Escape The Rat Race With A Tiny House

It’s not just supermarkets that are shrinking—you can also build yourself a 90-square-foot house to shack up in with your hunched-over spouse and children. You’ll save money! You’ll save the environment! Relatives will never expect to be given free room and board when they come to visit!

Tara Flannery, a 25-year-old college student in Seattle, plans to move within the next few months from the Craftsman-style two-story house she shares with roommates into a Tumbleweed house. The decision was largely financial.

“I wanted to buy my own place by 30, and the way the housing market is going that’s not going to happen,” she said, referring to the tightening credit market and the fact that home prices remain high in Seattle, despite the mortgage crisis.

In a way, Ms. Flannery’s tiny house, which will be about 100 square feet with a sleeping loft and will cost roughly $40,000, is a modern twist on the starter homes of the 1950s suburbs; it offers her a way into home ownership, of a sort, without the debilitating costs. “I can spend my money traveling instead,” she said.

Of course, if you live somewhere like New York City or Tokyo then you know this “movement” was already well established decades before, only with apartments, and it does nothing for your finances. We can see it working out as a more cost-efficient, back-to-basics approach elsewhere, though.

Or if you’re really serious about saving money, you can always build a dirt house underground.

“The Next Little Thing? “ [New York Times]

(Photo: Adulau)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Brine says:

    How is a 10-foot square room worth $40,000?

  2. Sam Glover says:

    My wife and I are in love with modern prefabs. We want to try plopping an off-the grid Wee House on a piece of land for a tiny house experiment of our own.

    (Wee House is having a sale, too! [])

  3. forgottenpassword says:

    I love these tiny homes. Problem is… you need a place to park them. That means having a friend/family who will let you park one in a parking spot or in the back yard …. that is… IF there are no local ordinances againt it.

    You’d be amazed at how regular homeowners look down on these tiny homes.

  4. failurate says:

    Are we just putting lipstick on the trailer park pig?

    • ShirtNinja says:

      @failurate: I’m glad I’m not the only person who looked at this and thought ‘Hmm . . . they’ve just taken the wheels and axels off of a trailer’.

  5. trujunglist says:

    You too can live in a shed for the low low price of $40k!

  6. BuddhaLite says:

    90 sq/ft is excessively small for that price. You may as well live rent a studio apartment.

  7. CMU_Bueller says:

    Good god, $400 a square foot? According to RadarLogic, homes in the LA/O.C. area are going for an average of $302 a square foot.


    • humphrmi says:

      @CMU_Bueller: Congratulations on apparently being the first to use the standard measure of home prices, $/SQ-FT, to analyze this and determine that it’s a complete rip-off.

    • CumaeanSibyl says:

      My boyfriend and I shared a 300sf apartment for two years, and I’m surprised we didn’t kill each other (we got married instead — figured a relationship that could survive that was pretty solid). I suppose I could do 100sf on my own, though. If you’re a college student, you don’t own a lot of stuff, and 100 is about the size of a double dorm room at a lot of schools.

      CMU_Bueller is absolutely right, though. $400/sf is ridiculous. Plus, what kind of resale value is this place going to have?

  8. coren says:

    I think I’d rather just relocate to somewhere where the housing market has crashed and buy a cheap foreclosed place rather than do this.

    • stinerman says:


      Ohio welcomes you with open arms. You can get a decent house in any of our rust belt cities (Cleveland, Dayton, Cincy) for around $60,000. I’d stay away from the east side of Cleveland, though. You’re looking at $1 Detroit territory there. In fact there’s a nice 4/2 duplex for the low, low price of $250. Hey, they might be willing to take a few bucks off that!

      The average price on the Countrywide Forclosures Blog is about $64,000.

    • battra92 says:

      @coren: You can buy a great Victorian house here in Western MA for $100K and rent out a whole floor to a tenant if you want and let them pay your mortgage.

  9. ChrisC1234 says:

    I paid double that for 10 times as much space. Sure, it’s a cheap starter home, but I bought it at 22. The problem with living in some place that small is that I think that most people have more stuff than will adequately fit in that sort of space. Sure, you can do it while in college, but that’s because you leave a lot of stuff “at home”. If you’re 30 and living in a place that small, are you still going to keep some of your stuff at your parents’ house?

  10. mac-phisto says:

    i think these things are perfect for a summer cabin in the middle of nowhere. reminds me of my uncle’s place up in maine.

    outside of that…who the hell can live in 90 sq ft? my office is bigger than that.

  11. StoneKitten says:

    Favored by Unabombers everywhere.

  12. synergy says:

    Or everyone can do like the Californians are doing: sell their 400sq.ft. “dream home” for half a million (after paying a million for it), moving to Texas, and buying an 1800sq.ft. for 200K. Not kidding. I know someone who did. He had money left over to redo the house from selling his CA house.

    • quail says:

      @synergy: In the early 90’s when J.C. Penny and a whole host of east coast company’s relocated to the DFW area, that’s what they did. They sold their itsy bitsy Jersey homes for 1/2 to 1 1/2 of a million and bought $200 and $300K homes without haggling. Overnight house prices heated up.

