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Small World: The Tiny House Trend (believermag.com)
195 points by magda_wang 18 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 329 comments



I really wish there was more diversity in offerings when it came to manufactured/trailer homes. To clarify, I'm not talking about RVs.

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.


On one end of the spectrum is Blu Homes (https://www.bluhomes.com/) which builds pre-fabricated homes that aren't quite so boxy as mobile homes. We looked at investing in them when they started up and perhaps getting one of their smaller units for a piece of land up in the Sierra foothills[1].

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.

[1] I ended up doing neither for different reasons but I know a couple who bought one and they really enjoy it.


> Shipping container homes are also a sort of niche thing at the moment.

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.


You want to be real careful with the paint they use, it’s very far from green or healthy.


Blu Homes (from their website) are from $200K - $550K. That might sound cheap in some areas but if you're comparing to a traditional "manufactured home" it's close to an order of magnitude higher.


Absolutely. It is "cheap" when the median price of a home is $1.5M it is "expensive" when the median price of a home is $150K.

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.


With a lot of those $1.5M homes, a large LARGE portion of the value is the land/location, not so much the physical structure too. You gotta price that in for these types of "great deal" homes.


The market value and construction cost are two very different things.


That is true, but looking at the whole picture which is you start with a lot, then you add a house, and now you have an improved lot with a house on it. That thing you end up with at the end, has a market value which can be compared with other houses in the area for their market value.

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.


Those bluhomes are really expensive. You could have a bespoke home built in-situ for those prices. What is their strength?


7 days of on site assembly. If you are building a cabin in the Sierras (for example) where the building season is short, and the availability of skilled carpenters, plumbers, electricians, Etc. is challenging, you can transport this pre-built home and erect it.


I think there are a number of companies building modular homes. IKEA has a join venture with a construction company for example [0]. Just that construction isn't generally the problem. We know how to build relatively cheaply.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0dbRKACktA [1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgu7ZK894gs


People will find ways to diminish others, but a recent manufactured home on a well-kempt lot just looks like a normal house, even if it has a simple roofline and is conspicuously devoid of brick above the floorline. In much of rural America, this kind of house doesn't look out of place, and is worlds apart from the image of cramped disheveledness that people associate with a suburban or edge-of-town trailer park.

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.


> ...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.


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.

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.")

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GMC_motorhome


People are already building house components on an assembly line in a factory. By components, I mean entire rooms and sections of houses.

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.


Modular homes are virtually indistinguishable from ground-up-stick-built homes, and are most definitely not prefabs.

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.


Modular homes that are not stick-built onsite tend to appreciate a lot less. And if your assessor or appraiser categorizes it as a manufactured home it is even less. Try to sell one to find out how much of a local stigma they have, even though they are perfectly fine and are usually built out of 2x4s too. But I heard people saying they don't shop at Ikea because it is a "cookie cutter" store. Buying a house is often a status issue.


Buying a house is often a status issue.

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.


A significant chunk of the cost of modular building is in transportation, and there's only just so much you can do for the overall cost when most of it is in materials anyway (gas and wood are very variable costs).

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.


A significant chunk of the cost of modular building is in transportation

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.


I think he meant an assembly-line manufactured small house with strong personality & branding that people can fall in love with. Just like they fell in love with the Volkswagen Beetle.


That seems like the kind of thing that happens more by accident than deliberate attempt.

In any case the equivalent would be an Airstream trailer.

Edit: I see someone below also mentioned Airstream.


However, it happened on purpose with the GMC motorhome. (The personality part, not the trailer part.)


Here's an architecture student who build his own small trailer home to have a place to live while studying: https://www.tu.no/artikler/na-har-sigurd-19-fatt-smart-strom...

(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.


Exactly! That's what I've been saying all along.

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.


It's interesting that your complaint doesn't seem to be against the use of the "trailer trash" stereotype, but your inclusion in it. And in the process, you manage to stereotype other people.


Well, in this thread we have a lot of implicit (and some explicit) derogatory stereotypes of people who live in larger houses, and nobody seems to mind. Plus, trailer trash absolutely exist. But they frequently don't live in trailers.


Nobody is trash.


Not at all. Then you misunderstand the tone and how I write.

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".


> 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"

Or, "Trailer homes are fine but I want something more stylish than a box."


Where in Indiana? $500/mo strikes me as a little on the higher side. In my town in Indiana (Whiting), you could rent an apartment for roughly that price, although I guess it depends on the size. And you can buy a house for <$100k which is less than 2x your salary.

What are the advantages of a trailer vs. a small (not "tiny") home?


Bloomington. We have some of the highest rates for rental properties and apartments in Indiana. Downtown, costs are upwards of $1000/mo, not including all utilities.

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.


how much did you buy the trailer? What's it like living in a trailer?


>something with character and identity. Something you can be proud of because it has a personality

Some people feel that way about Airstream trailers.


Trailer homes are pretty amazing, especially these days. One of my relations lived for a time in one, and it was nicer than any apartment I occupied in college, that's for sure!

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."


Don't forget the tax savings involved in laying some cement down on your vacation property for a trailer instead of building a tiny home there.


Not quite a trailer but living in a decked out Sprinter van makes you a climber or a hipster, but definitely not poor.


I too have been thinking similar to this. Been doing it for years; taking notes, saving pages and stories.

