You really shouldn’t build or buy a tiny home until you know where you’re going to put it. And the best way to make your decision is to analyze all available options, with their pros and cons.
In the “option analysis” process at some point, I was asking to myself: What are tiny house communities, and what are trailer parks? Are they the same concept? Or do they have some serious differences?
Tiny House Communities and Trailer Parks are basically the same thing, only we tend to think of trailer parks as serving lower class constituencies, and tend to think of tiny house communities as an upper-class living space. In reality, their concept is the same; but the trailer park infrastructures may not be in a great shape.
My guess is the demand for a tiny house communities would be in a hip, urban area, but land in that type of place would be really expensive already and most likely difficult to buy due to competition from investors and developers. And any place with cheap land that was zoned for that kind of thing would probably be better off with a standard mobile home park.
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What Is A Tiny House Community?
In one of our earlier articles (Do Tiny Houses Sell Well? 6 Ideas To Help Selling Process), we have listed the main reasons which push people towards tiny house movement. Basically people start living in a tiny house one of these 3 reasons: Financial, Environmental, and Lifestyle reasons. All 3 reasons are on the rise, and many people are considering to move to tiny houses.
As a response to the tiny house movement, pop-up neighborhoods have begun to form across the country offering a place to park, hook up your connections and live with like-minded people. “Like minded people” doesn’t necessarily mean only the permanent residents, it also means curious vacationers, and even those in need of housing.
Tiny house communities are places which are set up for tiny houses to park and hookup the required connections (power and water) with a monthly fee.
Some tiny house communities provide even more than just power and water; they provide private backyards, internet connection, bbq area, walking trails, community pool, fitness center, community guest house etc. Also; usually they are equipped with energy saving features.
There is no single type of tiny house community from the house ownership point of view. Some options are:
- You can move your own tiny house, and hook up to connections. In this case, you just rent the land.
- If you don’t have a tiny house to move in, you can buy from the tiny house community management and pay maintenance fee.
- Or another option is to rent a tiny house from one of the communities. Usually rent includes the monthly maintenance fee.
The number of tiny homes communities is steadily growing lately. However, unfortunately, not all of them have legal status. Mainly because of ‘local laws’.
I am sure you know that tiny house rules and regulations are still problematic. The definitions are not clear and many counties and municipalities don’t allow tiny homes under their current zoning rules.
When you are considering to start living in a tiny house community, don’t forget to ask these questions:
- What kind of permitting the tiny house community has?
- Are tiny homes here as RV’s or are they permanent dwellings – ‘officially’?
- Has this community been cleared with local code enforcement and all good according to law.
Lots of people just ignore it, but if you’re looking for a true tiny home community it needs to be 100% legal. Otherwise, you may have legal problems down the road. The best case scenario; the officials may close down the tiny house community and you will need to find a new home for yourself – with no prep time.
Tiny house communities may have their own rules. Some examples:
- If you use your own tiny house, you HAVE TO hook up to sewer system (even if you have black water tanks). If you don’t have connection availability, you cannot park there.
- While many tiny house communities are welcoming pets, some don’t allow dogs.
- If you are renting, the min. lease duration can be 6 months (some communities accept only long term rents)
- Some doesn’t allow tiny homes on wheels, requiring every tiny home within city limits to be either stick built or manufactured, on a concrete foundation (usually the new generation tiny house communities)
- Some allows only professionally built tiny houses.
Most of the time, the rent (or maintenance fee) includes water, trash removal and sewer connections. But, again, better to be safe. Check all the rules before signing any papers if you don’t want to be surprised down the road.
Different tiny house communities have different application processes. So; get ready to answer some questions to be accepted to the community. Don’t assume you would be accepted as long as you have funds to pay the fees.
Example Prices From 2 Different Tiny House Communities
First example is from the first town in the U.S. to welcome tiny houses, invites you to settle down; Spur, Texas.
The city has a dedicated webpage, ‘How to move to Spur?’ and it shows all the main steps in the process. Very clear and informative: https://www.spurfreedom.org/how-to-move-to-spur/
It has even a listing page for lots; directly from city and also from private sellers. The acre prices vary between $1,000 – $5,000. If you are looking for a tiny house friendly quiet town to move, check it out.
The second example is from Orlando, Florida: http://www.orlandolakefrontth.com/
Orlando Lakefront is renting out the lots to park your THOWs legally. The rents are between $400 – $650 per month (depending on the location and the lot size) and they run a background check before accepting the applications. You need your own THOW to move in.
If you want to try the tiny house life, they are also offering short term vacation rentals. The daily rents are from $66 to $96.
What Is A Tiny House Trailer Park?
Tiny House Trailer Park is an area of ground where trailers can be parked, temporarily or permanent, especially by people using them as their homes.
Living in a tiny house trailer park has some advantages; including low cost compared to other housing options, and quick and easy moving to a new area (job related relocation etc.).
‘Trailer Park Image’ and History
Trailer parks are usually viewed as “lower income housing” for occupants living at or below the poverty line who have low social status.
