If you are like me, you are absolutely intrigued with the tiny house movement. There are so many TV shows and YouTube channels with people living the dream. Plus there’s the cost. It is only a fraction of what a traditional home costs. The most affordable way to get started is to simply buy a tiny house shell and park it on your land and finish it out with exactly what you want.
A tiny house has been defined as a dwelling under 600 square feet. They are usually semi-traditional-looking houses on a metal frame with wheels. There is a “shell” commonly made with standard building techniques (wall, roof, floor, plumbing, electrical, etc) on a “tiny house trailer”.
Tiny House builders generally offer a complete package where you get the house, and inside is a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and many of the things a typical house might have. It is possible however to just get the “shell” which allows you to build out the inside exactly how you want it. This can save a lot of money if you are handy.
What is a shell for a tiny home?
A tiny home shell is pretty much what you think it is.
There are four walls, a floor, and a roof. It is the starting point for a small space to live in. There may be large and/or small windows. It could have an interior wall or two. But what it won’t have is any interior finishings.
Depending on the builder, you may get to choose where the electrical outlets and plumbing fittings go. Alternatively, it could all be pre-determined. When you order a shell build talk with the builder and see what affordable options there are, or if you want to have a custom design that might cost more.
Frankly, the shell option is perhaps the most affordable way to establish a homestead on a piece of land. Simply just tow in the tiny house shell, and establish residency.
There are many different kinds of materials you can use for your framing including traditional wood 2×4, modern SIPs, or even make a steel frame tiny house.
How much does it cost to finish a tiny house shell?
Depending on the floor plan you choose the costs can vary. The hard part is how much work you want to do yourself.
Of course the more square feet, the higher the cost.
But the hard parts are trying to figure out the tiny house plan that will suit you best. For some just getting a shell means lower costs upfront and allows them to figure out the inside plan later.
Prices for a basic shell can range from about $12,500 to $25,000. This range is because of size, construction materials and techniques, and of course geographic location. High-quality materials like zip sheathing, hardwood floors, cell spray foam insulation, and a seam metal roof will cost more than cheaper materials.
I encourage you to have a design consultation with the builder to make sure your comfort level is in a good place.
Is it cheaper to build your own tiny house?
If you want to own a tiny home, you might also want to look into a cheap tiny house kit. There are numerous manufacturers out there – a quick google search will give great results of a tiny home builder in your area.
Tiny home kits are great for the true DIYer. Just get a land loan, and you are ready for the next step.
In which states are tiny houses legal?
One of the biggest questions you might have is “Can I put a tiny home on my property”?
Perhaps you want a guesthouse for visiting family. Maybe you want to put a guest house on your property to use for a Short Term Rental or even a spare home office.
It is often possible to get permission, however not all states and municipalities are on board with it yet.
Building standards are still up in the air for tiny houses. Common building practices are used, there are still a lot of variations . The Tiny Home Industry Association (THIA) is a very good source of information.
Currently, these states allow Tiny Homes:
- North Carolina
Aside from the differences in the regional building process, there is also the fact that many of these houses are not on a solid foundation. They are on wheels so they can be towed on the open road.
Right now many states classify them as ADUs – Accessory Dwelling Units and have a workaround to grant permission.
If you want to own a tiny home, you might want to consider this route. Get a tiny house shell, park it on your land, and build it out as you want as you are ready. This can be a way to own tiny home at an affordable price. Modern tiny living is growing in popularity, and there are lots of tiny house models available on the internet to look at to get started. If you want to keep the overall cost down this might be the best option for your tiny house dream!