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A guide to tiny house living

03/12/2021

What you need to know about going tiny.

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With increasing property prices, tiny house living is arguably more appealing than it’s ever been.

TV shows have us hooked and we’re ditching our possessions with abandon to live a more minimalist life. And Australians who’ve swapped four-bedroom homes for tiny house living and documented it all on social media are giving us a taste of what it’s actually like to go tiny.

Why would you want to live in a tiny house?

Firstly, it’s a very real solution to the housing affordability crisis, offering a way for first-time home buyers to get a foot onto the property ladder.

However, tiny homes could also provide a solution for older single or divorced Australians who may want something affordable and manageable.

It’s also a great option for those looking to downsize and live in a more sustainable, eco-friendly way.

How do you go about buying a tiny house?

There are lots of ways – you might want to buy tiny house plans and build it yourself or hire a builder to help. Or you might want to buy a pre-built tiny house from a company that assembles the house for you and delivers it to the site.

A quick Google search should reveal builders specialising in tiny home builds in your area.

Pre-built tiny homes are often for sale on places like Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree; and there’s also lots of info about buying pre-loved tiny houses, pre-fabricated options or plans at the Australian tiny house directory.

How much does a tiny home cost?

Although you can customise your tiny house any way you want, the average model with a kitchen, bathroom and loft bedroom can cost between $50,000-90,000 (don’t forget you’ll need to factor in things like insurance, and land – if you need to buy or rent it).

If you want more add-ons like solar panels, extra sleeping lofts, water tanks, air con or external storage, your tiny home could edge more towards $150,000. The sky’s the limit when it comes to how you choose to customise your house – you can go for a super simple plywood look’n’feel, or opt for luxe designer finishes and streamlined cabinetry. It’s really up to you and your budget.

The good news is, tiny houses don’t take ages to build – probably around 3 months until you get the keys!

How big can your tiny house be?

A tiny house can be a small dwelling under 50m2 that’s built on an existing lot on ‘skids’, so it sits on a platform or foundation that doesn’t move.

Many tiny home owners may opt for a more portable solution though – like a tiny house that’s built onto a trailer. If that’s what you’re thinking about, this form of tiny home is considered a caravan and must be registered (and it also needs to be built to certain tiny home regulations).

It’ll need to have a maximum height of 4.3m, a width of 2.5m and be no more than 12.5m long. It also can’t weigh more than 4.5 tonnes, and while it can be moved from place to place, it’s probably too heavy and expensive to tow all the time, so you might be better off finding a permanent site for it.

Where to park your tiny house?

Finding a permanent site can be a big stumbling block, so it’s a good idea to have secure access to land sorted before you put any kind of deposit down on a tiny house.

Some options include buying a small bush block and building your tiny house there, or you may have space on a private property where you can install your tiny house. If you’re putting your tiny house on a vacant lot and you want to use it as a permanent dwelling, you will need council approval.

You usually don’t need a Development Application (DA) to put a tiny house in your backyard or property if it’s built on a trailer and registered (like any other vehicle). There may be specific restrictions in your council area, though, so check out fact sheets or chat to your local council to see what’s possible before making any sort of commitment.

Also, be aware that because tiny homes on wheels do fall under ‘caravans’, there are regulations and set time limits on how many days per year they can be occupied, so be mindful of that as well.

Getting finance to buy a tiny house

It can be tricky securing finance for a tiny house, particularly if it’s built on a trailer – as lenders consider it a non-conventional house purchase.

If you’re buying land, you could potentially take out a home loan for that, but to finance your tiny home, you may need to look at taking out a personal loan or looking into a specialist caravan or recreational vehicle loan. Chat to your lender about your home loan options.

It’s also worth seeking advice from a financial planner about the purchase, as tiny homes aren’t like conventional property purchases. Regular real estate will rise in value but tiny homes are more likely to depreciate (especially if they’re built on a trailer), so it’s something to think about in regards to your future and your own financial goals.

It’s also a good idea to try out tiny house living before you buy – you can do that by seeking out tiny houses on specialist booking sites and having a few weekends away to see how you like it.

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. We do not recommend any third party products or services and we are not liable in relation to them. Any links to third party websites are for your information only and we do not endorse their content.

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