Path Home Shows 2017 Show Archive January 2017 Show 1705 Downsize to a Tiny Home

Downsize to a Tiny Home

Tiny houses are gaining in popularity as first-time homebuyers are looking for affordability and existing homeowners are looking to scale down.
Downsize to a Tiny Home

Downsize to a Tiny Home

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The Tiny Life

Tiny House Living

Show Details

Show 1705: Downsize to a Tiny Home
Air Date: January 29, 2017



Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. 2017 looks to be a good year for housing in the U.S. – that despite the fact that interest rates for home mortgages may hit their highest point in years. According to the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales rose by close to 6 percent last year while new home sales rose by almost 18 percent. And this has put pressure on inventory, which typically drives prices up. Combine that with the fact first-time homebuyers are looking for something affordable while more established homeowners may be looking to scale down. So for the first time since 2009, home sizes, well, they’re going down, which has led to one of the biggest trends in new home building that is actually really small. Tiny houses have become all the rage, from minimalistic millennials looking for something simple to baby boomers longing for less responsibility and just less stuff. Here is our Austin Moore.

Austin Moore: When Crystalline Gray and her husband, Mike, bought property south of Stillwater, Oklahoma, they knew they were going to tear down the existing house and build new.

Crystalline Gray: The house needed too many repairs in order to fix it or make it to where it was modernized and the electrical, plumbing and things like that were up to date.

Austin: In fact, the entire property was overgrown. So rather than building the house they eventually want, they started with this small cabin.

Gray: It was a lot easier than coming up with a house plan and knowing where to put the house on the property since there is a lot of different places where you can do that. Full size stove, you have your microwave, cabinets.

Austin: The challenge came in the move. The cabin has 630 square feet. A tight space for the newlyweds trying to consolidate two households.

Gray: Mike would tell you that that’s been a lot simpler and a lot easier. I would tell you that that’s been horrible because we went from big closets and big bathrooms, big rooms to very small spaces. It is figuring out what you can put in here, what doesn’t fit in here, what you absolutely have to have, what you don’t need to have.

Austin: So some pain in transition, but a final home that is not without its benefits.

Gray: Once in a while you know you miss certain things, but it has pushed us outside. And it has made us do probably different things than what you normally would in a house.

Austin: So with the vaulted ceilings and the open windows that pass light through, the space doesn’t feel too small. But you put two adults there, a teenager, you throw in an ice storm, and you lock them in place, it’s pretty tight. But it works for the Grays for now. Still for some, this space is overkill. Because there is in the real estate industry right now, a counterculture if you will, that really enjoys tiny homes.

Austin: What makes a house tiny is something arguable. Some insist a tiny home have less than 200 square feet, but most seem to settle in the 400 to 500 square foot range for an upper limit. In some places, they are built on traditional foundations, but in others they must be mounted on wheels. That is because local zoning ordinances often don’t allow for a single family dwelling this small. So with wheels, they are covered by RV laws. What does unify these miniscule homes is the reasons homeowners choose them: lower mortgage, lower environmental impact and a general decluttering and simplification of one’s life.

Oh, we loved it. It was great. It’s amazing. Inside there’s a lot more to that than you thought there’d be.

Austin: That appeal was evident at a home and garden show in Oklahoma City.

We can put a ventless unit, which we are wired for, we just decided not to do it on this one.

Austin: Tulsa-based tiny home builder Michelle Wunder.

Michelle Wunder: I’ve run into a 68-year-old. She is selling her traditional home. She is sick of cleaning and maintaining it, and she really wants to live simpler. And then on the other end of the spectrum, I have a brand new married couple that is interested, and they want to travel and to be able to just pull their house and live minimally. So I’m finding the range goes from grandma to right out of high school and everything in between.

Austin: Part of that appeal is that the scale allows for a home with high-end features for the cost of an SUV.

Wunder: We are going, probably $2,000 to $2,500 per linear foot of trailer. So if you have got a 10-foot trailer you can probably expect to pay $20,000-ish. If you are looking at a 20-foot trailer you’d probably fall in the $40,000 to $50,000 price range, depending on the finishes that you want in the home. So that it is going to vary, you know. If you want granite counter tops, you can expect that to be on the high end.

Austin: But for this crowd willing to stand in line for a quick look, it isn’t just about chucking it all. For some, it is about having it all.

Wunder: In Oklahoma I think that the tiny home movement is going to be largely based on the hunting and lake type crowd, fishing, and just people being able to have a second home, kind of the people who are a little bit older and have more fluid income and stuff like that.

Austin: Another place these tiny homes are catching on is in education. Cy Boles teaches construction at Meridian Technology Center in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Cy Boles: We teach students all aspects of residential construction so we are going to build a tiny house as kind of a capstone project this year. They are just fine tuning those framing skills. They are also learning a lot about, you know, how to put a small project together because they had to draw it out, and they had to do all the planning, do all the estimating, because we want to broaden the mind as well as develop the hands. The more they work with the stuff between their ears, the more valuable they are going to be.

Christopher Brubaker: So if I go from a 3,000-square-foot home to a 200-square-foot home, I’m going to build it the exact same way. It is just how much material I am putting into it.

Austin: Christopher Brubaker has completed the construction program at Meridian and is now studying electrical and masonry in hopes of becoming a general contractor.

Brubaker: This experience changed my attitude toward education drastically. I hated school. I hated school with a passion. But having this hands-on approach has changed it where I enjoy. I wake up every morning, I’m excited, because there is something new I am going to learn that is going to help me later on. And part of it was learning this is something that I’m not just going to learn so I can take a test. This is something I am learning so I can be productive in society and life. I can make money.

Austin: Crystalline Gray will be looking for a contractor like Christopher to build her next house, something a bit more traditional in size, leaving the cabin for family, friends and weekend rentals. But she says she may find herself missing the small space.

Gray: It’ll be probably strange on the other end to go back into a full-size house where you have all that extra space and stuff, you know. And maybe, I don’t know, maybe that would be something where when you get there you go, “Oh my gosh. We just don’t need all this.”

Rob McClendon: So while tiny houses may be on the extreme end of scaling down, the National Association of Home Buyers says prospective buyers are increasingly willing to trade square footage for amenities. Now, at the top of their list, buyers are looking for a separate laundry room, energy efficient features from windows to appliances and programmable thermostats. Now, also topping off buyers’ wish lists are patios with good exterior lighting and a full bath on the main level. Now, some of the features losing their popularity in 2017 are cork floors, pet washing stations, outdoor kitchens and sunrooms. Now, when we return, we look at the affordability of housing here in Oklahoma.