The Allure of Tiny Homes

Since we started trying to find a home that would be good for the next 10+ years we hit a snag. The house that we would design with a blank sheet of paper is vastly different from anything that is available in the market.

A family of three doesn’t need 2500 square foot mansion. And few things irk me as much as designs that mock out functional features – shutters that are fake, roof braces where the roof should be strong enough on its own, verandas on the north side of the house where they will be perpetually in the dark side of the house.

Other conventional design standards seem like terrible trade offs for cost/benefit. Why dig a basement to form and pour a large amount of expensive concrete in order to get a dark and damp basement when you could have poured a slab at ground level or piles and built 6ft taller instead for much less money?

Paying half a million dollars for something like that is just bananas.

When I watch the videos about tiny homes I can see the allure. A two bedroom house on wheels for 20% of the price of a bungalow in Ottawa. The financial freedom of not being tied to a $1500+/month payment would open a lot of opportunities. The option of being mobile and relocate for work without realtors and banks getting involved would be freeing.

Housing has long been seen as an engine of the Canadian economy, but in an alternative reality where houses were cheap we would have disposable income to spend on more engaging things – cars, motorbikes, ATVs, boats, or hobbies, travel, RVs, free time.

We lived next to the mobile home community in Calgary. The number of those houses that had a Lexus, BMW or Jaguar in the driveway was not zero.

Having lived in small apartments in Vancouver the small space can actually be seen as a benefit. You tend not to want to be cooped up in a small space for long periods of time which means that every evening is usually spent outside doing something more active. Walking, engaging with the community, spending money at local businesses.

But good quality small houses just seem to be unavailable unless you build your own tiny house. But if you build your own, there are restrictions where you can put it. For houses on wheels there are extra considerations. But basically it would have to be in a rural area or cottage country.

There also seems to be a missing space in the market for a 500-1200 square foot house which is bigger than can fit on a wheeled trailer but smaller than any house in the suburbs.

It’s a frustrating market to try and buy into. What I want is not for sale. So I’m not buying.

I’m very attracted to strategies that opt-out of the normal conventions. Instead of working for money I’m testing the strategy of working for equity. I’m enthralled with the options of living on a boat in the Caribbean, or building a tiny house, and following the VanLife movement.

Thinking seriously about tiny homes changes your expectations and assumptions. If we could live in a 450sqft tiny home, then we could live in an RV, or live in Chile for a few years. We could go straight to retirement living on a cottage (seniors have it figured out).

The allure of tiny homes is that they make you think of other possibilities and challenge the conventions.