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.


My company builds sheds and garages, but we have a couple of 12x24' designs that look like tiny homes. They have a front porch and two lofts inside. They are not finished inside, mainly just a shell building. We sell a lot of them to farmers (for hired hand housing) and hunters.

Here is a link to our cabin/office list:

https://ksshedbuilder.com/store/index.php?main_page=index&cP...


I really dug this trailer-based development project in Palm Springs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Z4vz5Ms0rE They were able to find a manufacturer who would customize the design, and then they also did some post-hoc renovations after the homes were delivered. Plus some custom decks and carports. Seems like a really nice result for a good price.


I bought a 920sq ft, 30 year old trailer home for $50,000 in a lovely community and I love it. I don't pay land taxes, instead pay about $600/month in rent on the land (equivalent to land taxes in my area - New Jersey). For reference, in my community people are not allowed to sublet/rent to others and houses are spaced apart about 3 car widths. Highly recommend to everyone!


The upscale trailer homes are branded as "manufactured homes" and come in modules that piece together in more appealing ways than a double-wide.


No. "Manufactured Home" has a specific, legal meaning in the USA. They are also referred to as "HUD Code" homes. "HUD Code" refers to the building code under which they are constructed. There are multi-section Manufactured Homes (informally called "double wides"), and single-section Manufactured Homes (informally called "single wides").

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.


I really wish a company would make modular homes that are actually modular, in that you could start with a 'tiny home' module, then a few years down the line add a 'bedroom and master bath' module and turn the original bedroom into a child's space, and so on. The end result might be at a premium over getting a big house all at once, but in the meantime you'd get the benefit of being able to invest most of your money instead of sinking it into a mortgage.


There'd be a lot of waste with that with pipes and electrical connections leading no where and at best lots of extra framing around the non existing doors that would be cut out to install the new section. There's also the issue of how to deal with the roof and cladding that would have to be sealed completely between the two sections against water and pests. It's doable but there's a lot of unavoidable work that'd have to be done to connect the two bits properly on top of whatever additional site preparation to extend the footprint of the foundation.

That work would be a big portion of the cost of adding on to a house much like additions are made now.


It would probably need to be constructed from standalone modules with something akin to an airlock to get between them. Even then whatever you save by buying piece-at-a-time might still end up more expensive than just building a bigger house and blocking off parts until you need them.


Imagine buying a 1000 square foot home, with a second story locked and available as an in-app purchase!


The reason the stereotypes exist is because of trailer parks, not trailer homes right? I could be wrong, but I was always under the impression the issue was rundown parks and terrible neighbors, rather than a serious flaw of the trailer home itself.


I know you're not looking for this, but this came to mind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpwH9WeVEfU

"VW bug of trailer homes"


I've lived in a ~250sqft 1940's era wood train car for the past 9 years, with my wife and now a newborn. It is doable if you enjoy the constraints and how it affects your decision making. I live about 5 miles from Seattle in a very rich neighborhood (a few blocks from the Paul Allen estate) on a large piece of land that is set aside as a reserve, while most of my neighbors have 5000sqft houses. As long as you have amenities (washer, dryer, full kitchen, shower, dishwasher) like I do then it's not some sort of struggle, it's more a set of limits to optimize against.

My neighbors can't tell if I'm eclectic and rich or weird and poor. It's a good thing.


I'm going to guess eclectic and rich otherwise you probably wouldn't bring it up. I like the fact that how you live is reflected in your HN username.



I'm guessing eccentric/eclectic and rich. Poor people don't make their lives harder than it already is. Also poor people don't live a few blocks from Paul Allen's estate.


I'm fascinated by this. I live near seattle as well, but quite a distance due to finding something affordable with any amount of land, but your setup seems ideal.

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...)


Smaller doesn't always mean less overhead. Small enough (250sqft w/ 3 people probably hits that bar) and you're constantly moving things around and cleaning things to make space for something else.

If you've ever cooked in a tiny tiny kitchen, imagine that feeling spread throughout your entire home life.


Have you documented this somewhere online, and do you have pictures? Using an old train car sounds very interesting and unique! I'd enjoy reading more.


Based on the description and OP's username, I think this might be it:

https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/1949-railroad-boxcar-on-mer...


op said he's lived in it for 9 years, this says 30. also first name doesn't match his username.


Do you spend less time in your house as a result of its size?

I have a feeling this is where your username came from. :)


I imagine it'd be easier to do it in a place with a nice year-round climate and no mosquitoes. And you could put up some outdoor shade pretty easily if you have the space and not have it count against your indoor square footage, and effectively get a living room that you can use most of the time.


You sound like a very cool person. Tip of the hat!


I'd love to see pictures if possible


[flagged]


I can't tell if you're being sarcastic, but this sounds like a miserable lifestyle to me.


That's funny - I thought it sounded really nice. It evoked nostalgia from the military. Different strokes eh? :)


>It evoked nostalgia from the military.

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.


HN lets you see dead comments by toggling <show dead> to <on> in settings.


Ah, cheers for that


The problem in the Netherlands is that land is expensive. A 40 square meter tiny house in Almere was for sale at €200.000, while a nearby 3 bedroom family house was for sale at €220.000. They both had a garden but the family house was a row home. They both used about the same amount of land.

