Thursday, 8 August 2019

So, the kids are raised, the nest is empty and now it's time to downsize. But how small do you want to go?

Maybe you just want to shave off a few hundred square feet or lose a couple of bedrooms. Or if you're really itching to go minimalist, you might even be considering a trendy tiny home.

While there are benefits to going super-small, and you may be charmed by the idea of a tiny-house life, it's a dramatic leap and one you should carefully consider before taking.

What are tiny homes?

As the name implies, tiny homes are really, really small. For comparison, the typical American home is around 2,600 square feet, while homes under 400 square feet are considered “tiny."

Living in 400 square feet or less can be a real challenge for most Americans because we like our space — and our stuff. In fact, the average American home contains 300,000 items, and U.S. homes have steadily gotten larger over the past decades, not smaller. Going tiny requires a significant shift in priorities and lifestyle for many people.

But while going tiny isn't for everyone, there are some benefits to micro-living.

Benefits of tiny homes:

  • They can save you money. A tiny home can range from $8,000 to $150,000, with the median cost being around $60,000. When you consider the median home price in the U.S. is around $230,000, a tiny home is definitely a cheaper alternative. And heating, cooling and maintaining a 400-square-foot home costs less than its standard-sized counterpart. 
  • They can give you greater flexibility. Did you know some tiny homes are built on wheels? If you decide you want to relocate, you just hook up your tiny home to your vehicle and hit the road. 
  • They can simplify your life. Many homeowners spend much of their spare time cleaning and maintaining their property. Again, maintaining 400 square feet is pretty quick and easy, and having fewer possessions could certainly simplify life. 
  • They can be environmentally friendly. Many tiny homes are built from recycled or repurposed materials, and because they are so small, they can be powered by renewable energy sources such as solar and batteries.

Downsides of tiny-home living:

  • They have a lot less space. Going from even an average-size home to a tiny one can be a shocker. In most cases, there will be almost no room for excess stuff. And if you're sharing a tiny home, separate space and privacy will be hard to come by.
  • They can make entertaining difficult. Unless you have a generous outdoor space, it can be very difficult to have a gathering of any size in a tiny home.
  • There can be additional costs and pesky issues. Remember, you'll need someplace to put your tiny home. So, while spending $60,000 on your house might sound cheap, the cost of renting or buying land might not be. Tiny homes can be tough to resell and, if your tiny home is on wheels, it could even depreciate in value, like a car. Also, many municipalities have zoning and building codes that make constructing tiny homes difficult and could potentially cause costly bureaucratic headaches as you try to establish your tiny homestead.

Tips for transitioning to tiny-house living.

If you decide living little is right for you, here are some tips for transitioning to tiny:

  • Get rid of your stuff. While you're still in your existing home, get rid of as much stuff as possible, and start adjusting to living with less.
  • Do your research. A quick Google search of “tiny home" will yield tons of information about tiny home building, buying and living. Also, if you know where you want to live, research the area's zoning and building codes governing tiny homes.
  • Do it gradually. If you're not sure you can go from 2,000-plus square feet to 400, maybe try a 1000-square-foot home first to see if smaller living really is for you.

Going tiny is a big step. But if you do your homework, plan carefully and maybe even do it gradually, you could find tiny living to be affordable, simple and rewarding.

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