20 November 2019

The tiny home movement and why they’re popular

Vic Lorusso
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Tiny homes have skyrocketed in popularity with those looking to live sustainably, be more efficient with utilities and funds and generally live with less. While the argument can definitely be made for their environmentally friendly ‘green appeal’, why are so many people taking downsizing to new heights and joining the tiny home movement?

WHAT ARE TINY HOMES?

Tiny homes are free standing houses based on a micro-footprint. The tiny home movement is all about cultivating a sustainably eco-friendly existence, and what this essentially comes down to is living off less.

Challenging the paradigm that ‘bigger is better’, a tiny home typically occupies between 10 and 40 square metres of real estate, whereas a standard Australian home built in 2018 has an average floorplan of 240 square metres. Added to this, the amount of materials required for construction is significantly less and the drain on utilities (and in turn the amount spent on them) is considerably reduced.

WHY ARE THEY POPULAR?

As we all know, housing prices in the Australian market have become more and more out of reach for many seeking to live in capital cities like Sydney and Melbourne. In addition, there is an affordable housing shortage, rent-to-income ratios have blown way out and developable urban land is not cheap. As a result, tiny homes and mail order house kits are now seen as a viable low-cost path to home ownership at a time when housing costs have, in many instances, become prohibitive.

They’ve gotten so popular, in fact, that Netflix commissioned a show on the movement called Tiny House Nation, in which the hosts travel across America building homes with under 45 square metres floorspace.

THE RAPID EVOLUTION OF TINY HOMES

Starting out as an oddity, tiny homes have grown in both popularity and stature. There are now a myriad of Australian architects and builders specialising in designing and building them, and the reality is tiny homes have revolutionised the way people view bricks and mortar housing. Instead of a house and land kit or existing home, tiny homes are now a legitimate option – and they’re as easy to order as an Uber ride thanks to online retailers now offering them.

If you’re fancy, thanks to Amazon you’re just a couple of clicks away from buying a positively palatial 70 square metre, three bedroom, two bathroom tiny home at a price point of $105,000USD – with furniture and appliances included.

If that is just too much tiny house for you, they are also offering miniature garden houses and a 12-foot transparent igloo dome.

But don’t get too excited. Buying a tiny home online is extremely convenient – building them is not. Those among us who hate putting together flatpacks from Ikea will scoff at claims that many of the tiny homes on Amazon can be built by two adults in 8 hours without any specialised tools or knowledge. However, if you’re handy on the tools, love a spot of DIY and have a wealth of patience, building your own tiny home could be for you.

HOW ARE AUSTRALIANS REACTING TO THE TINY HOME MOVEMENT?

While they have certainly enjoyed a rapid rise in popularity, Australian home builders can be confident that the ‘great Australian dream’ of a multi-bedroom home on a quarter acre block will still be the gold standard of desirability. Also, the perception of tiny homes as ‘caravans re-branded’ isn’t furthering the cause when it comes to their standing in the minds of the Australian public.

Despite this, owning that great Aussie dream is considered harder to achieve now more than ever, and while there is currently no census data to confirm their popularity here, reports are that tiny home communities have started sprouting in every state. With downsizers an obvious target market and younger people seeing them as potential environmentally responsible investment opportunities, they are definitely one of the real estate trends to watch over the coming 12 months.

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