“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” – Henry David Thoreau

Every time the subject of prices for tiny homes comes up I think back to this quote.

Much of the tiny house movement started as DIY. Tiny home dreamers taught themselves how to become tiny home builders. People with absolutely no construction experienced began to learn the finer points of how a home went together piece by piece. Speaking from experience, this is an extremely liberating feeling. Finally, for the first time, we completely understood all of the components that made up our home. With our large house in Atlanta, built in the 1970s, we couldn’t explain the mold in the basement or why they built the house is such a way that this happened all the time. We didn’t know that a leak in the upstairs bathroom would cause major damage in the ceiling of our rec room until it was too late. And the cost of fixing these problems was astounding. Building our own house literally from the ground up gives us an opportunity to know how to fix things when they go wrong. It also allowed us to build in such a way that hopefully minimizes the risk of something becoming critical.

We did all of this for around $20,000 which includes all the materials, all of the tools, and all of the mistakes.

From the initial movement that began when Jay Shafer started to become a more public figure, the tiny home market was grown. Professional tiny house builders all over the country began to offer their services to individuals who would prefer not to build their own homes. All of the same care goes into these tiny homes when they are built by professionals but their customers also benefit from experience that DIY builders simply don’t have.

So what is a fair price for a tiny house built by a professional builder?

The only fair price for a tiny home is the amount of your life you’re willing to trade for it. Do you want to spend months, or in some cases years, building your tiny house yourself? Do you want to take the time to salvage materials and work with them to make sure they are suitable for your home? Or, would you rather trade your time working a job for a salary and save the money that will be used to build your tiny home?

When a builder constructs a tiny home they not only have to charge for the materials used but also their time to build. This is their full time job and they deserve a fair wage for it, just like everyone else. The biggest difference is that they don’t earn an hourly salary but they are paid by the job. This isn’t a practice intent on gouging hard working people out of their money but rather the way our economy works by trading money for services.

A tiny house under construction by Tennessee Tiny Homes.

Since the tiny house movement is such an internet-centric community I constantly notice comments on homes for sale or when discussing the cost of building. These comments include, “I could build it for half that.” Or “That is way too expensive for such a small home.” These are value judgments. It is entirely up to each individual to determine how much of their life they are willing to trade for a tiny home. I’m not entirely sure we can put a price tag on the kind of life changing experience that minimizing and moving into a tiny home can offer us.

What are your thoughts about the cost of tiny homes? 

Laura is a contributing writer for Tiny House Listings and she walks the walk. She lives in a 120 square foot cabin in Asheville, NC that she and her partner Matt built themselves. You can learn more about Laura and Matt at their website 120squarefeet.com.

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