How to find, build and live in a tiny home

Written by in Buying

Man standing on tiny home


Finding a tiny home to live in

In 2018, Australia is still not the best place to start a tiny homes business. Council laws in Australia have not yet been amended to account for the huge growth of interest in tiny homes, which has been fuelled by a number of societal factors, such as growing house prices, swelling cities and a shift in social opinions about whether homes should be built to satisfy a person’s needs rather than to fill a large block.

Currently, if you want to build a new home, you need to acquire a building permit. To do this, you need to satisfy a requirement that your building has a minimum floorplan size. With many tiny homes little more than 20 square metres in size, this can mean they do not satisfy council requirements. The alternative is to build your tiny home on wheels so that it is a mobile home and not subject to these planning requirements. In this case, however, they then fall under particular councils’ various regulations on caravan living, which changes where you are in the country.

This confusion has kept the tiny homes industry at bay in Australia, but it will eventually change to reflect consumer expectations, as long as the pressure is maintained on policymakers.

Building a tiny home

Like building any home, you can go one of two ways: DIY or through a specialist builder.

Building a tiny home is not like building a regular sized home, which makes it a much more approachable project for those with less (or zero) construction experience. The limited size of the building equates to you essentially only constructing a one or two bedroom sized rooms, which can take off the pressure of building a home yourself.

Many people who go down the DIY route for building a tiny home do as much research as they can, often through YouTube and through books. DIY can mean that you design the actual home yourself, keeping things simple and essentially mirroring the layout of a caravan but at a larger scale. This means you can do the entire design and construction of the tiny home yourself. However, if you want to build multiple pods for your home (if you have a family) and want to have the option to join them or you want to build something different and reflective of your tastes, there are an increasing number of architects and designers that specialise in tiny home designs. Architects that have not yet gone down this road may also work with you to design a tiny home for a much cheaper price, firstly because it is such a small build, and secondly because they want to develop their portfolio of tiny home construction so won’t charge an arm and a leg.

Some Australian tiny home contractors sell their product, a complete tiny home that is constructed and delivered, for as much as $80,000-100,000. You can reduce this price significantly if you do a lot yourself (these companies also provide the raw materials and designs for a fraction of the price), meaning you can buy land and live on it much sooner than if you had waited to build a much larger home.

Living in a tiny home

What are the rules for effectively living in a tiny home?

  • Shoes off. Tiny homes are easy and quick to clean. However, they are just as easy and quick to get dirty. If you want to live in a tiny home, be prepared to be cleaning it much more frequently than you may do for a larger house, as you will simply notice the mess and dirt much more in a tiny home.
  • Ventilate – always. Tiny homes are enclosed spaces in which smells can get stuck, very quickly. This does not necessarily mean smells emanating from the bathroom, but cooking smells, smelly shoes, wet clothes etc. These smells have nowhere to go, so consider incorporating a separate space for wet clothes in your tiny home designs as well as effective ventilation solutions.
  • Be prepared for having less. The entire philosophy of living in a tiny home revolves around having less, and only using what you need. You need to be aware of this if you really want to make the lifestyle work, so consider preparing by playing around with a minimalist lifestyle in your existing home, or even spending a few months living in a converted van as you travel. Not only will it be a fantastic holiday, but it will prepare you for living in small spaces, and being economical with your time, your possessions and your utilities.
  • Entertaining is not easy. Decide what you want your tiny home to be. If you travel a lot and it is just a place to come back to between travels, then entertaining may not be a priority for you. If you have many social events at your existing home, then you are in for a reality check. But you can design your tiny home to be just as effective as an entertaining space as any other home. Knowing this is what you want will help you in your designs, whether you do it yourself or through a designer or architect, and when choosing small furniture that is multi-functional.