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.


American apartments often don’t share heat very well, each unit is heavily insulated from each other and it’s not using piped hot water from a central heating plant like in Europe and Asia. Still probably a bit more efficient overall.


Despite heavy insulation, quite a bit of heat still migrates upward in new apartments and condos. Your neighbors are also nearly perfect insulation compared to your exterior walls too :P


I’m currently in a top floor apartment actually and we quickly hit outside temperatures in the winter if we don’t run the heater. This is Seattle where heat is mostly electric, radiators would probably be very different.


How new is the building? Are the exterior walls properly insulated and sealed?

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.


2000 something in downtown Bellevue. We also have a very high ceiling, the sealing seems to be good enough that heat from adjacent apartments doesn’t seep into ours.


This sounds like the air sealing in your unit isn't very good, as your unit shouldn't fall back to exterior temperature very quickly unless the insulation is insufficent or the air sealing is poor. Nevermind that insulation between you and othet units won't stop heat migration, just slows it down.

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.


I've been living in a shuttle bus I converted for about 20 months. I built it to be like a high end RV, with everything you'd expect in an RV but with lithium batteries and a solar array. I did it for two reasons, so I could own a home with minimal expenses and so I could take my home and dog when I travel.

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.


That's a noble idea, but you must be joking thinking you are going to be able to build a sub $1000 trailer home with basic tools. The steel for the trailer alone will cost $1k on top of $200 for a decent welder. Factor in lumber, nails, windows, roofing, waterproofing, etc.

What total square footage are you aiming for?


I've already done the rough math. It'd use a Northern Tool 5x8 trailer that costs $550 or less on sale. The $1000 price point is for a basic box to sleep in and store possessions. There would be additional plans for larger builds and more amenities for people with a larger budget. No welding necessary, only basic wood construction.


That's not a trailer home, that's a dirtbag camper.

It's a fairly mature market, and FWIW basic wood builds tend to wind up being too heavy to tow with a small car.


What is a "dirtbag camper"?


Dirtbag is rock climber slang for someone living life on the road ultra-cheap.

Camper, i.e. RV, popup, teardrop, etc.


Thanks! I suspected it had some kind of niche connotation.


That northern tools trailer is rated for 1000lbs - you won't be able to have 2 humans inside without breaking something.



I stand corrected. There are many different trailer models (over the years), with slightly different specs...

The point that they are too light duty for this use I think still stands.


Excuse me if this is a stupid question, but why is 1000 lbs not enough? I weigh 150 lbs. My wife weighs about 130. What in the world is going to weigh 700 more pounds?


I’d assume 200 per person (a lot lot of people weight more)

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.


Weren't they talking about living in it? The wood and hardware will weigh considerably more than 700 pounds.


The frame and insulation adds up, as do clothing and personal items.


The 1000lbs limit would be whilst moving?

You aren't likely to be driving about with 2 people in the trailer.


I think it's pretty safe to say that a tiny house on a trailer rated for 1000 (or 1715) pounds is not ever moving.

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.


1. Pictures?

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.


> Pictures?

https://www.instagram.com/driverdan/

> 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.


Looked through your IG, very cool. Who/what are you using for internet access while on the road? I'm interested in trying to travel more when working remote but trying to make sure I end up with a decent connection each day seems like it could be challenging.


I'm currently using AT&T Wireless Home Internet. It's about $120/m with 100GB of data.

https://www.att.com/cellphones/att/att-wireless-internet.htm...

I previously used an unlimited Sprint hotspot. It had more data but had poor coverage in many areas.


I'd also recommend the Calyx institutes unlimited plan for $500 but that is Sprint backed. https://www.calyxinstitute.org/civicrm/contribute/transact?r...


I used Calyx hotspots for 2 years. The hardware they offer is garbage and Sprint coverage is spotty.

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.


Have you considered Verizon's unlimited jetpack or AT&T's unlimited tablet plan for $30 a month? https://buyasession.att.com/sbd/Common/ShopRatePlans.action


There is no such thing as unlimited. They throttle you after 22GB. I paid extra for the 100GB plan so I would have guaranteed no throttling.


There is such a thing as unlimited, one of the people on our T-Mobile account is at 147GB of tethering with another week to go. People have successfully used both the plans I mentioned for home internet.

If your not in a very congested area, any of these plans should work just fine.


Hey!

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?

Thanks!


> Is it weird inviting guests over?

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.


Unless it was for the sheer joy of doing the work yourself, is there any particular reason you didn't buy a gently used motorhome for $15-20k and upgrade as necessary (e.g. the solar array and lithium batteries)? You cite the $50k cost but that sounds excessive to me with considerably less work.


You cannot buy a good 25' motorhome for $15-20k. You might be able to find a 20+ year old one with an under powered gas engine. In that case everything will be outdated and need upgrading.

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’d like to add that passenger buses are rollover-rated, as well. The “residential” area of a typical RV is balsa wood and paper* and a lot less safe.

* I kid, but they’re not much stronger than that.


Nearly all RVs are built for intermittent (recreational!) use and specifically not designed for full-time living. Of course some people do it anyway, and they fall apart quickly.


I'm also in the Austin area and I'm very curious about this. I understand your initial investment on your "RV" is $50k but what is an estimate of your monthly spend on spots for water/power/etc+? And then what % of the time are you boondocking?

