The Tiny Home Market Isn’t Booming Despite What TV Tells You

Image courtesy of Great Beyond

It’s a novel idea: spend less on a smaller, often portable, home and and have extra money to travel, pay off student loans, or simply move from one place to another. But despite popular TV shows hyping this “tiny home” movement, the folks who build these diminutive dwellings downplay talk of a miniature housing boom.

The Los Angeles Times reports that while shows like Tiny House Hunters or Tiny House, Big Living depict a thriving tiny home market, with customers forgoing large homes with several thousand square feet and opting for small, usually one-room abodes. Yet the companies that make these small homes say they aren’t exactly flying off the shelves.

“There are so many ­roadblocks out there to selling them,” Lee Saenz of Adventure Cabins explains to the Times. “If they want to buy it, they don’t have the land. If they have the land, it’s not zoned for a tiny home. Or they don’t have enough cash.”

Saenz started his company in 2011, and specializes in rustic, but state-of-the-art homes for less than $50,000. Yet in the last five years, he says he’s only sold five homes.

Oregon-based Tiny Smart Home has the ability to deliver one tiny home a month to customers, but that’s not happening. Instead, in five years, the company has sold just a dozen houses.

Pew Charitable Trusts, which analyzed the tiny home craze in 2015, found that while the homes offer a “cheap and energy-efficient” option for consumers, they are hard to live in legally.

Although the smaller homes could be a great fit for dense, urban areas, many city laws and zoning ordinances don’t allow for the smaller homes.

For example, some cities adhere to laws that require new single, family homes to be at least 1,000 square feet, significantly larger than the typical 100 to 400 square feet tiny home.

Additionally, because many of the small houses are made on trailers — affording owners the ability to move from one place to another — some cities consider the homes to be mobile, and restrict “camping” on land for extended periods of time.

While tiny houses make for great TV, Steven Marshall, owner of Little House on the Trailer, is realistic about his industry.

“There are quite a few urban legends out there about what you can build and where,” he tells the Times. “It’s a revolution that probably won’t happen.”

Tiny-home market more bust than boom [The Los Angeles Times]

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