There are many people who only live in their tiny house for a couple of years and then decide that they need a change. Some of these folks rent out their house or make a vacation cabin out of it. But some choose to sell it. If you are interested in owning a tiny house and are not wanting to build it yourself or wait the time to have it completed, then buying a used tiny house might be for you. Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware)! There are a few things to consider as you make your way through the secondary tiny house listings. Here is what you need to know when buying a used tiny house.
This is probably the most important piece of information that you need to consider. The problem with the tiny house movement is that we are really at the beginning of it. So there is little regulation when if comes to building and inspecting tiny houses. That means that there are few ways to prove that the house was built by someone competent. Look for houses that were built by experienced builders. Call those builders and find out how many houses they have built and what number house this was for them. Many contractors learn the nuances of tiny house building as they go so later models will be better than the ones in the beginning. If you have the ability to see the builder’s current work in progress, it may give you a better idea of what you are buying.
Don’t automatically walk away from a house built by a couple, a family or a kid right out of college. Building a tiny house is not as hard as you may think. But you want some sort of proof of their quality. See if they have taken detailed pictures or video of their build. That goes just as much for professional builders as well. Tiny Home Builders makes sure that we have a video diary for every house we construct. These are also helpful if you are moving to a jurisdiction that has to inspect your house. You would hate to have to take apart your walls just to show how everything was put together. If you don’t have any construction experience you may find it difficult to know what questions to ask when determining if a house is built to a higher quality. This is an area you will want to spend some time educating yourself before making a purchase. Read some blogs or better yet grad a construction book like the Tiny House Design and Construction Guide and do a little studying. The small investment in time now may save you considerable headaches in the future.
Some people truly do fall out of love with the tiny lifestyle. Others have a couple of kids and realize that they need a little more space. But there may be some people that have problems with their house and are just trying to unload it and move on. Do your due diligence and ask questions of the seller. One of my favorite ways to get good information is to ask, “So if you were building another house, what would you do differently?” It is not that you are looking for them to incriminate themselves, (but it is ok if they do) but truly you would love to hear their sticking points because it might be something that you wouldn’t like either. e.g. “I wish I had put a full sized sink in the bathroom.”
Remember, because there are no true codes and building regulations for tiny houses means there is no real way to consider depreciation or appreciation. Make sure you look at what it would cost to have a new home built but also consider the time it would take to build a new house when you can just tow this one away. Also consider the location and transportation costs to get the home to where you want it. One home may have a higher asking price than another, but if it's closer and you don't have to pay to have someone move it, the prices may work out to be the same.
Start with the trailer which is probably the most important piece as it is the foundation that everything is sitting on. Find out who made it, was its primary purpose to hold a tiny house or something else. How heavy is the house and what does the VIN plate say the weight the trailer can hold and do they match up? (if not, check the number of lug nuts on the tires, this will usually indicate the axle's weight rating) Was the house built for a specific climate or for specific usability? Does the home have any kind of warranty left on it? And be sure to see what kind of utilities the house has. It may be set up to be off-grid, but you really want a flush toilet. Or the previous owners were never home so the solar kit that they purchased was enough for them but not for you because you work at home.
The real worry when picking up almost anything used is how it was treated while it was being used by the previous owner. With tiny houses, you have to keep the construction in mind as well, as your usage of the house will probably be different. But don’t worry too hard. With the abundance of new builders coming to the market and the popularity of tiny houses increasing, finding a used tiny house will become easier and easier. One of the best online resources is our marketplace for tiny houses for sale. We make sure that all the listings are current and you can search by a specific house feature that you can't live without. What used tiny houses have you seen that you liked? Would you ever buy a used tiny house? Let me know in the comments below.
Published on 9/24/2020. Published in Tiny House Research.