Are Tiny Houses Too Small? Pros and Cons of Living in a Tiny House.

Well… I feel a little sheepish about not writing for so long!  But.  It is my blog.  ;)

Actually though, I feel more sheepish because we moved out of the tiny house in December… and I am just now posting about it!  Yes.  That’s right.  We no longer live in our tiny house.  What happened?  Well, ultimately, the Tiny House was just not meeting our needs.

We still have it, and will be using it as a guest house on our new property.  But it was just too small!  Both Shane and I agreed that we could live in a tiny house ALONE no problem.  Haha?  We lived in it full time from May 2012 through November 2013 – 18 months – a year and a half.  I’d say we gave it a good run.

We’re now renting a full size home with 24′-0″ high ceilings!  We could literally stand our tiny house on end in the living room of this new house.  Heating this big house does indeed suck and cost a lot, but it’s worth it.  And… we’ve purchased a piece of land and are in the process of designing our own home that we’re going to build ourselves debt-free.  We’re trying to keep it under 1,000 SF, which is surprisingly difficult!

I am very grateful for the opportunity we had to design, build and live full-time in our own tiny home.  It was an excellent design experiment on what is truly necessary in a home and how much space feels right.

Here are my observations on the Pros and Cons of Tiny Living:

CONS of TINY HOUSE LIVING:

  1. No home office space.  We both work for ourselves (a builder and a designer) and need space for filing, accounting, bidding, designing, planning, and creating.
  2. No personal space.  When a couple gets married they are still two individual humans with individual needs.  The book, A Pattern Language, writes that a house for a couple needs separate spaces for each individual (pattern 77).  A Tiny House just doesn’t provide this on it’s own.  Perhaps with a shop and a studio we could have made it work.  Perhaps our own train?  With 3-4 cars…
  3. Not enough storage space – for everyday items or for bulk storage.  Getting things out and putting them away was a complex puzzle.  We were always losing stuff, believe it or not.  Too tucked away maybe?
  4. Hitting elbows on walls… Hitting elbows on each other… tripping over the dog… Claustrophobic.
  5. No room for yoga… or just stretching out on the floor…  playing with the dog.  I’ve spent a lot of time laying out on the living room rug in our new rental house… feels so spacious!
  6. Really hot in the summer.  Mobile Tiny Houses cannot have large roof overhangs, allowing for too much solar gain in the summer.
  7. Small Kitchen = we started eating a lot of Trader Joe’s frozen dinners that only required one pan to cook.  Ugh.  Not healthy.
  8. No privacy.
  9. Toilets…  I’ve written about tiny house toilet woes and options a lot… and decided that flushing toilets are the nectar of the gods.  We’re going to be adding a flush RV toilet connected to a septic system.
  10. No bathtub.

PROS of TINY HOUSE LIVING:

  1. You’re always close to a window when you’re inside = intimate connection to the outdoors.
  2. Very cozy in the winter – easy to warm up and keep warm.
  3. Affordable to build – you can own your own home!  Freedom from a mortgage!
  4. Mobile.  Great if you’re not sure where you want to live.
  5. Very cheap to live in.  We paid $300 – $400 a  month rent for land + maybe $40 a month for propane and electricity.  Easy to save up money for…  a bigger house.
  6. Very efficient to clean.  And very efficient to communicate with others in the house – no intercom system required!
  7. Easy to renovate – you own it and it’s inexpensive to make changes.
  8. Small environmental footprint.
  9. Great conversation starter!  You live in a what?  How big??  Oh wow.
  10. Fosters community.  Claustrophobia will drive you out into public where you can sprawl out on the floors of cafes and coffee shops.  Also, you’ll develop a … memorable relationship with your neighbors when you fire up that incinerating toilet.

I decided that a tiny house could work for one (or two extroverted people) who work full time outside of the home in their own private offices, eat hot pockets for dinner, and whose only hobbies involve reading books on a Kindle or watching YouTube videos on their laptop computer…

Thanks for following along on our incredible journey – the people we’ve met through this blog have made it quite enjoyable.

