Tuesday, June 9, 2015

PROS and CONS of Modular Tiny Houses

A very funny thing happened yesterday that left me wondering if maybe the Tiny House movement just might catch fire and become a real industry that some modular home factory will add to their line of custom homes.

I called and made hotel reservations for my June Builder Breakfast in Lewisburg. PA and when Mike, the Sales Manager for the Best Western, asked for my business’ name, I told him Modular Home Builder blog. He immediately asked if I knew where he and his wife could get a tiny house.

When I asked why, he said that they have been looking into this option for a little while and couldn’t find any place to actually see one or watch one being built.

Here is one factory he could check out. Nationwide Homes in VA, builds a line of Eco Cottages that start at 300 sq ft.

After I hung up with Mike, Peg and I discussed what the Pros and Cons of living a tiny house lifestyle would be. Here is a list of what we came up with last night:

  • Spend less money on energy as solar panels can be mounted to the roof.
  • Great for empty nesters and young singles and couples without children living at home.
  • It would cut down on all the junk that one accumulates.
  • A energy efficient single split Heat/AC unit would be ideal.
  • Cleaning the house would be easy and quick.
  • They are relatively inexpensive.
  • They would encourage a more active lifestyle.


  • Lack of storage space
  • Need special furniture that works well in a small area.
  • Entertaining would be tough, especially in the WInter
  • We like to cook and both of us in the kitchen area would be hard.
  • No dishwasher but we have Essie (our dog) for the prewash cycle
  • Lack of privacy
  • They are vulnerable to extreme weather.
  • Finding land to set up the homestead
  • Nobody would give give us a mortgage. It would have to be a personal loan.
  • Zoning and Codes restrictions
  • Our friends wouldn’t approve
  • Selling the tiny house at a big loss when ready to move up or out.


Marta said...

I am curious about a couple of the "cons" that were mentioned. Why exactly are they "vulnerable to extreme weather"? Who said you "can't get a mortgage"? As for the dishwasher, I've seen countertop Dishwashers that would be perfect, OR one of those that are installed under the counter like a drawer.

There is one "con" you didn't mention that may be the biggest factor. Dollar for dollar, they are MUCH higher per square foot than larger homes. This is a niche market sale. But for those that want this type of living it is perfect as long as they understand the price versus a larger home.

Coach said...

As you may have noticed, most of these tiny houses are on steel frames with wheels. High winds, extreme cold and heat can take a toll on both the house and the occupants. If you can personally get a mortgage on an RV, then I guess maybe you could on one of these but I doubt it.

You are right about the cost...OMG!

As for the dishwasher, Essie would vote against that one.

Steve L said...

Tiny house comment:
If built as an RV Park model; no financing. RV financing requires a bladder holding tank for waste water. A Tiny House is an all cash purchase in this format.
If you build it as a modular and place it onto a permanent foundation then you can get financing.
A Tiny House at 600 sq ft can accommodate all standard items as a home, think of it as a studio apartment.
A larger home is less efficient thus has a higher annual operating cost which was not mentioned in the dollar for dollar comparison mentioned. A few dollars on the build cost is far less than the annual operating cost. Most builders never consider that cost in their home quotes for any comparison I have seen nor do they want the genie out of the bottle either

Anonymous said...

In some states Park Models are replacing RV's in resort parks and scenic locations. Models larger than the RV titled Parks are being placed in coastal and resort areas replacing older manufactured products.

In S Florida once enterprising builder is selling luxury "Tiny Homes"
at better than $350K in a high density coastal resort property.

These products fill a "niche" for those who recognize it.

Marta said...

If built as an RV it definitely has limitations in all the categories mentioned earlier, but since the blog originated on Modular Home Builder I assumed we were talking modulars.

The trick for a modular home manufacturer is to build 2-3 of these at a time. The contribution to margins probably wouldn't be enough if built one at a time. It is just like any other manufactured item, the profitability is in volume. But similar to Park Models, is there really a market for these? I know several applications for them, and I like all of them, but will you be able to sell enough of them to make it worth the manufacturers time and energy. I'm not sure.

Anonymous said...

I can see the value. Young folks (Gen-Xers or Gen-Yers - who the hell knows!) that want low-maintenance and low cost, and some select Baby Boomers that want to escape the McMansion chase for sheer mass and scale. This is the market.

The overriding problem: Zoning Regs. Once the bureaucrats in Govt realize that many Americans actually want to live a life without regulation - and this will take voters more than any industry lobbying effort - they may just recognize property taxes for a smaller home are better than NO property taxes when they move the hell out of Dodge. Treasurers and Governor's policies start to move fast when they witness defection like we may well see in the near future.

And who wouldn't want a tight little home with high performance heating/cooling, water filtration, and solar power that protects them from the Grid?

Marta said...

I've often thought that if someone would buy a patch of land, and do several little cottage type houses, in the woods perhaps, and either sold or rented them, I believe it would be perfect for singles, young couples, retired folks, etc. I think there are those that want their own piece of dirt, instead of apartment homes. But as said by Anonymous they do not want McMansions. Kind of like a mobile home park, but using modular tiny houses. I believe atmosphere matters to folks as much as price and size. The density is also important. Unlike places that have park models on top of each other, give these people some space & privacy. Covenants would also be important to maintain that atmosphere. What do you think?