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  • Writer's picturehawaiichocolate

What is a Tiny Home?

While there is no set definition of a tiny home it is generally used to define homes under 1000 sf. Sears and Roebuck mail order homes in the 40’s were tiny homes by todays standards. Tiny homes come in different forms-they can be portable or site built. Tiny houses on wheels , are called THOW. These are built onto either specially designed flatbed or gooseneck trailers and are under 400 sf. 250-350 are most common . These homes can be towed legally by a one ton truck and are usually 8’ in width.

Park model homes are defined as under 400 sf (399 is common) and can have widths from 10’ - 15’. They can be configured many different ways but are always under 400 sf. If they contain lofts, the height of the lofts rarely exceed 4,6" ‘ tall to maintain a street legal height overall.

Park models are technically classified as RV’s , but are really not towable except by a semi truck. They are different than RV’s though as they are built of higher quality materials and are customizable. Roofs and siding come with 30 year warranties and insulation standards are the same as a stick built home.The homes contain a lot of windows so the small space feels much larger.They also do not contain tanks for sewer and water like camper Rv's. They typically have full size appliances and all the conveniences of a regular home, just on a smaller scale. What they lack in size they gain in efficiently used space.

Like a larger mobile home, they are secured on site, hooked up to water, electric, propane and sewer and skirted to conceal the wheels. Lofts and decks added to the homes do not count as square footage and greatly increase livability in a small footprint. Some people add sunrooms, effectively doubling their square footage. There are many creative options for living in a park model. Living in a tiny home requires that you pare down your life to the essentials. It’s Marie Kondo on steroids and not for everyone.

For me, a small living space is part of a greater philosophy about leaving a smaller ecological footprint on the planet. It’s also more cost effective than being enslaved to a hefty mortgage. Park Models range from about $60-85k as opposed to the ave $300k needed for a typical house.

Having little to no mortgage means you have a broader range of work opportunities and money to travel.

If you are lucky to own land and local zoning allows it, a park model can be a segue to building a larger house and serve later as a granny suite or income producing vacation rental.

I don’t own land so I’m searching for a community where I’ll lease my lot and be surrounded by like minded people. One day I'd love to share a piece of private land with a handful of friends.

Who does this style of living appeal to? All walks of life, really. Young people that along with student debt cannot afford a regular home. Widowed or single individuals later in life that want to remain independent but perhaps don’t want the upkeep of former homes,or eco minded folks like myself that want a lesser footprint and ability to use their money to travel and have other life experiences. Lots of folks use a park model as “ home base” and travel in RV or motor home.

Park Model communities are not a new idea. Arizona and Florida have many of them, often in conjunction with RV parks. These homes are pretty densely packed in and the communities are centered around golf, swimming or tennis for retirees.

But newer concepts have sprung up with more focus on lifestyle and community. Larger individual lots, open space preserves, community gardens, dog parks, recycling, grey water irrigation, community centers and recreational facilities are defining the new ways of living the park model life.

Good examples of park model communities are Vintage Grace and Village Farm Austin in Texas , Pendaries Village in NM or RiverRidgeEscape in GA. Vintage Grace and Village Farm offer lease lots, Pendaries and River Ridge offer purchased lots. Purchased lots are less common due to the nature of structuring land with multiple living units. In some Northern and Eastern states, park model communities are seasonal only. A shout out to Recreational Resort Cottages whose photos of park models are shown here.

Every day we are seeing more planned communities springing up as municipalities ease zoning and minimum square footage regulations. The Tiny Home Industry Association has done much to foster this and gain acceptance to this alternative life style. Do you think you could live tiny?

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