Tiny Home vs. Traditional Home: What You Need to Know

With tiny homes becoming more popular due to their compact size and lower prices, more people weigh whether a tiny home might be a good alternative to the traditional one for their needs. Tiny homes are about 225 square feet on average, versus a whopping 2,301 on average for a traditional house.

While tiny homes are great options for some, there’s much more to this decision than downsizing your possessions. From getting a home inspection and buying a tiny home all the way to maintenance, there are crucial differences between tiny and traditional homes.

Pros: Tiny Home

Some of the biggest reasons people opt for tiny homes are the savings and the size. A smaller home lends itself to a more minimal life — you’re not tied down by a lot of stuff or a hefty mortgage payment.

Just like a traditional home, a tiny home requires an inspection if you want to purchase it. One of the most significant advantages of a tiny home is the relatively low cost of home inspections. 

While a traditional home could take hours to inspect due to its size and the many components, a tiny home requires less time and hassle. A tiny home inspection typically involves heating and insulation, power, water, and safety components. Since these are all close together, it can be done in much less time.

Inspectors also check tiny homes for building compliance code issues. According to NOAH, many governments have minimum size requirements for residential zones that aim to maintain consistency in neighborhoods both in terms of the size of buildings. Home inspectors check whether their size and construction type conform to local building codes.

In addition, tiny homes are easily customizable and can be moved whenever and wherever you like. You can also drastically cut down your utility bills or eliminate them by using solar panels.

Of course, another major advantage to tiny homes is the overall price. The average cost of a tiny home is just $23,000, whereas a traditional home is $374,900 (that’s 1,530% more expensive)!

Since a tiny home inspection takes less time and effort, it’s also cheaper to inspect than a traditional home. Expect to save a good chunk of money on your tiny home inspection. 

Pros: Traditional Home 

For many people, home ownership is a non-negotiable part of their life vision. A bigger home can be more conducive to the logistics of having pets, expanding your family, or providing multi-generational care to relatives. Plainly speaking, a lot of people just simply want the size and ease of a traditional house.

During the buying process, inspecting a traditional home is a reasonably straightforward step. Home inspectors check various aspects of a home, including kitchens and bathrooms, its structural integrity, and systems like plumbing, HVAC, and electrical. When it comes to buying a traditional home, inspections are critical to making a good financial investment because they are so much more expensive. A lot more rides on your home inspection with a traditional home.

If you are wondering about how to read your home inspection report, here’s a complete list of some of the most common home inspection findings.

You can easily find examples of traditional home inspection reports and read relevant information that will help you to prepare for a traditional home inspection. Tiny homes, meanwhile, are a relatively new concept and they don’t have a specific protocol when it comes to home inspections. 

It’s also much easier to read your home inspection report for traditional houses since home inspectors use specific terms and language to describe different issues or areas of concern. 

Cons: Tiny Home

Tiny homes are a relatively new trend, and they often fall into a grey area when conforming to building standards and zoning regulations. From different wiring and plumbing to unconventional layouts with small spaces and custom-built details, tiny homes are not always easy to examine. 

For example, kitchens in tiny homes have some limitations regarding cooking. You have a small cooking area and are also limited when it comes to storage and could find yourself making more frequent trips to the store. 

In addition, tiny house laws vary from state to state and even from one municipality to another, and you need to go through the red tape before putting it in a specific place. Some municipalities classify tiny homes as RVs, so while you can move your tiny home from place to place, you can’t necessarily live in them full-time in some areas.

Lastly, the financing process for tiny homes can be deceptively challenging. You typically need to buy the land for your tiny home to be built on. However, covering the cost of the structure itself isn’t covered by a mortgage, and many buyers must rely on personal or RV loans instead of more traditional methods.

Cons: Traditional Home

Many home buyers see a traditional home as a golden standard; however, they have many strings attached. 

