January 11, 2018By Alex Romanov
As the tiny house trend continues to attract more and more homeowners to its fold, you might be wondering if there’s something in it for you.
For some, it’s the appeal of simple living. Tiny homes are an obvious solution for the modern minimalist: less space for less stuff and more conscious design. For others, downsizing from a larger home may be a financial move.
Whether you’ve been daydreaming about building one, or already comparing prices of tiny homes in Seattle, there’s a lot to consider in advance.
Like any real estate investment, big or small, location is key. Despite the growing demand and supply of tiny houses in the Seattle area, the reality of where you can live in one is complicated.
Most tiny houses are not site-built; they aren’t anchored to a foundation. But they aren’t RV’s or mobile homes either, even if they are built on wheels. The question is, where can you put or park your tiny home for the short or long-term? The answer depends on state or county building codes as well as your intentions, (permanent or temporary), of living full-time in one place.
The traditional home buying process lets you shop neighborhoods: you find a desirable area and then you start looking for a home. Tiny home ownership tends to happen in the reverse. But buying or building your mini dream home before deciding where to live can be a big mistake. The failure to understand the various zoning laws and regulations first can leave you with a house that doesn’t have a home. In some areas, tiny homes aren’t allowed in one area for more than six months. In others, they aren’t allowed to be parked on properties run by certain HOAs.
You might decide to buy land. If you’re not totally sure that the tiny lifestyle is going to work out, you might decide to keep your big house and live in your tiny house on the back of your property. This gives you the option to try it out while renting out the big house for some extra income.
Trends come and go. When the novelty wears off, people crawl back to what they’re used to. Living in small structures is nothing new, but shrinking your life to fit into 400 square feet or less is a pretty big deal.
The minimal lifestyle is not one size fits all. Before you consider buying or building a tiny home, go spend time in one. Search Airbnb for a tiny home rental in a desirable location. An inspiring (or discouraging) experience will give you a sense of what it’s really about.
The closer you are to Seattle, or other big cities, the more tiny-house enthusiasts there are for your to connect with. Getting to know people who’ve lived and breathed the lifestyle gives you the chance to ask questions and get ideas. Note that this is not the same as skimming blog posts and forum threads.
As you seriously consider living tiny, you’ll need to seriously consider downsizing. Depending on how much stuff you own, this can involve months of work. The good news is if you’re savvy at selling things, doing so can serve you a decent chunk of change. If you need to hang on to items that won’t fit in a tiny home, you can rent storage space. This may eliminate the time and effort spent downsizing altogether.
A smart home purchase means being smart about money. Don’t make any move to buy, build, or sell anything until you’ve assessed your current situation: existing debt, mortgage, current budget, projected budget, etc. Just because it’s a tiny home doesn’t mean it can’t create a giant headache.
Many fail to make their tiny home dreams come true because they underestimate construction costs or don’t account for certain expenditures. Always factor in 10-15% more for building materials. Most tiny homes require custom features, like special sized doors or windows. And don’t assume that small appliances are cheaper than standard ones.
Will your tiny home be hooked up to the grid? In other words, will you need to factor in costs for propane, solar power, composting toilets and waste water solutions? Ongoing costs of living can add up even if you’re saving money on utility bills.
Financing a tiny home is tricky, even if you have an excellent credit score. Tiny houses aren’t eligible for customary mortgage loans and banks aren’t readily handing out loans secured on their value.
Also keep in mind that your investment needs to be insurable. Insurance policies hinge on certified structures. In other words, you may want to thinking twice about building a tiny house yourself unless you’re a professional builder able to submit formal house plans. Regardless, it’s best to get in touch with your insurance company before buying or building.
Once you’ve decided to make the transition, you’re going to have to deal with the property you have now.
For some people, building or buying a tiny home is a side project. They choose to retain their current home or rent it out. Local realtors can draft a rental agreement, find renters, and help you manage the property when you move.
Others need cash to pay for their new tiny home and use the sale of their current home to their advantage. The cost to build a DIY tiny home in the Puget Sound area is around $25,000 to $30,000 including new materials, a trailer, a construction plan, and some appliances. Ready-to-buy tiny homes can set you back even more.
You can work with a real estate agent to sell your home and approach the buyers market the traditional way. This doesn’t guarantee a quick offer or a maximum return on your property, even in a hot market. If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of listing, marketing, inspections and repairs- there are alternatives. Working with a cash buyer in your area to sell your home ensures a quick turnaround and hard cash in your pocket.
The tiny home trend is here to stay. If you’re thinking big about going tiny, we’re here to help! Selling your home requires time and energy. If you’d rather put that towards your new lifestyle, we have solutions for selling your current home quickly and for cash.
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