark of $5000 for a decent trailer to use for your home. You’ll also be able to find a lot of repurposed or second-hand trailers with a resale value that’s much lower than any new models that you might find. That said, we’d strongly recommend not going down this route since you won’t be able to make sure if the trailer doesn’t have any overlooked flaws without a very detailed inspection.
Older trailers might also have more frequent mechanical issues and are likely to need more frequent maintenance, so the costs will pile up in the long run.
Estimate: $1000 - $2,000
Metal really is the only way to go when it comes to making sure that your home is nice and protected from the elements. Now, you’ll also need to add insulation, but we’ll get to that a bit further on in the article.
Ribbed metal usually comes in pretty large chunks, so you’ll easily be able to cover the top of your home by joining together two pieces.
There might be a bit of bending necessary here and there, but in general, this is a pretty simple installation procedure.
You can also exchange the ribbed metal for a standing seam, or a corrugated metal variation.
There are going to be price variations between the types of metal, but the corrugated metal roofs are usually going to go for around $3 - $7 per square foot, while the standing seam might be at least twice as expensive at $8 - $14 per square foot.
Estimate: $500 - $3000
Like a lot of materials on our list, insulation is going to be a bit tough to nail down price-wise since it’s mostly going to depend on the size of your home. You’ll also need to consider the different types of materials that you can use as well.
If we had to put a number on it, we’d say that your total costs will come to around $2-$5 for every square foot of insulation.
This estimate is for the standard 3-inch thick insulation, with spray foam probably being your best bet both in terms of cost and ease of application.
Good insulation can really cut down your yearly heating costs, so it’s smart to get something that’ll do the job right, but in a pinch, even sheep wool will do you some good.
Estimate: $500 - $5,000
We’ve come to another difficult price to nail down - the framing and finish wood that you’ll need to use.
Framing wood is simply the lumber that’ll need to be used in order to make your support beams and the inside of your walls, and they usually cost $1000-$2000 for the entire house.
Finish wood is what you’re going to use to make your interior and exterior walls, and unlike the framing wood, all of the sheets need to be treated, which means a bit more money.
MDF is cheaper per sheet than birch ply, but you might want to spend a bit more money and get something that’ll take paint a bit better. We’ll leave that up to you.
Estimate: $500 - $3,000
Electricity is much less of an issue when you include it in your overall monthly tiny home cost, largely due to the fact how much less space this sort of home is going to take up. The fewer rooms you have, the lower the electricity bill is going to be overall.
However, the cost of putting in the electrical installation is still going to be the same per square foot as any standard-sized house.
There really isn’t much in the way of price variations in this section, so all that you really need to do is get on the line with an electrician and tell them the size of the house and how many power outlets you’d like.
Estimate: $200 - $1,000
You’ll actually need to spend a lot less money on the wood for the flooring than you do for the rest of the house. This is mostly because it doesn’t take up all that much square footage, as well as the fact that there are quite a few different varieties of floor that you can pick from.
A good hardwood maple will cost you somewhere around $4-$5 per square foot, whereas plywood will come to less than a dollar per square foot but will obviously be of inferior quality.
A lot of homeowners actually choose to put in a cheaper alternative in the beginning and then switch it out for something a bit better after they’ve saved up enough money to afford it.
If you go for this alternative, just keep in mind that ripping off the old floorboards and putting in new ones is quite a hassle, so if you choose, we wouldn’t recommend you do that as your plan A.
Estimate: $500 - $4,000
Interior finishes are simply a term that we use to describe all of the small items around the house that most people don’t think of that often.
We’re talking about light switches and lighting fixtures, drapes, doorknobs, locks, and other miscellaneous items that are pretty vital but get forgotten nonetheless.
These items can be pretty cheap, depending on the store you buy them from, and most of them aren’t all that vital, so this might be a good place to save some money by not getting expensive components for no reason.
Estimate: $1,000 - $3,000
SImilarly to the electrical components of the house, there really aren’t many factors that are going to make the price of the pipes vary all that much from house to house.
Your final price might vary from our estimate if you have many taps that you need to connect or if the property you own is located far away from city utility lines, but otherwise, it should stay somewhere within that margin.
The most important tip we can give for the plumbing installation is to keep the pipes protected while also making them easily accessible if anything breaks or needs to be replaced.
This will allow you to either attempt to fix any plumbing problems by yourself or be able to spend less on a plumber if they manage to fix the issue in a short amount of time.
Estimate: $400 - $4,000
Your standard-sized window usually doesn’t cost much more than $100 apiece, with custom-sized ones usually coming in at double that price.
There are also going to be other variations in the price depending on whether you went with a double-pane, tempered glass, an argon-filled variation, and so on.
We’d recommend paying special attention to how air-tight the windows are when they’re closed.
You might not always have a way to check this before buying your window, but pay close attention during the installation process and make sure that the ones you put in are draught-proof and help your insulation. Of course, this will largely depend on the quality of the windows themselves, but if you got them for something close to $150, then they have no business being unreliable.
Aside from the above-mentioned materials, it’s also a good idea to put about 2-3,000 dollars to the side to cover expenses like adhesives, fasteners, and even paint for your house.
There are certain homeownership elements like appliances that we didn’t consider for obvious reasons, but we also neglected any DIY work that you might want to do. Unfortunately, this means that if you’re going to make an off-grid tiny house, complete with solar panels and a composting toilet, you’re going to have to calculate the costs yourself.
If you’re going for a more traditional house (or as traditional as tiny homes can get), then we believe we’ve covered most of the items that you’ll need to keep in mind before you get started.