I like tiny houses, but really only in the sense that I'm fascinated by unusually small things. Otherwise I think they're actually kind of ridiculous if your motives are to downsize and not pay $300,000+ on a house
Trailer homes are pretty incredible when you think about it. They're the closest we've come yet to building houses on an assembly line in a factory. The entire thing ships in one piece. Just plunk it down on the property, hook up the utilities, and there you go.
And the kicker is, they're competitive with tiny homes in terms of cost, but they're not tiny. They're small, certainly, but not tiny. This is because trailer home manufacturers have got it all figured out, whereas most tiny houses are these bespoke, custom numbers.
Alas, if you live in a trailer home then you're considered "trailer trash".
I wish some brave soul would undertake the task of creating, I don't know, the VW bug of trailer homes. Doesn't have to be a luxury thing, just something with character and identity. Something you can be proud of because it has a personality, just like the millions of others like it.
Until then, if you want a break from the norm of homeownership, then it's either a condo, a tiny house, or a refurbished bus.
Shipping container homes are also a sort of niche thing at the moment. Realistically though it isn't the walls that cost the money on a house, its all the stuff that goes in the walls :-) (wiring, pipes, insulation, Etc.)
From an extreme perspective you have the Broad Group in China who was building pre-fab skyscrapers (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sky_City_(Changsha)) that would house a thousand families.
 I ended up doing neither for different reasons but I know a couple who bought one and they really enjoy it.
I spent a lot of time researching these homes. Outside of situations where they're being used as glorified sheds, it's not really cheaper to construct a home with them. Which is a bit disappointing, because there is a certain "green" aspect to them that I find appealing.
The point though is that it addresses the 'variation in pre-manufactured homes' question. There are people out there building pre-manufactured homes, that mix up the formula with high end amenities.
As I see it, there are two vectors on these things, their shapes, and what you can get inside of them. The traditional mobile home type home is limited to 'single' straight and long and 'double wide' and long. That accommodates and optimizes for the lot shapes that typical mobile home parks allocate for these homes.
My home insurance covers the cost to rebuild my house in the event it is destroyed, but it protects the market value of my house because even if it is destroyed I can rebuild it to the same size and specification and have a house with possibly added market value because its made of newer material (and I would add more outlets than it currently has :-)
I agree that those two costs are very different things, but their linkage is, for me, inescapable.
What's ironic is this kind of home ownership is fairly commonplace among people who aren't high earners, yet higher earners are moving into cookie-cutter subdivisions in distant exurbs of major cities and into homes that are built rapidly with poor materials. And yet there's no such stigma there.
Ever hear of McMansions? That's derogatory. I think people who buy them are shallow and have no taste. They're just happy with the faux status that "muh big house" brings.
I have friends in Mount Airy, Maryland, and I've seen tons of these things tossed up on old farmland covered in styrofoam faux stucco, brick and stone. They are often just plopped down in a field with nothing around them but open air. It looks so hideous when you come upon a large field with a dozen large homes standing in the open with cars in front. And then to add to that, the juxtaposition of barns, silos, cows or corn fields opposite the road. It almost looks like they're growing them.
People are already building house components on an assembly line in a factory. By components, I mean entire rooms and sections of houses.
I wish some brave soul would undertake the task of creating, I don't know, the VW bug of trailer homes. Doesn't have to be a luxury thing, just something with character and identity. Something you can be proud of because it has a personality, just like the millions of others like it.
If "the VW Bug of" means a willingness of the manufacturer to modify the traditional chassis and body layout to better accomplish design goals, then GMC did build something along the lines of what you describe. ("something with character and identity. Something you can be proud of because it has a personality, just like the millions of others like it.")
As in prefabs? Of course. But trailer/manufactured homes take it further. It's one single unit.
If "the VW Bug of" means a willingness of the manufacturer to modify the traditional chassis and body layout to better accomplish design goals, then GMC did build something along the lines of what you describe
Close, but again, no RVs. I'm looking at trailer homes, which at the moment all come kinda country and kinda kitsch. That's all you get. I think it would be incredible if there was something that was contemporary, reasonably cheap, and has personality. Like a VW bug.
EDIT: Forgot that double-wides are typically transported in two, so not one single unit, and they kind of are a trailer home. Yeah, nevermind then.
https://www.wausauhomes.com/ and http://www.wisconsinhomesinc.com/ are a pretty good example of what you can do. Either they typically ship in 3-6 sections and are stitched together on-site by your framers, electricians and plumbers, or they ship wall and roof segments that take 2-5 days to stitch together. From that point on, it's the same process as your standard custom home, excepting that the frame was built in an environmentally controlled environment.
Edit: they're definitely not what you are referring to by "cheap" though. You'll probably save a bit of money over totally custom, but not along the lines of a tiny home either.