- Carrie

Categories: Living In the Tiny House | Tags: | 22 Comments

The Tiny House VS. a Mortgage – Debunking the Myth of Home Ownership

We have been living in our tiny house full-time since mid-May 2012 – a year and a half now.  Sometimes the house feels WAY TOO SMALL and my busy brain starts wondering (again), “WHY are we living like this???”  Why don’t we just get a loan?

One reason we chose to build our own tiny house was to escape the debt of a MORTGAGE, the typical requirement of home “ownership.”  (I use quotes because we often say that we own our homes, but if we’re paying a mortgage, the bank is actually the owner.)  Read all of our reasons for going Tiny on our Why Tiny? page.

During one recent period of tiny house discontent I started thinking about interest rates – only 5%!!!!  Well jeez, that is low… 5% of $200,000… is only …. $10,000!  That’s nothing!  We find a $250,000 house, put $50k down… borrow $200,000 + $10,000 interest… Why are we so against mortgages??

(Personal note: I have never had a mortgage, always rented, primarily due to a deep loathing of debt, and secondarily due to the fact that I never could have gotten the funds needed to buy a condo in L.A. or Denver, especially not after the crash of 2008 – in 2009 I applied for a mortgage loan and was approved for $80k.  You can’t buy jack for $80k in Denver.  Shane, on the other hand, has had mortgages since he built his first house at the age of 18.  He was always able to build / buy low and sell high, until the 2008 crash, when home values dropped about $100k in his town.  The mortgage company would not reconsider the value of his home, continuing to charge him mortgage payments on a home worth $280k when he could only hope to sell it for $180k.  His mortgage payment was also about $300 a month higher than what he could rent the house for.)

Shane found an online mortgage calculator to show me the actual cost of a 5% loan…  Seeing the amount of money paid on top of the listing price instantly rekindled my interest in living in a Tiny House!

So, while 5% of $200,000 is indeed $10,000…. that is not AT ALL how mortgages are calculated.  (I realize this is elementary to many, but I love seeing the numbers – makes me feel better about living in 200 sf.)

We would actually end up paying the bank $186,511 (over 30 years) in order to borrow that $200,000.  Which is 93%, not 5%.  (You don’t hear anyone raving about record time low interest rates of 93%!)

And that house that was listed at $250,000?  We would end up paying $480,261!  Wow.

An image from an online mortgage calculator:

And if the $93,750 total tax is on top of the $480,261… that’s $574,011!  Over half a million dollars for a 2 BR / 2 BA starter home…

Now the story we’re told here in America is that Home Ownership is the American Dream, you aren’t anything unless you own your own home.  I seriously think the bankers might be behind this bit of American folklore – it definitely seems in their best interests (pun…) to get people to “own” their own homes.

Well, the reason so many intelligent and logical people do choose to pay banks is because they feel that they are “throwing their money away” on rent, and a mortgage is… Equity, right?  An investment in your future…

Eq-ui-ty : noun : fairness or justice in the way people are treated [incredibly ironic?]

: finance : the value of a piece of property (such as a house) after any debts that remain to be paid for it (such as the amount of a mortgage) have been subtracted

So let’s take a look at Equity:

$250,000 house

$50,000 down payment

= $200,000 loan / mortgage = $1,334 per month + $3,125 taxes per year

After 5 years I still owe $183,349.  Gulp.  But… my house is now worth $280k instead of the $250k I paid for it.  So, I sell, maybe to make a profit, maybe because I have to move, who cares why, everybody’s doing it.

$280,000 – $183,349 = $96,651 “profit”

- minus the $19,264 closing costs (5.1% to the realtors, 1.78% tax) = $77,387 “profit”

- minus the $15,625 in taxes I forked out over 5 years = $61,762 “profit”

= barely enough to make a down payment on a similarly valued home and start paying rent to the bank again.

