The Fallacy Of A Cheap Tiny House

So over the years I have seen many people touting their tiny house as only being a few thousand dollars to build and many crying out in protest over how much some Tiny Houses cost.   While I do think there are many ways to save quite a bit of money during the building process, the fact is Tiny Houses cost money and a good bit of it.

Even though Tiny Houses pale in comparison to the cost of traditional homes, the price tag of a tumbleweed style house or similar often leaves people wondering how they can cost so much.  So I thought I’d break down some key factors that those who claim their house is only a few grand often neglect to mention.


Time is moneyYour Time:

One of the biggest places that people often don’t assign costs to is time spent on your house; Particularly if you time spent on building your house takes the place of working a normal job.   The fact is that many people don’t have the money to build a tiny house all at once, but they do have time.  So they build it themselves and many spend time sourcing reclaimed materials.  While there absolutely nothing wrong with this, I am taking this approach, you simply cannot say that your time is free.  You have value, your time is valuable, and you are giving it up to build/source in the place of something else.

When it comes to finding reclaimed materials, dumpster diving, checking craigslist every day to find all or some of the materials you need, it takes a huge amount of time.   For those of you who haven’t tried to source materials for an entire house, it can be very hard to understand how much time.  If I were to estimate a figure, I would guess you spend twice the hours spent on building.  Additionally, the ones that do reclaim their materials often have pre-existing social connections that facilitate this that the majority of us simply don’t have.


Their Time:

I get a lot of people asking me how to get a tiny house built for them and for many, this is how they want to get to their dream of living in a Tiny House.  For many they don’t have the skills to build a house (though I firmly believe almost anyone can learn)or they have the time to do it.  The fact is that regardless of it being a Tiny House or a McMansion, labor costs to build a home can be anywhere between 40% – 60%.

Now there are some that criticize tiny house builders of charging $50,000 when it costs $25,000 in materials, as building in huge profit margins.  The fact is, if you sit down and really crunch the numbers for what it takes to hire workers, insurance, rent a build site, tools, utilities, and a million other things, I’m surprised that they can eek out a modest living; in fact I don’t know for sure that anyone has been able to have it as their sole job.  Even Jay Schaffer had to expand into books, classes and plans when he first started.



Updates on a Tiny Home Take TimeSo I am going to cry foul on many people who claim they made their home for only $3-5,000 because at this point in building my Tiny House (only about 1/3 of the way built) I have spent almost $900 on nails, screws, bolts, glue, fasteners, brackets, etc.   There is no way you can get around buying these things because you can’t really reuse nails, screws or glue.  As for brackets and bolts for tie downs, you might be able to reclaim them, but in most examples (not all) I have seen, people simply were cutting corners and not adequately anchoring their houses to the trailers.


For many of us, we have a basic set of tools, but it is a far cry from what you need to build a house.  Often the people who claim to build houses for a few thousand already have the tools they need, which isn’t representative of the vast majority of people.  Even if you have the tools, to be honest, you should amortize the cost of the tools.

Over the past two year I have been purchasing tools where I could get them for real bargains or used and so far I have spent around $1,900.  If you are going to be doing your own welding and metal cutting you will need the equipment which would add another $400-$800.



Use of TrailersI have seen several cases of where a used trailer worked out and just as many that didn’t.  I often hear people say “I got my trailer for free” but if you do a bit of digging many will fess up that they then had to reinforce it, get a new coat of paint, and a surprising number had to replace the axles and get new tires/wheels.  So about half the people I see going the used trailer route do pretty well, the other half seem to spend just as much as a new trailer.

My other real big hesitation with used trailers and those that strip on from an old RV/camper is they often look very flimsy.  People swear that they are rated at 5,000, 7,000, 10,000 lbs but you take one look and see 2-3 inch channel outriggers.  Compare that to the trailer I am using, mine is made from one of the largest trailer manufacturers in the US and is built from 5″ channel, half of which is double hung (two pieces stacked) and my cross members look larger than some of the main supports on some of these trailers.



Again many of the houses for pennies often neglect to factor in the cost of appliance or have really basic setups.   Many, but not all, of these houses often have basic kitchens that consist of a container of water and camp stop on top of a counter.  To compare that to a tumbleweed style kitchen that has a working sink, hot water tank, built in stove with concealed gas lines isn’t to say that one is better than the other, but it really is an apples vs. oranges comparison.

Another thing that many of the budget houses don’t have is heating and cooling systems.  They often later add a space heater and/or a window air conditioner, while tumbleweed houses include systems that do this.  My house has a built in mini split system that cost around $1400, while if you when the budget route you might be able to get away with a solution for $200-$300.


Build Site:

There are many of us who don’t have a location to build our home for free.  There have been many tiny houses built in rented space or land that they are paying for.  Sometimes that location doesn’t have power, so you need to either get a power hook up (expensive) or a generator that uses gas.


While I do think there are areas that you can get some great savings on, I really could go on for a while about the fallacy of a Tiny House for only a few thousand dollars, but I think I made my point.  If I do the math on the topics I covered here you are looking at around $4,500 minimum plus whatever your time is valued at.  For your time figure around 1000 hours if you buy the materials, 3000 hours if you reclaim most of it.

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  1. Well written article. It is the little things (nails, tools, wire nuts, paint, etc) that is often overlooked in the budgeting process.

    That said, one thing that I have seen drastically affect price is just the cosmetic standard that is desired. A very nice fancy house will cost far more than one that is more “rustic” or “crude” looking. But that does not have to translate to a difference in quality. Even something as simple a interior trim pieces can be drastically different in price depending on what someone is building, yet it changes nothing in the structural quality or safety of the home. It only changed the cosmetic appeal. Thing like which kind of toilet someone choose can be a $2,000 decision just by themselves.

    So while it is easy to rack up a high price, it is also easy to reduce the total price without sacrificing safety or quality – only cosmetics. It is often (not always, but often) just an issue of what someone wants it to look like when they are done.

    While I have not built mine (yet!) I am shooting for very basic (I care little for cosmetic appeal) and your $4,500 minimum seems very reasonable based on my own estimates for a very stripped down tiny-house like I have budgeted personally.

    Great write up. Keep up the good job!


    • I agree. In fact I’ve read that many tiny home builders say just that. They trade the cost they would spend on a larger size house for the quality of materials and craftsmanship they put into their tiny homes. For example, marble instead of Formica. The cost does add up when you want your little slice of heaven to look like a home and not a shanty. That being said though some people just need a shack and if that’s the case if I were them I wouldn’t pay an arm and a leg either. I guess it just depends on what you want and where you want to place it and who are your new neighbors.

  2. Need I even comment on this? I think I have loathed many times at all the expenses that don’t get counted up. You can see from our Budget page on that even a home with sponsorship and reclaimed materials can escalate quickly.

    And as for labor? You tell me how much the 39 hours of planing, ripping, and fitting, of our ceiling is worth in labor monies? HAHAHAHAHAH!!!!

  3. I’m in the planning stages and am pricing materials for my tiny version of the Capella Cabin. I’m at around $5,500 for just the shell. Luckily, most everything that will go inside I already have. I figure I’ll be around $12,000 when I’m done, but it’s Gibbs be a sweet little house.

    • Um, that’s a Calpella Cabin and gonna be a sweet house. My phone likes to say whatever it feels like.

  4. While all the things you have said are true, you make it sound like being frugal is a bad thing. I am sorry I can’t afford $15-20,000 on materials for my tiny house. Our budget for our house is $5,000. We are lucky because my father in law is a carpenter so he already had all the tools we need. And we’re doing all the work ourselves. We are keeping things to the basics, only what we really need. I see nothing wrong with trying to keep costs low, isn’t that the point of building a tiny house? Affordable housing? I encourage you to look at my spreadsheet of costs.

    • I agree with Melinda here. Your post is great and brings up great points that I have seen in my own build. However, each build is unique and each tiny house is different. Some are cheaper due to a host of reasons while some are far more expensive per square foot than I would ever consider paying.

