Responses to Critics of Tiny Houses

The Oregonian/Oregon Live recently detailed a list of 77 reasons critics don’t like tiny houses, some more serious than others. Here we offer responses to critics of tiny houses — some more serious than others.

Reason #1 that tiny houses are a big mistake: Living full time in a tiny house on wheels is illegal in Portland and most cities. Just ask Claire Teasdale and Bennett Frazier, who were booted out of their tiny house by the city of Portland after a neighbor complained.

Response: You really gonna let The Man tell you where and how you can live? Maybe a little, but not a lot. Do your research. Find a place that allows it, or a place that generally looks the other way. Find a place with loopholes. Push the bounds of the legal definition of “permanent residence.”

Trulia, the real estate database, offers other reasons buying a tiny house isn’t a good idea:

Reason #2: It’s a fad fueled by reality TV shows.

Response: We’ll just see about that. Donald Trump was just a reality show, and now he’s president. So…

Reason #3: It’s an unproven niche market and a risky investment.

Response: The assumption here is that you’re making a big monetary investment. Don’t do that. But with the rent we’re no longer paying, the investment in the yurt paid for itself in about 15 months.

Reason #4: You can still live small by adopting a minimal lifestyle at home.

Response: That’s true, in some ways, and you definitely should. But you’re still likely heating and cooling excess space (which is detrimental to your bank account and the environment).

Reason #5: Buyers are few and restraints are many.

Response: Again, if you keep to the actual principles of tiny living and don’t spend $60K on a home, it will pay for itself pretty quickly and the need to sell is minimized.

Reason #6: Supply is high but demand is small, and it might take a long time to re-sell.

Response: Samesies. Once it pays for itself, who cares if you sell it? Throw an epic Tiny House Burning Party.

Reason #7: It’s not that marketable; people desire space, bedrooms and bathrooms.

Response: THE MARKET THE MARKET ENOUGH ABOUT THE MARKET.

Reason #8: The vast majority of tiny homes can accommodate only one or two residents.

Response: Plus dogs.

Reason #9: It’s hard to entertain or host overnight guests.

Response: Not true. Have you seen our combination couch-storage bench-double guest bed? If anything, the small shared space serves as a guest filter — only the real friends and low-maintenance people will come. Everyone else will stay home or get a hotel.

Reason #10: Want to have a party? You’ll have to rent a venue or move outdoors.

Response: We’ve had plenty of parties. What the hell is wrong with being outside?

Reason #11: It’s too small even for a vacation residence.

Response: Okay this is getting ridiculous seriously what are you talking about.

Reason #12: An average home allows buyers to grow into it and keep it long term. A tiny home limits the lifestyle.

Response: A tiny home doesn’t limit a lifestyle. It is itself the embodiment of an intentional lifestyle, a deliberate decision to jump the rails of that “grow into it” track.
Reason #13: A tiny home on a piece of property could be a temporary shelter while a larger home is being built and then be used as a detached guest house, but the architectural features would need to match the main house.

Response: Like this?

Reason #14: The concept of downsizing sounds nice, but be honest: We have a lot of stuff and we can’t rent storage space for it all.

Response: Now you’re just being a lazy hoarder.

Reason #15: There’s no easy way for expansion.

Response: So don’t expand.

Reason #16: You can’t take up a new hobby that needs large equipment.

Response: Build a shed, a workshop, a canopy. Also what hobbies need large equipment? Restoring antique yachts? Tuba lessons?

Our work shed and storage space.

Reason #17: Without a garage, where do you store tools for home repairs or to fix your car?

Response: See above.

Reason #18: If you need to rent a storage unit, you waste money and gas, driving back and forth to it every time you need something.

Response: True, we do have a storage unit, but it’s not all that often that we need to retrieve essays we wrote in graduate school, or the couch that we’re hoarding for sentimental reasons. And if you were to do a cost-benefit analysis, I’m pretty sure you’d come out on top paying for the storage unit and the occasional gas money, instead of the square footage of garage and basements and heating and cooling and etc.

