In recent years, there has been a notable interest to tiny houses with a couple of big reasons:
- shift from “bigger is better” to “less is more,” lifestyles
- increased environmental awareness
- economical problems, especially after 2008 financial crisis, and covid-19 pandemic
- millennials’ interest to ‘experience’ and to ‘see’ the world
As a result of this interest to tiny houses, popular television shows are created, like Tiny House Nation, Tiny House Builders, and Tiny House Hunters; which created even more interest to tiny houses.
Buying and starting to live in a tiny house is a part of the puzzle. How about selling? Is it easy to sell a tiny house? How hard to find a buyer? Do people make profit when they are selling a tiny house, or do tiny houses depreciate like cars?
There are many aspects of the answers for those questions. However, if you want me answer in a short paragraph:
It is not easy to sell tiny houses, especially mobile ones. The tiny houses tend to be customized to specific needs and requirements of the owner, which makes them hard to find buyers in a short period of time with the asked price – unless the seller takes some actions.
As an answer for the second part of the question (do tiny houses appreciate); You should not be viewing a tiny house as an investment. Tiny houses, especially mobile ones, depreciate in value.
There are many reasons for this conclusions, and there are actions that you can take to be able to overcome the problems. Let me go through all the details below; starting from tiny house definition.
What Is A Tiny House?
According to the International Residential Code, Appendix Q as “a dwelling that 400 square feet or less in floor area, excluding lofts.” are called Tiny Houses.
There are more than 25 different kind of tiny houses (that I’ve listed with example pictures on this article: Beginner’s Guide to All 27 Types of Tiny Houses (With Pics) ). But if we need to classify in a simpler way, there are 2 main types:
- Stationary tiny houses, which are on permanent foundations. Usually they are sold with the land together. So; the land price is an important factor.
- Mobile tiny houses; RVs, the ones on a trailer, etc.
Rules, regulations, and registration methods are also different for those 2 types of tiny houses.
Why Do People Live In Tiny Houses?
There are 3 main reasons for people to start living in tiny houses:
- Economical reasons
- Environmental reasons
- Lifestyle reasons
Especially after 2008 financial crisis, many people found themselves in hard financial situations. Many had to move out from their homes and settle for smaller houses, some in tiny houses.
The world is going through a pandemic for the last year and half (COVID-19) and it will have a huge financial effect. I believe, upcoming months and years, we will see more and more tiny house moves with financial reasons.
Apart from 2008 crisis and covid-19 financial affect, student debt is another big financial problem for US young generation. Right after finishing universities, they are starting the life with hundreds of thousands of dollars debt. Instead of adding mortgage payments to this debt or paying hefty monthly rents, some young people are trying tiny house life.
The third economical reason is ‘after retirement financial concerns‘. Right after being retired, some people are downsizing their homes. Even though, mostly, there are no mortgage payments at that age; the ongoing monthly expenses of big houses with multiple bedrooms are adding up. So; moving to a tiny house and renting out their homes is a logical option for some retirees.
Climate change and environmental concerns are important discussion points lately. Even though some people are not accepting the climate change, it is a reality if you look at the scientific observations.
Tiny houses’ footprint is much smaller than regular houses. With a very simple comparison; while regular houses in US is about 2500 sq ft in average, tiny houses are maximum 400 sq ft. Even if we consider just heating and cooling costs to environment, the difference is huge.
To be able to help to ‘save the world’ idea, some people are opting in to start living in tiny houses.
Especially young generation is noticing that the life is all about the journey, and not about the destination. They want to experience more. They want to travel more. They want to meet more people. They want to enjoy the life.
What is the best way to achieve all of them? Tiny house life.
We started seeing more and more young people starting to live from their tiny houses by utilizing ‘work from home’ concept. They travel often, and enjoy the life as much as they can.
How Big Is Tiny House Market?
The tiny house market is small, really small comparing to regular real estate market.
Unfortunately there is no accurate statistics for annual tiny house sales; because:
- There are multiple different types of tiny houses, and their registration methods are different
- There are many off-grid tiny houses, which are not taking part of any census records
- There are many DIYers building tiny houses, with no official records
- There are many ‘shed conversion’ tiny houses and they are not on the records
To be able to understand the tiny house market size, here are some statistics and numbers:
- With information for certified builders only, the best guess is that there are roughly 1,000 tiny houses being built a year.
