Looking to Buy or Design a Tiny House? Think About This.

A small list of initial considerations when downsizing to a tiny house

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Image via Jesse Selman

We’ve received several questions regarding small homes and tiny house design.

To help shed some further light on tiny house purchases or custom design, we highlight a question from a reader below.

A Tiny House can be a great alternative to investing heavily in traditional real estate but there are many factors that you’ll need to consider before hand. 

Q.Hi HomeIdeasHQ, I am looking to buy a little house for year around a retirement home big enough for 2 bedroom open kitchen and living room bathroom that will take a walk in tub small unity room for small washer & dryer bedrooms to take 1/2 beds all one floor.


We received the following inquiry after the popularity of our post on Tiny Houses.

Original Post: 20 Tiny Houses for Living in Small Homes


We do not directly sell any sort of pre-packaged tiny home floor plans or layouts.

However as an architect, I believe that manufactured homes are affordable and work for many people but are not unique to the local area or truly represent who you are.

See Also: 7 Trendy Tiny House Floor Plans

Editor’s Note: A collection of our current favorite tiny house floor plans so far in 2016.

The average size of a new single family home in the United States in 2013 happens to be about 2600 square feet. This increased from back in 1978 when it was 1700. But the Tiny House movement means significantly reducing building footprint and environmental impact to usually within 500 sf but even under 1000 is small.

So looking to buy a tiny house can certainly be a challenge in today’s market.

The most important aspect to account for initially is …

Mobile Tiny House or Small Home on Foundation?

See Also: Tiny House Village in Iowa Proposed for Des Moines Homeless

Even before you consider buying or building, you’ll need to know what you are looking for.

This can change not only the price tag but also where you look and what information you need.

Once you’ve decided on a tiny house then you can move onto the next step, where to go?

Where to go when buying or building a tIny house

I’ve seen many different companies offering many different models, trailers, shells of a home, floor plans, books and so much more.

So what is worth your time and investment?

Well it depends upon what you want to do exactly, buy or build a tiny house?

  • For example, do you want to see exactly what the finished product will look like or do you want to custom design a tiny house to fit your lifestyle and needs?
  • Do you undertake special interests or hobbies you’d want built into the tiny house such as storage for a bike, kayak or perhaps fishing equipment?
  • How you do feel about just moving into a home vs. hand crafting the design yourself or by a professional? Building isn’t for everyone but could save money.

There are many aspects like these to think about when buying or building a tiny house for yourself, a family or even a vacation or retirement home as our reader inquired about.

So where do I go to purchase a tiny house of my own?

We’ve highlighted in several tiny house manufacturing or construction companies that have standardized plans for many tiny house designs.

These companies usually offer “customized features” like selecting a vehicle.

So if its “option A’ or “option B” you’ll know before hand what you are going to get.

At Home Ideas HQ, we are design professionals who focus on home design.

If you’d like to know more about Advertising with us, highlighting your project or if you are simply looking for some design consultation, Contact Us!

We’re happy to help and provide any assistance we can.


Others also offer the ability to purchase the exterior shell of the tiny house and let you build the interior however you would like.

Or for the Do-It-Yourself specialist, there are trailer options with plans that basically give you the starting point to craft the tiny house on your own.

You can certainly shop around, check out different plans and order one online.

But here are some tips to hopefully help you along the way.


Selecting the right tiny house for you!

Make no mistake about it, although you can certainly best define for yourself what works for you … there is a value to consulting with a design professional.

They can listen to your wish list and a good designer will advise you on not only different ways to achieve these functions but also recommend what works best in the grand scheme.

See Also: Smarter way to use Space in your Home

So did you get your years of experience designing for yourself by watching HGTV shows?!

A trained professional not only considers what you like but how will it function, how much will it cost you upfront for installation as well as operation.

Even perhaps to the level of how does a product effect the environment.

Green practices are often established by such organizations as the United States Green Building Council which I happen to be a proud member of.

They help define strict performance metrics to ensure a sustainable building.

There are also a number of different local or state regulations that meet these standards in establishing baseline environmental performance of a building, be it a tiny house or not.


Living small in a tiny house just for you

So once you have decided you’ll be downsizing and have questions like our reader, we can provide you with some aspects to the process to consider at the early stages.

a.We here at HomeIdeasHQ.com do not sell tiny homes as mentioned. However as design professionals and as an architect myself designing a tiny house just for you is certainly in the wheel house.

You can reach out to me directly, comment below or contact me via social media if you have specific questions relating to your particular tiny house investigation.

There are many areas that require more one on one attention.

Simply listing out what to think about exactly will depend on you.

We do however summarize a few considerations below for buying or building a tiny house.