    • I don’t think he is saying frugality is bad at all, he’s just saying that the instances (exactly like yours) where people have access to tools/materials/knowledge and put a lot of their own time into building, is how people make the “cheap” tiny houses. He’s just pointing out that these ultra low price points aren’t indicative of just buying a tiny house or having one made for you.

    • Melinda,

      I don’t think anyone is knocking what you’re doing or how you’re doing it, but the article writer pointed out that not everyone has your kind of connections. Free carpenter tools (not to mention virtually unlimited access to a professional carpenter for his advice) isn’t something to which everyone has access. Some would-be tiny house builders are city folk who want to get away from the rat race, and who probably have little in the way of physical and technical skills needed to build a house. I think this article is slanted towards them. It’s basically saying, “Don’t think you’re going to get your tiny house for 10-20% of the price of a full-size house just because it’s so much smaller.” Some of the tiny houses we see featured on the net cost a considerable amount. Of course there are far cheaper routes, like buying a small vintage Shasta camper for a few hundred or a few thousand dollars.

  5. Another point that I think could be made is that most of the penny houses make decisions which should never be mobile. For example, a typical example uses no metal bracing, sits on a gravel/cinder block foundation, and has a single outer layer created by plywood siding. While for stable, non-mobile home these may make sense, this level of construction would not be strong enough for a mobile construction but can save a ton.

    Other choices make a big difference. Fibreglass bat insulation is much cheaper than it’s rigid or spray on foam relatives, but doesn’t seal the space and is generally less effective. A window air conditioning unit is around $150, and a electric heater can be as cheap as $20. There is a lot of flexability for things like this.

    • Great point on all the extras like strapping to the trailer and prepping for wind on the road. It really is the little things that bring the cost up, but I’m not taking any chances found sub-standard work.

      • I forgot about the strapping, I got the generic brand of strapping, but it was structural grade, not the stuff used for securing pipes/etc. and it was $110 for a 100 foot roll!

  6. Can you tell us more about the mini split you’re using? The models I’ve found seem to be sized for spaces much larger than a tiny house (less than 300sqft).

    • I am going to use this one: Fujitsu Mini Split 9RLS Halcyon Wall Heat Pump 26 SEER – 9,000 BTU which is designed for about 300-400 square feet on high, so I plan to just run it on low and it has a thermostat so it will turn on and off as needed.

  7. Thank you! I really appreciate your candor in this blog. I, too have run into many folks who think a tiny house translates into a “cheap” house. They simply do not know what they do not know. You have done a beautiful job of explaining. I plan on sharing this blog article!

  8. Hi, I just read your article and could not agree with you more!! Last year, I purchased a 22ft 1971 vintage caravan for $1500.00. The tires, frame and wiring for exterior lights were all in stellar shape. The interior however had been somewhat used and abused. Between paint, insulation, plumbing, wiring, appliances, water heater, roof coating material, flooring, fabric, nails, screws, my time and paying someone to do a few things that I had limited knowledge of. I have easily spent over $4,000 and I still have things that need to be done. I am hoping to eventually afford a solar component, but that will have to wait. Thank you for sharing your experience. If you have any ideas for getting off the grid, I would appreciate the advice:)


    • for living off grid you should check out this guy
      he is awesome and full of inspirational, practical ideas 🙂

    • Michelle, has PV systems you can purchase & set up yourself, or purchase & have an electrician install. I plan to buy a few of their larger panels for my family’s tiny homes (3 of them, all to be built in rapid succession) so that we can live off/on grid (there may come a time when they produce enough that we won’t have an electric bill WHOOHOO I’m looking forward to that day!). I’m a bargain hound, and tend to look for less expensive ways to accomplish my goals. Three houses, even tiny ones, will cost a lot to build, but we’re prepared for the purchasing of our building materials in steps (aka paychecks).

  9. Since I have started my Fencl I’d like to chime in. Ryan is correct about the little things adding up and believe he was just pointing things out that aren’t often mentioned. There are many ways to make your house your own and you can only do what you can do as time, resources, and personal creativity allow. Each house is different. Each situation is different. The cool thing is the end result. You can find my project hibernating in “0” degree weather here: The stars aligned for me to start my build except for the time of year and I have no regrets. Good luck to all and build safe! Thanks Ryan – maybe sometime we can have an informal gathering of small house people

  10. I think we’re talking apples and oranges here. The people who say they can build one for 5K or so probably are already professional builders, or serious hobbyists themselves; already have the tools, a workshop full of spare nails, screws, glue and glue guns, perhaps easy access to wood or even a woodlot (lots of people here in Oregon with planers and timber who can run their own flooring, walls and roofing) and who long ago ‘amortized’ the cost of their equipment. They also may not be worried about the virtual cost of their labor, if it’s something they like to do and are experienced at it.

    Toilets, sinks, heating choices, doors and hardware, windows, appliances can all be bought used for pennies on the dollar; between Craigslist and local Re-Source stores, there’s nothing that can’t be sourced used or almost free, however it does take legwork.

    I think that may be the one thing almost no one includes in their prices; the cost of all those trips to the hardware store for needed small items to continue working.

    Something else to consider; while there’s a lot of comments about insulation, an area this small is incredibly easy to either heat or cool; having lived in a 500 SF place in a mild climate, just making dinner or a batch of cookies was enough to heat it for the evening. A small fan works 90% of the year for cooling… and many niceties or upgrades can be added later on, when money allows. After all, at some point, your housing expenses will take a serious nosedive, even if you’re still paying for land.

    Obviously, the higher priced houses involve paying for someone’s labor, and the lowest priced ones are going to be self-built by those same experienced people or someone very resourceful with time on their hands. Compared to an initial 100-200K ‘normal’ house plus a 30 year mortgage, either way it’s still an incredible bargain. I’m looking forward to the small house builder who offers self-financing on their wares; I think they will have people lined up at the door to buy; some kind of ‘rent to own’ may work well with a rapidly amortized payment plan.

    • “someone very resourceful with time on their hands”

      Yes! Your reply is by far the closest to how I view this subject. I am perhaps a quarter through my own build, as I have finished the floor and the framing, including the trusses. It’s all wrapped up for the season though, as maritime Pacific Northwest weather is just always so cold and soggy.

      I have been buying up tools for several years now, and although I am using them for the Tiny Home build, they are also in use on animal related work, like fencing and coops and whatnot. I don’t feel I should put the cost of them completely into my Home account.

      I so far have spent (and I have pretty much everything I need – mostly in storage – for the home to be completed) $3000. The local ReStores have been my primary resource, as I’ve even gotten many of my fastener, nails, screws, metal bits and bands and whatnot, there for up to $.50/lb. Yep. It’s possible. I checked there nearly daily for many, many months to accumulate all I needed. The closest ReStore is located only 5 miles from where I am, so no biggie for gas, especially as I mostly drive my scooter.

      I am not an experienced builder, but I’m getting it done (slowly), and it’s looking good, and is strong. By the way, I’m in my 40s, a single woman, sort of short, and not terribly strong.

      My goal is to come in under $5000. I don’t count my time, as this is a passion and an enjoyable activity, I don’t take time from another, wage-earning pursuit, and frankly, don’t consider money as the qualifier of my worth.


  11. I understand the gist of your article, but what is a bit offputting to me is what comes across as ‘this is fact,the rest is fiction’. I know a man who built a small house using a maximum of five tools and a book on building houses, who’d never done anything like it before. He ended up with a sound home and while I don’t know the cost, I know it wasn’t exorbitant.

    Every situation is bound to be different, your experience is yours and you’ve learned things of value along the way worth sharing. But to imply that anyone trying to do the same will have the same experience, in time and expenses…well, that’s just not the case, in my opinion.

  12. This post is very spot on Ryan!

    When I built my tiny house, it took me over a year and if I were to have paid someone else to do it, I would have easily spent 4-5 times the cost. Many tiny house locations are remote and the fit and finish on a small unit is very important.

