There are several possible journeys to living in a your own tiny home:

  • rent one
  • buy one secondhand
  • build one yourself
  • build one yourself in a ‘workshop’ environment
  • pay someone to help you build

Rent a Tiny Home
Temporarily renting is a great option if you want to experience downsizing to see if it’s really for you.  But essentially the economics of renting a TH are the same as for renting any other property.

Buy a Tiny House
Increasingly tiny houses come up for sale second-hand.  You must treat the purchase of a second-hand tiny house with the same caution and due diligence you would any home.  It is often the case that the first tiny house built by people with little or no prior building experience or knowledge is their ‘learning experience’.  When offered for sale, these tiny houses should be inspected by a building professional prior to a Sale & Purchase Agreement being signed.

Build a Tiny House Yourself
This is the most common journey towards tiny house ownership, particularly homes on trailers and we fully support the notion of having a personal stake and connection to your home – the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction is enormous.  There is a wealth of information online about how to build, but generally construction materials and techniques follow traditional house construction, although being mindful of weight/size limitations.

How much does a Tiny House Cost to Build?
Budget: allow about NZ$10-15,000 for a trailer plus NZ$1,500 to $2,000/m2 for the build materials.  Add another $5-10,000 to go completely off-grid.  Time: allow approximately 500 build hours (excludes design time and the plumber/electrician).  Space: you will need a flat area 3x the size of your house with secure dry storage for tools, scaffold and materials.

Build a Tiny House in a Workshop
Not everyone has the time, skills or resources to build their own Tiny Home entirely on their own.  If you would like to be involved in building your own tiny house but want to work alongside others who can bring skills, tools, work space and experience, then please get in touch.

Pay a Builder
Whatever your reason, sometimes its quicker and more cost effective to pay someone to build for you.  Think about what level of control you want; can you project manage the build?  A builder will usually want a set of drawings or sketches, or want you available onsite to make decisions.  Do you want to arrange the plumber and electrician?  How frequently will you visit the build?  What form of contract will you use and how will you determine payments?  How will you deal with disputes?  What warranty will your builder provide?

There are now several companies and individuals claiming to be tiny house builders.  They will offer to build your tiny house for you.  In the building industry there is a procedure for procuring and project managing this process.  The employment of a builder for a tiny house should be no different.  I offer consultancy services for the procurement, specification, contract terms, staged payments, inspections and sign-off of your build process.

To Build or Buy your Tiny House?
After talking with hundreds of people over the last three years about their tiny living ideas, here’s a summary of what questions you should be asking yourself.  What are your short and longer-term goals?   Why are you considering going tiny?   Do you want to save money for a deposit on a traditional home, or do you need mobility and flexibility for a few years?   What will you do with your tiny house in a few years time as your life plans evolve?

Do you have the skills and time to build your own house, or does it make more sense to stop paying rent right now by buying one?   Do you have friends who could help you?   Can you skill-swap with other people?   Do you have the time to learn?   How do these answers fit with your life goals?   Don’t build just because everyone else does – it’s about meeting your specific needs.

What’s your financial situation?  Building a home yourself may seem like the cheapest option, but don’t forget the ‘opportunity value’ of the 500+ hours it will take you – what else could you do with that time?  You will also need a space to build, tools, scaffold and some professional input.  Do you have the money available now or will it be a protracted build-as-you-earn project?  Should you borrow to complete the project sooner and become independent more quickly?  Do you have a secure covered place to build and store materials?

What are your circumstances?  Do you have the energy to commit to building?  What commitments, family and social engagements will you compromise/for-go in order to commit the time to design and building?  Try to talk to someone who has actually built their own home.

Whatever you chose, it must be your decision and make sense to you- it is simply part of the process of moving towards your goal – so set your intention and enjoy your journey.