The Tiny House: Steps and Tips on How you can build a tiny house quickly and save money (2016)
Chapter 6: The Biggest Problems with Living in a Tiny House
Availability of Land
One of the major hurdles of those who live or wish to live in a tiny house is the availability and easy accessibility to land. Land is typically expensive and growing short in supply. People always desire to strike up a balance between having land and living close to town or city centers where they have easy access to employment, entertainment, and basic services.
Very often, these things tend to conflict and come in the way of each other. The closer you get to the city center, more expensive the lots become. For having a tiny house, there is not a great deal of land that is required for setting up the actual house. Nevertheless, you need to have enough land so as to obscure your home such that it flies under the radar and is shielded from the eyes of code enforcement agencies and curmudgeons.
Being Granted a Loan
At present, banks don’t consider tiny houses to be a viable option because of the extremely low resale value that they have. This means that when they sanction a loan, there is no collateral security being provided against it. With the absence of this dynamic that is crucial for getting access to loans, owners are forced to make best use of their creative acumen.
While some of them borrow the money from a family member, others save down the years and make the payment with cash. Others are required to make best use of their credit cards and be burdened with a due balance. A good answer is yet to be found in this regard for this is undoubtedly one of the hardest codes to crack.
The Creation of Suitable Laws
Despite the legal approach that helps in setting up a legal house on a trailer, this is far from being the magic bullet that it often claims to be. The issue becomes clear when you take a look at how the minimum habitable structure of a municipality is defined.
Almost always these definitions exclude tiny houses from being regarded as a dwelling while giving code enforcement a strong leg on which to stand when it comes to condemning a tiny house or levying serious fines. This code helps in serving a good purpose as it prevents abuse on the part of slum lords and also provides a mechanism for the courts with which to hold the slum lords accountable.
Prone to Social Pressures
In the modern society, bigger is always better just as more is always the way forward. The human mind is conditioned to want more and more of the good stuff. These cultural norms prove to be extremely strong in maintaining a status quo. Tiny houses tend to fly in the face of such things as they question a lot of the things that people generally hold dear.
Most people react in a very visceral manner when it is suggested that there may be a problem with the way things are. People work their entire lives to get their hands on as much as stuff as possible. By suggesting that something is wrong actually translates to saying that all that they have been doing in life was wrong.
People tend to get extremely defensive while the presence of social pressure can make shifting to a simple life in a tiny home very difficult for some of these individuals. It is wrong for us to come across as preachy or judgmental; rather, we should simply present things as an alternative.
The Small Matter of being Fearful
Though it fits in with some of the points that have already been mentioned, it is still a real barrier to be had. For someone faced with the prospect of bucking the system, it can be a scary proposition to initiate a radical lifestyle change and spend a good chunk of money in doing so.
At the very crucial moment when you are about to take a leap, most of the self-doubts come up to the surface. In the end, you are left trying to decode if these doubts are normal jitters that you feel before making a big decision or valid concerns that your subconscious is trying to make you wary of. Even for those who find it easy to cope with change well struggle with the sudden introduction of this change. Fear is a powerful emotion that we all must face in order to achieve our goals.
Solutions to Some of the Barriers of Tiny House Problems
Irrespective of the manner in which you wish to slice land, it is going to be expensive. However there are a few things worth considering when looking for land for your tiny house.
If you are willing to put up in some of the more rural areas, land can be picked up at a better price but you have to trade in the convenience of being close to things and enjoying the easy availability of more employment opportunities. With many tiny houses being off the grid, it may be worthwhile to purchase land that has failed the “perk test” as it will be way cheaper. However, you should be aware of the complications down the road.
Many people have been successful in parking their tiny house behind the house of other people or on the corner of their properties while offering money or services in return. This is particularly true for the retired people who could always do with a helping hand in tending to the lawns or fixing things around their house. In such cases, people make a declaration that they are inmates of the larger house who simply keep their tiny house standing behind the property.
In most cases of zoning, a trailer is allowed to be parked out of view of the road provided it comes with a market value of a few hundred dollars.
Another option is to go for cooperative purchasing, co-housing, or intentional community models. While these are topics that need a good deal of explanation of their own, to put it simply all you have to do is find a group of like-minded individuals who can pool in their money for the purchase of a small tract of land.
Loans are a tricky problem. With banks inherently trying to manage risks, they try their best to remain within the box. Though some people have been successful in securing personal loans the mileage it has provided has been very limited. The best solution is to opt for self-funding, i.e. save enough money and then pay by cash.
Though this is something not many people would love to hear it falls in line with the basic philosophy with building a tiny house. The way our society conducts itself at present is not necessarily the best approach. Part of the philosophy of downsizing your living space is to remove some of the things in your possession so as to declutter and cut down on the stress in life.
When you enter a tiny house without any debt, you ideally eradicate stress from your life so that you can focus on what is more important. Owning a tiny house is not necessarily the solution – it is the process and change in living that brings forth the answer.
Most people seem reluctant to follow the advice of saving up. Hence, other ways need to be found in order to reach the ultimate solution. Low APR credit cards can be used for paying for the house with the monthly credit card bills being treated as mortgage payments.