+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?


I park on the street. I go to a campground for a night every 3-4 weeks (McKinney Falls when I'm in Austin) to refill my water and dump my waste tank.

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.


I live in Austin area and I've been researching some spots in this area. Most of the campsites that are reasonable commute to downtown can run $600-$800 a month for a large pad to park in and typically you'll pay electric on top of this, but I believe in most cases water/sewage is included.

In other cities, it can be much cheaper.


This is a dream of mine - you must hear that often, but what did you wish you knew before building your superior place of living? Anything you'd do differently or not do at all?


I wish I had planned everything better. Other than a loose floor plan and some components I knew I'd have (eg lithium batteries) I didn't plan much. It slowed the build and resulted in some areas that are suboptimal.

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.


What do you use to heat/cool the bus? What range have you covered since you started living in it? Do you stay within a given city, State, or beyond? Thanks


I have an Espar diesel forced air heater and a Coleman RV rooftop AC. I can run the AC off my alternator when driving, off shore power, or a generator.

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.


Can you get letters delivered? What address does the government think you live at? (If that's required for them to know where you're from.)


I've been using the same UPS Store box for my mail since 2011 so moving from a house to my bus didn't change how I deal with it.


What happened to the tools and workshop you needed to convert the bus?


I did it all at ATX Hackerspace, a makerspace with most of the tools I used. The only tools I bought myself were a good drill / driver set, a jigsaw, and some smaller specialty tools. I carry all of my tools on the bus.


Tiny house retention seems to be fairly poor. Search a bit for "give up tiny house" or something and you'll get a lot of people giving up the lifestyle, and it seems hard to come by people who have been doing it for a long time. Not impossible, because nothing is impossible, but not easy.

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 lived in a 600sqft studio apartment for ~5 years with my wife. For the last year of it with our oldest daughter.

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.


Currently live in a 62 sqm (667 sqft) 2 bed flat with my wife and 18 mo. old daughter. Friends think of the place as huge.

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.


We also paid all cash for our place. Looking at what our bills are currently, and adding a mortgage to it, I think we'd be living much closer to paycheck-to-paycheck if we had that over our heads. Very happy that we lived frugally for several years and were able to build up enough savings to pay for our place outright.

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.


Hah, in our case the key was going for an old but very small farmhouse, about a 15-20 minute bike ride from a train station so if needed car-free commuting could be doable (albeit not ideal). Most homes here are semi-detached, meaning you have party walls.

I love living next to good neighbours. It's tough to know what you're going to get before moving in, though.


Reserve passing judgement until your three kids are in middle school. Your relatives may know something you don't. (Or maybe they don't)


I agree there may come a time when we need to upgrade to something different.

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.


That's rather like the story of Nasrudin and the Sultan's Horse.

https://en.m.wikibooks.org/wiki/Sufism/Nasrudin


Had never heard of Nasrudin before. Looks very interesting.


Upbringing and personality has something to do with it too.

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.


What I think the biggest part of it might be, really, is the size of furniture and other "things" people think they need.

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.


> but that seems like an odd standard to base your home purchase around

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.


Yea. I think it's all about personal priorities. And also letting your own priorities dictate your life rather than those of the people around you.


I live in Japan and live a mostly traditional lifestyle (although I work from home, which is super weird). Our furniture consists of: 1 kotatsu (basically a big coffee table with a heater attached to it), an end table that I use as a work desk, another end table that has a printer on it, a stool that I sit on when I work and a very small makeup table (that my wife never uses, but instead houses various junk ;-) ). We sit on the floor on zabuton (cushions) and sleep at night on futons (which are folded up and in the closed during the day). That is literally it.

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.


Exactly this! We got rid of out dinning table because we were always eating in front of the TV or the PC. We got rid of the couch because we were always watching TV from bed. We didn't see the point in keeping these only to very rarely have people come over. We can meet outside or they can deal with the no table no couch setup, I won't live in a more crowded space for them.


Honestly I find it strange for some people to have TVs in their bedroom. I think it's nice to have some separation of concerns. I think sleep quality is better when the bedroom is mainly for sleep. Have you thought about moving the TV out of the bedroom?


When I was a kid most people in my neighborhood didn't have a TV in their living room either. It would have been too casual. The TV was in a "den" or "family room" and the living room was the formal room where the adults would gather and kids weren't allowed in it.

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.


Yeah. Growing up, we had a "TV room" upstairs--sort of an upstairs family room. Guests, meals, most family activities, etc. were always downstairs.

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.]


Actually it's a debate my wife and I had for a while but our situation became more strange than that. We now have the bed in the living room and we just turn off every power bars when we go to sleep to not have any lights disturb our sleep.

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.


That sounds like a pretty workable arrangement in a small 1 bedroom apartment. Bedroom for the office and living room for the bed/everything else works too. I probably would prioritize that work/play separation more than the sleep/tv separation.


Ask anyone who grew up in a decrepit mobile home park or a rotting old farmhouse in rural poverty or tiny crumbling 60+ year old housing in impoverished urban areas about the appeal of “tiny house”. I did and I find the entire concept confounding.


1. Tiny houses are nothing like what you are comparing them to.

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.


