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Comparing the True Cost of a Tiny House Versus a Traditional House

Tiny Houses at first glance are much cheaper than traditional houses.  However, let’s take a closer look at the costs involved in tiny house living versus traditional house living.

The cost to build a tiny house is more per square foot, but less overall.

Why? Tiny houses are smaller.  The cheapest square footage in any home, whether tiny or not, is empty space.  The most expensive space per square foot in a home is the kitchen and bathroom, which have appliances installed that need electricity and plumbing.  A tiny house on wheels still has all the appliances and fixtures: a toilet, shower, and sink in the bathroom, and a fridge, sink, and cooking device in the kitchen, just like a “big house”; what we’re eliminating when building tiny is the cheapest space: empty floor space.  That’s why the cost per square foot is higher in a tiny house.

However, in a tiny house, the overall material cost is less than in a traditional house, simply because there’s less space, which means less material, labor, and time to build.

The cost of a tiny house doesn’t include land or hookups for water and electric.

With a tiny house on wheels, whether you’re planning to buy land, lease a spot in an RV park or stay in the backyard of someone you’re renting a space from, you’ll need to factor this cost into your overall budget.  Tiny houses can be connected to RV hookups in an RV park or permanently hooked into water, septic and sewer.  If you’re buying raw land (with no water and power) you’ll need to have a well dug and power connected.

Generally when buying a traditional home it’s already hooked up to utilities and is being sold with a plot of land.  Therefore, be sure to factor in not just the cost of the tiny house itself, but the land and hookups when comparing the cost of a tiny house to a traditional home.

Tiny house financing is often for fewer years than traditional mortgages.

B&B’s tiny houses on wheels are certified by the RVIA and therefore financed like RVs.  RV financing can be through your own bank or through a national lending institution.  As an example, as of 12/21/18 Lightstream’s website lists their RV loans up to 84 months, or 7 years.  Traditional mortgages are often 15 or 30 years.  Tiny houses, because of their smaller price point and smaller finance time, are usually paid off before a traditional mortgage.

Remember, though, that RV loans are just for the tiny house itself, not the land the house is on.  If you’ll be buying a piece of land to put your tiny house on, that would be either paid for all at once or financed separately.

Tiny houses’ utility bills are less.

Tiny houses are smaller than traditional houses, which means less space to heat or cool.  Because they’re on wheels, we never know where they’ll end up, so we build our tiny houses to withstand any climate in the continental United States.  Our shop is in a rather extreme climate zone so we understand the need to be warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  The tiny houses on wheels we have built have been toasty warm in New Hampshire in negative temperatures as well as nice and cool in the Texas heat.  Double-glazed windows, high R-value insulation in the floor, ceiling and walls, and efficient heating and cooling systems used in B&B Tiny Houses make for some pretty tiny utility bills.

If your tiny house design gets big enough, in some cases it can make more sense to just buy a regular house.

B&B Tiny Houses’ longest tiny house is 32′ long (on a 30′ trailer with a small overhang) and our widest tiny houses are 10′ wide (the Kinderhook and the Taconic Park Models).  If you’re not planning on moving your tiny house, “large” tiny houses can be a great way to get some extra elbow room.  When you start going bigger than 10′ x 30′ though, depending on all the other factors mentioned above it may make more financial sense to just have a traditional permanently-affixed home, park home, or modular home built.

To recap, be sure to consider all of the costs involved with living tiny versus living “large”: not just the cost of the houses themselves.

How to Start a Tiny House Hotel Business

What is a tiny house hotel?

A tiny house hotel can be a great spot for campgrounds, wedding venues, retreat venues, and much more. The possibilities are endless for what a tiny house hotel can provide. Tiny house hotels offer a more intimate experience with their environment than traditional hotels for the same price.

tiny house woodburned siding tiny home arcadia b&b micro manufacturing

Arcadia Tiny House at Woodlife Ranch

Tiny house hotels can usually range from $125-$300 per night. Tiny house hotels contain houses under 400 square feet, are often located in scenic places, and offer guests the chance to explore the outdoors or local attractions. Many tiny house hotels offer the features of a traditional hotel: they can sleep 5+ people, have wifi/cable, have an outdoor deck/grill, and have a full bathroom/kitchen. In addition, they can offer unforgettable experiences for weddings, dining, business retreats, and family reunions.  For some examples of tiny house hotels, check out these tiny house hotels across America.