Some individuals may also be successful in getting their friends and family members to loan the money while a payment schedule can be eventually worked out. There are instances when these individuals receive interests on their payments. A major downside is that it can strain relationships and change the dynamics so you should always be careful and proceed with due caution.
A decision needs to be made when it comes to dealing with the law. Either you are going to abide by them or you are not. With consequences being present on either side, this is a tricky problem that needs to be negotiated very carefully.
If you wish to be above board on every matter, the best things to do would be hiring contractors or developers who are sympathetic towards your cause. It is their expertise and knowledge that you are buying for negotiating the codes and permitting processes. These professionals are well aware on how to get the variances; they speak the language of the code enforcement, and may even have relations that they can make best use of. When approaching them, ensure that you have done your homework well and come equipped with sample drawings, photos, and plans.
In case you plan on doing things under the radar, you need to understand that whatever you are doing is technically a form of breaking the law and criminal charges may be leveled against you. While it is unheard of that individuals have been acquitted with these charges, the scope always remains.
While skirting the law, you need to do a number of things for mitigating the risks. Start off by being a good neighbor for it will help you a lot in the long run. This is because most municipalities function based on complaints and they go out to investigate when they are provided a complaint. Another point is that you should never be too obvious. Try and keep your house out of sight of the public and maintain as low a profile as possible.
Another powerful tool to have would be to know the laws and codes, and also speaking the language of the enforcing directorates. This can be a frustrating and time consuming process but being legal savvy is undoubtedly very helpful.
When you are aware of the system you can exploit its weaknesses in a legal manner, just like a shady lawyer who gets his clients off on a technicality. Basically, you make legal pursuits to show that you live somewhere else, that your tiny house is not accompanied by any individual, and that it is only a trailer complying with the zoning regulations.
The last way of mitigating the legal risks is to be aware of the fact that a number of municipalities now make use of aerial photos and satellites for making their tax assessments. Essentially, they shoot photos of various locations at various times and compare them to understand what may have changed on your property.
In case they find that something has changes, someone may be sent over to investigate the matter. If a tax assessor does not arrive, a letter may be sent. However, most often when they see that your house is on wheels they let you off easily. In case you wish to be doubly sure, you can clarify that you are within your rights and pull out the code of zoning regulations for them. Once again, knowing the legal language can help you get out of a mess.
Why You May Not Be a Good Candidate for Living in a Tiny House
Though everyone seems to enjoy going through Pinterest images of their favorite tiny houses, not many would enjoy the idea of living in one. It may be assumed that it is only those who don’t take an interest in this way of life who wish to back out from this way of living but in truth, even those individuals who are very keen on putting up in a tiny house may find it difficult to accommodate themselves in one.
Living in a tiny house presents a good number of challenges which are unique. You may not have considered these issues which can prevent you from living in or enjoying life in a tiny house.
You are prone to allergies
In case you have any kind of allergies, ensure that none of the materials you have difficulty adjusting to are used in construction of your tiny house. Whether it is sawdust, propane, or alcohol, make your tiny house out of materials that do not cause irritation to your body.
If you are the victim of an allergy, you need to be honest to yourself about whether or not it will affect your life while living inside a tiny house. After all, you don’t want to end up spending months in building a home that you can never enjoy living in!
You are unwilling to break the law
Frankly speaking, living in a tiny house tilts unfavorably towards being either illegal or not entirely legal, depending on where you are living. These properties often fall back into something of a legal grey area, more so when you decide to live in one on a full time basis.
For those keen on living in a tiny house, you need to be mentally aware and accepting of the fact that you may be breaking the law. The local authorities could have you thrown out of the house at any point of time. This is the kind of uncertainty that most people don’t enjoy living with. If you too feel uncomfortable at such a prospect, it is better that you keep yourself from going tiny.
You are bound by limited mobility
A loft area is included in majority of tiny house designs and this is where the bed is kept. For those with mobility, and for those who fear that their movements may get restricted with old age, climbing a ladder every night for going to bed might not sound like a great idea. Nevertheless, a tiny house can be built that does not make use of ladders.
Even for those who may be happy with or without having a ladder installed in their tiny home, there could be difficulties faced with moving around the house simply because the entire property is so small.
People who are tall, overweight, or lack coordination, may find themselves continually bumping into things every time they try to move. In case you are dead set on moving into a tiny home, give it a long, hard thought and modify the design accordingly so that it suits your needs. Else, you will be better off living somewhere that agrees with you a lot more!
You are part of a big family
Most of the inmates of tiny houses are either couples or individual people. Occasionally, you may come across families who make living in a tiny house work for them but these families are always very small, not reaching more than four on most instances. A family with eight children may find it physically impossible to fit in all of them into a tiny house.
If you are part of a large family but love the idea of living in a tiny house, it would be recommended that you look for other living options. A converted bus may be a good choice, or a house boat, converted shipping container. Even better, simply find yourself a nice small house where you can accommodate everyone.
Even with a small family where you can fit everyone into the tiny house, it is important that the family members understand how close they need to become for their life in a tiny house to really work. If you are not going to be comfortable with such restricted amounts of privacy, it is better that you ditch your plans of downsizing the living space.