Uhh...I grew up in an rural area with a lot of trailers and many of my relatives still live in them. They're proud of their homes and they find tiny houses pretty novel.

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.


There is a big difference between decrepit, crumbling or rotting versus a clean tiny house with quality interior.


I get the impression that most tiny are in rural locations (certainly judging by the photos), in that kind of area there isn't the density to support the things you might want to offload, ie coffee shops for meeting people, laundrettes, restaurants etc. In a city to you could cope much more easily with less space.

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.


Whether tiny homes or pod apartments, the dimensions seem to be squeezed to the point where it would be an uncomfortable squeeze for most people yet it's probably well within the range of diminishing returns of actually saving money.

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.


There's definitely an appeal to engineers in building your own house from scratch. As an example, I built an 8x12' shed (details here: https://www.reddit.com/r/DIY/comments/2kof5x/i_built_an_8x12... ) several years back. All it took was a few months' worth of weekends and a few trips with a borrowed full-size pickup and I had it together. Obviously you'd put more effort than that into making a house (you need insulation, utilities, and more interior construction and layout), but the point is, it's all within your grasp. And it was nice working with my hands for a change given that during the work week all I'm engineering is software.

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.


You probably know that you can find longer dimensional lumber at a lumber yard instead of a big box store. I am building my own 2-story 2-car garage, and was surprised at how many independent lumber yards there are tucked away around town. I needed long 2x8s for my rafters, no problem finding them up to 20'. And engineered lumber comes even longer.

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.


True. The nice thing about 16' lumber is that you can still just barely haul it in a full-size pickup by weighing it down, strapping it in, and putting a flag on the ends sticking out. Once you're talking about 20' plus you probably need to pay them to deliver it -- which realistically is the better option anyway if you're talking about doing a whole garage, as that would be a lot of trips in a pickup truck. A shed is small enough it's easily manageable with just a pickup truck.

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.


You can also get yourself a ladder rack for your truck -- once you're putting the the lumber over the front of your truck, you can balance it better, and of course then you don't have lumber sticking waggling out 10 feet behind your bumper.


Roof rack with a hitch attachment lets a truck carry long boards.


Real lumber yards have free delivery.


On some minimum order size, surely. Like I wouldn't expect I could order a handful of 2x4"x20' and have those delivered for free.


Generally not - contractors (their main business) order enough for a house but then on the last day call in 2 sheets of plywood because they didn't estimate something right.


I'm guessing the first order (a whole house!) was more than large enough to cover the cost of an extra free delivery though. This is about relationship management at that point, which won't be the same for a hobbyist only doing one smaller project.


The point is hobbyiests don't visit often enough to be worth figuring out how to charge for shipping.

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.


> You probably know that you can find longer dimensional lumber at a lumber yard instead of a big box store.

Not to mention that the lumber at lumber yards tends to be of superior quality as well.


There is a certain humor in going to HD and buying 2x4s that are allegedly kiln dried but weigh 25 pounds and squirt water when you nail them.


Interesting. Are you doing it all by yourself, or is the work such that you need some physical help for the labor?


Speaking for myself, it helped a lot to have another pair of hands for much of it. I enlisted my dad a lot and my friends a little bit. Anything involving moving a whole sheet of plywood is tough, especially when going from ground level to attaching to the structure.

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.


There are parts of framing that are safer and easier with 2 people, but there are a few places that I used a block and tackle to haul stuff around by myself. The only days that I really needed extra hands was setting up the posts & beams (most buildings now don't have these but I liked the idea), and setting the roof ridge beam, a 27' long pair of 2x8s that needed to be put 25' off the ground and 15' above the floor decking before any of the supporting structure was in place. Sheathing the roof would be smarter to do with 2 people but I didn't.


What links have you looked into for these projects? They seem really interesting.


I started by googling "Free garage plans" and going from there. I went with these plans:

http://www.todaysplans.com/og2424g.pdf

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.


Worth mentioning that when I was talking about full-size truck, I was specifically referring to the size of the bed. If it can carry a full sheet of plywood or drywall then you're good. Hell, even a shorter bed (like say 6') might be fine if the tailgate opens up flat and you can secure a load sticking out the back properly.


Wow. Any resources you could link to?


I have been remodeling a house for the past 7 months. It is a pain. However, I feel like I could start a construction company with my knowledge. I had to purchase several books describing different concepts and work is done up to code.

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.


Seriously. I bought several books too, checked out more from the library, and also watched a ton of YouTube tutorials. It's all pretty easy if you pay attention, and makes intuitive sense, e.g., king studs carry the weight of the top plate (and thus roof/second floor), jack studs carry the weight of the header above the opening, and cripple studs carry the weight of the header below the opening, i.e. carry the weight of the window itself. Incidentally, cripple studs need a better name ...

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!).


That is awesome, I also had a similar experience with a inspector.

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.


I had a similar problem (land sloping towards the house) with a much simpler solution. I got a free dump truck load of fill dirt from Craigslist and then graded the foundation correctly. Took an incredible amount of work by hand as I didn't rent a bobcat.

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.


Yeah. There was no way to slope away from the house because the house was built too low. We actually ended up draining the system into the city sewers under the street. So, I had to work with their contractors to connect it.

We removed a few tons of dirt by hand lol.....I regret not renting a bobcat.


> I could start a construction company with my knowledge

> 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.