    I am fortunate to own basic tools and I have access to odd sorts of free materials but I did post the actual out of pocket costs on my tiny build and I can second the motion that one could EASILY spend $900 for hardware! I can claim I spent about $3,600 to build 120 square feet but when you add in all the freebies, labor/time costs, gas/travel costs and design/research time… Getting a high quality tiny home built for anywhere near $20,000 is a grand deal!
    In case anyone’s interested, here’s the material costs for my lockout exterior shell stick-built in a remote location…

    Clearly the more work you do yourself, the more you save, but not everyone is so handy. I do however, recommend that you acquire “handiness” as a skill if you’re planning to move into a tiny house!

    Elroy aka the UrbanRancher

  13. I just wanted to chime in with a question…regarding tools, I understand those can greatly increase the costs of the build, but what about renting tools? Shouldn’t that be considered?

    • Absolutely. It depends on how long it will take to build because if it is over several months or a year then it might make more sense to buy. Usually renting rates are set at 5%-10% of the actual cost. There are some thing that you will use only a few days, while others you will use every day. For example a wood flooring nailer is $400 new, but you only need it a day or two, so it makes sense to rent. On the other hand a drill, you will use all the time and you can get a new cordless for $60.

    • Another option is what I’ve seen termed the Craig’s list rental. You can buy something of good to high quality on Craig’s list, use it for a year and sell it for close to what you paid for it. I was able to purchase a great 5 gallon air compressor for $175 on craig’s list. When I’m done with my build I will likely sell it for close to what I paid for it.

      This works best for larger tools for your cordless drill, level, circular saw you’ll likely want to buy those new. I spent a lot of time looking for those things on craig’s list and didn’t see much of a savings vs new on those items.

      • Yeah, when it comes to anything with a battery, since they do degrade over time, I say go new. I had to purchase two new batteries for my drill and impact drive and it cost me $160!!!

        • I’ve come to the conclusion that any tool with a battery is just not worth ownership. Mind you, I never bought top quality tools like Dewalt or Porter Cable, only several mid range tools like Ryobi, Rigid and Black and Decker. I often paid about $100 each for a cordless drill from each of these companies only to have them fail for one reason or another (not necessarily battery related) just a year later in what I would call light use.

          I’ve sense bought a cheap, Bosch corded drill for about $40, and it’s never had a problem for over 4 years and counting. I think it’s best to just avoid the battery tools.

          • I tend to disagree. I have several battery operated power tools that use the PORTER-CABLE Cordless 18-Volt NiCd Battery and it is reliable as any corded I have used. I trust the brand. The batteries have a long, long, life and when you purchase a couple extra batteries…well, it has worked well for me!

          • I have a porter cable set too and I like their stuff. The drill I have from them is a lower end model and its quite bulky, but it works. My go to tool is the Dewalt Impact driver.

          • I splurged on a drill and impact driver set with two compact lithium ion batteries, case and a charger from Dewalt. It was $279 and I use it every day when I am building so I say its worth it, I couldn’t imagine having to deal with a cord all the time. The fact is these brands make these things en-mass and you are going to get duds sometimes. Just keep your receipt.

  14. Robert,

    The issue is that most people do not have skills that you have, thus they either have to take the time to learn them or hire someone. The welding is a perfect example. Very few people posses the ability to make solid structural welds, even if they could get the tools they needed. As for the time estimates I mentioned you claiming it only took 150 hours means you are leaving out some really important details which is the point I am trying to make with the post.

    Did you just pick up a hammer and start building or did you take time to develop a plan, draw things out? Did the materials just magically appear on your lot or did you spend hours on craigs list searching for things and then driving to get the various pieces? You in particular have used a lot of reclaimed, used and other non-big box sources which meant you spent time finding them and gas to pick them up.

    The 1000 hour figure is including all the for a first time home builder to draw up plans/study purchased ones, source their materials, and build the house. You claim you were sleeping in a sheathed house in 150 hours, I could sleep in my house right now which in sheathed after less time, but it took a lot of planning and consideration before I picked up that hammer. So when I hear claims like that it leads me to believe that you are either leaving out pertinent facts or your building is not done well and alarms are going off in my head in terms of safety.

  15. Commercially made RV’s don’t last long, they were designed to fall apart after the first water leak. The materials used are cheap for the manufacturer, the only thing that makes them affordable (some models) is the assembly line labor savings. Plan on it having a five year shelf life, or spending big on refurbishing it. Commercially built RV’s are meant to be used only a few times a year. When owners see them disintegrating in the driveways they panic and sell them cheap…here in florida that’s 2 or 3 thousand. At this point they are going to need twice the purchase price to refurbish and still you have only a temporary shelter.

    You can eek out a self build for very little if you try really hard and have the skills and friends to donate labor, but i wouldn’t sit out bad weather in it, nor would i ever expect it to last more than a couple of years before it became a money pit in repairs.

    If you’re going to build a home i would plan on it lasting 25 years without having to overhaul it. Plan for it being safe and sturdy for towing and weather, build for the hurricane you never want to live through, and you will have spent 25,000 before labor costs…what you gain is a home built to last 25 years, that will survive bad weather, any thing less and you will be homeless with very little warning.

    If your fallback plan is living in your car then perhaps just renting is a better bet for you. Not everyone is capable of building a tiny home…not just physically, but financially…building a shed on a trailer is not a tiny home, it’s a tiny shed on a trailer. A home is a safe, permanent dwelling your children should be able to live in after you’re gone…be it on a trailer or not. Building anything to last is an expensive proposition unless you own a lumber mill, and the skills to do it yourself, then a grand in hardware may seem a pittance.

    Many are looking at this as the poor mans path to owning a home…in reality it’s not cheap, it is an alternative lifestyle that after the initial investment, can be inexpensive…but building cheap using sub-par materials, and underwhelming structural methods will land you in a bad place. For those who don’t have the ability to invest in doing it right…i recommend renting a traditional apartment or home for your safety and future stability.

    • Actually I disagree. People live in tents and huts. So you don’t have to go all out and build the sturdiest possible tiny home, if you just want to build a tiny home.

      Riding out any bad hurricane in a tiny home, even if a substantial one, is not advisable. Never mind a bad tornado (must be underground in basement) So that is a weak example of why you must build it extra sturdy. In the event of any bad hurricane you have advance notice to move yourself and important belongings to a safer structure or underground if possible.

      But to me you are right in that it seems to be an alternative lifestyle. I, for one, wish it would become more mainstream so you could live closer to the city in a tiny house park for instance. They’d be better than those cheap ass sheet metal trailers.

      Housing is so goddamn expensive there needs to be cheaper alternatives or this country is going to see an uptick in severe violence.

  16. There are many DIY build plans and kits to build your own trailer base out of many different materials and even one that uses the base of the house as the platform of the trailer. With the purchase and installation of a heavy duty axle assembly, you’re in business.

  17. Budget: $20,000.00
    Final cost: $20,000.00
    If I add in what I typically make/hr: $50,000.00, easy.
    And now I have all these tools that I will never use again and have no room to store…

    • Craigs list them and you can recoup some of the cost. I personally will be holding on to mine because I have a place to keep them at a community garden that I run and they will prove to be useful as projects come up. So I’d keep a few key things like a drill and maybe a saw, the rest I’d sell.