If the Tech Worker class wants to do the world some good, then bucking the "stick-built in the dirt" expectations of society would seem to be an area where we could do a lot of good. If we as a buying cohort gave such homes cachet through economic and social power, then the cost of building homes and new housing stock would be reduced through modern manufacturing and economies of scale. More people would be able to buy higher quality homes for less, all up and down the socioeconomic ladder.
Back when I was looking at building, the total price outcome really wasn't substantially different for very similar plans.
Part of the problem is that it's labor and materials intensive. Even if modular homes became more popular, the transportation cost alone means that you're not going to be buying from out of state in most cases. Also, keep in mind that houses are around for decades if not centuries. If a house cost $50k and I could swap it out every 10 years for a newer model on the same property, that might be worth it. Sadly, that is not and will likely not ever be the case.
It's a chicken and egg problem. If the market were bigger, there would be more factories, with one locally sited.
there's only just so much you can do for the overall cost when most of it is in materials anyway
A big part of the cost is labor. Economies of scale can fix this by making labor far more efficient and replacing part of it with factory automation, but the market has to be big enough to keep many local factories busy for that to work.
If a house cost $50k and I could swap it out every 10 years for a newer model on the same property, that might be worth it. Sadly, that is not and will likely not ever be the case.
Houses are designed to last only 20 years in Japan.
In any case the equivalent would be an Airstream trailer.
Edit: I see someone below also mentioned Airstream.
(In Norwegian, but there are pictures and a diagram.)
In short: 130 sq.ft. trailer home, built with structural insulated panels on a boat trailer for around €30k in total. Bathroom, kitchen, sleeping area, room for four people. Google Sketch as design program. "Smart" control unit for electricity, e.g. it turns off the water heater when the electric stove is turned on, so the total power draw never exceeds the current limit where he's plugged in. And remote control from a smartphone app.
He built his own rather than buying a caravan because he wanted e.g. better insulation for winter use and full-size kitchen appliances.
The "Tiny Home" trend is "I make way too much but want to show my opulence with virtue signalling of "I'm rich enough to build dinky"
Versus a trailer. I live in a trailer with my wife in Indiana. It is portable. Its a bit smaller than what we want, but we own the trailer out right. Our total utilities (land rental, electricity, internet, water, sewer, trash) is $500/mo. I make $69k as a sysad, and my wife is currently attending Harvard online. No loans, and paid up front.
I've talked with quite a few people who were in between apartments and such, and recommended a trailer. We've either got laughed at, told it was beneath them (knowing we live in one), or gave otherwise derisive comments or gestures showing that 'its just a trailer'.
So yeah, I (clearance'd system admin) and my wife (getting Masters at Harvard Online)... Yep. Trailer trash.
What I was trying to show was that even professionals can even live in trailers. It is nothing to be ashamed of. And in some ways, actually provides more mobility than having a house does.
The problem is that many still think that someone who lives in one is trailer trash. Yet, I see many of the same people swooning about tiny houses, and pumping upwards of 150k into one. And those are "ergonomic", "classy", "eco chic" - and they're a fraction of the size of a trailer.
But trailer's are "bad".
Or, "Trailer homes are fine but I want something more stylish than a box."
What are the advantages of a trailer vs. a small (not "tiny") home?
Right now, we're saving for a house along with paying for Harvard. We don't want a house here, primarily because we know we're going to ending up on the East coast.
At our local hackerspace, we had someone construct a tiny home. They ended up making so many compromises that it was a lousy not-even-a-house.
In our trailer, we have 2 bedrooms, a full bath, full kitchen, and living room. Its small, but its like a house for the most part. We'd like a study and a craft/hacker room, but thats later.
Some people feel that way about Airstream trailers.
I'm a big fan of prefab construction [shout out to Buckminster Fuller] -- the topic always brings to mind one of my favorite quotes from the movie "True Stories" [obviously tongue-in-cheek] :
"Metal buildings are the dream that architects had at the beginning of the 20th century. But they, themselves, don't realize it. That's because it doesn't take an architect to build a metal building. You just order it out of a catalog; it comes with a bunch of guys who put it together in a few days, maybe a week."
I've got a few ideas how to expand and scale in ways that I think is not really being done, and have been planning a trip to look more into these as a possible base plan: https://www.escapetraveler.net/traveler
I think good looking is important, and then branch into three lines, pine focused on super affordable, another with luxury and multiple uses, and another with expand-ability.
I had initially looked at some spaces in TN that could ramp this kind of production up, but now I see it would need seed money to actually get off the ground.
I think these could solve the problems of several groups with different goals, and that is exciting.
Here is a link to our cabin/office list:
Manufactured Homes used to be called "Mobile Homes", and that term is still sometimes used, but it has no legal meaning; the last "Mobile Home" was built in 1976, before the HUD Code was codified.
"Modular Homes" also has a distinct meaning. Modular Homes are different than Manufactured Homes because they are built to different building codes - basically to whatever local or state building codes apply where the Modular Home will be sited. Modular Homes (informally, "Mods") are typically more expensive because they are generally fancier, but also because of the additional cost in constructing a home to varying (and usually more stringent) local and state building codes.