Reason #19: It’s a tight squeeze if you want a cat or a dog. Where does the litter box go? Dogs don’t like being confined.

Response: We have two dogs. And I ask again: what the hell is wrong with being outside?

Reason #20: If you have a baby, your small house is now too small.

Question instead of response: How large is this monster baby of yours?

Reason #21: You can’t get a mortgage. Most lenders want a dwelling built to code by professionals and to have a certain minimum square feet.

Response: What are you crazy?? Don’t buy something so expensive you need a mortgage! Don’t you know about THE MARKET?

Reason #22: Where will you get the cash to build or buy a tiny home?

Response: Same place all cash comes from (money tree).

Reason #23: Where will you park it? A rented space or will you buy land?

Response: Okay this is less a criticism and more a consideration and now it sounds like you’re a little interested. I’d recommend borrowing land or buying cheap land.

Reason #24: It’s not less expensive. You can buy a plain old house for the same money and get much more utility from it. We compared the sale price of a giant Street of Dreams house ($255 per square foot) to a tiny house  ($280 per square foot).

Response: Ugh, the lifestyle decision is not purely economic. Still, you shouldn’t spend so much money on your trailer house.

Reason #25: If you want to be mobile, RVs can be customized and lenders are willing to offer loans.

Too much money.

Reason #26: “We don’t see a significant portion of the population living permanently in them,” — Keith Thompson, a real estate broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolinas Realty in Charlotte, North Carolina, told Trulia.

Okay, Keith.

Reason #27: Your return on investment is next to none, Trulia concluded.

This is getting tiresome. Here’s a picture of Henry.

Henry does not like to be confined. So he plays outside all the time.

And it goes on…

Can tiny house really be so wrong? Here are other objections:

Reason #28: People make fun of tiny houses

tiny house starred in an episode of “Portlandia,” the poking-fun-at-Portland series. In the show, Fred Armisen’s and Carrie Brownstein’s characters struggle to both use the teeny bathroom/home office.

Reasons #29-38: People don’t understand the appeal, as explained by Lauren Modery, who lambasted tiny houses in her blog, hipstercrite.com. She said tiny house dwellers are trying to live out their life “like a Wes Anderson character.”

She continues her condemnation: “You can’t tell me that you don’t lie awake at night, your face four inches from the ceiling because the only place your bed fits is above the kitchen sink which also acts as your shower, and think, I’ve made a terrible mistake.”

She wonders:

How do inhabitants of itty-bitty homes escape smells? “You have nowhere to run. All you can do is walk three feet to the other end of the house and pray.”

Where are clothes, shoes and towels stored? “Do you just have overalls and Birkenstocks and one towel that you share with your entire family?”

Where do you wash laundry? “Do you have a tiny river that runs behind your tiny house? I bet you do. I bet your whole property is whimsical.”

Despite magazine photos, a tiny house is not always clean even though, “you only own a tiny sofa, several throw blankets and pillow, one cooking pan, one antique book and one framed photo of you laughing in front of your tiny house.”

Modery’s big issues: Composting toilets and lack of privacy.

Modery sounds like a lovely dinner guest.

Reason #39: Without the requirement for city inspectors and permits, construction could be faulty.

Reason #40: Shelter Wise tiny house designer and builder Derin Williams has seen inexperienced builder produce leaky, wobbly structures and offers tips for buying a tiny house:

Reason #41: A standard remodeling contractor or new construction builder typically doesn’t have the experience to build a safe, efficient tiny house that needs to travel on highways.

Reason #42: Before you hire someone, not only do you need to ask for references and tour the houses they’ve built, but you need to get feedback from the tiny house community like’s Portland’s Facebook group.

Reason #43: You’ll need a contract, just like other houses, that ensures promises are kept more so than a handshake or emails.

Reason #44: You’ll need a warranty that carries across state lines and includes workmanship and product failures caused by improper installation.