First and foremost, buying a traditional home requires substantial financial resources, including down payment and earnest money. For many, purchasing a home is not a desirable or realistic goal.

Buying a traditional home requires would-be-home owners to jump through many hoops like home inspections and appraisals which can be stressful and complicated. This process could be particularly daunting for first-time home buyers who might not be ready for a financial commitment. 

After you purchase a traditional home, you need to budget for various expenses associated with your property. This includes taxes, home repairs and maintenance, utility bills, and home association fees which could be required depending on your area. These costs could add up to a significant sum of money and put a real burden on your budget. For example, experts estimate the yearly cost of home upkeep is 1 – 4% of the home’s value — thousands or tens of thousands of dollars for most homes.

And, unlike a tiny home, a traditional home can’t be moved, which means you will need to stay put for the foreseeable future.

Tiny Home vs. Traditional Home Q&A

Why should I choose a container house instead of a traditional home?

Shipping containers, that’s what they are; they are structurally built boxes that can carry tons of weight, travel the salty seas, and have a lifespan of approximately fifty years on the water.

Now let’s take that box and start again, but without the heavy load and the salt water, how long will it last if it was used to be part of a home?

The advantages outweigh the disadvantages when using steel boxes to build a home; they don’t crack or drop at the ends when the foundation is moved. If maintained correctly, they will outlive conventional homes using bricks and mortar. But don’t forget they only take a few days to deploy on a site compared to months and months of traditional buildings.

I bet you any money if you run a car into a container home, you can still sleep the night in that home after that incident, which I doubt you could do with all the rubble and brick everywhere.

Advantages include a sealed environment with much better climate control than traditional homes; they are much quieter as sounds bounce off the steel exterior.

Architects love the idea of space in a box that can be joined, sides taken off, just like Lego blocks creating fantastic developments.

This is just an example of what these boxes can turn into!
-Samuel Halsa at Container Homes

What are the benefits of van living compared to a traditional home?

With how much vanlife has taken off over the past few years, many homebound folks have been considering ditching their stationary dwellings for a nomadic lifestyle.

And while vanlife does have its downsides, living in a van also has several benefits compared to living in a traditional home.

  • Don’t like your front yard, neighbors, town, or weather? Move! One of the biggest benefits of van living is that your home is movable. You can pick and choose who you want to camp with, and where you want to be at any given time. Tired of people? Camp out in the middle of nowhere. Looking for some action? Head to the city for a few days. Hungering for some community? Attend a van gathering, or camp out with some road friends. Don’t like the weather this time of year? Head somewhere nicer.
  • You can bring your house with you on vacation. You don’t need to live out of a suitcase while you’re doing all that adventuring, because you can bring your entire house with you everywhere you go. This also means that your regular living expenses and travel expenses are conflated somewhat, so you’re able to travel more than you would, living in a traditional home.
  • Everything you need, nothing you don’t.. Say goodbye to not being able to find things, and having a basement filled with stuff you haven’t seen in years. When you live in a van, everything you need is within reach and you just don’t have the space for useless clutter.
  • You control your expenses (and debts). Vanlife isn’t free, and it isn’t always cheap. But you still control your expenses to a much greater degree than you do in a traditional home. If you need to save money on a house, you can’t exactly skip your mortgage payments. But if you live in a van, you can choose free camping options, and maybe stay within a smaller area to save on fuel costs. With van living you’re also able to own your own home without all the hassles, expenses, and constraints of a mortgage.

Every living situation has its pros and cons, and vanlife isn’t right for everybody. But if you crave adventure, simplicity, and a greater sense of control over your life, then living in a van offers several advantages.
-John Serbell at Gnomad Home

How do you store clothes in a tiny house? 

There are many things to consider when storing closes and creating storage in a tiny. This is why, as Teacup,  we believe it is important for our clients to assess their living habits, their climate, and environment in the design phases.  This is also why it is important that our clients get to add and personalize their homes to meet their needs.   