Can you tell us what books you bought? I looked into this before and only found 1-2 books in amazon in relation to building a house from scratch.


Nice build! Not sure what all the Reddit people are gushing over—you used pretty standard construction techniques and materials. Mine’s identical (only 12x6) and only took a couple of weekends too. I had never built anything like that before trying it. Basic wood construction is not hard at all. You just need to measure well and cut straight and take your time. For tools all you really need is a quality circular saw and framing hammer.


There's a lot of really shitty construction projects posted to /r/diy. It's a popular past-time there to point out all the things that were done wrong based on the submitted photos. There's been entire posts (usually of decks and the like) where the consensus is "That thing is so unsafe it needs to be torn down and started over from scratch." We're talking such fundamental inadequacies as not building a foundation, or not consulting load charts to determine spacing or lumber size. To give you an idea of how bad it was, I used taller floor joists, on shorter spacing, and with less than half the span, of some of the worst deck construction projects posted on there. Here's one example; unfortunately the photos have rotted away: https://www.reddit.com/r/DIY/comments/1da2rg/i_finally_built...

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.


I keep trying to find an excuse and space on my property to build a little shed. I think it is the engineer in me, indeed. In my case the biggest driver is, the main house will always be imperfect and too cost-prohibitive to fix. A small shed on the other hand, can realize my dreams for the main house.


The Tiny Home trend and the "Van Life" trend are slightly unsettling to me - I wonder which forces are at play who intend to convince us that lowering our standards of living is cool?

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.


It's interesting how your view of these trends is exactly the opposite of mine.

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.


I lived in a van for four months this past summer but I have a hard time explaining why I loved it so much. The experience was visceral.

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.


That sounds amazing! I hiked the PCT a couple years ago and I'd love to be able to go back to that kind of lifestyle while still making money and being relatively connected to the rest of the world.

Fingers crossed, I should be making more progress towards that in the next year after my fiancee finishes grad school.


I’ll venture to say that “standards of living” are largely subjective, beyond some basics like access to food and shelter from the elements. Nothing wrong with wanting a big house with a big yard. Nothing wrong with wanting a tiny house or living in a van.


> I wonder which forces are at play who intend to convince us that lowering our standards of living is cool?

I wonder which forces are at play who intend to convince us that continuing living with our current standards is sustainable.

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.

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."


I'm sorry but I fail to see how most of the items on your list have anything to do with living in a tiny home or a van. I suspect you have made assumptions about my lifestyle and priorities based on my comment and if I am correct you'd be wrong.


It wasn't against your lifestyle or even about van life or tiny houses, but more about the fact that what we perceive as "improved standards of living" have no logical foundations and aren't actually improving our lives.


If you watch interviews of people who went the tiny house route, a lot of them started with "why do I need to be in debt (mortgage) for 30-40 years of my life?". There is a growing movement of people rejecting being in debt for decades and that is really a good thing. And if moving into a tiny house is carefully done, then it doesn't need to be lower standards of living.


> why do I need to be in debt (mortgage) for 30-40 years of my life

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.


In the other case, you're still paying rent to someone else.

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.


Those are some big ifs in there that you didn't mention. There are a lot of people who take our home equity loans every time their value goes up. A coworker of mine bought a house for 250k, the previous owners had bought it for 90k 20 years ago, and 6 months before selling refinanced for 200k. Each loan is carefully recorded in the title for all time. (I probably have the numbers wrong, but they they are close enough)

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.


People make lots of poor financial decisions. Some are a product of unfortunate circumstances. Others of basically greed.

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.)


>debt

The concept of "tiny house" romanticizes a small budget. Poorer people get smaller houses.


This isn't true. Poorer people have fewer assets. You can live in a smaller space and still be wealthy in terms of assets.


>This isn't true. //

In general wealth doesn't correlate with van/trailer/home size?


It seems to me that the core ethos is upping our standards of living. Sort of like a whole-life kon-mari tidying method. Tiny houses help focus specifically on things like:

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 agree with all of these points, but also believe this is a reactive response to a culture younger generations can’t afford (as well as overloaded consumerism/materialism).

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.


... and why not celebrate that as a healthy development? Living small and mindfully doesn't mean living poorly.

"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.


It’s easy to celebrate when it’s not your desires and quality of life.

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.


@beamatronic- the median SFH in Reno is now over $380,000, and median household income is $58k. According to a quick housing affordability calculator, $58k will get you to a $280,000 house if you really stretch it under normal conditions.

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.


Where do they work though? Is it still out of their grasp in Sacramento, Philadelphia, Portland, Reno, Columbus, etc?


People in the desert learn to worship thirst


I actually really resent the McMansion obsession in housing design for the last 40 years. Houses are not built to be functional or comfortable. They're built to be a status symbol. A shoddily built, poorly insulated, overpriced status symbol.

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.


You can actually build the house you want. There are empty lots on the market most places. That's what we did. Our house is so well insulated and passive-solar heated that here in Iowa, even with the -20+ temperatures we've just had, the furnace doesn't run all day.


The financing required to buy the land and build a new house is more difficult than buying an existing house.

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.


