Tiny Homes in NC: Who Builds Them and Why Should You Care?

Tiny Homes in NC: Who Builds Them and Why Should You Care?

In NC, we’ve seen a movement towards owning tiny homes, since many people look to shrink the “American Dream” down to a smaller scale. More people are interested in minimizing their possessions in an effort to increase their quality of life and reduce their carbon footprint. What should you know about the phenomenon?

Boomers and millennials alike are driving tiny home sales. 63% of millennials are interested in buying a tiny home and 40% of current tiny home-owners are older than 50. These statistics suggest that people of all ages want to simplify their lives and have the flexibility to move around. But would an NC tiny home be right for you?

What is a tiny home?

The difference between a small home and a “tiny” one is defined in the International Residential Code Appendix Q: tiny homes are “dwelling[s] that [are] 400 square feet (37 m2) or less in floor area excluding lofts.” Some tiny homes are built on a permanent foundation, but most sit on trailers so that owners can move them from one location to another.

To be considered a tiny home, the structure must have a ceiling height of no less than six feet, four inces. The average height of a tiny home is eight feet. For reference, the smallest tiny homes are around 80 square feet.

NC tiny home
Image courtesy of Treehugger.

Buying a Pre-Built Tiny Home

NC is home to several tiny home builders. How can we say that? Because NCND recently spoke to Brett Mathew, owner of Carolina Tiny Homes, LLC based in Locust, NC.

Mathew said his initial interest began out of a desire to simplify his life. And so he went to the library and scooped up all of the books he could find on tiny homes and started diving in. He then discovered that Tiny Home Builders in Atlanta offered a 3-day workshop so he jumped on the opportunity to take it. There Mathew learned a great deal about all aspects of tiny home living and how to build a solid, quality home.

Mathew then started his business of building tiny homes. He said there are several considerations that go into tiny home living.

First, it is important to be able to find land. You need to either have your own land, be able to rent a portion of land from someone, or know someone that is willing to let you park on their property. There is also a lot of research to be done in checking out your local municipalities’ permitting rules. Because of the preparations, living in a tiny home requires some leg work.

It is also important that you spend at least a weekend in one of NC’s tiny homes to see if you are ready for it.

There are many tiny home Airbnb’s in NC you can rent for a long weekend to see if it’s for you. For his part, Brett has a model at his site that you can rent for a weekend. His website also has a helpful link to a survey you can take to help you decide if you are ready for tiny living.

If you have decided that you are ready and don’t have the resources or skill to build your own, then you can weigh buying options. It’s important to buy one that has a trailer built specifically for your tiny home if you plan to move it around.

Carolina Tiny Homes currently estimates that building one will take about four months. Meanwhile, the average cost ranges anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000 depending on the size and materials selected. The company is also starting to look at building tiny homes for off-grid living that include compost toilets and options for solar power.

Check out these other NC tiny home builders, too:

Image courtesy of Tilen.space.

Building NC DIY Tiny Homes: DIY Starts With You

The DIY option is attractive to many people who really want to get into designing the details of their tiny living space. This option allows them to customize the design specifically to meet their needs.

Is it more important to have a larger kitchen or larger bedroom? Because DIY starts with you, the choice is yours.

One NC resident who wishes to remain anonymous says they spent a significant amount of time drawing and redrawing plans and picking out materials. This advanced planning allowed them to build more quickly. Research ahead and figure out what you want up front. From there, you can then pick up your hammer and get started!

But you should also know a few caveats.

The cost of building a tiny home yourself is less since you aren’t paying for labor. But you need to make sure you have the skills and manpower to complete this kind of project. While it’s possible to build your own tiny house for less than $10,000, the typical cost ranges from $12,000 to $35,000.

To start, the materials you select are a big factor in the overall cost. For example, if your goal is to live off-the-grid, you may want to buy a composting toilet. The average cost of those toilets can range from $1,500 to $8,000, depending on their complexity.

DIY home builders often advise people to make sure your possessions become tiny before you start building. Start by getting rid of things you don’t need. Or, if you have things you want to keep but can’t fit in your tiny house (like a family heirloom), have a plan in place to store them safely elsewhere. Spend a significant amount of time downsizing. Question how badly you may need an item, and donate what you can live without. Choosing minimalism before you start will ease your process.

Image courtesy of Real Simple.

What about finding land?

Above all, finding land is key. Determining how much land you want, where you want it and whether to rent or buy are all factors in determining the cost. Though this zoning trend is changing, a lot of city zoning laws won’t allow you to purchase land to put such a small house on. Because of this restriction, many people end up looking at renting rather than owning land. The American Tiny House Association is a great resource for learning about local regulations that apply to tiny homes.

But if you’d rather rent, start your search by networking and talking to people you know to see if they would be interested in renting out a portion of their land for your tiny home. You may even know someone who would let you park on their property free of charge.

And while you’re on the lookout, connect with other tiny home owners in your community, for their expertise. Check out Tiny House NC and connect with other members for more information on the movement.

Your Financing Options

Even though a tiny house costs significantly less than a traditional home, you cannot get a mortgage to buy one. You can get a recreational vehicle loan or a travel trailer loan from a credit union. You can also get a personal loan, but keep in mind that your interest rate will likely be higher.

If you plan on keeping your traditional home and to use the tiny home for a vacation or travel, you can take out a home equity loan or line of credit. That way, you can use your primary home as collateral. Our chart below lays out all your options:

Traditional Home vs. Tiny House Financing Costs for a Borrower with Excellent Credit

  $250,000 traditional mortgage $60,000 tiny house loan with RV or trailer financing $60,000 tiny house loan with low-interest credit card financing $60,000 tiny house loan with home equity loan financing $60,000 tiny house loan with personal loan financing
Interest rate 4.00% 6.00% 11.00% 7.60% 9.00%
Maximum term 30 years 15 years 15 years 20 years 5 years
Monthly payment $1,193.54 $506.31 $681.96 $487.84 $1,253.19
Total interest $179,673.77 $31,135.80 $62,752.80 $57,081.60 $15,191.40
Total principal + interest $429,673.77 $91,135.80 $122,752.80 $117,081.60 $75,191.40
Sources: Bankrate, Wells Fargo and Rock Solid Funding loan calculators and interest rates as of April 24, 2015.

Could NC tiny homes be right for you?

There’s more to owning a tiny house than just the potential to save money. People value tiny houses because of their simplicity, freedom and environmental stewardship. It may give you more money and more time to have life experiences you’ve been missing. It may also allow you to live life more closely in accordance with your personal value system.

But be sure to ask yourself if you can learn to live with less. If you plan to share your tiny home with another person, consider how you’d interact inside its small space.

Above all, there are many benefits to going tiny! If you are considering making the change, book one for a weekend and see if it’s something you’d be ready for. After all, many people have made the transition and become happier for it.

Be sure to check out our other articles on the popularity of NC tiny homes, or catch our list of NC tiny homes on Airbnb!