Not having a mortgage can certainly make life a lot cheaper. With the average price of a traditional home coming in around $273,000, according to Redfin, it’s no wonder some people are turning to alternative housing in efforts to save more money.
The tiny house movement has gained a lot of traction in recent years, made all the more attractive by tiny home prices as low as $20,000. But there are some expenses that tiny homebuyers may not consider before building or buying a small home. Here are five of the most unexpected. (See also: Can Tiny House Living Actually Save You Money?)
Adding the price of land to a tiny home’s cost shouldn’t be unexpected, but it can be forgotten about if the house is on wheels and you plan to move it. Even if you get a free deal to place your home on your parents’ or friend’s property, you should factor in the possibility that you may eventually want to move it. When you do, you may have to pay rent for a lot or space on the property of your choice.
2. Zoning laws
The jurisdiction in charge of the land you want to put your tiny house on will likely have laws on zoning, land use, building, and other red-tape headaches. None of these are cheap.
Zoning laws and building codes are meant to make sure a home is safe and in an area where homes are allowed. If your tiny house isn’t approved by your municipality, a code enforcement proceeding could be started against you and you could be forced to remove your tiny home and pay a fine.
And while a tiny house built on a permanent foundation may have one set of zoning codes to follow, a tiny house on wheels that qualifies as a recreational vehicle will likely have others. An RV on wheels may only be allowed for temporary residential use, and it may be illegal to live in one unless it’s parked at an RV or mobile home park. You’ll need to check your local regulations so you understand the specific laws in your area.
3. Cost of being mobile
One appeal of a tiny home is that they’re mobile, and can either be towed or put on a flatbed truck. If you’re spending money to meet zoning laws and buy land, then being mobile may not be so cost-efficient. And unless you can safely tow your tiny house yourself with a truck big enough to haul it, you’ll have to pay someone else to move it.
To be legal to tow, a tiny home must meet certain road requirements; namely, it can’t be bigger than 13 feet by 6 inches in height and 8 feet by 6 inches in width, according to regulations in the U.S. Even if you have a truck with a big enough engine to tow a tiny house of 15,000 pounds or more, you’ll want to ensure you can hook up trailer brakes to the truck, that your truck has the proper transmission for towing, and that you have the skills required to tow it.
These costs can vary, but Tiny House Giant Journey estimates the annual cost of towing their tiny house at $1,520. That includes gas, truck and trailer maintenance, truck insurance, campground fees, and propane.
No matter how big or small your house is, utilities such as water, electricity, gas, and garbage are part of your living expenses. How do these utilities factor into the costs of living in a tiny home?
Probably not by much if the area you’re living in has such services normally available. But if you’re moving around often, you may have to pay hookup fees each time. You may also face other unique obstacles such as not being able to find drinking water that can easily be hooked up to your tiny home. You might also need to pay extra for things like a mobile internet service, which can be more expensive than service in a fixed location, and regular visits to the laundromat if you don’t have room for a washer or dryer.
5. Resale value
Selling your tiny home sometime down the road may be the last thing on your mind when you first move in, but resale value could be a potential problem later on.
The tiny house market is too new to know yet if the resale value of these homes will go up. Location will likely play a big part, as it does for permanent homes. A home on wheels may be thought of more as an RV, which can depreciate quickly in value like a car.
And since a tiny home is so small, the new owner will have to be happy with the same customizations you chose if they don’t want to spend a lot of money changing things. You may be OK having a small kitchen and a bigger living room, but another buyer may want it the other way around. (See also: 3 Ways to Finance a Tiny House)