McMansions are actually quite functional and comfortable for the way upper-middle class Americans live today (at least those who can afford the utility bills and to pay others for cleaning and maintenance). The major real estate developers hire sociologists to study the lifestyles of real families and then incorporate the results into architecture. For example by putting a large window with a clear view of the entire back yard above the kitchen sink so that a parent can simultaneously cook dinner and supervise small children playing outside.


> A shoddily built, poorly insulated, overpriced status symbol.

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.


I mostly agree and think there are a number of points to be made.

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.


I think it's more that our standards of living were artificially inflated for the past 100 - 150 years.

A person doesn't actually need that much room to live comfortably. Particularly if you make use of public spaces and the outdoors.


> I think it's more that our standards of living were artificially inflated for the past 100 - 150 years.

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.”


The small home with only the essentials is deeply American. Recall Henry David Thoreau's cabin: https://www.simplesolarhomesteading.com/thoreaucabin.htm


Most parts of the world look at McMansions and feel unsettled, particularly when they are marketed as "aspirational": sell your soul in order to get the biggest place you can get a mortgage for on your salary, so you can never leave your job.


I have the same unsettling feeling as you. The conspiracy theorist in me is definitely on high alert and sees it as an attempt at conditioning this generation towards accepting a lower quality of life than their parents had. If we can be made to actually believe we want to live in tiny cramped homes and apartments, then when it comes to pass we won’t get out the pitchforks and torches and riot.

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.


Curious, I'd say many of us younger folks see it in reverse: our parents got roped in the propaganda of "consume now and pay later, you'll certainly be earning more", and then the lie was exposed, and they're left unemployable and with a crippling mortgage. Under this perspective, by giving up on superfluous crap, we're just keeping our eyes wide open, because we're fully aware that we'll get fucked sooner or later.

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?


Yea, there are pros and cons to bigger and smaller homes. It’s just that the marketing of the Tiny House “Movement” and the constant pushing for us to be happy with small apartments instead of houses reminds me of Huxley. “Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm awfully glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard.”


I don't see that kind of sentiment in people I know who like tiny houses. If anything it's the opposite: they work a lot harder to save up to buy a tiny house (it's like 200k) vs continuing to rent. It's also harder to go against the grain than it is to flow with what society tells you to do.


Look at the flip side - if a big chunk of people go for those memes, it takes pressure off the price of houses. I would love for houses to become unfashionable. Then I could buy more house for less dollars.


you could live in a smaller home. 1500sq ft is plenty enough for a family of four. How I know? I grew up in one. If your mortgage banker tells you you could buy 600K house, don't ever fall for that trap.


I don't know if its necessary to lower your standard of living by downsizing (tiny homes). Careful planning and compromise can seriously cut down on the interior space you need. A nomadic lifestyle (van life), while unconventional today, satisfies a different set of priorities and while most people in the US would see it as a reduction in their standard of living some people actually find it liberating and exciting.

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.


> lowering our standards of living

Why is living in a smaller home a lower standard of living? Wasted space is a higher standard?


I like having a separate bedroom. It has nice carpeting, a big bed, a clothing closet and blinds that make the room pitch black. The walls are isolated for heat and noise and the only window is facing the garden, not the busy street on the other side. No electronics to distract me, nothing to look at. The temperature is lower than the rest of the house (on purpose). It's really magical for me to sleep there and I have the best sleep. I used to sleep in the living room and it was terrible. Fan noise from the central ventilation system, lights from various electronic devices, noise from the street-side window, noise from the dishwasher and it was way too warm in the winter.

So yes. Having a bit more space in your home can raise your standard of living.


You do realise that this is the epitome of first world problems though ?

I wonder what will be next when most people will have reached that level of quality of life.


I am not sure it is. At least not in a bad way. Things like sleeping, eating and showering are universal. There is a quite defined line, in terms of space, where things gets fundamentally worse. Even in terms of pure functionality, as in e.g. functionalism, you just can't make things smaller at some point without significant downsides.


You can easily have it with 600-800ft


That is correct, but have noticed that a tiny home, RV or an apartment under 400 square feet usually doesn't have a (properly) separated bedroom.

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.


Why would you need a large home for that? You can have a small home with multiple rooms.


But that's a small home, not a tiny home. But even small homes (if they exist at all) cost at least 500k in many cities.


The problem with your question is that we haven't defined what "wasted space" is.

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?


Tiny home = Small trailer in a trailer park... but marketed to the middle classes = Low-quality housing for those in poverty, marketed to the middle classes = sign of people believing in very poor prospects for the middle classes.


It can be a way to have an otherwise impractical lifestyle for some people. I have a friend that lives in a large pickup with a tall canopy/camper he built. Big enough for a smallish mattress, stove/cookware, table, and outdoor equipment including a kayak. The whole thing is just incredibly clever in how it utilizes space.

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.


Maybe a bit of both? Housing has been systematically blocked in some areas of the country, leaving a severe shortage, and this is one way to cope. For others, bigger is not better. More maintenance, more cleaning, more bother comes with more house. Different people trade off in different ways.


I have more than i need because i have space, not the other way around.

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.


The American dream of just getting by ;) [0]

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbdKuDNIqGI


Lowering our standards of living in the interests of better quality of life is cool. I would sooner wonder what forces were at play in the previous generation that convinced people to work themselves half to death so that they could have a big house to get home late to and a fast car to sit in traffic in.


