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Buy vs. Build a Tiny House: Tips to Help You Decide

As the popularity of tiny houses continues to surge, many would-be owners are wondering whether it makes more sense to buy a pre-assembled structure or to build it themselves. Read on to learn more about the potential benefits and drawbacks of each approach.

As the popularity of tiny houses continues to surge, many would-be owners are wondering whether it makes more sense to buy a pre-assembled structure or to build it themselves. Read on to learn more about the potential benefits and drawbacks of each approach.

Tiny houses are sweeping the nation with their charm and functional features. At no more than 500 square feet, these mini abodes offer tiny house hopefuls the chance to reduce clutter and make room for what matters. Factor in the average price of a residential home and you have another reason why an increasing number of individuals are looking to downsize. There are two main categories of tiny houses; tiny houses on wheels and tiny houses on foundations.

Tiny houses on wheels are built securely on a trailer. Just as the name suggests, this type of tiny is able to travel around similarly to an RV (recreational vehicle) or campervan. The main factor that separates tiny houses on wheels from other types of mobile homes, is they’re designed to give you the comforts of a traditional residence.

Tiny houses on foundations are built similarly to a residential houses. Because this type of tiny house sits on a permanent foundation, it’s important to be sure the land you’ve chosen is appropriately zoned. On the plus side, tiny houses on foundations come with more design flexibility, as they aren’t required to meet certain dimensions for roadworthiness.

When it comes to owning a tiny house, you can choose to build your own, buy a move-in-ready tiny, or buy a tiny house shell. Let’s take a look at the break down of these options to help you decide which works best for you.

Build Your Own Tiny House

Building your own tiny house is an excellent option for those who are patient, love a challenge, or perhaps, have some level of carpentry skills. In a world that is growing increasingly more expensive, building a tiny house makes sense if you’re looking to bring down the cost of the build. Here are some reasons why building your own is the most affordable option:

DIY to reduce labor costs. Paying someone else to do the work is a costly aspect of the build process. If you feel comfortable doing the work with your own two hands, then building your own tiny house can be a rewarding experience!

You can design for standard sizes. Some tiny house builders design tiny houses with customized picture windows and doors, which end up increasing your costs. By designing your tiny house for standard sizes, you ensure your spending is under control. Not to mention it’s easier to get your windows and doors used!

You can incorporate recycled materials. Not only is upcycling all the rage in design, but it’s also great for the environment and often comes with a lower price tag. Keep an eye out for building sites that give away free pallets, or second hand shops that offer perfectly good furniture at a discount. With a bit of patience, there’s no telling what treasures you’ll find!

Buy a Tiny House Through a Tiny House Builder

Buying a move-in-ready tiny home from a respected tiny house builder is ideal for someone who has zero building experience, or is willing to pay extra for peace of mind. Buying from a builder comes with a number of benefits that certainly make this option worth it.

Work with your builder to customize. While most tiny house builders have a fleet of set designs for purchase, you can also customize your tiny house from trailer length to counter top material. Design your future tiny home side-by-side with the help of an experienced professional. Be sure to keep an open line of communication with your builder to ensure you get exactly what you want!

Ensure your tiny house meets the correct standards and codes. Every town and city in the United States has different regulations when it comes to tiny houses. Some areas classify tiny houses as RVs (recreational vehicles), while others don’t officially recognize them at all. By purchasing a tiny house, you can be sure that you are getting exactly what you need.

Save Time. Since you aren’t building your own tiny house, it makes sense that you are saving a great deal of time. Whether you buy a turnkey model or get one custom built with a tiny house builder, this option ensures you’re able to move in as soon as possible.

Buy a Tiny House Shell

A third and often forgotten option, is to purchase a tiny house shell. This is the perfect happy medium for those who want the satisfaction of building their own tiny home from a semi-finished stage.

More DIY friendly than building from scratch. With the bare bones of your tiny house already finished by a professional, you can still design the rest of your tiny house yourself. This is a great way to get your hands dirty--but not too dirty!

More time efficient. Cutting out time consuming build aspects like framework and foundations saves you a large chunk of time. This way, you can spend more time doing parts of the build that you enjoy more.

More cost efficient. A peek at any tiny house company website and you’ll see that a tiny house shell is less expensive than a finished tiny home. It makes sense--less outside materials and labor equals fewer outside costs. This option also opens up the door for more secondhand materials if you have the time to source them!

Peace of mind. Framework isn’t for amateur builders. This is why a tiny house shell is a great way to design your own tiny house from the framework of a professional. Installing plumbing and electricity can also be tricky. Having it done in advance will give you peace of mind knowing it’s done right.

The Takeaway

Owning a tiny house is an exciting adventure. While building your own from the ground up may be rewarding, it also may be something you feel is beyond your level of expertise. If this is the case, then buying a move-in-ready or shell from a tiny house builder may be the best options. Whatever the case may be; the time, money, and effort put into owning a tiny house is an investment in living big.

About the Author

Molli McGee is a U.S. citizen currently living in Cape Town, South Africa. Aside from writing about tiny houses, Molli loves to be at the beach and eat food (often at the same time). As an avid surfer and beach-goer, she does her best to promote a sustainable way of living.



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