Did you know that there are already 10,000 tiny homes across the United States, and that an overwhelming 63% of millennial home buyers are interested in tiny living? As these numbers suggest, the tiny home lifestyle has grown increasingly popular over the past decade with no signs of slowing down.
For some, tiny homes offer the chance to tackle personal debts head-on, thanks to a smaller mortgage; others enjoy the sense of freedom that comes with reducing your material possessions. With so many benefits to tiny home living, there’s a good chance that a tiny home could be a great choice for you, especially in the year 2020.
Although we’ve all had our fill of hardships at this point in the year, 2020 has given many people the opportunity to reflect on how they want to live the rest of their lives. Remote work has untethered many professionals from the hustle and bustle of their careers in the city, allowing them to perform the same job from the quiet countryside. Similarly, the need for sheltering in place has made even those who love their current houses question what exactly it is they want in a home.
If you’re looking to replace your traditional home with a tiny house alternative, here are a few key steps you can take to best prepare for this lifestyle shift:
Simulate Tiny Home Living
At this point in your tiny home journey, you’ve thumbed through Pinterest boards, followed tiny home influencers on social media, and read a dozen blogs that outline what living in a small space feels like.
But it’s important to remember that none of these mediums provide a totally accurate depiction of how you will actually enjoy a tiny home of your own. The average tiny house rarely exceeds 700 square feet. If you’ve never lived in a space this small, how will you know that this huge decision is the right one to make?
One solution is to simulate life in a tiny home as best as you can. Popular vacation rental sites like Airbnb and Vrbo feature a sizable array of tiny homes that you can rent out for days, weeks, or even months at a time. Longer stays will help space feel more like an actual home than a temporary vacation getaway, but even just a few days spent in a tiny bed and breakfast can help you better visualize a life of tiny living.
If there aren’t any rentable tiny homes in your area, try to recreate the atmosphere of a tiny home by limiting the amount of square footage you are using in your current house.
Prepare Your Financials
It’s a simple formula: living in less square footage means paying for less square footage. Lower monthly living expenses are one of the largest deciding factors in a tiny home purchase, and it’s the main reason why 55% of tiny homeowners have more savings than the average American. But that doesn’t mean that moving into a tiny home is devoid from its fair share of financial obstacles, particularly as you build, buy, and move into the home.
If you choose to build your own home, keep in mind that you’ll not only need to cover the construction costs (such as hiring a contractor) but also the costs of living somewhere else until the build is complete. Other expenses include the price tag of the land you decide to purchase and amenities and upgrades (such as solar panels).
You’ll also need to budget for all of the amenities that make a tiny home comfortable and livable. Tiny home furnishings are typically tailored to accommodate their size, meaning you won’t be able to transfer your current fridge, dishwasher, oven, or other bulky equipment into your new house.
The final bullet points on your home shopping list all have to do with protecting your home, your appliances, and any of your other assets. Similar to a regular home, insurance will help you protect your property from storms and natural disasters. This is especially important for tiny homes, as their size makes them all the more susceptible to damages caused by turbulent winds or severe flooding. Many tiny homeowners look into home warranty providers that offer coverage specifically for tiny homes as well, as these arrangements help ensure that your custom appliances stay around for the long haul. Living off the grid means less access to resources in the event of power or internet outages, so you’ll also want to invest in a trusty generator and wireless hotspot.
Clean Out Your Physical (and Mental) Clutter
Downsizing inevitably leads to getting rid of many personal belongings, and tiny homes are perhaps the most evident example. Unless you already live a very minimalist lifestyle, a new tiny home will mean donating, selling, or trashing a good percentage of the items that fill your garage, basement, or spare bedroom.
There are plenty of articles from tiny home gurus that detail the best strategies for starting the downsizing process. Some tiny homeowners focus their energies on a single room or item category. For example, you might clear out your entire kitchen before moving to the bedroom or divert your attention solely to your clothing. The KonMari cleaning method, popularized by Netflix’s hit series, asks home organizers to consider the most space-efficient ways to store their items. Adopting this philosophy can help you pack more into your reduced living quarters.
What these blogs often don’t mention, however, is that a fulfilling, happy life in a tiny home requires less of both physical junk and mental clutter. The American lifestyle is rife with consumption, maximalism, shopping sprees, and other ways of living that make tiny houses unsustainable for those who can’t knock these habits. Clearing your mind will not only help you eliminate the unwanted items currently filling up your storage closets but will also help you avoid bringing in new clutter after you’ve moved.
Research Local Restrictions and Other Potential Obstacles
Tiny homes are still a relatively new frontier in the world of real estate, which means that the rules, regulations, and boundaries surrounding them will vary immensely based on where you are deciding to build. Certain states like Massachusetts, for instance, have only recently legalized tiny homes, so long as they are built on foundations. If you aren’t already familiar with the restrictions governing your local area, it’s critical for you to put in the time researching before you start to invest.
Because navigating the legality of a home is no small feat, you can simplify your research efforts by assigning a numerical score to indicate how easy or difficult it is to create tiny home communities in that area. These scores help you balance all of the legal conditions that make a tiny home feasible, such as your square footage and ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) restrictions.
While preparing for your tiny move, it’s also important to note that these parameters may affect your home differently based on the kind of house you want to build. A great example is the type of insurance plans that are available to tiny home residents. Tiny houses that are built on a solid, permanent foundation and abide by local zoning ordinances are more eligible for a traditional homeowner’s insurance plan. If you want to travel the country with your home, however, you’re likely restricted to mobile home coverage, which will offer a different set of protections. With these tips in mind, you’ll be better equipped to make a seamless transition into a more affordable and mindful way of life.