Buyers often want REALTORS® to help them find their dream home, but some buyers want to build their dream home. This leads REALTORS® on a hunt for either bare lots and acreage or a new home development that offers buyers the opportunity to build their home from a selection of proposed model designs.
There has been a shift, though, to downsize space. Suddenly, buyers are eyeing smaller homes and tiny houses. The buyer that wants to know how to build a tiny house needs a REALTOR® that understands this side of the market.
Yes, a savvy DIY individual could tackle this task solo. However, there also are general contractors who specialize in building unique and incredibly cool tiny houses. When your client wants a tiny house, here are a few resources and tips for navigating this market.
What is a Tiny Home?
The exact size of the tiny home isn’t well defined, but Tiny Home Builders notes that they are usually less than 600 square feet. The site also explains that these homes are often constructed by their owners, and many are on wheels (so they can be towed). However, DIY isn’t the only option, and, across the country, there are many builders specializing in this compact home niche.
Research Tiny Home Builders in Your Area
Every city and region has a long list of general contractors and home builders that offer new home designs in neighborhood communities for buyers on the hunt for new construction. Ideally, REALTORS® should already be familiar with these builders and companies. The more you know about builders in the area, the more information you can pass on to your buyer. Builders may have their own design trademarks that appeal to a particular buyer niche; some develop entire neighborhoods of homes. Others may focus on custom homes that are designed in partnership with the buyer.
Tiny homes—and the builders who construct them—are no different. These homes may be constructed in a tiny home community. Or the builder may construct the home on a plot of land purchased by the homeowners independent of any neighborhood. Tiny homes can be custom or offered in a range of design models. Like other new construction homes, the options, features and designs for tiny homes can be incredibly vast.
If you don’t know where to find a tiny home builder, the site Tiny Living provides a list of tiny home builders by state. REALTORS® can use this list as a basic reference, but they also should do a more comprehensive search to discover any other builders in their area.
REALTORS® can make suggestions about builders to their buyers, but the buyer also needs to research their options. Buyers can meet with builders to better understand what they offer and gather information about the construction process. Buyers also can research a builder’s reputation through the Better Business Bureau or other consumer advocacy sites and organizations.
How to Build a Tiny House: DIY Construction?
Some individuals are incredibly savvy with DIY, and REALTORS® have probably already encountered buyers who are determined to serve as their own general contractor or build their own home. If this is a buyer’s intent, then the role of the REALTOR® may be limited to helping the buyer find a plot of land or acreage for the new home.
Just how much acreage does a tiny home need? Land size depends on the buyer’s preference. A buyer may want to construct a tiny home on several acres of land to create a rural retreat. Or they may decide on a small plot to embrace minimalism. However the buyer needs to research all restrictions, codes or other laws that could impact–and possibly derail–their project. Not all states, cities and municipalities are tiny-home friendly.
Tiny Homes on the Market
As the popularity of tiny homes has increased, REALTORS® may be able to find a tiny home for a buyer among market listings. Searching for a tiny home via current home listings also may be an option for a buyer. However, depending on the region, these homes may not be plentiful.
Prices of tiny homes also could vary greatly, depending on the design, features and amenities and the lot/land size.
Tiny Home Conundrums
There are a few issues that could be faced by those who build their own tiny homes. Tiny Home Builders notes that securing insurance could be an issue, because the value of a tiny home is difficult to determine. Getting a loan or securing financing also could be an issue, according to Tiny Home Builders.
Tiny homes built on wheels will need to be parked somewhere, especially if the owner doesn’t have a plot of land that was purchased for the home. Tiny home owners with homes on wheels will need to research where these homes can be parked, especially if homeowners are living a nomadic lifestyle.
There also may be restrictions on tiny homes related to municipal codes. Before building a tiny home (on the foundation or on wheels), make sure potential buyers research the codes in their area. In some areas, building or placing a tiny home on land may pose problems. Building codes, zoning and other laws need to be researched before moving forward on living the tiny home life. Tiny Society provides a breakdown of every state’s overall ‘friendliness’ towards the tiny home movement.
Toilets (and plumbing) also can be a concern when downsizing to a tiny home. Why? Tiny Living Life notes that many of these homes don’t have access to a septic tank or sewer system. Again, if the home is on wheels, hooking into a central sewer system or even a septic tank isn’t an option. For this reason, tiny homes may use “alternative toilets options.” Tiny Living Life provides a few options for tiny home toilets, which include a composting toilet, a macerating toilet (it grinds waste so it can be pumped easily) and an incinerator toilet.
However, some tiny homes are constructed without wheels and feature the same standard building design as a typical home. These homes may stay ‘on the grid’ and simply connect into local water and sewer sources.
Benefits of Tiny Homes
While tiny homes can have a few challenges, there also are many benefits to these compact quarters. A small space means that energy needs are much less. Tiny homes are efficient to heat and cool, because of the small size. Go Downsize reports that energy savings from a tiny home can be substantial; according to the site, “Tiny houses on average use 7% of energy compared to traditional homes.”
Homeowners may include other energy-saving options like solar panels. And many, according to Go Downsize, use the natural light of the sun for extra heat and to illuminate the home. Since the house is so small, the sun can peek through a single window of the home and act as a primary light source (on non-cloudy days).
Tiny homes aren’t for everyone, but REALTORS® shouldn’t be surprised to find buyers looking for these small living spaces. Many people are downsizing, and tiny homes can be a solution for those who want to live a minimalist lifestyle. While these homes are often constructed on wheels, they also can be built just like any other home. There are tiny home communities across the country, and these neighborhoods may offer the same amenities as traditional communities of homes that feature more square footage. Listen to buyers to understand their needs and to help them find the best tiny home for their lifestyle.