I'm a software developer, but I know a lot about this because my family owned a manufactured home dealership for four decades. And, I wrote and sell MH dealership management software.
That work would be a big portion of the cost of adding on to a house much like additions are made now.
"VW bug of trailer homes"
My neighbors can't tell if I'm eclectic and rich or weird and poor. It's a good thing.
Small house to maintain, separation from neighbor, better commute. I'm curious how you came into this situation, and if you observe opportunities like this to have vanished since the 08 era? (You seem to have bought at the perfect time...)
If you've ever cooked in a tiny tiny kitchen, imagine that feeling spread throughout your entire home life.
I have a feeling this is where your username came from. :)
Well now I'm remiss of not getting to see what the comment was, since it's now flagged. I can appreciate that specific nostalgia w/rt living quarters.
Houses are cheap enough that the price difference between a tiny house and a regular house is negligible when you add the price of land onto it. And the fact that a tiny house sometimes needs more land because it's detached.
Also, if you really care about the environment and population, live in an apartment building. It is better for the environment, because you share each others heating. You can have scale advantages when you do solar on the shared roof. You don't use as much land because you can go up in the air, which means more people can live in a popular area.
My friends in a 3 year old building in Ballard have had to open their windows through the last few weeks, and they're only near the top floor. Another friend of mine had a similar experience in Mill Creek when on the top floor.
FYI electric heat is common in older apartments and condos, but many of the newer buildings I've seen go up in Seattle are using natural gas.
My cost of living is significantly lower than living in conventional housing. I estimate I've spent around $50k on it. I don't understand spending $100k on a tiny home trailer. You can buy a regular house for that much and the trailer will depreciate.
I don't have plans on moving into something else in the near future. With all the money I'm saving I'm paying off debts and growing my savings. I wouldn't mind owning some land and building a workshop but it's hard to find land at a reasonable price in a place I'd like to live.
I do this entirely by choice. I'm fortunate enough to have a well paying, remote job. I constantly see and think about people who are forced into being houseless. One project I'd like to do is a sub-$1000 trailer home anyone could build with basic tools and a few weekends. Design and build one then put full instructions with videos online for free. Unfortunately I don't have the time right now.
Feel free to ask me anything.
What total square footage are you aiming for?
It's a fairly mature market, and FWIW basic wood builds tend to wind up being too heavy to tow with a small car.
Camper, i.e. RV, popup, teardrop, etc.
The point that they are too light duty for this use I think still stands.
Basic possession is 25-50 a person, and if you want to have anything beyond an empty unfurnished trailer bed/batteries/activity gear/food/water is going to start to add up fast.
For me I could easily add 75lb of climbing gear, 50lb of snowboarding. Basic Solar panel is 20, batter another 15 and so on.
You aren't likely to be driving about with 2 people in the trailer.
For comparison, the smallest, lightest travel trailers you can buy come in around 1500-2000 pounds dry. And they are not rated for full-time living. Anything more durable will quickly weigh a lot more than a 1715 pound trailer can safely handle.
2. Did you use any guides on how to build your shuttle bus?
3. What do you do about external services (e.g. showering/toiletries)? I've heard at campsites there's valves to drain sewage into underground septic tanks, but I don't know how common that is in suburban or urban areas.
4. What do you do about insurance (break-ins, fires, etc.)?
5. Do you use public parking and move around or do you buy a parking spot somewhere?
6. Do you remote work / freelance? I'd imagine holding an office job may be difficult given the above constraints.
> Did you use any guides on how to build your shuttle bus?
Nothing specific but I did about six months of research before I started, reading blogs, forums, reddit, and watching videos.
> What do you do about external services (e.g. showering/toiletries)?
I have a shower and a toilet. I also go to the gym at least once a week. Most campgrounds have a waste dump station. I have 42 gal fresh and waste tanks. I haven't had trouble finding places to dump.
> What do you do about insurance (break-ins, fires, etc.)?
I have insurance. It'd be the same as any vehicle having a break-in or fire.
> Do you use public parking and move around or do you buy a parking spot somewhere?
Public parking. I almost always move daily so as to not be an annoyance.
> Do you remote work / freelance?
I have a full time remote job. One reason I wanted to build my own instead of buying an RV is for a desk. I built a standing desk workstation with a 34" ultrawide monitor.
I previously used an unlimited Sprint hotspot. It had more data but had poor coverage in many areas.
The Franklin R850 is outdated and unreliable. I had one and hated it. The ZTE hotspot they had after that wasn't terrible but the charge controller was bad and would overcharge the batteries. Now they're back to the terrible R850 since ZTE is banned. I can't speak to the R910 but after my experience with the R850 I never want to own another Franklin product.
I may get another unlimited Sprint or T-Mobile hotspot since they're good for high bandwidth activities (eg streaming video) when the signal works.
If your not in a very congested area, any of these plans should work just fine.
