The average size of a home in 2013 was 2,598 square feet — an enormous increase over the cozy 1,525 square feet that was the average in 1973. As homes become bigger and mortgages grow to match, more and more homeowners are going to something much simpler and smaller: The tiny house. Usually defined as a home between 100 and 400 square feet, these micro-homes offer huge benefits, including lower overall cost, lower utility bills, a smaller carbon footprint and even the ability to move whenever you please.
Today’s average tiny house costs about $23,000, and as a result, 68% of all little house owners aren’t tied to a mortgage. Tiny houses can be built on site, or they can be easily shipped to the buyer, thanks to the fact that they will usually fit on a flat-bed truck. More companies that specialize in compact houses are popping up across the country, making it much easier for anyone to go small.
But is the tiny house movement really all it appears to be? As with any new trend, it’s important to seriously consider the pros and cons. So we talked to a few who have lived in tight spaces and asked them the important questions: What do you love — or hate — about your small space?
PRO: Big money savings and little commitment
Jesse Harrison currently lives in a tiny house; he recognizes some disadvantages, but believes that the advantages outweigh the hardships. Among those high points? ‘Obviously, the cost,’ he said. ‘When you save all that money, you can invest it in yourself to improve other aspects of your life.’ Investing in yourself might mean opting for a change of scenery. ‘It’s easier to move. If you don’t like commitment and you like to move every once in a while, then a tiny house would be perfect for you,’ he said.
CON: Tiny living can be tough on relationships
When Bruce Ailion was in college, he lived in a small space — two people in a 300-square foot efficiency apartment. ‘While I liked the small space a lot, great location, easy to care for, it was fine for me alone. When you add people and relationships to the small space it is very challenging,’ he said. ‘If you have a disagreement or want solitude it was impossible to find a space to retreat to. While I think the tiny home is a great concept it can present real challenges to relationships and a small home requires the right relationship to work.’
PRO: It can be anything you want it to be
A tiny house doesn’t have to be a full-time dwelling. Some choose to use a tiny house as a home office, or keep a tidy little place ready for when the in-laws come to visit. Those parents who have seen their millennial children come back to the nest have turned to tiny homes as a way to give their adult kids a place to live while they still maintain privacy. Even the federal government knows the value of a tiny home: Dwellings of 308 square feet served as a welcome alternative to FEMA trailers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
CON: Space is truly precious
PRO: Customization is fun
A tiny house straight off the lot might not be the best bet; custom design is where it’s at. Dan Moyer Jr., the national director of social media for Closet Factory, encourages rooms that do double-duty. ‘We’ve seen Murphy (wall) beds making a comeback, as people with limited space can’t afford the luxury of having ‘just a bedroom,” Moyer said. ‘Instead, every room of the house has to serve a dual purpose, and a wall bed is one of the easiest ways to turn a bedroom into a flex room.’
PRO: Allows you to ‘get back to basics’
As the great George Carlin once said, ‘That’s all your house is: A place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house.‘ His comedy hit on the heart of the matter: As houses become bigger, we become overrun with ‘stuff.’ In a tiny house, you are forced to pare down, consider every item and choose only those things that truly matter to you. The freedom from too much ‘stuff’ can be an exhilarating part of living in a small house.
Whether you go with a micro-house at 100 square feet or get expansive at 400 square feet, understanding the pros and cons can help you make important choices. Here’s to living large — no matter what size space you choose!