A few moments investigation will show you that there is a big range in terms of final price for a tiny house. You see people claim to have built a tiny house for anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000. For those on the cheaper end- at first I gave them the benefit of the doubt. But once we starting building our own house, I started to see the true costs. They shouldn't be ignored or forgotten if you are embarking on your own tiny house journey.
Remember that saying "time is money" ? Well it is. Don't sell yourself short by not factoring that in. This becomes particularly important when your tiny house build gets in the way of your "real" job. We knew we didn't have a lot of money to spend on our build, $20,000 dollars to be exact (read about the budget here). So we made up the gap between what we wanted in a tiny house and what we could afford by using recycled and reclaimed materials. But THIS TOOK TIME! This whole wall took two days to put together.
Other People's Time
Lots of people who have visited our home are impressive by the fact that we built it ourselves. Then they ask how much it cost and in the same breath confess they want to have their tiny house built for them and they want to spend about the same that we did! I have since learned not to laugh in their faces. If you don't have the skills to build a tiny house yourself, be prepared to pay big money for the materials and TIME (plus a markup) for someone else to do the dirty work. In all honestly, the margins are so low that after you consider a tiny house builders insurance, tools, workers, build site, utilities, and other business things, you're probably still getting a good deal, even if it's much more than the $20,000 you are willing to pay. All I'm saying is there are no shortcuts- a tiny house is just like a regular house in terms of labour costs. You can't avoid it.
Depending on where you are, how cheap you are and what standard of tiny house you want to build, there is a range in cost for materials. But if a tiny house owner is bragging they spent $5,000 on their whole build for materials, they are leaving some part of the story out. And if they are cutting serious corners, well all bets are off on comparing budgets. Just take plywood for example. We tried to cheap out once we saw the cost of one sheet of ply at Bunnings Warehouse. We bought the thinnest stuff that would do the job, secured it and didn't like the idea of living in a bouncy castle (read about our shenanigans here). So we had to go back and buy more! If we had done our research and had understood the cost, we could have found a better deal and budgeted to spend the money for the thickest plywood in order to avoid buying it twice (not to mention the gas).
Patrick came to New Zealand with ZERO tools. He felt like a fish out of water. He used to own every tool imaginable from suitcase welders to his own forklift but had to leave it all behind. If I had known how many tools we would need for the build, I would have said absolutely not. Luckily Pat used all the tools again after the build (except for a few which we sold), but for some the only time these tools will be put to work will be during the build. Read about the essential tools you need to build a tiny house here.
So don't forget to budget these into your budget. Luckily you don't need them all at the same time, so it's a bit easier to stomach if you buy as you build.
Oh the wonder of the cost of a New Zealand tiny house trailer. If we hadn't found a tiny house trailer for $3,000 dollars- we wouldn't be in a tiny house right now. This was by far the most difficult item to source and the most expensive item we purchased for our build. Sure you could get a flimsy one, a cheap one, small one or even a wooden trailer (seriously), but you will just encounter problems down the road (pun intended- you don't want your tiny house to end up down the road while you are trying to tow it in the other direction). It's worth the splurge- but also be realistic with your budget. In New Zealand it isn't out of the ordinary for the trailer to be half your budget. Check out the first blog we did regarding the purchase of our trailer.
SAFE ways to save on a trailer: If you are getting it custom made, don't get it galvanised, paint it with rust proof paint. Tell them you will source your own wheels. Opt for a reasonable sized trailer, you don't need to max out the dimensions to have a comfortable home (remember it's supposed to be TINY). Keep your build weight WAY down and settle for a two axel trailer. It's hard to do and you need some creative building skills, but you will save on the trailer.
When we started seriously talking about building our tiny house, we lived in a tiny uni flat with barely any yard and no parking. We found a place to build our tiny house about two days before it was delivered. Talk about cutting it close! We paid $150 dollars a month for a locked paddock that we could access on the weekends and holidays. I think we got a great deal! The downside was there was no electricity so we bought a generator and compressor (more money!). We added this cost to our budget, although when we first starting thinking about the build we didn't consider it.
If you are in the planning stages for your tiny house, don't forget these hidden costs. They could be the difference between completing your build on time or helping you to stay on budget.