1. Is it weird inviting guests over? What extra steps do you do to make them feel more comfortable, especially if they're not used to the limited space?
2. How do you store your food, specifically perishables?
3. About how much do you spend on gas per month?
4. Do you ever feel unsafe, such as when you park the bus in a public lot? Do you carry a baseball bat/etc onboard?
5. How do you wash your clothes? Do you take them to a laundromat or wash them yourself?
A few people are fine but more than that and it's crowded. I usually visit others or meet friends other places, like at a restaurant. Going to a park or campground and having a cookout works great.
> How do you store your food, specifically perishables?
I have a fridge.
> About how much do you spend on gas per month?
It varies. If I'm not traveling it's in the range of $150-275/m. If I travel it's 10mpg so roughly $0.28/mi.
> Do you ever feel unsafe, such as when you park the bus in a public lot? Do you carry a baseball bat/etc onboard?
No. I don't park places I'd feel unsafe. I typically park on the street. I avoid bad areas. I have pepper spray, a stun gun, knives, and blunt objects I could use for personal defense if necessary.
> How do you wash your clothes? Do you take them to a laundromat or wash them yourself?
Laundromat. I may add a washer / drier combo at some point. I'd have to give up a decent amount of space for it though.
Most RVs are made out of low grade materials like particleboard and MDF. I used neither. They are not made to be lived in and fall apart quickly.
None of them have a work area either. You end up using a laptop on the dinette or turn it into a desk and lose an eating area. I built a dedicated standing desk with a large monitor.
* I kid, but they’re not much stronger than that.
+And whatever else would make it equivalent to an apartment/house. Do you have to hold any special insurance or have any other special recurring expenses?
In the summer I run a generator for AC when necessary which is expensive. It uses $10-12/day in gas when run 24/7. A better choice is to drive where it's not as hot which I wasn't able to do last summer.
No special insurance.
If you want to grab a coffee or beer let me know. My email is in my profile.
In other cities, it can be much cheaper.
The main thing I'd change is using spray insulation instead of polyiso. Spray insulation would have taken a day, polyiso took me a month to cut out all the pieces and glue them up.
I've put over 20k miles on it. My home area is Austin, TX but I've traveled to the northeast a few times and to New Mexico. I'll be heading west again soon.
It makes journalists swoon, but I don't see it as something that has a lot of future to it. Seems like something that sounds a lot better in people's heads than in reality.
Edit: FWIW, I don't disagree that a lot of people have more house than they may "need" and may benefit from downsizing. (Certainly we've got more "stuff" than we need; my wife and I all but wage a constant war on the "stuff" that seems at times to spontaneously generate from the ether.) But I rather suspect the optimum is not in the 150sqft range for very many people, and indeed, not even particularly near it.
I found that size of house to be pretty great.
Then we found out we were having twins. Now we live in a 1200sqft townhouse, which is also pretty nice.
It seems plenty big for what we need. The thing that always amuses me is that all our relatives are wondering when we'll move into a "real" house. Apparently this one is just a "starter" and too small for longer term living in their eyes.
We just bought a 52 square meter house, but we did it cash - no mortgage (just took the deposit we'd saved for a city home and looked outside the city instead). That's worth more to me than a lot of space. Though I might be cheating because there are some outbuildings which can hold washer/dryer and tools, etc.
The key in our situation is we went for a townhouse, which for whatever reason seems to knock 30-50% off the asking price. I guess people really don't like stairs and living immediately next to people.
I love living next to good neighbours. It's tough to know what you're going to get before moving in, though.
A lot of it comes off similarly to the dentist I had once who told me I needed to get my wisdom teeth removed immediately because getting them removed when I'm 70 would be much more of an issue.
There is a lot of time between now and then, and I think it makes more sense to prioritize my current needs and keep my options open than to prematurely decide what I will want in ten or fifteen years.
Folks who grew up in the country with wide open spaces feel claustrophobic in small spaces.
City people are happy with 400-600 sqft/person. It's an exercise in minimalism and frugality.
If you tried to fit two couches and three chairs into our living room like my parents have, it wouldn't work.
We also don't have a "kitchen table" and a "dining room table" like my parents do.
Yes, we'd probably have a hard time hosting 30 people for a holiday, but that seems like an odd standard to base your home purchase around.
It's incredible what a difference no furniture makes. It's very hard to entertain non-Japanese people, though... I've got some folding camping chairs in the closet, so it's very "rustic" at those times. It also took me a long time to get flexible enough to sit on the floor all the time! But it's good for your body.
I'm not going to suggest this is a solution for most people :-) I have been surprised at how much I enjoy it, though. I find it very comfortable and it's nice that the rooms are big, open and uncluttered (even though they are very small -- our entire apartment consists of 3 rooms, two of which are about 150 square feet and the other is about 120 square feet (that excludes the bathroom, toilet and entrance, so I guess the entire apartment is about 550 square feet?)
