Welcome, Guest! - or
Easy to remember!  »  VinNews.com

Graton, CA - Tiny House Movement Thrives Amid Real Estate Bust

Published on: November 29, 2010 12:19 PM
By: AP
Change text size Text Size  
Bookmark and Share
In this photo taken Oct. 14, 2010, Jay Schafer, owner of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, exits a tiny house he built for himself in Graton, Calif. In a country where most people want to live large, Schafer helps people live small. The California homebuilder has become a leader in a small but growing corner of the American housing market: the tiny house. Schaefer, who lived in a 89-square foot house with his wife before his son was born last year, builds houses that are smaller than most people's living rooms. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)In this photo taken Oct. 14, 2010, Jay Schafer, owner of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, exits a tiny house he built for himself in Graton, Calif. In a country where most people want to live large, Schafer helps people live small. The California homebuilder has become a leader in a small but growing corner of the American housing market: the tiny house. Schaefer, who lived in a 89-square foot house with his wife before his son was born last year, builds houses that are smaller than most people's living rooms. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Graton, CA - As Americans downsize in the aftermath of a colossal real estate bust, at least one tiny corner of the housing market appears to be thriving.

Advertisement:

To save money or simplify their lives, a small but growing number of Americans are buying or building homes that could fit inside many people’s living rooms, according to entrepreneurs in the small house industry.

Some put these wheeled homes in their backyards to use as offices, studios or extra bedrooms. Others use them as mobile vacation homes they can park in the woods. But the most intrepid of the tiny house owners live in them full-time, paring down their possessions and often living off the grid.

“It’s very un-American in the sense that living small means consuming less,” said Jay Shafer, 46, co-founder of the Small House Society, sitting on the porch of his wooden cabin in California wine country. “Living in a small house like this really entails knowing what you need to be happy and getting rid of everything else.”

Shafer, author of “The Small House Book,” built the 89-square-foot house himself a decade ago and lived in it full-time until his son was born last year. Inside a space the size of an ice cream truck, he has a kitchen with gas stove and sink, bathroom with shower, two-seater porch, bedroom loft and a “great room” where he can work and entertain — as long as he doesn’t invite more than a couple guests.

He and his family now live in relatively sprawling 500-square foot home next to the tiny one.

Shafer, co-owner of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, designs and builds miniature homes with a minimalist style that prizes quality over quantity and makes sure no cubic inch goes to waste. Most can be hooked up to public utilities. The houses, which pack a range of amenities in spaces smaller than some people’s closets, are sold for $40,000 to $50,000 ready-made, but cost half as much if you build it yourself.

Tumbleweed’s business has grown significantly since the housing crisis began, Shafer said. He now sells about 50 blueprints, which cost $400 to $1,000 each, a year, up from 10 five years ago. The eight workshops he teaches around the country each year attract 40 participants on average, he said.

In this photo taken Oct. 14, 2010, Jay Schafer, owner of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses is seen inside one of the homes he built for himself in Graton, Calif. Schafer helps people live small. The California homebuilder has become a leader in a small but growing corner of the American housing market: the tiny house. Schaefer, who lived in a 89-square foot house with his wife before his son was born last year, builds houses that are smaller than most people's living rooms.  (AP Photo/Ben Margot)In this photo taken Oct. 14, 2010, Jay Schafer, owner of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses is seen inside one of the homes he built for himself in Graton, Calif. Schafer helps people live small. The California homebuilder has become a leader in a small but growing corner of the American housing market: the tiny house. Schaefer, who lived in a 89-square foot house with his wife before his son was born last year, builds houses that are smaller than most people's living rooms.  (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

“People’s reasons for living small vary a lot, but there seems to be a common thread of sustainability,” Shafer said. “A lot people don’t want to use many more resources or put out more emissions than they have to.”

Compared to trailers, these little houses are built with higher-quality materials, better insulation and eye-catching design. But they still have wheels that make them portable — and allow owners to get around housing regulations for stationary homes.

