May 09, 2019
For this week's Q&A series, @jessimarie9 asked our #DreamTeam how much did it cost to build or buy your tiny house on average?
Perhaps the ultimate question for any tiny house dweller—the money question! There's no denying the fact that at some point in your tiny living journey, you will have to come to terms that that 200-sqft home you are dying to build or buy is going to cost you a good chunk of change. The question is how much?
Ranging from a variety of states, countries, and budgets, the Dream Team tell all about how much their tiny houses cost!
We were our builder’s first customer, so this allowed us a lot of unique opportunities. Specifically, we were able to work with him to design a new model for his company and commit a lot of our own labor in the process. We also got the tiny home on HGTV’s “Tiny House, Big Living” and were able to leverage that media into a lot of product for the home.
So, buying a duplicate of the model now from New Frontier would be $190,000, but our out-of-pocket cost after sponsorships and HGTV funds (and not including our hours) was around $130,000.
I think a general rule of thumb is that the more established a builder, the less opportunity there is to save money. You kind of have to choose between security and the option to hustle. Then of course, you can take this formula all the way to building it for yourself!
We worked with a builder to custom design our tiny home to our specific needs, and this cost us around $80,000. Our original budget was somewhere between $70-75,000, so although we went a bit over budget, we ended up with a tiny house that is packed with storage options, full kitchen amenities, and luxury finishes.
When all is said and done, between materials and paying a local carpenter to assist us with building, our tiny house cost about $55,000 to build.
My tiny house cost a little over $70,000 AUD ($48,916 at time of writing) to build to completion. I would have spent an additional $3000 on furniture and appliances. My tiny home was one of the first that my builder built for a customer and I was able to negotiate materials and finishes as the build progressed. In my opinion, it’s money very well spent!
In the ‘real world,’ isn’t it considered gauche to ask people how much their house or car cost them? I get it—talking about money can be understandably uncomfortable and it’s easy to feel like there’s a lot of judgment tied to those questions.
But I got over that VERY quickly when I decided to build a tiny house. After “Your house is HOW small?!”, the question I get most often is “So, how much did it cost you?”
All in, my budget to get the tiny house built was roughly $35,000, and I stuck pretty well to that. I worked with Incredible Tiny Homes in Tennessee through their Workshop Build program, which allowed me to provide my own labor and be a part of the build process, and saved me a good chunk of change (the program has since been discontinued).
Going this route meant I could work with a professional builder, who could handle the more technical trades: electric, plumbing, propane, etc., while my dad, my sister, and I installed the exterior siding, the interior paneling, the flooring, and a few more things.
My dad and I have been tackling additional DIY projects around the house since I moved in, and extra dollars from every paycheck since I moved in have financed improvements to the tiny house. If I had to guess, I have probably invested an additional $2-3,000 in the house since I moved in at the end of last year, making my total all-in cost around $38,000.
Our tiny house cost approximately $40,000 to build, including the trailer, appliances, and furnishings. We were able to get away with this because we did a build assist with Backcountry Tiny Homes out of Vancouver, Washington (Hi Tina and Luke!).
Basically, for every hour of labor my husband and I did, we were able to knock down the overall labor costs. The builders would show us what needed to be done for that day, we would do it, then they would quality check our work. If we were to have had someone else build our tiny home, it would have probably added around $12,000 just in labor costs. So, the build assist program was the way to go for us!
The material cost to build our 374 sq. ft. tiny house was about $47,000 including the trailer when we finished back in 2014. We even kept a list of all of the materials used to build our tiny house and we regularly update it with all of the new changes we have done since moving in. We have been providing this list along with our original plans to our customers that we build our tiny house trailers for to help simplify the process for their DIY tiny house builds as well.
How you use materials and how you cut lumber will always affect the end cost of your tiny house, but if you plan it well and are conscious of limiting the waste you produce from lumber, you can really stretch your budget.
When it came to labor, we have a lot of skilled friends in the trades that wanted to help and be involved right from the beginning, so we always had a great team of friends that had lots of experience and we are very thankful for that to this day. We developed even closer friendships during that whole experience with all who were involved.
If you were to hire out a build like ours, you can easily take the cost of materials and double that to get an idea of the realistic cost with paid labor. This is why we are big fans of saving money and building a DIY tiny house!
It’s slightly difficult to give an exact cost because our tiny house was built on the TV show, but our build was contracted to a local builder who had never built a tiny house before. Similar to Bela and Spencer, we benefited from being his first customer in terms of labor costs, and it was worth the risk because his company did a great job—they even came back to finish work and actually redo finishes that the TV show originally picked out that we didn’t want to keep.
In the end, I think Tim would argue that going on the TV show was a win because the house was completed so quickly, but I would argue that we would have had a better experience and even similar costs if we had just hired the contractor ourselves.
With that said, we cut a check to the show for $35,000 at the start, and we were responsible for paying taxes on “free” materials that were used in our build. That totaled about $20,000, so the total cost at the end of the tiny house build was approximately $55,000. We took a loan out of our 401K for the first check and paid the rest out of pocket.
Since we weren’t able to pick out all of our finishes (you can’t really pick and choose what you receive for free), we have put about another $10,000 into the house since we moved in to suit our tastes and create more functional storage.
Grand total: $65K! We’re coming up on the 5-year mark, and it’s almost paid off.
As Spencer and Shannon said, if you can find a builder or contractor that has limited experience in building tiny homes (but knows what they are doing!), then you have an opportunity to negotiate labor costs in your tiny house build.
While tiny house prices from builders have definitely risen in the recent years due to increasing demand, there are still ways to secure a bargain. And if the budget is your main concern, then you may want to consider a builder-assist program or DIY-ing your tiny house build! If anything, you'll save a significant amount of cash and have loads of stories to tell when it's all said and done!
If you'd like to submit a question for next week's Q&A series, be sure to tune in to our Instagram Stories every Thursday night to ask away!
September 13, 2019 12 Comments
September 13, 2019 1 Comment
My name is Alan—founder at Dream Big Live Tiny Co! A few years ago, I quit my consulting job to pursue a life full of adventure. After traveling around the world for a year, I sold most of my stuff and moved into an 160-sqft tiny house. Now I spend most of my time showcasing incredible people living with less in pursuit of more freedom, as well as incredible tiny houses around the world!
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