The major problem I have with such a small space is that I need more storage room (especially in the kitchen). I've lived in a house that was just a bit bigger than this (probably on the order of 700 square feet) and it was just perfect for me. Unfortunately, in our small town, there was literally nothing that big available when we were looking so we ended up with this.
When I lived in Canada, I had owned a huge house: something like 3000 square feet, with 3 bathrooms. My kitchen was probably half the size of the apartment I live in now :-). It was full of furniture: I had a sitting room with couches and chairs, a dining room with dining table, cabinets, etc, another living room with more couches and chairs, and 3 furnished bedrooms. I was single at the time and had to invite friends to come and live with me -- it was like living in a mansion. What a lot of work! I never had time to enjoy it.
It's weird how your idea of luxury can change :-) I literally can't even imagine living in that old house any more.
My wife and I made several house (and furniture) purchase decisions based off this. Big families like to have big parties in family settings - it's an important feature of the house for us.
We've made do in ~300 square feet in the past, and just didn't enjoy the compromises on comfort and the constant extra effort to keep the space livable.
I would joke with my parents "why is it called a living room when we can't live in it"
For context, TV at that time meant a handful of channels received over the air, and a "big" screen was 19 inches.
I guess I've kept a similar pattern. My TV is in a little dedicated TV room. I have another wall-mounted TV but it's mostly just a big digital picture frame. [ADDED: I watch TV/movies but I don't really like to mix it in with other activities for the most part.]
Some of the reason behind is separation of concerns strangely enough. I work from home, we live in a 1 bedroom apartment, and I felt really stressed whenever I would play video game or watch TV while still in the very same space I worked all day. I was basically doing everything in the same 10sqft all day every day. Now, because it's in another room, I feel way more relaxed.
Another plus is now I get the sun up right in front of me from bed every morning and that's just an awesome feeling I didn't get from the bedroom. I believe the bedroom should be oriented south east to get that morning sunshine to wake you up, and we didn't get that before.
2. For sure, 150sqft is unreasonably small, even if it's a very luxurious 150sqft. But that's a strawman. If all of the sensationalism around this extreme end of the spectrum inspires Joe Public to reconsider his American dream of owning a 2600sqft home, and maybe opt for 700sqft instead, then that's a massive win both on the sustainability and on the household debt fronts. We should be celebrating, celebrating, celebrating anyone stretching the Overton window on this topic.
Yeah there's some decrepit mobile home parks out there, but most of these communities are not decrepit at all.
By the way, modern mobile homes (built in the 90s and later) get pretty big, many of them have 4 bedroom floor plans and stylish interiors.
I also suspect tiny homes probably are a bit too tiny. I'm not sure if the extreme tinyness in a political statement, or just social signalling that its a choice, not that they can't afford a bigger house. I would predict though that if the movement has legs, tiny houses will get much less tiny.
The details will vary of course but so many of the discussions seem to be around whether you "can" live this way, not whether you want to, especially long-term.
I say this as someone who lives in a fairly modest-sized house but enjoys not feeling I have to squeeze every square foot out of my space.
And at 96 sqft, that's well within the range of the homes being discussed in the article. If I were doing it to live in rather than as a shed, I'd build a 12x16 or a 16x16, for 192 or 256 sqft. 16' is the maximum length of dimensional lumber you can typically find at a hardware store, so the advantage there is that the house has structural members extending the entire length of the house, which means it's super sturdy. 8' and 12' are also common lengths of dimensional lumber, hence the size of my shed. Also no surprise that the height is simply 8' (uncut lumber) minus the height of the floor.
I'm making the upstairs into a finished living space with kitchen and bath. Everyone who sees it asks how I learned to do it, and it's the same as anything else. It's all out there on the internet if you want to take the time to read and watch. I've done everything except pour the concrete for the slab, and install the roofing. I'm currently finishing out the bathroom, then I'll lay the hardwood flooring and it'll be done. It's been very satisfying.
The one thing the big box store had, that I wish I had gone to a lumber yard for, is PT 4x8' 3/4" plywood for the floor. I ended up using non-PT and painting it to seal it, but it still probably won't last as long. At least it's a couple feet off a bed of gravel, which should help.
Note, at a real lumber yard you need an account. They can accept cash sales but they would rather not. They won't talk to you if someone else with an account is there. Once you have an account (which is free) you have passed the initiation and they love to help.
Not to mention that the lumber at lumber yards tends to be of superior quality as well.
I did all the smaller stuff myself, including framing, putting together the roof trusses, and roofing (minus the sheathing itself). You can easily manhandle around dimensional lumber by yourself; it's long but skinny easily to easily handle, unlike sheets.
I modified them to add a full size staircase in the corner, change the window and door layout, and add dormer windows upstairs. I got a permit and had the plans approved by the city. Once the slab was poured I just started framing the walls and went from there. I'm working mostly on weekends, so during the week I'll research the next few things coming up. YouTube is the best resource for fiddly things like how to solder a pipe, how to lay tile, etc. Websites with diagrams and pictures are more helpful with technical things like how to lay out window framing, how to properly vent drain pipes. I know I'm working much slower than a pro, but I don't mind, and I get to have things that would normally cost a ton extra for just the cost of materials.