Oh, and what about the $50,000 I so generously donated to the bank?

- minus the $50,000 down payment = $11,762 “profit”

AND what about the $1,000 per year I had to put into fixing the HVAC system, installing gutters, removing that tree, etc. etc.

= $6,762 profit.

I paid 5 years of monthly payments at $1,334 = $80,040 to live for 5 years, and I’ve only saved up / profited $6,762 when I sell.

The other way to own a home, the way that we’re trying to do it (and many other tiny housers / thrifty dwellers), is to live small, save, and build a house debt-free.

Over five years of living in the tiny house we will pay $934 LESS per month ($1,334 – $400) = $56,040 + that $50,000 down payment = $106,040 saved up / profited over 5 years.

Tiny house too tiny?  What if you rent a smallish place for $900 per month  – over 5 years you’ll be able to save $26,040 from not paying a mortgage + that $50,000 down payment = $76,040.  WAY more than the $6,762 profit from buying and selling.

So why exactly is home ownership so wonderful?  Because the banks make money on our borrowing.  Granted, if you stay in your home for 10 years or 20 years, you can actually come out ahead, though not really enough to retire on…

According to Bankrate calculators you’d still owe $101,225 after 20 years of paying on a $200,000 loan.  That’s more than half of the loan!  After two DECADES of paying it off.

I think people just get comfortable with the cost of housing being $1,000 – $2,000 a month and just pay it.  For their entire lives.  But how is that not Serfdom?  And banks have some incredible leverage because it takes SO long to save up $200,000 (legally…ha) to buy a house outright.  So for us, the Tiny House may be INSANELY small but it is allowing us to save up enough money to get into a more comfortable house without paying interest to a bank.

This was a LOT of numbers, if you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking with me!

I’m curious about other people’s tactics to own a home debt free…

[ I'm sure there are errors in my math / logic / understanding of the mortgage system - forgive me.  I know I've omitted things like utilities, paying a mortgage off early, homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance, etc.]

Categories: Opinionated Rants | 26 Comments

Speaking of Bees…

I’m sure many of you have seen the photos or TEDtalks about declining bee populations, but I wanted to share a 15 minute TEDtalk video I just watched.

produce and bees

I love this lecture because it outlines the problems, which are super depressing, as bees could be a mirror of our human colonies… but the talk also offers great solutions at the end that all of us could provide to help the bees stay healthy.

Basically, plant flowers that bees like.  Native flowering shrubs are best.  And if you’re a farmer, plant natural nitrogen-fixing cover crops like clover and alfalfa, and skip the synthetic nitrogen fertilizers.

Categories: Sustainable Living | 2 Comments

Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy because They are Entitled Unicorn and Rainbow Loving Brats

I am totally enthralled by the online conversation happening in reaction to HuffPo’s article titled “Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy” with this simple equation: Happiness = Reality – Expectations.

There is also a great conversation happening in response to this (explicit) Gen X/Y-er’s rebuttal to the HuffPo article.

Gen Y Yuppies unhappy

Continue reading

Categories: Opinionated Rants | 8 Comments

Tiny House Design Inspiration: The Micro House from Studio Liu Lubin

I had seen these tiny little fiberglass cubes before and they seemed way too small, but now Studio Liu Lubin has started combining and stacking their Micro House and it looks very cool!

Studio Liu Lubin's Micro House.

Studio Liu Lubin’s Micro House.  Where you can sit, stand, or lie down (alone.)

 

Studio Liu Lubin's Micro House - stackable fiberglass units.

Studio Liu Lubin’s Micro House – stackable fiberglass units.

 

Studio Liu Lubin's Micro House.

Studio Liu Lubin’s Micro House.

