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To Build Or Buy A Tiny House – Experts Share Their Advice

I sat down with the top tiny house experts to ask them a bunch of questions, today I am sharing their responses to the question: “What advice would you give to someone trying to figure out weather to build a tiny house or buy from a builder?” The question weather to strap on a tool belt and build your own tiny house or hire a tiny house builder is a tough one. Hopefully thoughts from those who’ve been there can help.


Can you afford to buy? If not I’m certain you can acquire the skills to build!


Focus your due diligence around money and time. Building yourself will cost less money and LOTS of time. Having one built for you will cost more money and much less time. Which is more important to you? Where does your gumption lean towards, spending time or money, saving time or money?


If building, ask for help and hire help for stuff like the electrical work at the very least. If buying, really do your homework on the builder you choose. There are so many new builders popping up each day and many are in it for the money and nothing else. Make sure you really get to know your builder and talk to people who they have built for in the past. If there are any red flags, find someone else.


It really functions on budget and time.  I’m convinced that almost anyone can build a tiny house themselves with enough time and hard work.  A tiny house that is built by someone else is going to cost 2 to 3 times more than a DIY tiny house. Understand that when you hire a builder, they have to pay the wages of staff, tools, overhead, insurance etc.  If you do go with a builder, make sure you have a very solid contract in place.


I would say, look at your reasons for doing this, and what kind of tiny house market is in your area. If it’s about simplifying your life and reconnecting, it could go either way, you could build or buy. If you are in a location like NC, where several tiny house companies provide some pretty great options, and you have the budget, then buy. If it’s about financial freedom, independence, self-reliance…I absolutely recommend you take on the build!


IF you have the time, the space, and the knowledge that you WILL make mistakes along the way, and that the build will take AT LEAST twice as long as you think it will, do the DIY route- you’ll then have a chance to craft the house to your specific needs, and will addition know you home inside and out, when it comes to future fixes, tweaks, or needs.


Building one takes FOREVER. Like way longer than you think. And then longer than that. No, really (mine took me 13 months). But it is also extremely gratifying. Buying is of course more expensive and you typically get less opportunity to make changes along the way if you come up with new ideas, but it is faster and the logistics are someone else’s responsibility. If you’re physically unable (or unwilling), don’t have the time, or are the kind of person who has trouble finishing projects, buying is a great option.


Decide if you have 800+ hours to devote to building your own tiny house, and also decide whether your body can handle 800 hours of hard labor.


Time is money. If you don’t currently have employment and have a lot of free time and the desire to DYI, then a self build is a no-brainer. The decision becomes murkier if you do have a paying job because your time away from your work will obviously mean a decrease in pay assuming all other aspects remain the same.


Consider the time, money and resources it takes to build a Tiny House versus buy one. It’s a commitment, and you need to be passionate.


Make sure everyone is on board before you start. If you have a partner who is uncertain about tiny living, you need to have a longer conversation about it. If you think you can “convince” someone to live tiny, you can’t.


DIY, you are capable even though you may not feel that way. You can learn the things you don’t know. You don’t have to know how to do everything, just know how to find answers.


Take a class or work with someone to get an idea of what construction is all about. This is a house and it needs to be built correctly and if you don’t have the skills it is better to hire someone who has them.


Would you put your mom in a house that you built? Would it be safe enough for even your mother? If not, buy one that is.


A very special thanks to the folks who participated:

Your Turn!

  • What tipped you in favor or building or buying?

Welcome Alan and Marie


A few months ago I did a post about forming a Tiny House Cohort to connect with other people that were building a tiny house at the same time I was.  The idea was that we could meet up and share thoughts, problem solve and have fun through our building process.  From that post I found a couple that was building the same house as I was, at the same time, in the same city.  Not only was it great to find someone, but it further confirmed my belief that Tiny House people are awesome, and Alan and Marie defiantly verify that theory.

So please join me in welcoming Alan and Marie to the ranks of The Tiny Life.  They will be joining us and sharing their story as they build their tiny house.  Here is a little bit about them:

We’re total neophytes when it comes to building, but we have a very strong drive to live as simply and freely as possible, with as little negative impact on the planet as possible. Walk softly and carry very few sticks, (unless they’re 2x4s, in which case, always carry at least 2 extra). Alan’s works in money, and I work in market research, but our focus is on getting ourselves out of the rat race as soon as possible, and if that means living in a 130 square foot house, so be it. We’re in our early 30’s, no kids, one dog, two cats. We decided to build Big Red in 2011, bought plans in 2012, and “broke ground” in 2013.

As they post you can follow their posts specifically here:  http://www.thetinylife.com/category/alan-and-marie  They will of course show up on the regular blog so you can see them along their journey.