Tiny house hotels usually have the customers book their stay online and then on the day of their arrival the customer will receive a code in order to get into the tiny house. The days of traditional check in are in the past!

In addition, tiny house hotels can be formed on a smaller level. As long as you have land and one tiny house, then you can set up a cozy bread and breakfast. Read our blog post on how to make money on your personal tiny house for more information. 

Choosing the Right Tiny Houses For Your Hotel

When determining the tiny house you want to use for your hotel, you want to make sure that it is fully accommodating to your customer. Will your customers be able to sleep their entire family? Is there enough built in storage for food and clothes? Does the design allow for your customers to feel connected to the scenic outdoors? Is their something unique and memorable about your hotel?

The Arcadia Tiny House

One of the great things about tiny house hotels is that it’s very easy to expand your capacity. As long as there is land and electricity/water available, tiny house hotels can add more units whenever they wish.

Attracting Tiny House Hotel Customers

The location of your tiny house hotel may be your biggest selling point. Many customers decide to stay in a tiny house because they’re looking to disconnect and spend time outdoors, so by choosing a location that is close to activities like hiking or swimming you ensure that your customers will have a great time while they’re on their vacation. In addition, customers may want to check out some cultural attractions while on their vacation. Locations that allow customers to spend time outdoors and are nearby to cultural attractions are optimal locations.

tiny home investment additional income New England

The Hudson Tiny House

Most tiny house hotels allow customers to book through their website and through websites like AirBnB, Try it Tiny, VRBO, and Homeaway. When creating listings for AirBnB, it’s important to showcase what makes your hotel stand out. If your tiny house has a beautiful deck area with a grill, showcase it! Allow potential customers to envision what their time at your hotel would be like through pictures. In addition, social media is another tool to attract customers. Because lifestyle content is integral to social media, a tiny house hotel can attract a lot of attention on social media platforms. Social media is a great tool to garner interest in your tiny house hotel.

Finding Land

Figuring out where to develop a tiny house hotel can get tricky as you must make sure that local building codes and laws allow tiny houses.

Zoning Laws

After you’ve looked over the zoning and, if applicable, building codes for your specific zone of your town, you may need to ask the town permission to have a tiny house on your property. Most towns don’t already have tiny houses written into their zoning or building codes.  If this is the case, don’t be discouraged: it doesn’t mean you can’t do it, it just means you’ll have to introduce the concept to the zoning board.  In this blogger’s experience, zoning boards are made up of passionate people who want to find housing solutions for their towns.  With tiny house TV shows and news stories all but taking over television networks, no doubt at least a couple of the folks on your town’s zoning board will already have an idea of what tiny houses are.  They’ll let you know whether you need a special permit to have a tiny house on your property, and if so, guide you through the process.

The Hoosic Tiny House

Getting Utilities

For electricity, the cheapest and easiest option is to plug into an existing power source.  Others choose to power their homes with solar power.  Click here to learn more about solar power for tiny houses.

For fresh water and waste water, city water and sewer are one option; pieces of property in less dense locations that don’t have city water and sewer will need to use a well and septic systems.

If the land already has electricity and water hookups, you won’t need to worry about having those put in.  Generally, although not always, it’s less expensive in the end to buy land that already has utilities than buying land without and then paying to have them installed.

For more information on this topic, read our blog post on the things to know before buying land for your tiny house for more information.

The Silver Lake Tiny House

How do I make it happen?

With determination, anyone can open their tiny house hotel. You have many options for securing funding. Read these 10 ways to get funding for your business and 6 tips for securing investments. As previously mentioned, a great aspect of tiny house hotels is the ability to grow your business whenever you please.

If you have any questions about developing a tiny house hotel, please contact us! We have experience in mass producing tiny houses for hotels.

Creating an Original Tiny House Design vs. Purchasing a Pre-Designed Tiny House

Should You Purchase A Pre-Designed Tiny House or Design It Yourself?

At B&B Tiny Houses, we are often asked if a prospective tiny home owner should buy a custom tiny house or choose from our catalog of tiny house designs. Most of our clients will ultimately decide that they want to customize an existing tiny house design for the reasons below.

