April 18, 2016
What is the Tiny House Movement?
We all know that big cities are crazy expensive.
The average Toronto home sale price in March of this year was $688,181. To gain some perspective, that number is more than double the average sale price only 11 years ago; in 2005, the average was $335,907.
Look to last month in Vancouver and we jump to $815,000, making it the second-most unaffordable market in the world behind Hong Kong.
So, what’s a homebuyer to do? How do you work your way into such an insane market?
We’ve mentioned condos before; that market isn’t accelerating at nearly the same pace as semi-detached and detached houses. And we explored shipping container homes last month as an innovative, new alternative to buying a standard home.
Now there’s a new trend of buying small—very small.
Tiny houses are on the rise. These structures are under 200 or 300 square feet and are normally portable. They can range in style and functionality, from simple wooden A-frames used only in summer to fully insulated, year-round homes.
The trend is gaining so much traction that there are a number of shows just about this niche topic—Tiny House Hunters; Tiny House, Big Living; even Trapped in a Tiny House.
Fitting it all in
You’re likely wondering (as I was) how everything in a regular home fits into a tiny home. Essentially, tiny homes use smaller appliances and modified elements to cram everything in. When deciding on a tiny home, a buyer has to be ready to sacrifice “normality” for “compact.” Many of the luxuries you’re used to in standard houses and condos aren’t available.
The bedroom, for example, is normally up a ladder or staircase, in an “attic” space above the main living area. The kitchen is comprised of an apartment-size (or smaller) sink, refrigerator, dishwasher, and even toilet.
Water is suddenly something you have to think about. Drinking water has to be collected from somewhere—one tiny house dweller mentions bringing in water by boat—and used in a unique way. Many take sunshowers, heated by the natural light of the sun, and boil all water used for cooking or drinking.
As for toilets, the not-so-nice answer is a compost toilet or even a sawdust toilet. Fully functioning toilets do exist, but they’re usually communal in tiny house neighbourhoods—a phenomenon that’s growing in size as tiny houses catch on.
Wait. Tiny house neighbourhoods?
On the west coast, where real estate prices are high and tiny houses are most popular, communities of these miniature homes have popped up. Many of these groups began as meetups to discuss common problems, and to meet others who wanted to live in tight quarters. Because permits are needed to “park” one of these tiny homes, areas with permits already established became more desirable—similar to a trailer park.
These communities provide solutions to common tiny house problems: communal toilets, running water, even electricity.
Part of living in one of these small homes is being encouraged to leave the house more often than not. In a community of like-minded individuals, the social atmosphere is readily available. (And if you don’t like your neighbours, you can always pick up and move!)
If real estate prices in urban areas don’t stabilize soon, we should only see growth in this tiny market. And with compact condos and other small housing mods on the rise, living efficiently could soon become the norm.