- Records show only less than 1% of the sold homes are smaller than 1,000 sq ft. Considering the tiny house size is smaller than 400 sq ft, the number of sold tiny house percentage is even smaller
- In 2020, 5.5 million homes sold nationwide
- In New York City, only 2 percent of all real estate sales between 2010 and 2020 were tiny homes. In Chicago, tiny homes made up only 0.1% of all real estate sales during 2010 – 2020.
With some ‘guesstimating’; by using the above listed facts, we can say that the number of tiny homes sold per year averages about 25,000 nationwide.
Considering the size of real estate market (about 6 million transactions in a year), you can see how small is the tiny house market.
Tiny homes have attracted huge attention in recent years; and while they may have encouraged us to rethink the size and function of our homes, the number of people willing to downsize to such an extreme degree will remain small. Which makes the tiny house market small and selling a tiny house is hard.
Selling A Tiny House
Most people don’t think about selling their homes when buying it, but this is one of the important aspects of the tiny house decision.
According to statistics, in US, in average, people sell their houses after 7 years. We don’t have any statistics for tiny houses, but I assume the duration is even shorter for tiny houses.
This is why it is so important to keep in mind how you will sell your tiny house when the time comes.
Simply put, tiny houses can be hard to sell. But hard doesn’t mean impossible, and as long as you’re aware of some of the challenges, unique to tiny house sales, you can usually map out a good strategy to get your place sold.
Let me try to itemize the challenges and the mitigation strategies:
Limited market size: You cannot do anything about the market size, but you can make your tiny house more attractive for the potential buyers. Here are the potential buyer groups and how you can make your tiny house more attractive for them:
- Financial reasons: Do not make your tiny house luxurious. Luxury means more $$$, and you will have harder time to find buyers, who are financially going through hard times.
- Environmental reasons: Make your tiny house environmental friendly. Install renewable energy sources (solar panels, wind tribunes etc.) and install water saving appliances to your tiny house.
- Lifestyle reasons: Make small adjustments in your tiny house to make the mobility easier. If someone wants to move to a new location every week, s/he wouldn’t want to spend a couple hours to get ready for the move.
National Level and Local Rules and Regulations: There are almost 30 different kinds of tiny houses, and that many different sets of rules about them. Considering some are bound local building code, some national code, and some local DMV code and registrations; the issue becomes even more complicated [Luckily, lately in some places, local rules are adapting to tiny homes. We are hoping, in the near future, the tiny houses will heave some easier time from the local rules and regulations point of view].
So; what do you need to do for an easier selling experience: Prepare and if needed update the official documentation for your tiny house. This is a peace of mind for a potential buyer, and also it prevents unnecessary delays at the last minute.
Documentation may also help with the financing part of the selling. Usually tiny houses are not eligible for mortgages, and lenders are not willing to lend for a tiny house. But, if you have all the documentation in an order, things may go a little easier.
What To Do To Sell A Tiny House Well?
Being prepared is the most important point for various life events. Here are basic suggestions to get you prepared to sell a tiny house well:
- Prepare tiny house for potential buyers’ needs.
- Stay Ahead of (especially ‘Smart’) Trends: For example, since everyone needs usb charging ports in their daily lives, install electric outlets with usb ports. Or install smart gps based security devices, to make the new owner’s life easier.
- Make sure to stay true to the space and make improvements that not only work in a limited space but are universally appealing.
- When making a customization to your tiny house, think twice. Many people will “customize their tiny houses for their lifestyle,” which makes it perfect for them, but doesn’t necessarily make it easier to resell.
- When the times to sell:
- Use multiple listing places
- Stage your tiny house (especially for the next 2 item)
- Take compelling pictures
- Create a video tour, instead of just taking pictures
- Price it correctly; not too low, not too high. Believe it or not, too low prices also a factor to push away the potential buyers.
- Make repairs. People prefer to pay extra to have a ‘problem free’ house
- If your house is not built according to the code, work on it and make your tiny house code compliant.
- Trend analysis is important. Be aware the news about the tiny house world. For example; new tiny homeowners want bigger tiny homes. The most common size for a tiny home at the beginning of the decade was 20 ft *8 ft, for a total of 160 square feet. Now the standard size is 28 feet in length. A 28 ft * 9 ft tiny home is 252 square feet; more than 1.5 times the square footage of tiny homes from a decade ago.
While tiny homes may never grab a large share of the real estate market, they are here to stay. Tiny house movement will not be disappearing anytime soon.
Considering the market size and the legal obstacles, to be able to sell a tiny house quickly with the right price, you will need to prepare yourself and prepare your tiny house.
It is not easy to sell tiny houses, but not impossible. Just go through the above listed suggestions, and your selling experience will be smooth and successful.