Downsizing is so intuitive for empty nesters that it almost seems coded into our DNA. In fact, it’s a recent instinct. Today, we are less inclined than previous generations to hang onto the large home we raised our families in once the brood is out on their own. We want more freedom to pursue the things that are important to us. That usually means moving into an apartment or condo.
For some seniors, it means going even smaller.
More and more people of all ages are moving into homes that are 100 square feet or less. They are choosing to simplify their lives to maximize their income, have more time to devote to hobbies or other interests or retire early.
Even the most cautious among us may feel a slight thrill when contemplating buying a plot of land and living in something that isn’t much bigger than a gardening shed. The concept can be particularly alluring to people who came of age in the ’60s and ’70s. Others will find the prospect about as appealing as living in their car. While it’s not for everyone, there are some definite advantages to going tiny. Be prepared for the potential hurdles.
Lower energy bills
Even if there are only two of you living at home, energy bills can still take a big bite out of your monthly budget. Reducing the amount of living space you have to heat makes sense when you aren’t utilizing most of the house on a regular basis. Depending on its design a tiny house also lends itself better to alternative means of energy production including solar and wind. You don’t have to be off the grid to see a real difference in your monthly bill.
Less to maintain
A house is a commitment that never ends. You may longer have a big mortgage payment but that doesn’t mean you’re living expense-free. There always things to fix. Aside from the cost, simple maintenance takes time away from the things you’d rather be doing. Who wants to spend their afternoon cleaning gutters or mowing the lawn when you could be indulging a new hobby or a favorite pastime?
We accumulate a shocking amount of stuff over the years. When we run out of room in our closets, attics, garages, and basements, we rent storage units until we either have the room for the overflow or finally work up the courage to toss it. Tiny house living forces you to eliminate the clutter. It is surprising how few material possessions you need to live a fulfilling life.
In addition to the benefits, there some things to consider before you make the leap to a tiny house.
Some communities have building codes that prohibit the building of dwellings under a certain square footage or homes on wheels. While intended to protect renters and ensure safety these ordinances can make it difficult to construct and occupy a tiny home. Make sure you know what the code allows in the area you want to live in.
The areas of the country where a smaller home make the most sense are often cost prohibitive. You still need land to park or build your tiny home and depending on where you live this can be a significant investment. While it may cost less to build a tiny home, the price of land remains the same. Be prepared to fork over big bucks if you want to remain close to a metropolitan area.
Getting the money you need to begin your adventure isn’t as straightforward as you might think. The limited resale value of a tiny home may affect the type of loan you are able to secure from a traditional mortgage lender. While this may change as the idea of radical downsizing becomes more accepted, you may find yourself footing the cost out of savings or through alternative funding sources.
Do your research, including talking to other seniors who have transitioned to the tiny house lifestyle, before going all in. For some people, living more simply is a big enough reward to warrant making such an extreme change. Make sure you are aware of the challenges as well as the advantages before you invest your time and money in a tiny house.