Housing

Tiny Houses are Only Worthwhile If You Own The Land

HGTV has been hitting it out of the park in recent years and has added many new shows to their lineup.  “Tiny House Hunters”, is just as the title suggests a show where people select between 3 different tiny homes / trailers to buy.  I really do enjoy watching the original “House Hunters,” but my main criticism is that they do not focus on the location of the property other than occasionally saying it is on a busy street.  Everyone has heard the phrase location, location, location and they completely miss sharing that aspect.  This oversight is even more glaring with Tiny Homes.

Tiny House or Trailer

Tiny Homes are essentially trailers.  There are different jurisdictions by state / county, but in general they are treated as some form of a mobile home.  Most mobile home parks only accept manufactured type trailers without wheels.

I am all for the concept of living in smaller spaces, and saving money on housing costs.  However, I just do not see that many good options where you can legally live in one of these.  The downside to living in a mobile home park, the most likely destination, is you have to pay ever rising rent, and maintenance of your home.  If the rent rises too high or the trailer park community declines and you do not want to live there anymore, the cost to move is very high.

Compare this to owning a home or renting an apartment:

  • Home – Locked in payment (rent), but must pay for maintenance
  • Apartment – Rising rent, but do not pay maintenance
  • Mobile Home – Rising rent, and pay maintenance

Living in a mobile home Park

There are some advantages to living in a trailer park in that you can park right next to your home, and do not share any walls with neighbors.  The stigma is that trailer parks are for low income people and not very nice, but please note this is not always true.  There are some pretty nice parks in southern California where it costs $1 million to buy one.  There are many good people that live in mobile home parks.

Parking on friends or family’s Land

For most Tiny Home buyers they will need to find a mobile home park that will accept them.  If they are fortunate enough to have family or friends with a big plot of land in a more loosely zoned county this could turn out much better.  More counties are starting to ease restrictions for Tiny Homes, but there is still a long way to go.  If you are lucky enough to know someone who legally can allow you to live in your Tiny Home on their property this can be a great way to go.

Buying your own Land

If friends and relatives are not an option then buying land will give the owner some good benefits.  The value in real estate appreciation is in the land.  People miss this when they buy their fancy designer house.  The structure is a liability and will have to be maintenance at a high cost for the duration of ownership.  The land for the most part is indestructible.  By owning the land that you place your tiny home on, you are effectively putting most of your money into the one part of real estate that makes money.  This is great, but it is very hard to find anywhere other than very rural small towns that will allow you to live in something on wheels without another primary structure in place.  Further, even if you can find the place, there will still be large costs to hook up utilities to the Tine Home / Trailer.  For the amount being spent to get on the grid it might make more sense to build a small stick built house, or a small manufactured home.  This would be easier to maintain and increase future resale value.

A Tiny Home is not a camping Trailer

I know many people want to buy the Tiny House for portability so they can use it for traveling.  The problem with this approach is that they are not built to be towed around on a whim, like a normal camping trailer.  Most need special transport to move from location to location.  If you had a very small Tiny Home you potentially could haul it like a trailer, but likely it will get very poor gas mileage.

Conclusion

I really like the idea of investigating alternative affordable housing options.  I like that Tiny Homes add to the positive feeling of ownership, but I am concerned that for most people it will be hard to find a place to park them that is financially beneficial to them.  If you are able to find land that allows for their primary use, this can be a great way to own a solid asset, while spending minimally on the structure.  Then you could always construct a stick built house later if you outgrow the Tiny Home.

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