Pre-Designed Tiny Houses

Because we have 9 models of pre-designed tiny houses, most prospective tiny house owners will find a plan that will work for them. With this option, B&B customers will get to choose the finishes on their tiny house for no additional cost. This means that clients will have the option of picking the finishes for the interior and exterior of their tiny home: including the roofing, ceilings, walls, fixtures, and floors. The customization process of the pre-designed tiny homes allows owners to add their own style to their tiny house. The pre-designed tiny houses also allow clients the option of changing the blueprint–i.e. adding an extra closet or rearranging kitchen appliances. Read more about our blueprint changes fee.

Perfect for weekend vacationers, the Prospect has a beautiful observatory bedroom with large sliding doors on three sides.

The Sentinel is designed for someone who wants to live tiny but won’t compromise on kitchen space. The kitchen has a full size fridge, oven, and sink, and ample cabinets.

 

Original Tiny House Designs

Customers also have the option of working with B&B’s design team to create an entirely original design.  Original tiny house designs allow you to create the exact tiny home that you’re envisioning, but due to economies of scalei.e. custom houses taking longer to build due to the fact that each one is unique and not able to be mass produced— this option can be quite costly. In addition, with a custom house, there is an extra fee to design the sketches of the home and create an estimate. Read more on original tiny house design fees. Custom plans and builds come at a substantial increase in cost and build time, but they also allow those that are willing to pay more to receive a beautiful tiny house designed for their exact needs and lifestyle. 

Clients can give our designers sketches of their dream home and see their ideas come to life.

 

Ready to begin your tiny house buying process? Fill out the form below to get in touch with us.

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Are You Financially Ready To Buy A Tiny House? 4 Ways to Get the Best Loan for Your Tiny House

Fortunately, there are multiple ways to get financing and save up for your tiny house, whether it’s a turnkey RVIA certified Tiny House on Wheels or a DIY shell or frame.

Choosing the Best Tiny House for You

Tiny Houses on Wheels Vs. Tiny or Small Houses on Foundations

Before we talk about the best way to finance your tiny house, let’s talk about the different types of tiny houses. Please note that securing finance for your tiny house will have different processes depending upon if your tiny house is on wheels or on a foundation. Permanently-affixed tiny houses will be able to get traditional construction loans which can include site work. For this article, we will be focusing on financing a tiny house on wheels.

tiny home brodie mobile office studio The Brodie Mobile Office photographed by Steph Rapsiarda

Tiny House on Wheels: Price Difference Between Original or Off-The-Shelf Design

Building a tiny house of your original design through B&B allows you to create the exact tiny house that you’re envisioning, but due to economies of scalei.e. custom houses taking longer to build due to the fact that each one is unique and not able to be mass produced— this option can be quite costly. The second option is to buy a pre-designed tiny house. There is a wide variety of options and at B&B we will allow you to customize materials, colors, and appliances (click here for all of the customizable options at B&B). This is a great option for those that want to stay on budget and still put their personal touch on their tiny house.

tiny home new england tiny shellDIY Tiny House Frame

Build Your Own Tiny House Using a Shell or Frame Kit

The third option is to buy a wood-framed tiny house shell. A tiny house shell has the exterior complete and the interior incomplete. Shells can have windows, doors, plumbing, and electric complete or incomplete depending upon your needs and budget. Lastly, you have the option to buy a steel frame kit for your tiny house. This option ensures that you have a professionally built frame and allows you to customize your tiny house how you please; however, we do not recommend DIY options for anyone that does not have construction experience.  The shell and steel frame option are not certified by RVIA, meaning that it would be more difficult to get a loan. Both of these last two options can be a great choice for someone that wants to complete their tiny house by themselves or wants to self-finance their own tiny house in stages. The RVIA cannot certify shell or frame kit options because the tiny house will not have been finished in a RVIA certified location; however, it may be possible to get a personal loan for the shell or frame kit.  

If you are DIYing your tiny house, consider all the costs associated with building, not just the materials cost.

Are You Financially Ready To Own A Tiny House?

Consider Your Total Tiny House Cost– Not Just Monthly Loan Payments

Once you have decided on the best tiny house option for you, you will have a better idea of the loan you will need.  Because B&B is RVIA certified, you would be qualified to apply for an RV loan for any of our turnkey tiny houses on wheels. When determining your tiny house budget, you will also need to consider monthly costs such as electricity, maintenance, insurance, and where you will be keeping your tiny house.

Read our article on the all-in costs of a tiny house versus a traditional house. 

