When you think about buying a home, you probably don’t envision a house that’s 120 square feet. In fact, the average person probably imagines a house that is many times that size. But for some, owning (and oftentimes building) a tiny home is the ideal way to live. While there’s no statistic that details how many people live in tiny homes today, it’s obvious the number (and interest) is growing, considering the uptick in home decor shows and travel programs featuring the tiny-home trend (not to mention interest in other unique homes for sale!). Here, two tiny-home dwellers share the lessons they’ve learned about living in a seriously small pad.
For Laura LaVoie and her partner, Matt, building and living in a tiny home was more about downsizing their life and expenses than anything else. “It was all about the financial opportunities,” says LaVoie, who documents the couple’s life in a tiny home on her blog, Life in 120 Square Feet. “We had been living in a 2,700-square-foot home in Atlanta, GA, that, at the time, seemed like a great idea. We were both in our late 20s when we bought it, we had good corporate jobs, and we thought it was the next logical step. But we quickly realized that owning a large home with a mortgage made us feel trapped. With a tiny home, I could pay down my debts and have the freedom to quit my job and work for myself.”
Likewise, downsizing finances and expenses was one of the biggest reasons Jenna Spesard and her then-partner moved into a tiny home. “We had an overwhelming amount of debt, belongings, and no money to pursue our dreams,” she says. So in 2013, the couple quit their stable jobs, took a leap of faith, and built what they call their “tiny house on wheels.” Spesard blogs about her tiny home experience on Tiny House Giant Journey.
Spesard is based in Oregon and says living in a tiny home has been a life-changing experience. It has allowed her to pursue her passion: travel. Together, she and her partner (who are no longer together) traveled more than 25,000 miles with their tiny home, and “we visited more than 30 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces with our tiny house in tow,” she says. “We even put our tiny abode on a ferry from Alaska to Washington!”
The ability to live without many of the constraints a larger home presents was one of the biggest draws of the tiny-home lifestyle for LaVoie, who became a full-time freelance writer after quitting her corporate job. Her writing career allows her to plug in even off the grid — she and Matt live 30 miles from Asheville, NC, the closest city to their tiny home — yet still bring home a paycheck. “We were able to take control over our schedules and feel more involved in our own lives,” she says. Add to that freedom the lack of utility expenses, and LaVoie and Matt were sold. “It is our home on our land, and it takes care of itself in that way,” she explains.
Tiny homes don’t come without their own issues and concerns, of course. Two of the larger concerns with tiny homes? Return on investment and resale interest can be minimal with tiny homes. “There’s a limited demographic for resale,” says Justin Udy, a real estate agent in Midvale, UT. For LaVoie, though, ROI was never an issue at all. “The tiny house was an adventure; we never once thought of it as a traditional house,” she explains. “We don’t plan on selling it.” In the end, the biggest lesson LaVoie learned was this: “The return on our hard work paid off a million times over. We got to transform our lives, which is more important than ROI to me.”