  18. Hi Ryan,
    I’m glad to see this post. You may remember me as your table mate at The Tumbleweed workshop. Speaking as a homebuilder I can say you are definitely on the right track with your thought process. I hear people ask similar questions about the cost per square foot comparisons between small and large houses on a regular basis. Perhaps I can elaborate on your points. One example is if you will remember back to high school geometry class, the ratio of surface are to volume ( or in this case square footage) is higher for smaller objects. This means that per square foot a tiny home will have increased cost for siding, roofing, and windows than a conventional home. The same goes for a foundation. A new trailer for a tiny home might cost $2800 for a 140 sqft home or $20 per sft. Depending on variables a foundation for a larger home might run $10 or less per sqft. Next, all square footage is NOT created equal. The best example of this is kitchens and bathrooms. They are easily the most expensive square footage in a house. Where a tiny home might have 12 linear feet for a 140 sqft home. It would be virtually impossible to put 120 linear feet of cabinets in a 1400 sqft home. Typical for a 1400 sft home would be about 40 linear feet, or about a third of the ratio of a tiny home. Next from a business perspective would be overhead, or what is often called soft costs. These are costs than can not be, or are very diffucult to assign to a specific project. Some examples would be insurance, fuel, licensing, vehicle maintenance, tools, phones, advertising and many more. These costs are effected by volume. For instance in a high volume year for me I might see 1.5 million in gross sales. In a year like that I can keep overhead to about 5% of total sales, however in slow years with smaller projects, ther is only so much overhead you can cut. When this happens you are working just to pay overhead and making little or no profit.
    These are just some of the things that cause an increased cost per square foot for smaller homes, I’m sure I could add more but frankly I’m tired after a long day now. It’s good to see your post, you are doing a great job with the blog, I hope all else is well with you. I intend to try a tiny house in the future, possibly one to be sold on speculation. I’m thinking of building shells and complete homes. I’m just trying to improve the cash flow situation at this time to allow the speculation. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help with your projects.

    • Bryan!

      Great to hear from you! I was actually just talking about you the other day when the conversation of what traditional home builder thought of Tiny Houses came up. Hope all is well and keep in touch!

  19. Hooray!! Maybe the people here in the greater Seattle area (Olympia in my case) are more willing to do the planning and searching for good deals themselves!

    You aren’t the only one 🙂


  20. I think this is an important conversation because so many potential tiny house owners have a very unrealistic idea of what the actual costs are of building. We build a variety of tiny houses (from under 100 s.f. mobile units to 600 s.f. homes on foundations) in a workshop setting at Yestermorrow Design/Build School ( We charge our clients materials cost plus 20% overhead to cover all the miscellaneous shop supplies, tool use etc. We do not charge anything for student labor that is used to build the house. But consistently no matter what we give for an initial estimate our clients expect that they will be able to build something for under $5,000 and it’s really not possible without making some serious compromises. Of course they saw a blog post somewhere or a magazine article. But even using a high percentage of recycled materials, whether you are putting in a foundation or buying a rugged enough trailer, there are expenses that cannot be avoided. Compared to conventional houses of course the square footage cost is high, because your percentage of appliances, mechanicals, kitchen and bath is all much higher than in your average house. People think that $30,000-$50,000 is an outrageous amount of money for a tiny house, but compared to anything else you can buy on the real estate market, it is still a great deal for a totally custom home.

    • Thank you Kate for your insight. I totally agree.

  21. Isn’t it true that “all” construction always costs more than planned?

    It can also be hard to find used materials in remote/rural locations.
    For example, my local used building material never has quality items, driving to get CL items too expansive and time consuming.

    My tiny house house cost approx $20,000 on a new trailer frame, with a good wood stove. I paid for plans (my own design) and for all the labor except interior walls finish (clay) and paint. Well spent money as I wanted a tiny house and it’s prefect for me.

  22. I think using reclaimed material is cool because it can save on material costs, adds character and it prevents those materials from being sent to the dump.

    At the same time, I think the long term use of the tiny house needs to be considered as well. Using energy efficient materials can be expensive but can be recouped over the lifetime of the house.

    In almost all projects there is a sweet spot between spending a load of money and spending next to nothing. I too am skeptical of anyone building on less than $5,000 on a trailer. I do think it could be very nicely done by a knowledgeable wood worker for 10k on a solid foundation.

  23. I haven’t started building yet, but I have spent a considerable amount of time spec’ing and pricing (in my area of SE MN, very little resourcing available)

    Trailer $3000 (not new, but well built and refurbished)
    Material for foundation and subflooring $317
    General wall & roof framing materials $987
    Wall & roof sheathing $457
    Electrical, boxes, wiring, breaker box $358
    Decent energy star rated vinyl windows $2678
    Basic plumbing including shower module $992
    House wrap $187 (specific type)
    Exterior siding & trim $2232 (specific type)
    Ice & snow barrier for the roof $199
    Standing seam roofing $1758
    Basic fiberglass insulation $986
    Misc. fasteners, glue, nails $488
    Total $14,639
    That’s a closed in shell with electrical & plumbing, no labor incl.
    These also are not (high end materials!)

    So someone building a tiny home for $5,000 is either very lucky to have recieved alot of free or cheap materials and labor, or are not accounting for something in their build total?

    I believe Ryan’s article was well done and about time, people need to know the truth about building a tiny home, yes it is possible to build for $5000 in some rare circumstances, but I believe what I just showed here is more the norm than not!

    Ryan, Thank You for the Article

  24. First, this is a good discussion to get rolling. There is a wide range of accoutrements and style within the concept of ‘tiny house.’ Hell, I don’t know them all, and I make (eke out) a meager living building them! Here is a meager distillation:

    1. anything appears cheap when you don’t count labor
    2. labor to build a HOME, even a tiny one, is waaaay more than most folks imagine (600 hours sound doable, while working your day job?)
    3. building a tiny house on pier blocks (may not be code) is waaaaay cheaper than putting it on a trailer frame
    4. it is way easier to use reclaimed items when you have a helluva lot of experience and a well equipped shop (I do it all the time, but I have to admit that buying affordable-but-quality new building materials will save you vast quantities of time… and $)
    5. take every ‘suggestion’ with a prudent grain of salt! (guess that means mine too?)

    & the big one:

    6. Dammit, find a way to have FUN building your house (or having it built) otherwise what’s the point?

  25. Arg. I wrote an awesome response (if I do say so myself) and it disappeared into the ether.

    To sum up: perhaps people bristle at the word “cheap.” This word has many negative connotations to us, especially since many tiny house builders are trying to get away from the association with plastic RVs and are building a house that is utterly different in quality and materials. I believe that you can spend exactly as much or as little as you wish and still have an amazing house; it all boils down to the question of time. What’s the saying? You can have it two of three ways: fast, cheap and well-made.

    La Petite is building her tiny house with the kindness of strangers and will come in for under $5K (well under). We just got her subfloor on the trailer for less than $500 using donated and salvaged materials. Does this make it less of a qualty house? Nope.

    Love this blog, and this is a great conversation. I think it is important to continue to talk about the money so this “movement” doesn’t become something inaccesible to people, and it is important to continue to have examples of house builders and house from the entire economic (and human) spectrum.

  26. Thought I’d throw my two cents in here….

    $20,000 – $30,000 may be expensive for a trailer or Tuff shed, but a tiny house is a HOUSE. I think that’s the frame of reference you need when considering the price of these things. If you live in it full-time for three or four years, you’ve definitely gotten your money’s worth compared with what you would have paid in rent.

    I agree that if you’re spending $5,000 on your house, you’re probably either cutting corners, not disclosing the full price you paid (did you already have a truck, trailer, tools?), or using cheap mismatched materials. Yes, you can find great stuff on Craigslist and at ReStore, but good luck finding quality windows that match. Either way, you will be spending several months building the thing, and then living in it hopefully for several years- why not use quality materials that will last, and go off-grid? If you’re serious enough to be building one, you should be serious enough to make it strong (quality trailer, good screws and hardware), energy efficient (propane appliances, good insulation in the floor and ceiling, double-pane windows), and aesthetically pleasing (quality siding and flooring, matching windows). Nothing wrong with being thrifty, but a $20,000 house is nothing to scoff at!

    • I was able to find 2 sets of 2 matching windows, all brand new in packaging and 1 complementing window all at ReStore, for under $200. It is possible.

      • That’s pretty cool.

        How many times did you visit the restore before you found them?
        How many miles do you need to drive to get to the restore?
        What day of the week did you go?

        I spent a lot of time going to the Restore in Charlotte and never found anything I could use. I’ve been told that some of the smaller cities are better for finding materials. Plus I’m building on a trailer so I don’t have a lot of flexibility in the design. If I were building on some property then I would be fine with being more flexible. Of course then I’d have to pay for the land. It’s a real catch 22.