The things to consider are as follows:

  1. Climate: what do we use and need when we go outside. These storage necessities are going to be different if we are in Northern Canada, vs. Phoenix Arizona.  Jackets, boots, hats, rain gear, etc must all be accounted for and taken note of.
  2. Clean clothes: where do they go when they are clean? Measure piles of jeans, the width of the hanging articles, the height of the shirts, and the space the socks and undies take up, and then find a spot for them and pre-plan for it.
  3. Dirty Clothes:  this is one many people don’t think of. Where is the pile going to go? Make sure there is space for a hamper or a hanging basket for the dirty stuff.
  4. Location: where will you dress and undress in the tiny?  It is unlikely you will be getting dressed in a loft. Make sure the storage reflects those needs.

Once all of these things are considered, add a closet, a wall shelf, a cabinet, and hanging rods to make it work. Some builders use custom cabinetry to make sure these items are specifically designed for.  
-Jen at Teacup Tiny Homes

What things should I consider when customizing my tiny house? 

When customizing your tiny home there is a lot to consider! 

Inside the home, functionality is key as tiny homes can be used for an array of lifestyles and purposes. Things like lofts and their accessibility and practicality over time can be important. Also, consider if items like full-size appliances, your fridge, and range, or a washer/dryer, are important to fit in. Storage is critical as well, where will you hang clothes, store shoes, or hide games? A creative layout and storage spacing are always a must in a tiny home! This is also important when planning furniture as many times there is limited space to bring furniture in or move it to clean. Considering versatile layouts and furniture pieces that allow for flexibility can be helpful. 

Guests and pets can be another huge factor to consider- where will they relax or sleep when visiting or living in the tiny home with you? Noise can be important as well if you plan to have multiple people who may be working in the home or living together, for example watching tv while someone else is sleeping or practicing an instrument. 

Outside your home is important too! What amperage will the home use? Many hookups don’t allow for more than 30 amps while other connections allow for 50 or even more amps. 

Where will you ultimately place the home and have you verified the zoning approvals and required building requirements? How quickly can your home be built and does it fit within your placement timeline? Will your home require connection to public utilities or is an off-grid home, while more expensive to build, more practical for your placement location? Will the home require frequent mobility? Also, aesthetics can be important if a home is to blend in or stand out from its surroundings, match planned decking or skirting, etc.

Lastly, resale can be an important consideration if you plan to eventually sell the home. Factoring in what is practical for most people, even if not critical for your use, can be helpful if resale will be a factor.
-Abby Shank at Tiny Estates

What are some of the main benefits of living in a tiny home?

Tiny homes and small space living offer a bevy of rewards to those who decide they don’t need many things and are ready to streamline their life. There are many reasons to choose small space living. Some people may want a house that moves with them, to not have a mortgage, or simply to live lightly. 

Lower Energy Usage

Tiny homes consume less energy and cost less to maintain. Smaller appliances are typically more efficient. One will use less energy, and water, and create less waste. A tiny home could potentially be heated with a wood stove and powered by a solar array. 

It Costs Less 

Tiny homes cost a fraction of the price of traditional homes. The cost to own or rent will be significantly less and they cost less to maintain. Since small spaces use less energy, there will be less outlay on all bills related to the home. Reducing housing expenses may let owners/tenants save money for (or in) retirement, travel, or allow them to decide to work less.

Streamlined Maintenance

A tiny home is easier to maintain. With fewer appliances to repair, less exterior area to maintain and even less space to clean, those who live in small spaces may have more time to spend on work, fun hobbies, and their relationships.

Mobility

Tiny Homes can be made to be mobile. Whether it’s a vacation or a new permanent spot, a tiny home can be built to travel.

Minimalist lifestyle

De-clutter. There is only room for the important things and those things that matter most. Plus, there is also the opportunity for more focus and less distraction. A tiny home can be constructed from recycled, repurposed, and salvaged items.

