Tiny Homes: Are They the Right Choice for You?

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Tiny homes and mini homes are becoming more and more popular! There‘s even tiny home festivals and entire neighbourhoods of tiny homes being planned. But whatdriving this trend? What is a tiny or mini home? And finally, is a tiny home right for you? 

Where it all began 

The mini or tiny home movement has been making headlines for over 10 years. It started out as a response to the 2008 recession and rising home prices in the Southern United States. Folks had been losing their homes to creditors, and they desperately needed suitable, affordable housing solutions. 

The first tiny homes were on wheels (i.e., nomad style), allowing owners to travel from one property to another. They were like trailers or mobile homes in that they didn’t have foundations and could be towed by cars or trucks. For prospective homeowners or those looking to downsize, tiny homes were a new, affordable, and permanent housing solution. 

Tiny homes took off, fuelled by rising concerns of mobility, sustainability, and overconsumption. People embraced the opportunity to live small and started flocking to tiny home builders. After all, why buy a several thousand square foot property when 500 square feet will suffice? 

In the years that followed, environmental awareness and housing sustainability greatly influenced and changed the way we live. While it was challenging, it proved to be well worth the effort. It started with the tiny house on wheels and turned into a way of life! 

wooden tiny home on wheels with mountains in background

What’s the difference between a mini home, a tiny home, and a small house? 

Tiny and mini homes are always changing, so it’s hard to make a true distinction. That said, you can separate them by size. For example, micro homes are typically less than 300 square feet and are built on a trailer. 

Tiny or mini homes, on the other hand, are generally between 300 square feet and 1,000 square feet and are built on piles or concrete slabs. Like micro homes, they optimize space with multipurpose furniture. They’re designed to be eco-friendly and self-sufficient! 

Die-hard minimalists don’t consider anything over 1,000 square feet to be a tiny home, but rather as an accessible and practical small house. These homes are typically built on a foundation and have a basement for extra storage. They’re also more affordable for first-time buyers. Properties this size are gaining popularity, as they’re more suited for the minimalist crowd. 

Type of home 

Approximate size (sq. ft.) 

Characteristics 

Tiny home 

Usually less than 300 sq. ft. 

Removable; usually built on a trailer 

Mini home 

From 300 sq. ft. to 1000 sq. ft. 

Non-removable; built on slab or foundation 

House 

More than 1,000 sq. ft. 

Non-removable; built on slab or foundation; usually has a basement 

Who buys tiny homes? 

There are typically five types of people that invest in small or tiny homes. 

First-time buyers 

The real estate market is booming, causing prices to rise and making it harder and harder for first-time buyers to secure a home. Tiny homes provide first-time buyers with an opportunity to purchase their first property for under $200,000. With prices soaring in the city, it’s better to have more new buyers and homeowners than renters. 

People living alone who don’t want to live in an apartment building 

Limited space and parking, lack of privacy, noise… There are a lot of drawbacks to apartment and condo living, and not everyone who lives alone wants to deal with them. A mini or tiny home might be a better option for those who want their own space without the inconvenience of neighbours.

People living a minimalist lifestyle for environmental reasons  

Some choose tiny homes because they can be custom built at lower costs with environmentally friendly materials. Also, smaller living spaces use less energy and limit your ecological footprint. 

People who want to reduce financial stress 

Some people are simply fed up with the mortgages, maintenance costs, and renovations that come with large homes. They want to downsize their responsibilities and enjoy life! 

Pre-retirees or retirees 

Empty nesters don’t need as much space as they used to, and they don’t want to spend their time and money on home maintenance. They’d rather be traveling or participating in social and cultural activities. Tiny homes give them the opportunity to use their home equity for other pursuits.  

interior of cozy wooden tiny home with glass door

What are the problems with tiny homes? 

Is a tiny home the right choice for you? While they have lots of benefits, before you make a decision, be sure to look into these potential problems.

Municipal regulations 

Many municipalities are not fans of tiny homes – they want the 80’s trailer park trend to stay in the past. A lot of them don’t permit tiny homes to be built or installed, even if you own the land. However, some are more flexible or are modifying regulations to meet the growing demand.  

Tiny home districts are springing up in Sherbrooke, Sainte-Brigitte-de-Laval, Saint-Côme, Shawinigan, and many other places. So, before you take the plunge, be sure to check with your city! 

Investment uncertainty 

Tiny homes aren’t always a good investment; some experts claim that their value doesn’t increase over time. That said, real estate is influenced by supply and demand, and there may be positive developments in the future if the trend continues.  

Tiny homes on wheels and foundations are a bit different. They’re built using the latest construction techniques and sustainable materials. This is an emerging market, so it’s very difficult to predict right now. If you do build a tiny home yourself, your return on investment could exceed your original investment. 

Financing 

Some banks are reluctant to lend money for these homes because they’re inexpensive. If you don’t have the funds on hand, you might have to find other financing sources to purchase your home. 

Size 

While the tiny home may look good on paper, consider your needs. Would one provide you with enough space for daily living? Can two or more people share one without getting in each other’s way? Only you can answer this question. It can bring you closer together physically and emotionally, but it can also drive you apart if you need your own space. 

Where can I purchase a tiny home? 

Here are a few options if you’re looking to build or install a tiny home. 

Custom plans 

If you have a specific vision for your tiny home, you may want to hire someone to draft custom plans. An architect or architectural technologist can design a space that meets your specific needs and budget. 

Ready-made plans 

Some architectural firms offer customized products that meet clients’ needs and adhere to municipality bylaws, while factoring in cost and ecological footprint. 

One of them is Dessins Drummond – they offer plans for tiny homes under 800 square feet and between 800 and 1000 square feet for those who want more space. These homes are meant to be built on piles or slabs, making them suitable for colder climates. They provide a middle ground for those looking to downsize. After all, it’s easier to transition from a 1,200+ square foot bungalow to an 800 square foot mini home versus a tiny home on wheels. 

They also have a signature eco-friendly and minimalist series called É-Pur X Dessins Drummond (in French only), which guarantees that all plans have the lowest possible ecological footprint. 

Prefabricated micro homes 

Companies like Ilo or Minimaliste Houses handle the design, construction, and delivery of your tiny home. You get a quick turnkey solution completed in a few weeks. 

During the design process, a specialist will optimize spaces, add efficient features, and reduce your tiny home’s footprint. Next, general contractors begin construction and make your dream home a reality. That said, keep in mind that the Code national du bâtiment du Québec does not apply to homes under 700 square feet. Ensure that your contractor complies with electrical, plumbing, and other applicable codes and regulations.

Start small 

Mini, tiny, and small homes help make housing more accessible but may not be feasible or realistic options for everyone. That said, they do reduce energy consumption and promote a more minimalist and eco-friendly lifestyle. This trend has influenced both construction and architecture, giving creative companies like Dessins Drummond the opportunity to successfully meet these clients’ needs. 

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By Yves Carignan 
President & CEO, Drummond House Plans

Originally from Windsor, ON, Yves Carignan has a degree in business administration with a specialization in marketing from the University of Sherbrooke. In 1997, he started at Drummond House Plans in network development. In 2002, he and his wife Marie-France Roger purchased the company and have been managing it ever since. Yves is a father of three and spends his free time practicing hockey, golf, and cycling. He also enjoys going on walks and taking trips.