        • Hey Alan,

          It was pretty cool, I agree! However, both ReStores close by have changed management, style, pricing and stock. Now it’s MUCH harder to find little treasures, so those Halcyon days are ended. Thank goodness I purchased two-thirds of the materials I (think I) need before the big change.

          One of the ReStores is approx 5 minutes and maybe 4 or 5 miles from me, and the other is about 16, but I go down that way for livestock feed anyway. I was going to the closer store several times a week at my peak material-gathering time.

          I’m also building on a trailer, and I do have concerns about 2 of the windows I purchased, as they are a whopping 3′ by 5′. That’s heavy….the others are smaller but nice.

          I am doing both things – purchasing land AND building my Tiny Cabin, but neither are probably lovely to many other people than me 😉

          Be well,

          • Where would you recommend land purchase to get this whole lifestyle setup and moving right along? I see that you are well underway to achieve this. I currently live in Austin, Texas and help out the owner of this home ( very frequently. I am eager to get alternative living underway. My structure would also likely only be lovely to me, lol. Thank you!

          • Hi Parker, I am planning a build on a refurb’d. trailer and don’t want to drill into floor frame and someone suggested using square u-bolts to secure sub frame. Any thoughts on this idea?


          • Depending on how the trailer is put together, square U-bolts are a great idea! Look into having bolt points welded on, too. I hope you post pictures of your build, I’d like to see them.

  27. A lot of costs depend on conditions and standards. In Thailand people build tiny houses for as little as US$500 with no heat — not needed in the tropics, no sealed spaces between the walls, kitchen is outside, sit on the floor — take off shoes inside (a big plus), no inspections — you take all the blame/lose if it leaks burns or collapses, etc.

    I stayed in a guest house in the mountains made from tree parts — just cut to fit together. The roof was plastic roofing, the walls were weaved palm fronds and the floor was a Thai version of tatami for $18/night. AC was moving mountain air and a fan.

    My landlord of my bungalow community built a cabana for less than a $100 — tin roof, recycled manual sewing machine tables for the central table and wood from a forest clearing near here, “Walmart” chairs on a hand-poured concrete slab. No standards but his own. Inspections, etc cost a lot. You live with and in what quality you deem good enough.

  28. I think a lot of the cost of a tiny house does depend on where you live, as a previous poster pointed out. We do live in the U.S., but we are in the southeast, where costs tend to be cheaper and in most places we don’t have militant building inspectors to worry about. The county where we are building doesn’t even have an inspection department!

    We were able to have an Amish craftsman build the shell of our 12×32 foot tiny house for $3200. That includes the metal roof in a color of our choice, six windows, and two insulated doors. The foundation (blocks and gravel) was $350 and transport to the site was $450. It’s not quite finished yet, but all told, we expect it will cost right around $10k to completely finish out the inside. That includes the cost of a generator and some extra tools we had to buy and wool insulation.

    What’s NOT included in that are the cost of our land and some other factors unique to our situation. For example, we intend to run the house off solar power and catch water in a cistern.

    • Sounds amazing! Have you achieved this yet? Care to share what general area all of this is in? Would you rent land on your land to the right tenant with his own tiny house? Thanks!

  29. I built my tiny house for less than $2000. Sure, I already had the tools as I do woodworking, metal working, lumbering… It’s a tiny house and not a RV: no wheels. I spend a lot of time on flea markets and garage sales. Not only do I make money (buying and selling) but I find everything needed, from appliances to plumbing, nails, electricity, tools, materials… Started collecting “parts” long before I found the land. I spend about $500 in hardware stores and gas stations (milling my own lumber), everything else is reclaimed, used or NOS. It’s amazing how many people have extra materials after home renovations and are ready to spare with it for cheap.
    Of course, building takes time, but I would otherwise be spending my WE on these blogs…
    My first tiny house cost me $650. I was homeless at the time. I then moved, but, 6 years later, somebody else is still living in that house.
    My point is that you can still manage to built a comfortable tiny house on a budget. It might not be one of those fancy RVs but it can be good enough to live comfortably.

  30. What are you paying yourself for labor? In Arizona minimum wage is $7.50 per hour. I’ll bet it’s a lot more than that. While that’s all fine and good for a skilled craftsman, I’ll have to save for 10 years just to buy your tiny house. Just who are you marketing to?

    • Francoise, I agree. It has taken me several years to save up and then to get over the hump I sold my vehicle. (and that only paid for the materials for the main structure.) I’ll finish the inside as I get money for it. When I’m finished building I’ll have my paid for house. I’ll be 50 soon and other wise I’d be renting the rest of my life. For me it was a matter of wanting something enough to do what was needed to make it happen. It wasn’t easy, I gave up some things and changed how I did other things. Like the saying goes: If you think you can or you think you can’t you’re probably right.

  31. So lets just not build tiny houses or consider investing in custom design builds for interested buyers because glue and nails and mini fridges add up, skyrocketing the cost of such endeavors. Is this a serious article?

  32. I think the important concept that is being sketched out here is: there has been a bit of ‘marketing’ we have seen claiming something like, “Build your own tiny house for under 10,000 dollars! (or some other arbitrary dollar amount)”

    This is possible. But the catch is that alot of the IMAGERY (and the Tiny House Movement seems to be really visually oriented) is of houses that have had pretty significant amounts of labor, love, and nice materials put into them.

    It is so GOOD to see people putting their hearts, whims, and dreams into a house — and one that is likely to have a low cost of ownership in the future. The amount you spend, money, time, blood-sweat-tears… is variable.

    I built my first tiny house over the course of four years, with a pile of found materials and about $8000. I put maybe a thousand hours into it.

  33. Thank you for this! I’m building in the Yukon, Whitehorse, Canada which is cold climate construction, and the biggest challenge I have is my costs. They typically take me from 4-6 months to build, and cost from $19,000 to $38,000 in materials ALONE! Admittedly it’s harder to get reclaimed materials here and building supplies are more expensive. But I have a hard time getting a fair wage for my labour, because when people think tiny house they think tiny costs. I appreciate this article because as a builder my reality is very different! Cheers! laird

    • Laird,

      I can almost exactly echo your costs and build time. 4-6 mo and $20000 – $35000 for a complete tiny house. (On the upper end, I am building all wood casement and fixed windows myself.) I am in Olympia, WA. The main thing that heads potential owners off seems to be insurability. You have to be a little creative, as tiny houses don’t always fit one category or another… to an underwriter. I self insure my own!

  34. It amazes me, that practically everyone who has left his or her comments on this website, did leave out one very important variable, which is the size of the tiny house… other words is the bill going to add up to let’s say $US 10’000 for a 100 or 200 sqft home.

  35. Great point especially on power consumption! If you love fixing things then Time won’t be a problem for you! There are lots of things you need to work on !


  36. I suppose there are as many perspectives to this question as there are people who are considering such a move. I find it a bit ironic that even within the “tiny house movement” an underlying pressure can be found to go bigger and better. True balance can only be found within each of us individually. I have met people in Tee-Pees who find the thought of a house confining no matter how tiny it is.

    I built my first “tiny house” entirely by accident. I picked up a travel trailer for $10 at a yard sale but when I started peeling the tin to make repairs I discovered more and more rot until I was left with a bare deck. I built 6′ walls out of 2×3 and T111, reclaimed the travel trailer door, windows, and fixtures, built a hip roof covered with the tin from the original structure, and added one large picture window at the end which was another $10 yard sale find. I felt the total cost was rather high coming in a bit over $900. My investment in time was three weekends that cut into my drinking and carousing plus a couple nights trying to work out the cut angles for a hip roof.

    What I ended up with was heavier than the original and I was afraid to use it as a travel trailer but the tires and springs seemed to support it to keep it mobile as long as I was careful. When I found myself suddenly homeless I packed the bulk of my personal possessions in rented storage and desperately sought a place to land. I could not find any place near my work that would allow campers to park more than a week.