In addition, if you need site work–grading, clearing trees, adding a pad–or infrastructure–fresh water, waste water, and power–you’ll need to consider these costs in your total budget. You will want to estimate these costs before you decide the amount of the loan you’re willing to take out. Just like a home mortgage, your income, credit score, market factors, and down payment will all affect the terms of your loan. After you’re pre-approved, B&B will schedule a design session with you in order to get your final quote.  

tiny home brodie mobile office studio

 The Brodie Mobile Office photographed by Steph Rapsiarda

4 Ways to Get the Best Loan for Your Tiny House

Improve Your Credit Score 

Improving your credit score will help you lower your monthly payment. This is because the bank views those with higher credit scores as being more reliable and thus will give them better rates and bigger loans.  Here are 11 ways to improve your credit score.

Save for Your Down Payment

The more that you save for your down payment, then the lower your monthly payment will be, so start adding to your tiny house piggy bank!

Choose the Best Tiny House Type For You, then Choose Your Floor Plan

After you’ve chosen the best type of tiny house for your needs, whether it’s a DIY frame, shell, or a turnkey tiny house that’s move-in ready (and RVIA-certified), you’ll be able to get an estimate on the floor plan you want and start researching your loan options.

Shop Around

It’s a good idea to contact a few different financial institutions to get the best deal for you.  Check out all your tiny house financing options here including getting a Tiny House Loan through Adams Community Bank, an RV loan through Lightstream, and a personal loan through your own bank or credit union.

Why aren’t lofts included in a tiny home’s square footage?

Determining the Square Footage in Tiny Homes

We are often asked about how we calculate square feet in our tiny homes. This is a great question as there is no regulation regarding calculating square feet–this is true even in traditional homes. Rather, there is an accepted code that the industry follows. Other competitors do not always follow the same code that we at B&B use when calculating square feet, which can make comparing tiny homes confusing.

Pictured: the Hoosic Tiny House

The Technicalities

Let’s dive into some of the different criteria for what spaces must meet.  We use the International Building Code, specifically Building Code Appendix Q, which describes the code for tiny houses on foundations.  Although much of what B&B Tiny Houses builds are tiny houses on wheels, we use the international building code as a guide for calculating square footage.

From IBC Appendix Q:

Minimum ceiling height: habitable space must be over 6 feet and 8 inches with the exception of bathrooms and kitchens which must be over 6 feet and 4 inches

Loft: located at least 30 inches above the main floor, is open to the main floor, and used as a living or sleeping space

Pictured: The Arcadia Tiny House

Calculating Square Feet in Tiny Homes

Tiny houses on wheels, in order to be road-legal, must be 13 1/2′ off the ground in order to fit under bridges.  Therefore, it would be impossible or a tiny house to have a loft one can stand up in.  Because lofts in tiny houses on wheels do not meet the minimum ceiling height to be considered “habitable” space in the building code, they should not be included in a tiny home’s square footage.

To calculate the square footage, multiply the inside width and length of the tiny house. Almost all of B&B’s tiny houses on wheels are the road-legal maximum width of 8 1/2′; their length varies.  The exterior walls of our tiny homes (unless otherwise specified) are 6 inches thick on each side and end. To calculate the square footage of the Stony Ledge which has outside dimensions of 8 1/2′ x 30′, we multiply 7 1/2′ x 29′ to get 217 1/2 square feet.  The Arcadia, which has a loft, has a square footage of 142 1/2 plus a 45 square foot loft.

When shopping for tiny homes, you should always check how the square feet has been calculated. Otherwise, it can be like comparing apples and oranges. If you are interested in learning more about the square feet in tiny homes, read this post about why tiny homes cost more per square feet than traditional homes.

Tiny Guest Cottages for Under $50,000

Backyard Guest Cottages for Under $50,000

Affordable Tiny Houses, Ready To Move In, Are A Great Backyard Solution

Need more space to accommodate your family members, but don’t want to renovate?  Want to have a tiny house in your backyard for guests but can’t get a building permit?  Want to make an extra income by renting out your tiny house but don’t want to invest too much?  Purchase a tiny house on wheels for under $50,000.
Tiny houses on wheels make a great, year-round additional private space that can include everything someone would need in a private home: a bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom, that can be parked in your back yard.  They can be used as guest cottages, short-term or long-term rentals, in-law cottages, starter homes for adult children, or just an extra, quiet space to get away once in a while.