Its also a side effect of property taxes. Why pay 10-20k a year in property taxes when you can live in a mobile home.


Same here. I'm afraid that we're being sold a compact, minimalist lifestyle that's a way of downsizing our dreams about living places. IKEA is guilty of this, advertising mini/micro flats where you usually sleep on a mezzanine and cook in the corridor.


Van Life is mostly fake marketing bullshit. Ever wonder why so many "how 2 van lyfe" videos feature brand new Mercedes Sprinters? Hmmm... I wonder who's footing the bills.

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.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp6T83rUNCt_iqtDelwSHNA/vid...

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.


I can understand the benefits of building tiny houses in spaces that wouldn't accommodate larger buildings (such as as accessory dwelling units [ADUs] in traditional single-family neighborhoods). But I don't understand the benefits of building clusters of them: why not build a standard apartment building instead? Construction costs will be cheaper, and shared walls reduce heating/cooling costs.


Shared walls often mean you know when your neighbours are in, when they're watching TV, when they argue and what they're arguing about, when the dog is barking or the toddler having a tantrum, and even when they're walking to the other room.

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. :)


I live in an apartment in the U.K. and this is just not the case - I have absolutely no idea what anyone else is doing. Proper construction goes a long way. There’s something about America that makes proper construction of apartment buildings impossible, apparently - whether that’s building codes or cost-saving exercises I don’t know.


If that is true, I am moving to the U.K. next. I've lived in 4 different countries, 12 different apartments and I've known when each of my neighbors is playing XBox, watching some cop drama, playing bass guitar, getting in arguments, kid is crying - heck, even snoring in a couple of them!

Having no idea what they are doing sounds like dreaming the impossible dream!


I don’t know, America is a big place. The sound insulation in my San Francisco apartment building seems excellent.


I'm also in the UK. It was the case in those I've rented. That included one fancy river front expensive one that work rented while I was working in Docklands. In short, never again.

Maybe newer ones are better as that was back in the 90s.


I suspect its actually older properties that are more robustly constructed - the flats we had in central Edinburgh had 1m+ thick sandstone walls and we never heard anything from neighbours.

I'm currently in a 10 year old house based on old farm buildings and the walls here are even thicker (still sandstone).


Plaster vs. drywall probably has a lot to do with it. The plaster+lathe in my 103yo house (in the US) blocks sound exceptionally well.


The fairly large amounts of horsehair I used to find in old plaster probably helped with sound deadening as well!


On reflection, that's more likely. It's certainly been our experience of houses. The London apartment was a new conversion in an old building.

I've no experience of those converted or purpose built long ago.


There are certainly US apartments/condos with high quality sound insulation. The lack of it is cost saving measure. Every cent that goes into the building comes out of the pocket of the developer.


Why should we assume that tiny houses would be insulated beyond the bare minimum? Yes, the current trendsetters care about the environment, but nothing is preventing them from building well-insulated apartment blocks.

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.


My building is circa 1900 and all-wood construction and doesn't have any of those problems, aside from being able to tell when an immediate neighbor is running a washing machine on high (the wood floorboards are all nailed to the same long joists and carry the vibrations across).


As we blunder our way into the Anthropocene, discussions like this will be looked upon in terror by people living in far more cramped and efficient conditions.

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.


What an odd reaction. There;s no need to force everyone into a rabbit hutch as though we all live in Hong Kong. Most places have little or no need to build several floors up, outside of city centres.

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.


There will be nothing of the sort.


Shared walls also mean that if they burn their home down there's a good chance yours burns down too.


It's a fad. It's neither about efficiency nor simplicity of living.


The article doesn't really get into it, but there are some weird pressures in the US that really work against tiny houses, namely: our crumbling infrastructure nationwide and our system of paying for that infrasture and other civic responsibilities with property taxes.

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.


Probably related... There are also zoning constraints. Most districts have a minimum home size - anything smaller is a mobile home - and many neighborhoods don't allow mobile homes.

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).


Surely more people are an asset for the local government, not a liability? You'd have 3x the tax revenue, 3x the purchasing power, plus the logistic efficiency that allows for local business to spring up and mass transportation to be viable.


That's the point the GP is trying to make: those services rely on property taxes, not income tax. So more people in the same area means either lower revenue per capita for the local government, or much higher taxes for the existing residents. Usually, proposing the second option is political suicide.


It depends on who the "more people" are. Schools are the vast bulk of many town budgets. Young families are a net user of town services and enough of them would drive higher property tax rates. (In my case, the town also has negligible commercial activity and no transit--and is spread out enough that transit is basically a non-starter.)


Maybe, maybe not. People are not equal. You can nly tax someone so much. 3 people making $10k/yr (this is below poverty in the US) at 100% is the same as 1 person make $100k at 30% - but the first group couldn't live after taxes while the second could.

Of course when the people are more equal your math works out. However things are never equal.


These pressures would work in favor of small housing spaces, not against them. 3 small houses would in fact be worth quite a bit more than 1 house that's 3 times as large, especially in high-cost-of-living areas.


The math is highly location dependent, but _in general_ the rise of the McMansion across the US is deeply linked with the property tax pressure.

It's not just the price of the home, but that more people == more services that need provided (school, water, roads, etc.)


60 storey human antpile highrise 600 people ;) a way to go

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