    I finally found an old lady who owned a farm that she rented cabins out but she gave me a firm “no” when I asked her if I could park a camper. Then she looked out the window to see what was attached to my vehicle. She exclaimed that it was cuter than her cabins and immediately changed her mind. She set me up on a scenic spot on the hill overlooking the farm near enough an abandoned workshop that still had power that I could stretch a long extension cord (which was a nice luxury). For a shower I rigged up a hula hoop enclosure outside my door and a sun-shower on the roof. Once my nearest neighbor came over and suddenly realized in the middle of chatting that I was in the middle of bathing! On wintry days sometimes an indoor sponge bath worked out better.

    The farmer lady’s reaction to the aesthetics immediatly justified the $900 I had spent. My first day of being homeless I had put an offer on a condo which got wrapped up in red tape and took a year to close. That year I spent in my little homeade house I was actually quite comfortable and surprised that the only visits to my storage bin were to get rid of more non-essentials rather than retrieve anything. The irony was that I was spending more on the storage bin than I was spending to rent my living space.

    When the condo finally closed I eased into the big world again and later moved from that to a bigger place until I found myself in my current home, which has been upside down the last few years. Now I am between jobs, wondering how I am going to make the mortgage, and cursing myself for letting myself get seduced so far astray from my true comfort zone.

    I miss small living and that is my escape plan if/when my current life crashes, which is what has me browsing these sites.


    • Thanks for sharing your story. Thought-provoking, and I bet a lot of people in a similar position would jump at the chance (these days) to live the way you did that year. I do hope you are able to manage and get back on your feet again. Could you possibly rent out your condo to make the payments, and do the Small Life again?


      • Thanks for the comment. The condo I sold a few years ago for 5 times what I paid for it which was just enough to catch up on debt and repay the down payment on my current house. My instincts said to purchase a raw lot outright and stay tiny but the lure of appreciating values combined with the success of the condo convinced me the leverage principle could help bolster my retirement. That was in 2006 which history shows I purchased at the top of my local market and the recovery stage has now barely begun.

        I currently live on a waterfront lot I find appealing but the accumulation of “stuff” is now my achilles heel. I am trying to shed as much as possible with the target to live tiny again. I tried to rent my home out once in the past with the idea I would live in my RV but that turned into a horror show and I am not anxious to play landlord again (although I am receptive if the possibility presents itself).

        Yard sale season is coming up so hopefully I can unburden the bulk of my “stuff” this summer. I was actually able to swap out a retired motor boat yesterday for a generator which is a small step in a consolidated direction. I have over extended myself and paid some back and forth riding the rough times roller-coaster but to date I have never had a late payment. Whether I manage to get through the current setback to make a clean extraction or whether I collapse in a failed mess I can assure you my next home will be peacefully serene, free of encumbrance, and have a footprint under 100 sq ft.


        • Well Paul, you sound like you have a sensible outlook so I’m betting you’ll land on your feet. At least roller-coasters rides are exciting…right?

          Good luck to you!

  37. Something to consider when deciding to build a DIY $10k tiny house, or to buy a $30k built tiny house, is the money you are currently spending on your current apartment, home, etc.

    If my apartment is $600/mo, and my “Lot rent” for a tiny home is $200, that’s a $400/mo difference between waiting to finish a DIY $10k home, or moving right in to a $30k built home. Once I move into either finished home, that’s a $400/mo savings.

    So if I take 2 years to DIY a 10k home, I’ve spent $9800 on continuing to rent my apartment while I DIY ($400*24months).

    The DIY home therefore costs $19,800.

    If i move right into a $30k home, it will take 25 months of living there, saving $400/mo in rent, to bring the cost down to the exact same $19,800 as the DIY home.

    Two houses, two years, the same $19,800.
    And in less than five more years, both houses are “FREE”.

    Of course, your own figures will vary, but my point is to consider what you’re spending on your current cost of living, and factor that into the cost of the tiny house you choose.

  38. Good points !!!!! A lot of the tiny houses you see people building are junk too ….. People really shouldnt waste the time , money and material if they have no clue of what they are doing !!! >>>>>> Tiny homes are really simple and functional if you are realistic and have good building skills BUT on the other hand a lot of the time the amateurs out there try to turn it into rocket science ….. You cant build one for $3 to $5K that going to be worth anything > And if you dont know what you are doing , like so many , you will have to hire the work out to skilled people …… Good luck to all

    • You sound like someone who designs or builds for a living. Having worked for several years with contractors, I have come to realize that they can’t stand the thought of non-experts building on their own. They are entrenched in the now-standard belief that laymen are incapable of doing well, and must always turn to an expert. Do please try and remember that people have been building their own shelter for millennium.

      The sad fact that so many people believe they can’t do for themselves highlights why nonprofessionals’ work should be celebrated.

      Simply put, your “junk” is someone’s treasured home.


      • Couldn’t agree more! There is an all too common belief that if you don’t hold a license/ticket, you don’t know how to do it. Yet, the homes we have today are based on deigns that were built by the owner who had no, so called, professional qualifications. They are scared of losing business, plain and simple!

  39. Everything Ryan states in this article is true. But what does what he says have to do with the fact that most people can’t afford $300,000.00 + for a new home?

    What does what he writes have to do with the fact that 40% of Tiny Home buyers are 50+ and don’t know how they’ll survive and have a roof over their heads at 60, 70, 80?

    This article is akin to comparing apples and oranges unless I’m missing something. The fact is, whether a Tiny Home is $5,000 or $100,000, it’s not $300,000 and a mortgage.

    Am I missing something?

    • No, you’re missing anything. It’s that the writer of this article can’t figure out how some can build them cheaply. Put simply, he is factoring in things that one wouldn’t normally include, such as ones own time and tools, unless you have none to start with, even then they can be used for future projects. $1900 for tools seems an awful lot to me, he must of bought the best, or bought specialised wood tools. Maybe he hasn’t heard of hand tools?

      I also can’t believe he included tyres in the equation, he’s talking about a trailer that may never wear them out. I don’t count tyres in anything, as they’re a consumable item. It’s like buying a used car and including an oil and filter change and a tank of petrol/gas in the total cost of the car.

  40. It seems to me the messages here are quite simple….Plan carefully before you start your Tiny House, and don’t build too cheaply. By that I mean cheap quality. Save money on construction where you can, just don’t skimp on structural integrity. That could result in injury or even death.

  41. I was wondering what your thoughts are on a reclaimed mobile home base. We have on old 12′ x 70′ on our property and I would love to tear down the old home and use the base (modified if necessary) for a tiny house with a catio (we have three cats) on one end and a large porch on the other. This would be moveable, but not for camper-type use.

    Any input is welcome. I currently live in an old, drafty house without central anything. It was 30 degrees in here when I got up this morning (can’t run the gas space heater overnight – fire hazard). So even a tiny house built on the cheap with a lot of reclaimed materials would be an improvement. We would like to keep our costs around $10k.

  42. I’ve been lucky to have grown up in a household with parents who were a contractor manager/excavator/estimator) and draftsman, so I’ve not only figured all the cost for materials (including nails, bolts, hurricane ties, hinges, etc.) but have sat about figuring out the weight. Our truck will only haul 8500-pounds. The trailer was $300 but we had to replace the tires, so our upfront cost was $800–not bad. We’re only using a portion of the trailer and will have a friends brother–who builds trailers–cut it from 32-feet to 24-feet. We have a 26-foot RV capable of hauling the 32-feet, but don’t feel safe with that much length. I agree there are many things people do not figure in when considering cost. But I feel it’s important to know what your truck will handle, as well. There’s a lot more than “just building.” We live in the country, so a place to build has not been a consideration.

    • I believe that a lot of people hire a professional to haul their house, or rent a large truck. I do hope that there aren’t a bunch of over-weight houses being towed by under-weight vehicles – you see it enough with boats, etc.