      I’ve seen these small prefab houses talked about before. Sundance Channel showed a company that makes them, but they’re entirely green. They used recycled everything, made them energy efficient, etc. But those were a bit bigger than these houses. Think single wide trailer on steroids.

  13. balthisar says:

    My shed is 14*22, so 308 ft^2. That would be a sucky place to live, even without the lawn mower, yard equipment, and power tools.

    Oh, I guess there’s extra square footage in the loft above, but the wasps would start to exhort their squatters’ rights, I’m afraid.

  14. ShortBus says:

    Good luck getting a $40k mortgage on one of these.

  15. Propaniac says:

    Ugh. Just the idea of trying to live in a 100-square-foot house makes me feel claustrophobic. I could probably do 400 feet or so, if it were designed right and I invested in the right furniture. 100 feet sounds like some kind of Sims experiment where your Sim always ends up suicidally angry because the fridge is blocking his way into the shower.

    • @Propaniac: Sims. Oh, the memories! I used to spend a great portion of my time playing that, building and furnishing the houses. Of course, with the easy free money codes for that game, the most fun part was that you could make a house as big as you wanted and with as many furnshings as you could fit in it!

      90SF would not go over too well on there.

  16. AD8BC says:

    6 months before I got married in 1999, I moved into a great apartment — 400 SF, rent was $365/month including utilities. It was in an old building behind a barber shop and an insurance agency. I thought it was great. Then I got married and we got 2 cats.

    We moved as soon as the lease was up.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @AD8BC: Yeah, space can only get you so far. My husband and I, with our rabbit live in a 1,200 sq-ft condo and it’s more than enough space for us, but we could never do with any less space. If we had to, I suppose we would, but we enjoy having the space.

  17. DH405 says:

    This is so ridiculous it’s amazing. The point of prefab is that its cheap. These things are outrageously priced!

    I looked at the Wee House models.. Here in Oklahoma City, I can buy a 1400+ sqft house for $51k. I bought it off of a foreclosure sale.

    The tiniest Wee house was $65k. That doesn’t include the LAND you’d have to buy!

  18. crystalattice says:

    In Hawaii 2-3 years ago, there was an article in the paper about a person who was renting out a walk-in closet in his house for $900 a month. The closet was big enough for a bed and a small dresser and he was offering an extension cord for appliances.

    He received something like 50 offers in the first day or two the ad went up.

  19. P_Smith says:

    If homebuilders had been making 800-1000 square foot homes for the past decade instead of palatial mansions, there probably wouldn’t have been a mortgage meltdown. Smaller homes would likely sell *more* and cost less and needed smaller mortgages, especially important as wages have been gradually shrinking.

    As a single person who will probably never marry, I would be happy with a 600 square foot home. How much space does one person really need? Even most 1/2 bedroom apartments are too big.

  20. JulesNoctambule says:

    I’m sure that kind of living would work out for some people, but there’s no way I could ever do it. Hell, my in-home studio space alone is bigger than that! Of course, considering all the dangerous chemicals and heat sources I use (metalworking), it’s to the benefit of the rest of the house that I have plenty of room and multiple sources of ventilation.

  21. sonneillon says:

    Dang I could buy a 900 sq/ft condo for that. Think larger crazy lady.

  22. redkamel says:

    Id rather just move to costa rica with 40 grand and take my chances than live there and work a 9-5.

  23. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    As a teen I spent a few summers living in an 8×8 foot cabin I built in the woods in the wilds of Canada… It was fantastic… I know that wouldn’t work for me now because my family would probably go nuts… but even 2600 sp ft is way too much… and it’s not just the excess space but all the crap you accumulate to fill that space.

  24. GarretMessene says:

    Wow! The weehouse 2X ( at two 14′ x 46′ sections ) is slightly smaller than my house and costs $165,000. My house cost $130,000. With 3 acres of land. And another structure , that we are turning into a mother in law’s house. Granted it is in the country, but I like it that way.
    I love this idea and IKEA had some great mock-ups of how to furnish small houses, but these are just too expensive.

  25. MrEvil says:

    There’s a guy whose computers I repair. Lives way out in the country near the Boys Ranch school ~30 mi NW of Amarillo. He builds pre-fab A-frame houses. They run $75/Sq ft. Very energy efficient. The houses are pre-fab, but not pre-assembled. Assembly is required on site but the houses can be shipped via truckload freight to your site. He’s waiting for his patent applicaton to go through and Berkshire Hathaway wants to licence the design to mass produce them. The guy has designs from just a few hundred to 2000 square feet or more. Foundations are pretty easy to build for these houses as well, just some concrete piers. Two guys with a tele-handler can get them assembled and welded up in a couple days.

  26. shane10101 says:

    Dear Tara,

    I would really suggest picking up an Econ course before buying your new home. You know all those stories about people paying waaaay too much money for their house, and who are now blaming their bankers for letting them do something so dumb? Yes, that could be you.

    You can probably rent a u-stor-it space for a few years & come out far more financially secure. (If a bit smelly.)