Eco-friendly living lifestyle

By using less energy tiny homeowners reduce their carbon footprint. There is only room for vital appliances, so you save on electricity bills. Also, there is the potential for minimal expense on a rainwater collection system and composting toilet. The tiny home can be designed to be completely off-grid.

-Elin Headrick at CAST architecture

What are the benefits of tiny living?

There are obvious environmental benefits of going small. But I think it is more important to focus on the personal benefits because, without those, humans don’t seem to have the motivation to do much.

We are living in a time when you do not need to have excess money in order to have an excess of things. I am a strong believer that having too many things, can weigh us down in a physical way and in an emotional way. I have personally gone through phases in my life of letting go of everything that I could not fit into a backpack. I actually lived that way for about a decade. The amount of liberation and freedom I felt during those times was really unbelievable. Of course now, with children and a family and a business and a house and a dog and some chickens, I have a ridiculous amount of things but I still try to be thoughtful with what I say yes to, and I also try not to get too attached to anything… Except of course the things with a heartbeat.

When you live in a small space you really are forced to put thought into every item that you bring into that space. I think that is the real beauty of Tiny House living… Being forced to be thoughtful. Our world needs us to be more observant and more thoughtful!

Living tiny can help 🙂
-Seth Reidy at Nelson Tiny Houses

How do you maximize space in a tiny house?

Making efficient use of any space is important, but in a tiny house,  it’s crucial. To start, generally simplifying the stuff in your life can make tiny house living easier and more spacious. First, go through the objects you own and ask yourself, is this something I need at all? If the answer is yes, follow up with is this something I need to have regular access to? The only things inside a tiny house should be what you use on a regular basis and need to have easy, convenient access to. For many people, this invitation to downsize and take stock of material life is one of the appealing aspects of living in a tiny house.  

Outbuildings and outdoor rooms

For all those things that you do want to keep, but don’t need regular access to, outbuildings and outdoor rooms are the places to stash them. In the case of stationary tiny homes, sheds, garages, or covered porches can serve as excellent storage space and can expand your options considerably. If your tiny house is mobile, consider a storage trailer, or collapsible covered porch for auxiliary space to keep infrequently used stuff.

Heavy-duty plastic totes are a great way to protect your things from the elements while they await their day in the sun in an outbuilding or outdoor room. Even clothes can stay fresh in such sealed plastic containers, especially with the addition of non-toxic silica desiccants to prevent moisture buildup. At any given time of year, half of your wardrobe can wait patiently in such a space, until the weather changes and it’s time to move those clothes back into your closet or dresser.  

Deep drawers with full-extension slides

One fabulous way to maximize the use of space inside of a tiny house is to install deep drawers with full-extension slides. You may be familiar with these from kitchen pantries, but they can be installed anywhere. The benefit of full-extension slides is that you can pull the entire drawer out, in order to see and access the contents. Without this amazing and simple technology, things stored in the back of shelves and cabinets are easily forgotten and difficult to retrieve. 

Lofts

Utilizing vertical space for sleeping, hanging out, or storage is an effective, tried-and-true design feature in most tiny houses. Depending on your intended use, a loft could be simply a deep shelf high on the wall or a full-blown “second story” room with a low ceiling. If you choose to build a loft as a living space, it’s worth the square footage to install a small staircase or “ship’s ladder” instead of a vertical ladder. These are much more comfortable to use regularly. On the other hand, storage lofts can be easily serviced with vertical ladders, since they’re not accessed as frequently. 

Utilizing space under stairs

The space underneath the stairs is prime real estate in a tiny house. I’ve seen people install deep drawers in the stairs themselves, create sitting areas underneath stairs, where the low headspace isn’t a problem, and build bookshelves into or under stairs. Another option is to place appliances beneath the stairs. What works for you will depend on your needs and design, but don’t overlook this area, as it provides a great opportunity to maximize space in your tiny house. 


Chloe Lieberman at Online Tiny House Academy