You have claustrophobia or are scared of heights
If you get freaked out by small space, living in one may not be a great idea! Similarly, if you are planning on living with another person but do not enjoy sharing ownership of your space with others, then it would be better to back out from the plan and shift to a larger living space.
Using a composting toilet does not sound like a good idea for you
A regular flush toilet does not work well in a tiny house. A great deal of water will need to be stored and tanks refilled after every ten or so trips to the washroom. Then, a place needs to be found where all of the water can drain out to.
Tiny house living works best with the option of composting toilets. These usually involve doing your business into a bucket and then covering up with the help of sawdust. Using a composting toilet is not as bad as it sounds; on the contrary, it is much better! However, you need to be comfortable with the idea of doing your business this way else a rethink of your tiny house living plan may be necessary.
This is not something you really want
It is not a good idea to build a tiny house simply because it looks cute. For those who wish to live in a tiny house simply because they look pretty should stick to enjoying the view on Pinterest. In order to deal with all the complications that come with building and living in a tiny house, much bigger reasons will be needed than mere aesthetics.
Making choices regarding your lifestyle is an alternative option. Even when you chose to live it, there will be a large number of family members who will disapprove or disagree with your choice. They will always be of the opinion that you are making a big mistake, the local authorities will ensure that they get into a big fight with you, and neighbors will turn their nose up at your toilet.
Before embarking on the journey of a tiny house, determine if you really want to do this!
Your partner does not sound keen
You may be keen on sharing the space in your tiny home with your partner but your better half may not agree with the idea as much. So if you are not willing to make a mess of your relationship, let go off the idea and think practically. Living in a small space is tricky enough even when both parties are highly enthusiastic. If there is doubt in either of your minds, ditch the idea and move on.
You love hosting guests
If you are the kind of person who can never say ‘no’ to the idea of inviting distant relatives or hosting dinner parties, a tiny house may be too restrictive for you. The small space will only allow a certain number of beds to be accommodated. Even when you manage to make sufficient space for the guests to stay in, the serious lack of privacy may not be appreciated.
Kitchen in a tiny house tend to be on the smaller side as well. If you are passionate about cooking, determine if the space will be enough for all your ingredients and gadgets to fit in before finalizing on whether you should move into a tiny house.
You have too many belongings that you can’t do without
If you love building sculptures, drumming, or hula-hooping, or are simply a shopaholic, ask yourself if there will be enough room for accommodating all the possessions in your tiny home. Most individuals dream of getting rid of their unwanted belongings and switching to a minimalistic style of living but reality often plays a cruel hand and prevents that dream from effectively materializing.
This is where you need to be honest with yourself. Will it be possible for you to get rid of sufficient amount of your belongings so that you can make do with life in a trailer-sized space?
You love your big pets and own a good number of them
A good number of people live in tiny homes with cats, dogs, and other domestic animals. Normally it works out just fine and these pets spend most of their times roaming out of doors than inside the house. However, owning a couple of Newfoundlands or a St. Bernard may complicate the situation. Do not try bundling them into a tiny house, not only for your sake but also for theirs!
So, do you think tiny house living will work for you?
Have you taken into serious consideration every aspect of living in a tiny house and worked out the various problems these can cause you? Have you ever lived in a tiny house to determine what size is right for you? Have you ever had a word with people who are inmates of tiny houses to find out more about niggles and issues that they may have faced while pursuing the lifestyle?
Before investing money into buying or building a tiny house, think of and analyze all the potential issues that may crop up when you decide to live in a tiny house. Determine not only if you could cope with them but also whether dealing with them will give you any kind of pleasure.
Finally, if you stumble upon the realization that living in a tiny house is not exactly going to be your cup of tea, don’t lose too much sleep over it! You have a number of other types of houses to live in, as well as a number of different lifestyles that you can follow that are in accordance to the tiny house philosophy. Thinking outside the box will often present you with the right Solution.
Whether you like the idea or not, the concept of tiny houses is here to stay. With the increasing population and the amount of harm and pressure that it is putting to the environment, we will soon run of livable spaces for a big, sprawling house. It is high time that we stop living a life of splurging and become frugal in out usage of natural resources.
You can build a tiny house out of nothing – recycled scrap and salvage yard throwaways are enough to build a tiny house for yourself. Having a tiny house also forces you to be more energy efficient and use more natural sources of energy like solar energy. Living in tiny houses enables you to use lesser resources and living so close to each other as a family enables us to strengthen our relationships. By building your own house at a minimal cost, you are also forgoing the burden that having a home loan or mortgage exerts on you especially if you are a recent graduate and have just started to work.
Throughout this book, we have tried to answer the various questions that you might have in your head before you make the jump to live in a tiny house. There are still issues with such a life, especially with building codes and DMV regulations, but we have suggested numerous ways of working around such issues. Slowly but surely, there are more city planners and legislators who are coming on board the tiny house life and we can expect more friendly regulations coming into the picture that will facilitate living in a tiny house either on wheels or on a foundation.
Thank you again for downloading this book!
I hope this book was able to help you with all your tiny house questions.