Reason #45: The builder should be insured, bonded and licensed, and RVIA certified for the buyer to get an RV loan.

Reasons #46-53: Common construction errors aren’t like ordinary homes. The biggest issues are inadequate thermal break between the metal trailer and the floor, leaking entry door thresholds, chilly showers and inadequate ventilation as well as improperly installed flashed skylights, windows and flashed wheel wells.

Build it yourself. That’s the whole fun.

Reason #54-57: More than with building an average home, you’ll need to educate yourself. Spend the money to attend a workshop on building a tiny house even if you’re not doing it yourself. But first learn about legality and parking.

Duh.

Reason #58: Tiny house dwellers have more to fear when a storm roars in around them. Most of the wood-framed homes erected on travel trailers are homemade projects, meaning they might not be sealed from wind and rain to the same level as a professionally built structure.

Reason #59: Since tiny houses on wheels are not legal to live in full time, they also don’t have to adhere to strict building codes that require windows, walls and roofs to withstand powerful weather forces.

Reason #60: And, they aren’t anchored to a solid foundation.

Reason #61: “While I agree that tiny houses can withstand normal wind and rain, it’s important to know that there may be a time to evacuate,” says Elaine Walker, co-founder of the American Tiny House Association, who works with city officials and advocate groups to regulate movable micro dwellings, redefine zoning laws and streamline the legal issues.

Reason #62: Walker lives in Florida where hurricane and tornado force winds have ripped regular houses off foundations. “Lesser winds can tear the roof off and lift RVs and tiny houses up into the storm, only to come crashing down a distance away.”

Reason #63: Hurricane ties and straps, earthquake tie-downs and other anchors can help protect a tiny house, she says, unless the wind is strong enough to make tethers insufficient.

Be weather smart, that’s easy.

Reason #64: You still need to insure a tiny house.

Sure, it took digging for us, but we found someone who would insure our yurt.

Reason #65: Answer Financial, the online cross-shopping platform for auto and home insurance, says the best way to protect a tiny home is to anchor it to foundation. That means buying or renting a plot of land or a spot in a tiny home community

Correct..

Reason #66: Gettin.g your home certified by the National Organization for Alternative Housing (NOAH) may make it easier to purchase coverage from some insurers, says Answer Financial.

Reason #67: The insurance site also recommends that if a tiny home is mobile, it should be certified by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. 

Reason #68: Builders who are RVIA certified can provide an RV VIN (vehicle identification number), which also makes it easier to get tiny homes registered.

Reason #69: Don’t expect your tiny home to appreciate like a traditional dwelling, says Answer Financial

Yeah yeah yeah.

Reasons #70-77: People who have left comments on Oregonlive stories have other reasons to dislike tiny houses. Here’s a small sampling:

goodbyeoregon Gives new meaning to “trailer trash.”

KKStJohn “The $78,000 price tag on the 280 sqft house is absurd. Maybe $8,000.”

Tobi “Conceivably people who want to live in an RV park could buy an RV and rent space in an RV park…but these folks want to live in someone’s backyard with an extension cord heading to some main building because these are cute and RV Parks are transient and not-so-cute? Build it for free but rent a space for it at $750 a month and you might as well just move into an apartment…”

bms1211 “Not legal. Stop posting this stuff. It has been posted, discussed and dissected. You still like defending this person? Do a little research before you try to come to the aid of criminals who admit to the crime in your ‘article’ and yet still feel they were the ones wronged.”

RailwayMan “She knew it wasn’t legal when she built it, and now she wants the laws ignored for her personal gain; go fish, Ms. Dummy!”

Viking2014 “They were not paying property taxes.”

native57 “The money they spent on a tiny house could have gone a long way toward a down payment on a home, or rent.”

Jones “Wow…6 people, including four kids, in 350 square feet. I think I would be suicidal.”

It’s not for everyone. But it sounds like the main problem is thinking about tiny houses in the same framework as “regular” houses. The dream is different (or should be). The lifestyle is intentionally different. And that’s what makes them lovely.