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How much does a tiny house really cost?

Stashed in: Awesome, Homeless, Personal Finance

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Less than a down payment for houses in some places:

"I saw it as a way to reduce what I spent on rent, a way to own a home for not too much money and a home that could be moved," says Waldman, who blogs about his experience.

Four years later, Waldman now splits his time between his 220-square-foot home in Morristown, Vermont, and his fiancée's condo in Burlington. He estimates that he saves about $1,250 to $1,300 a month through drastically reduced utility costs and not paying rent.

Waldman is part of the so-called tiny home movement that has grown in popularity if not actual numbers. There aren't many statistics tracking the number of tiny home dwellers and U.S. Census figures show that the median size of new home has grown more than 10 percent compared to a decade ago and is more than 50 percent larger than in 1985.

But tiny home living has captured the mainstream consciousness thanks to popular TV shows - including Tiny Home NationTiny Home Builders,and Tiny HomeBig Living - blogs and conferences, all dedicated to this unconventional kind of abode.

Many would-be tiny home owners are attracted to the environmental benefits of a smaller footprint, the pared-down lifestyle that goes against American consumerism, and - not least - the financial savings that come with living small.

"I don't feel the financial dread I used to, thinking about how I have a 30-year mortgage and will be paying this into our 70s," says Jody Brady of the Simply Enough blog, who now lives in a 12-foot by 24-foot home in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia with her husband and owns the house outright. As for her previous home, a 3,500-square-foot house in Arlington, Virginia? "That house owned us," Brady, 59, says.

The costs of building a tiny home

Despite other savings, constructing a tiny home requires a significant upfront financial commitment. For instance, Waldman's house cost $30,000 in materials and $13,000 in labor; he outsourced the cabinets, roofing and insulation but did the rest himself. He paid for most of it through savings, some of which he gathered during the construction process.

Brady paid for her tiny house from proceeds from her previous home's sale, which sold for $850,000, and the sale of many of her possessions. All in, the house cost $40,000 to build, entirely for materials since she and her husband built the house.

While the Waldman and Brady houses were cheaper than a larger home - the average cost of an average home to a homebuilder is $289,415 - the price per square foot is higher. Waldman's home cost $150 per square foot (considering materials and labor) and Brady's cost $139 per square foot, compared to $104 per square foot for an average new home, according to the NAHB (using only construction costs).

But Andrew and Gabriella Morrison of Ashland, Oregon, were able to construct their tiny home for about half that at $55 per square foot. That included their 207-square-foot home with a 110-square-foot loft, plus a 160-square-foot sleeping cabin for their son and a 120-square-foot one for their daughter.

"It took us four months to build it," says Gabriella, who runsTinyHouseBuild with her husband. "It was just Andrew doing all the work. We never hired out. Our total costs including cabinetry and appliances was $33,000."

What about land? And utilities? If living rustic, installation and continued service of a septic tank adds up. Internet service? I can't see doing this independently. Maybe through a zoned community. (I think there were some stashes on this. Joyce?)

Good find. Here's everything I've learned so far about tiny homes:

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