You probably came here looking for a definitive guide to answer all of your questions about how much it costs to build a tiny home, and you’re in luck – we’re going to do that! Sort of.
It’s hard to define a specific price point for tiny houses, since one of the biggest appeals of tiny homes is that they’re so customizable. Just like any other home-building endeavor, making any changes to a base model is going to change overall cost, and often, unexpected obstacles come up.
So, to get a better idea of whether your tiny home will have a tiny price tag, we’ve detailed the major steps of building a tiny home so you know what all you need to budget for – as well as some tips other tiny home owners have implemented to keep costs down.
To Buy or to Build?
That is the question. Really, it comes down to how crafty and patient you are, and what your timeline looks like. Have you been woodworking since you were a wee lad, and are you content to roll with the punches? Building your tiny home could be a perfect project!
But if you’re like me and assembling an Ikea table is enough to give you a headache, you should probably leave the building to the professionals. There are plenty of them to choose from, including regional builders, or those who will ship their tiny homes anywhere in the country (or even around the world).
Is buying or building more cost efficient? Again, it depends. Some tiny homes can be built for a little over $8,000. But those who have “been there, done that” will tell you that one mistake or unplanned obstacle can cost thousands extra. Tiny-home builders have affordable homes starting as low as $20,000, but there are plenty that exceed the $200,000 mark. If you do decide to build it yourself, be absolutely sure of your plan and your skillset. It will cost you several thousand dollars in unplanned expenses to have a builder take over halfway through.
Two Key Steps
Before you get started on construction, you need two things in place: land for your tiny house to reside on, and an approved building plan.
After you’ve acquired land, make sure you fully inspect it and that it meets your needs. Land prices vary based on market, and you can also consider a tiny home on wheels (allowing you to park it in a driveway, storage space, or on a camping grounds), or asking friends or family if they’re generous enough to let you use their land for free.
If you don’t have a building plan, tap the brakes! There are some things in life that you can wing, like eyeliner or a Hail Mary pass, but home building is not one of them. You need a plan. Plenty of builders publish their plans online, and you can also ask an architect for some advice.
When you have both floorplan and land, the next step is to familiarize yourself with the legalities of tiny houses: zoning regulations are complex. Is it a home? Is it an additional dwelling unit (ADU)? Is it a recreational vehicle (RV)? Your area may support and allow all three designations, so you get to choose! But if you’re somewhere that doesn’t acknowledge tiny houses as permanent dwellings, think about finding a loophole by declaring your tiny home as an RV or ADU. Zoning is typically established by the city, so get to know your local legislation or join common interest groups in your area to get a better sense of the laws.
If you’re building a movable tiny house, there are a few extra things to consider. Keep in mind the overall weight of your home, the towing capacity of your vehicle, the bridge weight limits along any paths you’ll be driving. Be sure to know this information beforehand so you don’t install granite countertops that push your home over the maximum weight you can manage.
When building on your own lot, know you’re not just going to be tossing up a few pieces of drywall and a roof; there’s a lot that goes into home building (which is part of why they’re so expensive). Here are the basics you should plan for when thinking about budgeting for your tiny house project:
- Wood for interior & exterior siding, plus the roof
- Weather protectant (such as house wrap and rain & ice shield)
- Hardware (nails, screws, nuts, bolts, etc.)
- Reinforcements (such as hurricane straps and nail plates)
- Materials for doors and windows
- Electrical wiring, breakers, outlets, and switches
- Plumbing for the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom
- Flooring and paint
- Tools (such as hammer, saws, drill, level, etc.)
And this is just for the frame of the house – it doesn’t account for cabinetry, built-ins, outdoor space, sinks, or countertops. Each modification indoors – such as a loft or stairs – will require more materials, so make sure you’re very familiar with the floorplan you’ve decided on. Do you know how to build a loft? Do you know how to build stairs literally from the ground up? If the answer is no, stop now, call a builder and get a quote.
Putting your tiny home on wheels? You’ll need a good quality trailer, a vehicle with maximum towing capacity, and a hitch.
Utility installation will vary depending on your personal preferences. Some tiny home dwellers opt for rainwater harvesting, compost toilets, and solar panels to create the most environmentally-friendly tiny home possible. Others want their tiny house to function as a typical sized house would, and install normal plumbing and electricity. Each setup has its own set of requirements. When it comes to heating and cooling, you’re going to want to plan carefully so you can live comfortably. Don’t try to save money with a cheap air conditioning system in Texas or Arizona, or a cheap heating system in Michigan. Yes, the home is tiny and you should save money on utilities compared to a regular-sized dwelling, but not at the expense of your well-being
Everyone wants their home to be safe, and with all the home security technology in the world, that’s easier to accomplish than ever. Door and window locks are a great place to start, but also consider investing in security cameras or an alarm system.
Whether you’re on wheels or a foundation, secure the area around your tiny home as well. Park it in a shed, have a fence running the perimeter of your entire property. If your tiny home is parked outside on a trailer, remove and secure the wheels elsewhere, or consider wheel or hitch locks.
Always keep in mind that no security measures are fail proof, but with some intentionality and a little extra planning, you can greatly decrease the likelihood of theft or unsanctioned entry.
Furnishings and Décor
When you have a roof and walls around you, and you know your tiny house is secure, it’s time for decorating! Your décor budget will vary widely – you may spend nothing if you’re bringing existing furniture with you into your new home, a couple hundred if you want a few new pieces, or a couple grand if you’re going for brand-new everything.
Either way, set aside part of your budget for furnishing your new space so it feels like home.
Enjoy Your New Home
Regardless of the process you take to acquire a tiny house, you deserve to enjoy the space around you and embrace your new lifestyle. As long as you approach the process with a level head, building or buying a new tiny home is definitely an option for you.
But this could all seem more overwhelming than comforting. If you’ve realized you’re not quite ready to jump into a tiny house, head to NewHomeSource to find the new home that’s perfect for you and your lifestyle.
Mia Zozobrado joined Builders Digital Experience (BDX) in 2019 as a content writer. A graduate of Southwestern University with a degree in English, Mia is passionate about the written word and making connections. Outside of work, Mia also serves on the Board of Directors for the Writers’ League of Texas.