  43. My take is that most folks who build a tiny home really don’t plan to live in it more than 10 years, so for the expense why not just buy a good fifth wheel? You’d have more space and amenities. I believe that they are building their tiny house for the experience of building their own home and even though they may not calculate that experience into the final cost. They like the pride of building. These tiny homes are not practical for most people, you have to be dedicated to live in such a small place. Now, I’m not against downsizing your life. I have my own plans for my version of a tiny house. I will be using a 24×30 steel horse barn that will be turned into a home. Luckily I have family land that was given to me. I do have to pay for sewer, electricity and the actual building and finishing of the structure. I plan to do as much as I can and family will help. I’m in the process of selling my house and plan to pay cash for my entire build project.

  44. If you are going to build a tiny house (especially one for yourself) remember that the great thing about them is that the overall price tag will be lower than your average house and may even save you from an expensive and lengthy mortgage or even from property tax (depending on what state you live in). So if you are planning on building a tiny house that you are solely going to live in it is important to remember that this is your home. You can afford to buy quality materials to build your house. In the long run if you live in your tiny home (for more than two years) the decreased amount of expenses should save you more than the cost of the tiny house. So splurge when it comes to the materials to make your home. Now I’m not saying don’t look for deals and don’t rely on a realistic budget, but you should make this place that you are going to live in exactly how you desire it. Tiny house living dictates that we cut down on the amount of stuff that we own, that we boil down our possessions to only what we need or truly want. This means we are only going to own a few things. Why not own quality things? Why not furnish our home with quality fixtures and materials? Customize your home with faucets that you thought were too posh for your old house or find that flooring that adds a bit of whimsy to your home. My point being don’t decry the costs of a tiny home. Money is cheap, true happiness is the most expensive thing in the world. So make your home the one you have always wanted.

  45. Hi

    I have been wanting to construct an 800 sq foot section to house that can be extended later when I have more money to build the rest. I CANNOT FIND normal builders who will do such a small task. In my area, they only build mcMansions.

    Does anyone know how expensive it would be to build an (unfinished interior) 800 square foot condo-style layout home (that could later be expanded)???

  46. This is a great article for anyone who is thinking of building, buying or getting someone to build a TH for them.

    I ended up choosing to buy a used tiny home after looking at the reality of my support network for building it myself. In this economy it’s hard to ask qualified builder friends to work for free and help you! Plus if you live in an urban environment I found that I would have to pay as much a 3K to rent space nearby to build the TH indoors! After pricing the appliances I would want to have in a kitchen a cook could really enjoy there goes another 3K or more. Plus having to pay someone to do the electrical would have been a must for me.

    Ultimately I found a TH built with love and skill by someone who was selling because they had a baby. It’s beautifully and thoughtfully designed. I got all the awesome kitchen appliances they installed. plus professional wiring for both solar and regular electric. And still I spent half of what it costs to have one built for you. And that’s in California where it’s super expensive. You can buy one used for less in other states but check how much it costs to have it delivered plus the dangers of dragging it across the country. That made it worth it to pay a few thousand more and only have to move it a few miles.

    I know I lost some of the joy of building the whole thing myself. But as I make the TH my own by designing and building furniture and an outdoor kitchen, I’m still feeling a lot of pride in my contribution to my home and land. But ultimately, buying used was the best value for me in my situation and got me tiny home living way sooner than had I struggled to find the time, help, and $$ to build it myself.

  47. Your tiny house will be as cheap as you are resourceful. Sure if you go and purchase everything from Lowes it’s going to be expensive. One of the main points of building one is harnessing the DIY mindset. I would also say that if you look at where you will be in five years financially living in a tiny house vs. renting or taking out even a modest mortgage, I bet the tiny house looks like a better and better financial move.

    Think of it this way, most people should be able to build a tiny house THEMSELVES for 20-25,000. That is buying quit a bit of material new from a box store. My best friend just finished a tiny house and spent around 700 hours working on it. The selling market for his house is roughly 40-45,000. If you divide 700 hrs. by the amount of equity (roughly) he has in his home (20,000). That comes to him being paid $28 an hr. in his particular case. He actually spent 12,000 on his house total which means that (conservatively estimating) he made $40 per hour in equity. That’s twice as much money as he could have made at his normal job. Even if you cut this margin in half, it’s still $20 an hr, which is what he was making normally.

    People underestimate the sweat equity that comes when you create something from scratch that has a good potential market value and then living RENT/MORTGAGE FREE.

  48. Nope. Not a fallacy. It actually is less expensive.

    Even if you pay for the most expensive tumbleweed Tiny House, finance it with a 15 year RV loan, then you are paying way less than the average rent (certainly less than I’ve ever paid), and it is for something that you own and could eventually either A. Sell, B. live rent/mortgage free or C. convert to a vacation or guest home.

    Any of those three scenarios are more cost effective than either renting or getting a traditional home.

  49. Great read. This is the kind of info I was looking for. I knew this had to be the case for most who say their homes were built inexpensively, but you congealed all the answers for me into one article. Even if I had the time, tools, etc, to get a really high quality tiny, built to the same standards as quality stick built home, going with a good builder will be my choice.

    • probably have a job too ! Why count the hours if you are not working anyway. That is the basic problem with America. The new Harvard business model of the 80’s counts all that. When people can see what they can do for themselves and others without calculating in their time and having to be paid …the world will be waaaaaaay better off. I have spent countless hours volunteering landscape sweat and time to virtual strangers…for free. Making a buck off of everything..there is a word for that…”Whore”….. The world will one day be measured by how mush you can do for one another WITHOUT being paid. Mark my word

      • For the past 23 years I’ve lived pretty much free from the consumer driven society that most people are trapped in. I only spend probably $2,500.00 per year for ‘stuff’, my life/time is NOT based on money. I live a fairly simple lifestyle, sort of like the Amish. I’m not connected to any public utilities (I have access to the internet thru my son’s connection), I use kerosene lamps and solar lights, heat and cook with wood and grow alot of my own food. For me living a minimalist lifestyle means freedom.
        For a short time I had a problem with the property tax people here when they tried to value the unfinished 24′ diameter yurt that I built 4 years ago at $26,600.00 — I built it for less than $4,000.00 in materials. They tried to pull the old “but you’ve got to figure your labor/time into what the yurt is worth.” Wait in minute now, I’m a human being, I need shelter from the elements, therefore I built myself a shelter and you want to tax my labor on the shelter until I’m dead??? I don’t think so, I appealed the assessment and it was lowered to $6,000.00. I’ve since sold the yurt and built an 8’x16′ tiny house on wheels, they can’t charge me property taxes on that!

  50. what I want to know is where do these people get free land to put the trailer on.
    as far as I know land isn’t free
    if I had land I would move out of the city and live in a tent
    then if I had the wood I would build a log cabin that’s cheaper

    • Emilie,

      In my research, I’ve found that people recommend finding someone who has a lot of land, a farm, a small farm, someone who would “rent” you a spot. I’ve read somewhere that sometimes people pay “as little as $100/month or exchange services”. I don’t know where you are, but I live in an area where people have plots of land (there’s “country” out here in NC). If you’re in a more urban area maybe there is a RV park or even a tiny house village starting up. If you’re a pro-active type of a person (which i will make a huge generalization – i think most people interested in building their own tiny house are pro-active) you might be able to start up a group somehow. I have no idea about how to do that so i’ll stop commenting. good luck!

    • A tiny house can be cheap. The only thing that really costs is the land. I ended up buying a piece of land. I do have to pay the bank every month for my land but it represents 1/3 of the price I would have to pay for renting a studio. I then built a tiny house, using recycled and NOS materials. I may not be the typical tiny house builder since I already had all the tools and skills. I also have plenty of contacts to get cheap, refurbished materials. I also can mill my own lumber. Thing is, I build the house for 1600 usd (not on a trailer) and now only pay for the land. Being off-grid, I also save on electricity and water and have enough land to grow my firewood and a few vegetables.
      A cheap house doesn’t necessarily have to be a fallacy.

      • A good way to get free things is to attend auctions. I buy lots from companies closing down. I keep what I need and sell the rest to pay for the lot. Last month, I bought camper accessories. Sold all I didn’t need and kept a new fridge and 500 amp of solar panel batteries. Even earned some money since I sold for more than I had payed the lot.