Despite the advances in trailer home technology in recent years, the ‘trailer park image’ (low social status) survives as evoked by a statement from James Carville (Bill Clinton Presidential adviser ) who said “Drag $100 bills through trailer parks, there’s no telling what you’ll find“.
As a result of this image; the name “trailer park” isn’t used in US any more — at least not in polite way. Manufactured housing or mobile homes are the preferred term for the relatively inexpensive prefabricated spaces.
Manufactured housing is no longer about mobility but about affordability. An estimated 22 million Americans live in homes that are factory-manufactured and shipped to their site.
Most residents in trailer park communities make less than $50,000 a year. We can find all sorts of people in trailer parks; from retired teachers and social workers looking to new immigrants and younger people.
One downside of trailer parks are natural disasters: Tornadoes and hurricanes often result serious damage on trailer parks, usually because the structures are not secured to the ground and their construction is significantly less able to withstand high wind forces than regular houses. So; if you are planning to live in a trailer park, better to keep in mind that preparedness is important.
Trailer Park Financials
The average monthly rent for a lot in a trailer park is between $200 – $300.
Private ownership of trailer parks can mean a mom-and-pop model, which even owners may live in the park and feel a personal connection to the land and its residents as neighbors. This makes them more likely to be fair caretakers. But during and after 1990s, investors began to buy up more parks. Unfortunately; this non-local ownership of parks opened up opportunities for exploitation.
Trailer parks are attractive to investors because of the reliable annual rate of return they provide: 4 per cent or more. This is about double the average US real estate investment trust return.
The manufactured homes sector is also booming, with shipments of new manufactured housing units rising consistently since 2009. But as big money has entered the sector through big investors, so have big complaints: from tenants and activists concerned about rent spikes and poor maintenance under their new owners, to lower-income people, forced to choose between paying rent or life threatening medical costs.
The new owners (big corporations), tend to increase rental rates. The national monthly average to rent a space in a trailer park is around $250, so a 10 percent surge means an additional $25 monthly. This amount may seem minor to someone from the middle or upper class, but that’s a really big deal for low-income families.
When such price hikes make staying in a park untenable, it’s then hard for residents to move their homes: Despite their name, trailer park homes are fairly stationary and difficult to transport (unfortunately, mostly because of financial reasons – no maintenance; and because of state rules that prohibits them to be moved etc.).
Many times I have heard and read about people leaving their trailer park homes behind and losing them because of financial reasons.
And even when a resident is able to move their home, they may not be able to find a spot in another park, because overall numbers have declined. Real estate prices have risen, and owners of parks located near small or large cities are often tempted to sell the land to developers who will pay well to build condos or office buildings and displacing trailer park residents.
Pros And Cons For Tiny House Communities and Trailer Parks
Both options provide affordable housing. Trailer parks are cheaper than tiny house communities. While the average land rent for trailer parks are $250, tiny house community land rents are around $400 – $650 / month.
Both options provide some ‘fresh air’ to their residents. Most of the time the trailers or houses have (usually small) backyards belong to their land.
In general ‘privacy’ is an issue for both options. Usually the available land is limited, and you are living close by with the community neighbors or with other trailer owners.
Especially trailer park homes are not secure enough (most of the time) to withstand against heavy winds or hurricanes. Better to make sure your home is secure enough, in case of dangerous weather conditions.
Some may consider ‘space’ as another disadvantage point; that is why I am listing here. However, I am not 100% agree. We all know that the available space is limited for tiny houses. But, many people move to tiny houses with the target of ‘downsizing’. So, even limited space is a reality, I don’t see this as a disadvantage.
Again, this is rather a reality than a disadvantage; however many people are having hard time as a result, that’s why I decided to list under the cons section. As a person living in tiny house community or trailer park, you have to abide the community rules. Sometimes the rules don’t make sense, but you have to follow them. Many people are signing the contracts at the beginning, without reading the full document. Which may become a problem in the future. Please do read all the contracts before signing. Couple example questions:
- Does rent cover trash removal? Or are they charging extra?
- Does rent cover snow blowing? Do you need to do the snow cleaning, or the management?
- If you have a pet, does the community charges extra for the pets?
- Will you need to pay any tax, apart from the monthly rent or maintenance fee?
The both types are basically affordable housing options. Even though ‘tiny house community’ name sounds more ‘modern’ and ‘good looking’, there are not much difference between them in the real life.
If you are planning to move to a tiny house community or trailer park, I suggest you;
- to make a search for both options in your desired area
- visit the ones that you like and that have available spots
- talk to people actually living in those communities
- talk to owners for the details
- and talk to local government about the legality of the communities
The selection process is important, and you wouldn’t want to have any surprises down the road. Better to be safe, and take all the necessary steps at the beginning and make your own research / investigation.
Apart from renting a land, some communities are renting out tiny houses as well. Spending some time actually in a community is the best way to know the potential neighbors and owners. So; if the community that you liked has this option, go for it.
The decision comes down to personal preferences, goals, motivation drivers, period of life, etc. So; make a list for your preferences and goals, and go through the available tiny house community and trailer park options. I am sure, you will find a good fir for yourself.