The Tiny House Trend
Is It Ideal For Seniors?
Over the last seven years, we have shared our expertise on the downsizing process with boomers and seniors through conferences, blogs and other online resources. We have offered ideas and insight on making a successful transition into a healthier and more manageable living environment, and our eight-step checklist to downsizing successfully and profitably.
When talking about downsizing, we have explored a variety of options. From condominiums and senior retirement communities, to recreational vehicles (RVs) and even boats, we have discussed the pros and cons of each.
Another downsizing option that has been trending in the United States since 1997 is known as the tiny house movement. It was made popular by Sarah Susanka with the publication of her book, The Not So Big House. As early as the 1970s, tiny house pioneers were touting the benefits of downsizing. And now, seniors and boomers are discovering the joys of tiny-house living.
Pros and Cons of Tiny House Living
Tiny houses come in all shapes and styles. From super mod and industrial chic, to rustic, luxe and everything in between. Tiny home owners really are limited only by their own imagination. If this is a downsizing option that may be right for you, don’t make the move without first weighing the pros and cons of this kind of downsizing.
First, let’s talk about the disadvantages that can come with tiny house living. The obvious downside to it is space limitations. The average home today includes 2,687 square feet of living space and are nearly 1,000 square feet larger than the average home of the 1970s. If you have been accustomed to living in the “average” size home for years, making the move to 500 square feet or less might be a shock to the system. Space is precious in a tiny house, and limits the ability to have things like a home office, or the ability to have more than the bare essentials.
Limited space can also lead to another con where tiny houses are concerned: relationship issues. If you are sharing your new tiny space with a significant other, there is the potential for trouble. No matter how well you think you get along, being forced to be in each other’s space all the time can test even the strongest of relationships. And if you do have a disagreement, or are just craving a little alone time, being crammed into a tiny house can make getting away from one another impossible.
There also are pros to living in a tiny house. The biggest is the cost savings that comes with reducing belongings and living space so drastically. Tiny homes can cost as little as a few hundred dollars or as much as you want to spend. The average tiny home in the U.S. costs $23,000. Because the size is compact, savings also are possible on the cost of utilities. Tiny homes, especially those mounted on wheels, are easy to relocate, which is another huge benefit to living small. Homes that are mounted on wheels so that they may easily be towed by trucks or other vehicles may have size restrictions, so keep this in mind if you opt for a tiny home with wheels.
Choosing a Design, Location
As mentioned earlier, there really is no limitation on the kind of design tiny house owners can incorporate. Some tiny homes are very simple, like this one, while others are quite elaborate. Some states have building codes pertaining to tiny houses, so be sure to check with yours before you purchase a premade model or build your own.
Some areas do not allow tiny homes at all, which can make it challenging for those who want to downsize to this option, but are not allowed to do so in their preferred city or state. This is the reason many tiny home builders put their homes on wheels. By putting their tiny home on wheels, owners can easily skirt building codes that require permanent dwellings to be of a minimum size. There currently is a movement to establish a national uniform building codethat will allow tiny home builders better access.
Once you choose a design, the next step is to find a location for your tiny house. If you decide to purchase one on wheels for easier transport, options for locations will be more plentiful and can include camp sites with water/sewer hookups to private plots of land. You also can build your tiny home on a foundation or a runner. A foundation can be a simple concrete slab, or a full “basement.” If you choose to build on a foundation, you will need to make sure the building codes in the area you plan to build allow for tiny houses.
If you want to have a foundation of sorts, but not one that’s so permanent that pulling up roots and relocating is harder, then consider a runner. This semi-permanent foundation style makes it easier to move in the future; however, you will need to build your tiny house so that it fits on wheels when the time comes for transport.
There are other aspects to consider when building a tiny home. If you have pets, you will want to make sure they have easy access and space for things like food bowls. There are many designs for tiny homes – like this one – that consider pets and their unique needs.
Pets aren’t the only ones who may need special accommodations. Some seniors don’t consider tiny homes because they may have ambulatory issues. But there are tiny home models, such as these, that are wheelchair and handicapped accessible. There truly is a tiny home design for every need!
Tiny homes are just one of many options when it comes time to downsize. To learn more about the downsizing process – including which option may be right for you – consider attending our upcoming Upside of Downsizing conference, scheduled for September 30 in Portland. More information about the conference, including guest speakers and how to register, is available here.
Mary Spann is the founder and president of Upside of Downsizing®. In addition to her 26 years in construction, interior design, and home staging, Mary also holds college degrees in Social Work and Psychology, making her uniquely qualified to assist with the downsizing process, and helping 50 plus-year-olds achieve a happy and healthy life balance. Mary learned the key components of construction and interior design at an early age. Her father was a prominent custom home builder in Minnesota and Texas, and her mother was a successful interior designer and a principal broker.