        • Thanks for the tips, sounds like a very smart way to finance what you need and maybe get a few things you want!

      • Yep !!!

      • Kissing the landlords be-haunkus is the real fallacy ……I do not care to be a pawn…a “consumer” in someone else’s get rich quick scheme. Let’s see all the “landlords” get off their duff and get a real JOB…go contribute….That is a large factor in the “homeless” PROBLEM. As long as “investing in real estate” is viewed as a noble money making proposition…..their will be homeless……

        • Do you have any idea how stupid you sound? Go to your corner and hate the world in silence Libtard.

          • Why do conservatives and trumptards love the word libtard when it is they who often lack reason, decency, and intelligence?

          • “RightTards” are compelled to insult their fellow Americans at every possible opportunity with their cowardly ad hominem trolling. It is clearly a personality disorder that is the antithesis of true Patriotism. Of course, there are so many of them now who have embraced their perceived victimhood. Interesting how so few of these fake patriots would have the balls to try their trolling face to face. I doubt it. They seem to prefer seeking any forum where they can pop in for a quick trolling attack, then slink off like Eddie Haskell.

          • I don’t understand what you mean. Many landlords don’t keep up their properties – they’re called slumlords. It appears that they invest in property, let it get rundown, take the tax loss, then when it’s condemned they sell the property to someone who will build a commercial building on it. While some of the responsibility does belong to the tenant and they fail too, it’s up to the landlord to keep the property livable. I’ve seen so many blocks, and blocks of apartments vanish from the market in a city nearby for exactly this reason.

        • You don’t think providing housing in exchange for rent is a real job? I couldn’t even estimate the number of people that are more than happy to pay rent in exchange for housing. Further, if you do away with all the landlords where will these people live? Landlords provide one of the most valuable and needed services available. Lastly, I think if you spent a month or so in a landlord’s shoes you’d rethink your opinion that they just sit on their “duff”. It’s a lot of work.

        • Marilyn, you hit the nail square on the head. Speculators are indeed at the core of the out of control cost of real-estate. This is particularly so in urban areas on the West coast. Demand is one thing, artificial demand is another.

        • Marilyn,
          Not certain why you believe that your landlord has never held a real job. At one time I owned 5 houses, renting out four. I had to work extra jobs to make the money I needed to for the 20% down payment. I had many occasions whereby the renters were late paying me or even paid me with a bad check. Other times I dealt with renters moving out in the middle of the night and trashing My house with a sledge hammer. My bank did not care to hear about this…i had to still come up with the mortgage money every month. And then I would get the call in the middle of the night to repair a hot water heater or a fridge or an a/c unit. You seem to believe that as a landlord, you corner the market. Good luck with that! People have choices in a free society. If a vendor overprices their product, the potential purchaser will shop elsewhere. We live in a market economy.To wit: hence if you believe that a tiny home builder is a rip-off artist…shop elsewhere…or build it yourself.

          BTW, as a libertarian, I reject neo-cons as much as I loath progressives.

          • The fallacy in what you’ve said is that “the potential purchaser will shop elsewhere”. Present this argument to all of the homeless people on the streets and the “potential purchasers” in the Bay Area. You may want to bring a bullhorn and a fast car.

            People don’t become homeless because they’re too lazy to “shop elsewhere”. You sir, are an idiot.

          • Myers,
            I have read, and reread my comments on Marilyn’s posting. No where can I find in my response that I said people become homeless because they are too lazy to shop elsewhere. Sorry your attempt at a strawman argument didn’t work out for you.

            As to the Bay area, I like to think I have enough common sense to avoid this area. Sorry about you. Seems those that do have common sense have been “voting” with their feet for sometime, hence the working class migration to Arizona. Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Texas and Florida.

            Nothing of value comes without hard work. No one owes you a life of ease. Politicians can bribe the voters with free stuff, only until the free stuff runs out. Perhaps when you put down your video games, get a job and move out of your mom’s basement this will sink in.

            You my dear sir, are the idiot.

        • Pretty sure paying rent for the value of some land is not kissing be-haunkus. Don’t be a pawn and there are no get rich schemes other than late night tv. There are brokers and middleman (perhaps that is what you are referring to; but they also contribute to finding your place); buying land and allowing someone to settle on it for a market monthly payment is “contributing”. The factor in “homelessness” has nothing to do with home ownership; rather mental illness(including depression), drugs and alcohol. So either you are lazy or stupid. Don’t claim for the homeless against. It is noble to live on work and merits; claiming a right to free things results in you claiming that you need free stuff. This is the second comment I have ever made in a public forum because it is the second most ridiculous claim I have ever read. Investing in real estate is relatively transparent, the participants are relatively educated. Otherwise, one should not participate.

          • Gotta agree with Andrew here. Back about 15 yrs. ago I owned 4 rental properties. The money to buy and maintain these was not mysteriously deposited in my bank account. I worked overtime and side jobs for two yrs. before and then during ownership. The landlord provides a product at the best value he can. If said price is above the market value, it will remain unrented, as consumers will rent elsewhere. If, in fact you believe the land owner is taking advantage of you, the solution is quite simple and potentially satisfying. Just buy a plot of ground next to him and rent it out for less money.

        • Wow, I so agree. I live in the Bay Area where what you speak of has become a textbook example!

      • Thank you for this. I was getting very discouraged. I think the land will be the largest problem for me. I can get a loan but, I don’t want/need a large plot of land. I am looking for like minded people to go in on this with. ANyone is and around Austin that is interested, please post.

        • Check out LaHacienda. It’s a high end RV resort by Lake Travis. My dad lives there in a camper and loves it. You might be able to move a tiny house onto the property.

        • I’m not in Austin but I’m very in building tiny homes with people, I love the idea, and there seems to be no one that wants to get together with people of the same like-mind. and build these homes, money is a factor though. It would be nice to hear from you to just want your plans are.

          • your best bet that will give you the most bang for your buck is get something like an unfinished 12×32 or a 14×36 foot shed. the price range on these are from about $7,000 to $10,000 and a lot of them come with residential doors and windows installed as well as a small front porch. most will have at least one big sleeping loft if not two. I bought a14x36 2×6 constructed shed, with front porch and the residential doors and windows and two big sized sleeping lofts, for $7,000 (including setup and delivery). all I did was, wired the place for led lighting and to run 12volt appliances and a 4 burner gas oven I have a full size shower with a composting toilet. the only thing that does not run on 12 volts is my washer/dryer which runs off my 8600 watt generator. I insulated and then paneled the walls and put vinal floor tiles down for my finished flooring. I built my own kitchen cabinetry and counter top and I bought two tesla 7kw powerwall batteries for $7,000 and solar for keeping the batteries toped off. all in all I spent just under $20,000 for 504 sq. feet.

        • find jefre outlaw; problem solved

      • a lot of these so called tiny home builders are charging between $250-$300 a sq. ft. to build, you can build brick and motor homes for around$100 a sq. ft. and have a really nice home. the only people I see buying these tiny homes anyway are the young progressive socialist trust funders, so they have more money than brains and never had to do a lick of work in their life and they flock to their ” hip” friends to build these tiny shacks for them because they want to be green, but in the mean time their hip gay liberal friends are ripping them off and they are too stupid to see it.

        • Another tinypenisrightwingtroll drops in to make the discussion all about politics and how they are so victimized when other people speak up for themselves. This is a total mental illness that is so sad. To see these people crying out about how they are marginalized because someone they don’t know has something they “don’t deserve”….
          So tedious!

    • I received two acres from my youngest son for helping him build his new home, I’ve since given those two acres to my daughter and son-in-law and helped them build a small two story 640 s.f. home located on those two acres. My 8’x16′ tiny shelter that I built back for slightly less than $3,000.00 in 2014 is located there also.

    • Sadly a lot of places don’t allow you to live in a tent on your own land, not to mention some places have minimum size restrictions on homes you could build on your own land.

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