B&B Micro Manufacturing’s turnkey tiny houses under $50,000:

The Hoosic has a queen size sleeping loft with a living room underneath, a full bath and a basic kitchen.  It’s great for someone who likes the tiny lifestyle and is willing to sleep in a loft in order to have more living room space underneath.

The Hudson comes in 20′ and 26′ versions and has a first-floor queen size bed, a full bath and a basic kitchen.  This house is great for someone who doesn’t want to climb a staircase to get to bed.  The 26′ version fits a regular size sofa and small fold-out kitchen table.

The appliances and storage solutions in these houses can be upgraded as you wish, and the colors and materials can be customized to fit your style and budget.  Here is a link to our tiny house customization options.


How Do Backyard Tiny House Utilities Work?  How Are Tiny Houses Attached?

Tiny houses are easy to hook up in back yards.  Simply plug in the included extension cord to power your backyard cottage, and fill the tiny house with a hose.  Wastewater can be pumped directly into your sewer or septic system, or held in a tank until it is ready to be emptied.  More information on how to hook up a tiny house is here.
You can choose to get skirting for your tiny house to cover up the wheels and make it look more permanently-affixed, or build a porch on the front.  You can opt for hurricane anchors to secure the tiny house to the ground in case of inclement weather.
The best part of having a tiny house on wheels is when you move, you can take it with you!

Do I Need a Building Permit for my Tiny House On Wheels?  How Do I Get Permission To Have A Tiny House?

Because B&B Micro Manufacturing is an RVIA-certified member-manufacturer, our tiny houses on wheels are legally considered RVs and can be parked anywhere an RV can be parked.  Tiny houses on wheels do not require a building permit. Some cities will allow short-term stays, or  “camping” in RVs, but not full-time living.   Read more on how to get permission to place a tiny house in your back yard. 

Why Do Tiny Houses Cost More Per Square Foot?

Tiny Houses Are Smaller, But Cost More Per Square Foot.  Why?

Glad you asked! In larger houses, the lower cost per square foot is because large homes have a lot of empty space, which brings the average cost per square foot down.  The most expensive areas of a home are the bathroom and kitchen: the rooms with appliances and special fixtures.  Just like big houses, tiny houses still have at least one toilet, one shower or tub, one fridge, one stove or cooktop, and one kitchen sink, so you still have to pay for those appliances.   (If your tiny house is 1/3 the size of a big house, the cost may not be 1/3 because you’re not paying for 1/3 of a toilet– you still need a whole toilet!)  In tiny houses, everything is efficiently packed into a smaller footprint, eliminating the empty floor space– the cheapest part of a big house.

In addition, tiny house designers and builders have very special skills, and there is much less room for error in constructing a tiny house than in constructing a big house.  Because there is less tolerance for error in tiny houses, due to their small size as well as strict  building standards ensuring they are safe to travel on the road, more care has to be put into their design and construction.

B&B Micro Manufacturing’s move-in ready tiny houses on wheels are built to the high standards of Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), who inspect every step of our build process in surprise visits.  Each turnkey tiny house we build is RVIA-certified.  (Tiny house shells cannot be RVIA certified because DIY builders aren’t inspected by the RVIA).

What do tiny houses have that larger houses don’t have?

Many tiny houses have built-in furniture which is not included in the cost of an empty larger house.  Additionally, some tiny houses use specialty appliances that were designed for boats or RVs, like small stoves, which, although they are smaller cost more than regular-size appliances because they are not sold in the mass quantities regular-size ones are.  

What’s the cost of having a custom designed tiny house built versus a pre-designed tiny house?

Due to economies of scale, any tiny house that is custom-designed will, of course, cost more than a tiny house that is made in a production line with the same model of other tiny houses.  B&B has quite a few floor plans to choose from for every lifestyle, and each floor plan is customizable for the individual’s needs.

Does it cost more or less overall to build a tiny house versus a big house?

Still, the total cost of building a new-construction tiny houses is, of course, much lower than the cost of having a new big house built.

Likewise, it costs much less over time to pay bills for a tiny house.  Heating and cooling a tiny house is more energy-efficient by nature of the space being small.  In addition, B&B manufactures all their houses to be extremely energy efficient, whether on- or off-grid, reducing the overall cost of bills over time.

Still have questions about our tiny houses?  We’d love to help!  Contact us at info@bbtinyhouses.com.