Also a note since full-sized truck has been mentioned a few times, I have a compact truck (2005 GMC Canyon) and it has carried all of my supplies after I had the main lumber order delivered. A compact truck with full length bed is perfectly capable if you are working alone or with 1 helper. The amount of drywall I can hang in a weekend is about what I can carry in the truck. I have a bed extender that was less than $100 so I can carry 16' materials no problem, 20' if it's a short drive.
Now, when I visit newly renovated homes, I see so much corner cutting, work that does not meet codes and sometimes is unsafe.
Plus, the stuff does not change as quickly as software. If you learn framing, you should be able to construct a house for many years to come. Also, much of the building codes is just common sense and most of the time makes sense. Software is just so abstract compared to physically building a house.
The building inspector was impressed with my shed when he examined it. He said it was really sturdy, and superior in construction quality to off-the-shelf purchased sheds (which also cost a lot more than I paid for materials!).
My parents house kept getting water in the basement because of soil being sloped towards their house. Neighbor was too high and their house was too low. I ended up designing a solution, which was a retaining wall and french drain system. The last inspection, two inspectors came out and asked if I do that professionally because they have been impressed by the drawings submitted and the scope of the job seemed unreasonable to be tackled by a home owner. The older inspector said I should do it for a living and he thought there was no way we would complete the project.
Fortunately the land was overall flat, other than the problem with it sloping in towards the house, so that was sufficient to solve the problem. It sounds like you had worse issues with your terrain.
We removed a few tons of dirt by hand lol.....I regret not renting a bobcat.
> when I visit newly renovated homes, I see so much corner cutting
You could do construction with your knowledge. But starting a construction company means deeply understanding the economics of every little thing, which leads to corner cutting.
There are people who will pay you to build a good house, but most people just want it cheap and looks like the magazines.
If you simply do the research and follow it, which is will within the capabilities of almost everyone posting here, then you should be OK. The mistakes you'll make will be relatively minor.
No judgement from me if you do choose to do these things, though. I do see the appeal. Maybe there is no conspiracy, maybe it is a coping mechanism.
Edited "deeply" to "slightly" upon further reflection.
To me, tiny homes and "van life" are about raising our standards of living. To me, living in a van with the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want, sounds amazing. If you lived in the midwest in your van last week, you could have simply driven away from the polar vortex.
I hate the idea of living in a large house. I don't want to spend my weekends doing chores like sweeping floors or mowing the lawn.
There are practical obstacles to overcome with these alternate living styles, but it works really well for some people.
During the day I'd run my company. Cell service is so great now that I could be tethered to my phone doing video calls while camping out on BLM land.
Then in the evening I'd go do an outdoor adventure, usually a short one. And then I'd devote my weekends to being active, like a two day backpacking trip.
The result was that I felt like I was using my full self for the first time. I'd be completely exhausted mentally by Friday and physically by Sunday.
Fingers crossed, I should be making more progress towards that in the next year after my fiancee finishes grad school.
I wonder which forces are at play who intend to convince us that continuing living with our current standards is sustainable.
When did we consciously decided that :
- having thousands of cars running around us constantly while emitting toxic gases
- wrapping everything in multiple layer of plastic packaging
- eating meat at every meal
- same day delivery / drone delivery
- getting food delivered by people getting paid sub minimum wage
- crypto currencies consuming ridiculous amount of energy for basically nothing
- spending 8 hours a day sitting in front of a computer developing solutions for mega corps exploiting human behaviours to make money
&c. were good things ?
"Until we have begun to go without them, we fail to realize how unnecessary many things are. We've been using them not because we needed them but because we had them."
Because you're (hopefully) going to come out of the other side of those 30-40 years, regardless. In one case, you can have a house you own free and clear. In the other case, you're still paying rent to someone else.
And 30-40 years is the extreme. Paying just a little extra principal every month you can have the loan paid in well under 30 years.
Not really, if you buy a small piece of land and make a tiny house for yourself (or find a parking space for little rent). Depending on where you are, it is possible to build one for as little as 20-30K USD, vs probably 200K USD or more for a big house. Instead of paying interest for 30 years, you could invest it somewhere else.
I am not saying getting normal houses is wrong, just that it is not for everyone. There are people who despise being in debt, in any shape or form (me included), no matter how well it is dressed up ("but you are building wealth, your house would be worth 3x in 20 years!!"). Whichever feeling is bigger (not being in debit vs living in a normal house with debt) wins, and it is different for each person.
Obviously these options aren't available in big cities like NY. There are multiple good things from this movement though - people are less in debt, people don't buy junk (or buy less) because they don't have space to put it, people likely to spend more time outdoors etc.