Categories: Tiny House Design | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Tiny House Inspiration: Pocket Shelter

I don’t know how this guy stayed hidden so long!  the house was finished over a year ago and it just now appeared on Tiny House Swoon.  It’s beautiful; the extruded front porch, the reclaimed materials, the interior with live-edge wood plank countertops and sheepskin couch covers…

Aaron Maret’s Pocket Shelter:

Aaron Maret's Pocket Shelter tiny house.

Aaron Maret’s Pocket Shelter tiny house.

Aaron Maret's Pocket Shelter tiny house.

Aaron Maret’s Pocket Shelter tiny house.

Continue reading

Categories: Tiny House Design | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Off the beaten path…

I came across this really inspiring blog today and thought I would share it with you: San Juan Sufficiency – a guy and his wife going against the flow of society living on a houseboat in the San Juans in WA.  Really thought provoking stuff about the status quo and health insurance and poverty and living differently from most of society and quality of life.

 

San Juan Sufficiency

San Juan Sufficiency

thought you all might enjoy it.

take care!

Carrie

Categories: Deep Thoughts | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Beehive Mini Mart: More Photos

We finished and delivered the Beehive Mini Mart tiny house a few weeks ago, but I wanted to share a few more photos:

I think I already posted this photo in the recent post about moving the tiny house… but I love it!  So I am forcing you to look at it again!  Because I can.  The ominous clouds… the irony of the “colorful” colorado sign on a gray day…

The tiny house on the move: at the Colorado-New Mexico border.

The tiny house on the move: at the Colorado-New Mexico border.

the finished tiny house at night...

the finished tiny house at night…

Look at the beautiful symmetry and wonderful oversized steps that make this porch a fabulous spot to sit and hang out.

IMG_0356

the adorable tiny house porch railings!

IMG_0358

the tiny house from the … front? back? the hitch end anyway.

A utility closet built on the trailer tongue houses propane tanks, etc.  The large window on the side slides open and will be the serving window for customers looking for the perfect cappuccino.  Or pint of local honey.  Or…  t.b.d.

IMG_0374

the finished interior of the tiny house. beetle kill / blue-stain pine. engineered wood flooring.

What would you use this mobile tiny store for?  A community reading room?  A coffee shop?  I’m curious!  Let me know in the comments below.

Categories: Beehive Mini Mart, Tiny House Construction | Tags: , | 16 Comments

Treehugger article

I have to share this hilarious comment that appeared after an article about our tiny house / Clothesline Tiny Homes on Treehugger.com:

Young, clever couples like this are going to doom the species! They are the ones who should be contributing to the future gene pool – no way that’s going to happen while they’re living in their hipster sardine can. Quick! Everyone with an education – couple up, have no kids, and leave the future to those with lifestyles you disdained while bending down to fit into your hamster wheels.

- coati-boy

Categories: Publicity | 9 Comments

One Year Living in our Tiny House! Year in Review.

Can you believe we’ve been living in our tiny house for a year already?!  I went back and read the blog I wrote a year ago about moving our tiny house to our site, (you should read it too!)  what a day that was!  In the morning we had a news interview with ABC15 Phoenix, then we hauled the house from our rented shop space in Prescott Valley to our new rented home site in Prescott, AZ.

Here’s a little year in review:  (translation: get yourself a cup of coffee and a comfy chair and settle in for the longest post ever!)

Each section below has links back to the original blog posts so you can review our year with us!

 

May 16, 2012: Hauling the newly completed Tiny House from our shop in Prescott Valley:

Driving our Tiny House to our new home.

Driving our Tiny House to our new home.

Setting up the house at our rented site in a neighborhood in Prescott, AZ where we lived from mid May to mid August, 2012:

Neighbor's kid checking it out.

Neighbor’s kid checking it out.

The tiny house was like the pied piper the way it drew the neighborhood children… I think they thought it was a little playhouse for them!  Nope.  Ha!

 

Continue reading

Categories: Living In the Tiny House | Tags: , | 9 Comments

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