Recently we were asked whether we would be willing to sell the tiny or build someone a tiny. We realized that the answer took a lot of detailed explaining, and rather than write it again and again in response to each inquiry, instead we would post our answer here.
Q. Are you looking to sell the mountain schooner?
A. We are not particularly interested in selling our Tiny house, but we would. For $38,000, or more.
Q. How much would it cost to build one like ours?
A. Two major elements are included in construction. To use a metaphor from the restaurant industry, the first costs are materials, or “ingredients” costs, and the other costs are labor, or “chef” costs.
The project has taken quite a bit of work time so far. Labor budgets for tiny houses are much greater than the square footage would suggest, because you want them to be completely functional houses, including all the elements of a standard American dwelling. The only major element of a regular house that is cut out in a “tiny” is extra rooms and volume, and all else being equal, big bedrooms are far faster and cheaper to construct than small complex rooms like bathrooms and kitchens. What this means is to minimize costs, you need to assess the elements you want included in your “tiny” based on your projected uses. Are you just looking to provide a bedroom out of the house for your teenager or mother in law, or do you want a fully-functional modern living system as a second, vacation, or primary home? If the latter, the cost includes all the systems of an ordinary house. Your answer to this question greatly affects costs. Materials for a full function system, (including trailer, electrical, solar panels, plumbing, composting toilet system, etc) run anywhere from a bare minimum of maybe $10,000, average around $18,000, but could cost up into the $30,000 range for high-end materials. In contrast, a mobile bedroom could probably be built for around $8,000 in material, and would take substantially less labor.
Labor is a whole other ball game. A decision needs to be made before hand on who is going to build your tiny. If you want to build it yourself, you can put in a year or so working with a conventional construction team, and try to diversify the types of jobs you do. You could read books and figure the stuff out by trial and error. You could pay experts to come give you advice, and then check up on your work to ensure adequate quality. Or you could export the work to a company like ours to do the work for you. We could be convinced to produce a complete kit for someone for around $18,000, build one for someone for somewhere around $30,000, or sell the one just built for $38,000.
Q. Do we have plans for it?
A. We have plans for our tiny, although they are not comprehensive–we weren’t working with a set number of 2x4s or anything before we got going–we calculated on the fly, which led to some “under ordering,” but was this approach had benefits in the iterative nature of the process as elements were going in. We tend to like “vernacular” architecture based on feeling, much more than “numeric” architecture based on prescriptive formulas. I could order some plans made up if you were willing to pay an architect do draw them off our realized product. Another route would be to search online for more comprehensive plans.