If you pay off your loan you are debt free in 30 years or less. However many people don't: they see their house go up in value and take out a bigger loan to spend now.
Buying a house isn't for everyone. And is harder in some areas than others. But buying something within your budget can also provide a lot of stability over time. (Which, of course, may or may not be something you care about.)
The concept of "tiny house" romanticizes a small budget. Poorer people get smaller houses.
In general wealth doesn't correlate with van/trailer/home size?
1. Owning high quality and purpose built possessions
2. Becoming debt free and allowing yourself to take on tasks of great risk (regular world travel, start your own business, etc)
3. Removing things from your life that aren't useful or clutter your life
I know plenty of 25-40 year olds who would love a detached single family home with a two car garage and a yard near their work, but it’s out of their financial grasp, as is other components of “The American Dream”, hence embracing experiences and minimalism over material possessions. You make do when you feel you can’t thrive.
"Embracing experiences and minimalism over material possessions" is precisely what philosophers and spiritual teachers have been advocating for millennia. The material excesses of our parents' generation are a historical anomaly. Earth Overshoot Day is on August 1st – we shouldn't be able to afford that culture in the first place.
I would not celebrate everyone living on a dollar a day as most of the developing world does. To me, that wouldn’t be a win. Conversely, US resource consumption per capita needs to decline to European levels to be sustainable, which I think is possible with renewables and electrified transportation, along with an aging population.
Land is not the problem in the US. It’s jobs near inexpensive land, which you can incentivize with public policy.
The affordability issue has impacted the entire west coast, possibly most of the western US depending on how you measure. Of the cities you listed, I think Columbus is the only actual option for someone of average means.
I would already own a house if there were reasonably sized houses on the market that were well built. But there aren't. There are acres of McMansions springing up everywhere, but no sensible, functional houses.
Building a new house typically requires more collateral because the bank is wary of loaning the money and then the project falling apart before its finished. When that happens, all they can reposes is parts of a house that aren't even worth (on the open market) the cost of the building materials and work already put into it.
It's not a huge deal if you go with an existing builder with lots of experience, especially if they already have a relationship with the bank... but if you want to save money by being your own general contractor or do any work yourself, that's when you encounter the most problems.
Got a new, half million dollar house. (not sure if this counts)
Got the upgrade on insulation(got it in the attic/garage area). Got the upgrade on the triple pane glass. Nothing, has broken in 2 years.
Since, I've used it to rent out AirBnB, rent for friends, and soon house many children.
It would have been nice to save 100k and get a smaller home, but builders make nice new homes, not smaller lower cost homes.
1. There is nothing wrong with living small, but there is a point when every square meter/feet makes a lot of difference.
2. We really should be getting better standards of living over time as manufacturing gets easier. Most people should be having even modest vacation homes bigger than this.
3. Even if you don't believe in these things, it is to some extent at least an ideal. Maybe especially in the US giving up this ideal is a significant decrease in prosperity.
Ultimately one has to ask themselves "for what?". I can in many ways see the appeal and I am interested in things like house construction. But ultimately it is also a result of the absurd situation where we aren't producing new opportunities anymore. And you can't really compensate for the changes in the bigger picture.
A person doesn't actually need that much room to live comfortably. Particularly if you make use of public spaces and the outdoors.
This kind of perhaps excessively long historical horizon reminds me of the old joke (http://www.challzine.net/23/23scientist.html):
> [King's College] had gotten a large bequest to the College and were trying to decide how to invest it. The bursar said, “Certainly we ought to invest it in property, real property. That has stood the college very well for the last thousand years.” But the oldest senior fellow in the room shook his head and said, “Well, that is true enough. But the last thousand years have been atypical.”
Eating bread and plain water is healthy, and good for the soul!
Bicycling instead of driving is good for the environment and keeps you fit!
Living in a van is freedom and ultra mobile!
Note that none of these statements is wrong, but they are arguably propaganda aiming to get people accustomed to living with less.
Then again, that may be fully the intention of the current propaganda: it's harder to fight when everyone is just trying to protect themselves.
Yet mobilization, like tiny houses, is itself rather fashionable nowadays. Are we sure that's not propaganda?
From my own point of view I would love to build a tiny house on a large plot of forested land after my children are raised and on their own (not before), perhaps with a travel van for the summers.
Why is living in a smaller home a lower standard of living? Wasted space is a higher standard?
So yes. Having a bit more space in your home can raise your standard of living.
I wonder what will be next when most people will have reached that level of quality of life.
I've seen a couple of tiny homes that had a bedroom in the form of a mezzanine above the living space. With all the heat rising upwards I wouldn't be able to sleep with all the heat trapped in the sleeping area.
If I want to have a couple of children is wanting one or two extra bedrooms really wasting space? And if it is, wouldn't you still call it a loss of quality of life compared to the alternative?
He works remotely, usually using library wifi. Then he just drives around to wherever the best climbing/skiing/kayaking is at any given time of year. Not quite the lifestyle I'd want to lead, but it certainly works for him.