‘What you want out of it, how big, what’s important to you, your daily routine, etc.’

It all varies from person to person that is why I personally believe a manufactured home is OK because it serves the basic needs of shelter …

However to craft or modify an existing structure to fit your needs is a true representation of home and a reflection of you, your lifestyle, culture, etc.

See Also: High-End Lil’ Lodge by Brother-Sister Design-Build Team

Editor’s Note: See a remarkable new Tiny House get built from the ground up by an architect into a high tech and modern unit .


The process can be intimidating at first but here are some things to think about:


1.Where will you be keeping the home? Similar to the earlier question regarding if the tiny house would be on wheels or a foundation, you’ll need to know where the home will ultimately be planned for.

Will a small cottage be built on a foundation as an accessory structure upon an plot of land or will it be on wheels and need to be kept in an RV park?

Different regulations and restrictions will apply even when just thinking about what local justification the plot of land might exist upon.

This can and probably will have an impact on how big it can be, where it can be situated on the site and in some cases how it might appear to some extent.


2.What do you need out of your tiny house? In our reader’s question it would be acting as a retirement home which will have different requirements and goals for the design than say a young couple.

Do you plan on having children in the tiny house you plan for, what about pets like cats and dogs, do you plan on entertaining people to some extent?

These questions can influence how open the tiny house might want to be, where spaces are located and what they are adjacent to.

I would recommend about 100 sf per person.

This just provides adequate and comfortable living quarters for everyone.


3.Try before you buy or build? Once you have an idea for what you might be considering as a life change to downsizing your home, try it out. Take what you plan on buying or building and take a vacation in one.

Rent a small cabin or RV for a week and test out the downsized living quarters.

This might be a surprise to some or it might just further help you in developing your own.

Where certain things might be located, loft spaces, storage space, etc. might help inform your perspective for what you’ll ACTUALLY need and use in the environment.

I know Air BNB offers some tiny houses you can visit as well.


4.Maximize your use of the outdoor room. Even though you are downsizing the overall footprint of your home does not mean sacrificing spaciousness. Try incorporating porches, decks, patios and landscaping around to create space.

You certainly want your tiny house to have a connection to the outdoors.

This may vary depending upon location and climate but there is a way to create connections with the outdoors to enhance and expand your living space.


5.Plan for how your tiny house will connect to utilities. Are you locating in an RV park that has connections? Most manufacturers have standard connections like an RV but if you are building then incorporate these.

If you are building a tiny house upon a foundation, then will it be municipalities or well water you use, electrical grid or completely off? Maybe it’ll be a hybrid system for utilities.

Not only will the connections be different but the space it takes up in your structure will vary.

For example, if you are building upon a plot of land in a more densely populated area then it could be that your local jurisdiction restricts or prohibits rain water collection systems.


6.If building, construct to codes and standards. They exist for a reason and ultimately are in your best interest for building performance and life safety. This is something a design professional could assist you with.

Height restrictions, structural loads for wind or snow, transportation requirements and material selections just to name a few could be regulated in your area.

International building codes, state building codes and local regulations account for your design restrictions that you’ll need to abide by and they vary.

Considering it is such a vast aspect to tiny house construction, contact me with questions.


Find Tiny House Inspiration

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Image via Jesse Selman

Have Tiny Houses to add to this list? Share it in the comments.

Looking to Buy or Design a Tiny House? Think About This.

Images above are captioned per image from various sources.
Get Creative and if you have questions or comments, Contact Us!

Cite this article as: Neil Silva, "Looking to Buy or Design a Tiny House? Think About This.," in Home Ideas HQ, May 3, 2016, http://www.homeideashq.com/2016/05/03/looking-to-buy-or-design-a-tiny-house/.

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  • Hey David, thanks! Yes I knew of a few that have gone or are going through the process of building their own tiny house. A lot does go into the details to maximize space (ie how plumbing and connections are made with any ‘off the grid system’). Designing a complete system for envelop insulation and air tightness with heating / cooling, solar, etc. is challenging within itself. Currently designing a single family residence attempting to go ‘mostly’ off the grid with a wide array of solar panels connected to Tesla Home Batteries v2 to help store and pull energy from when weather conditions are not idle. Excited to see that technology in action during install and operation.

  • David Cavan Fraser

    Great Post! I think this really encapsulates the tiny house experience for someone just dipping their toes into the idea. I personally have a tiny “bunkie” that I’ve installed in my backyard, so I can host guests in their own private “tiny” area. I’ve even successfully rented it out and paid off my costs of materials. However trying to completely go “off-gride” requires a lot more thought, so good post. Do you personally know any tiny homesteaders?