While i don't wanna have a 'Van Life' (its not possible in my country anyway to weather), i do not want a lot of space inside. I wanna have a lot of space outside.
This is a channel by an actual van dweller, and a lot of his videos are about exposing how ridiculously fake a lot of the van life people are on YouTube.
Even without watching his videos, it's pretty easy to tell that a lot of van life videos follow the same pattern:
- Ridiculously attractive white or "not-too-dark" interracial couples. Bonus points if the boyfriend has an ambiguous European or Latin accent.
- Scantily clad women who somehow have the time and the ability to do their hair, apply makeup perfectly, and have their nails done, despite how actual van dwelling would take the piss out of them.
- If they've got a camera person following them around in every episode, they're definitely living out of hotels, if not their own homes at the end of the day.
- Absurdly expensive vans that most young people couldn't afford without massive debt. I suppose they could bank on paying it off with YouTube adsense dollars, but that's a big gamble.
- Vans with interiors better than a nice apartment, but no mention of how they built it nor how long it actually took to construct. (Sorry, but I don't think noodle-arms there could manage a table saw)
- Living out of a van means pissing in buckets, taking shits at McDonalds, and showering at gyms. So many van life people don't ever talk about this, but spend their time filming all the vacation spots they visit. (you too can see the world... just fork over $35k for a van)
- Never talking about how dwelling in parking lots exposes one to encounters with crazy people, criminals, and hoodlums. How'd you like to wake up at 2am to the sound of boys pissing on the pavement right next to your van? Maybe you'd prefer crackheads screaming about how they're gonna kill the guy who stole their stash? Anyone who has spent a modest time living in a car will know what I'm talking about.
- Never mentioning how it's a pain in the ass to find semi-legal parking. You might be able to park your car out in the middle of nowhere, which is scary as fuck, or you can park in the city and expect to regularly hear a cop tap their night stick against your window.
It's mostly a big crock, and I suppose a lot of Tiny Homes are too, seeing as it's generally a pain in the ass to build one, find a place to put it, and comply with all the state and local ordinances. I know a lot of people have to build their tiny homes on trailer beds because if their shack has wheels then they can technically skirt building codes in certain areas, but then they might as well own an RV in that case.
Even insulation benefits can't be relied on as shared walls are often uninsulated and overall insulation in apartment blocks often bare minimum to code rather than adequate.
Last, but not least, I would take a small garden over an apartment without that's twice or three times the size. You're even likely to see neighbours a lot more if you have a garden to potter in, and the dog has somewhere. :)
Having no idea what they are doing sounds like dreaming the impossible dream!
Maybe newer ones are better as that was back in the 90s.
I'm currently in a 10 year old house based on old farm buildings and the walls here are even thicker (still sandstone).
I've no experience of those converted or purpose built long ago.
Soundproofing techniques are well-understood and not horrendously expensive (of course, many builders don't bother because it's not worth the cost, from their short-term perspective). And separate buildings in close proximity still allow plenty of opportunity for sound to carry—again, unless soundproofing has been performed.
You seem to be making the assumption that tiny houses will always be built well above minimum code requirements, while apartment buildings will not. If tiny houses really go mainstream, that will no longer be the case.
Why didn't you live in more efficient housing, they might ask.
Oh, because I was mildly inconvenienced by my neighbors.
Because I wanted a garden to grow my own food.
The insulation might not be perfect.
These things are not important or, in the case of the insulation, can be adjusted with aggressive regulation. We are going to force future generations to do it, because of our wasteful lifestyles. The least we can do is start working towards living like them, in honor of those whom we imprison in a hell of our making.
A small house is, for most, a better and far more efficient solution for a couple than the typical property available. As the kids move on we've no need of multiple bedrooms and bathrooms. Yet most of what gets built tries to squeeze more rooms and more bathrooms and toilets than people into the same square footage.
To me, that's what needs a rethink. You'll never get us into another apartment block though.
For the elderly they also seem like they could be an ideal solution where we once built sheltered flats. Cluster a group together with small garden space, and add a warden and panic alarms. More appealing than rattling around in the old family 4 bed home.
If a municipality is looking at two competing development plans for a couple acres of town:
1. 10 new $500k - 3,000sq ft McMansions = 5 million dollar base and 48 people (estimating 4 people / family)
2. 30 much smaller houses at $100k each = 3 million dollar base and 100ish new people (estimating fewer / house)
In the small house scenario (if they were built on foundations and tied into city water/sewer) you also end up with 3x as many connections to install and support, significantly more kids that need educated at the local overcrowded school system, etc.
So, you can build/buy a tiny home and use it like a mobile home, but that limits where you can put it. Or, you can try to get the county/city/whatever to allow it as a permanent home (with whatever zoning variance is required).
Of course when the people are more equal your math works out. However things are never equal.
It's not just the price of the home, but that more people == more services that need provided (school, water, roads, etc.)