Since the housing crisis and recession began, interest in tiny homes has grown dramatically among young people and retiring Baby Boomers, said Kent Griswold, who runs the Tiny House Blog, which attracts 5,000 to 7,000 visitors a day.

“In the last couple years, the idea’s really taken off,” Griswold said. “There’s been a huge interest in people downsizing and there are a lot of young people who don’t want to be tied down with a huge mortgage and want to build their own space.”

Gregory Johnson, who co-founded the Small House Society with Schafer, said the online community now has about 1,800 subscribers, up from about 300 five years ago. Most of them live in their small houses full-time and swap tips on living simple and small.

In this photo taken Oct. 14, 2010, Jay Schafer, owner of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, left, works on construction of a frame with worker Zeke Gifford in Graton, Calif. In a country where most people want to live large,  Schafer helps people live small. The California homebuilder has become a leader in a small but growing corner of the American housing market: the tiny house. Schaefer, who lived in a 89-square foot house with his wife before his son was born last year, builds houses that are smaller than most people's living rooms.  (AP Photo/Ben Margot)In this photo taken Oct. 14, 2010, Jay Schafer, owner of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, left, works on construction of a frame with worker Zeke Gifford in Graton, Calif. In a country where most people want to live large,  Schafer helps people live small. The California homebuilder has become a leader in a small but growing corner of the American housing market: the tiny house. Schaefer, who lived in a 89-square foot house with his wife before his son was born last year, builds houses that are smaller than most people's living rooms.  (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Johnson, 46, who works as a computer consultant at the University of Iowa, said dozens of companies specializing small houses have popped up around the country over the past few years.

Before he got married, Johnson lived for six years in a small cabin he built himself and he wrote a book called “Put Your Life on a Diet: Lessons Learned from Living in 140 Square Feet.”

“You start to peel away the things that are unnecessary,” said Johnson, who now lives in a studio apartment with his wife. “It helps you define your priorities with regard to your material things.”

Northern California’s Sonoma County has become a mini-mecca for the tiny house industry, with an assortment of new businesses launching over the last few years.

Stephen Marshall, 63, worked as a building contractor for three decades before the real estate market tanked three years ago. That’s when he jumped into the tiny house business, starting Petaluma-based Little House On The Trailer.

His company builds and sells small houses that can serve as stand-alone homes equipped with bathrooms and kitchens, and others he calls “A Room of One’s Own” that can be used as a home office or extra bedroom. Many of his customers are looking for extra space to accommodate an aging parent or adult children who are returning home, he said.

In this photo taken Oct. 14, 2010, Stephen Marshall, owner of Little House on the Trailer, relaxes in one of his one room houses in Petaluma, Calif. According to builders, the market for tiny houses has surged since the housing crisis began, as more Americans downsize to save money, simplify their lives and reduce their carbon footprint. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)In this photo taken Oct. 14, 2010, Stephen Marshall, owner of Little House on the Trailer, relaxes in one of his one room houses in Petaluma, Calif. According to builders, the market for tiny houses has surged since the housing crisis began, as more Americans downsize to save money, simplify their lives and reduce their carbon footprint. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

He said his small houses, which sell for $20,000 to $50,000, are much cheaper than building a home addition and can be resold when the extra space is no longer needed. His company has sold 16 houses this year and aims to sell 20 next year.

“The business is growing as the public becomes aware of this possibility,” Marshall said. “A lot of families are moving in with one another. A lot of young people can’t afford to move out. There’s just a lot of economic pressure to find an alternative way to provide for people’s housing needs.”


More of today's headlines

Manhattan, NY - The man who has held up his great-aunt's cremation for nearly three months believes the 105-year-old has spoken to him from beyond the grave asking to be... Bloomington, IN - Police are investigating whether hatred might have driven someone to throw rocks through windows at two Jewish student centers near Indiana...

 

Total7

Read Comments (7)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Nov 29, 2010 at 01:13 PM Anonymous Says:

The houses, which pack a range of amenities in spaces smaller than some people’s closets, are sold for $40,000 to $50,000 ready-made,

So in other words they are small houses with a large price tag.

2

 Nov 29, 2010 at 02:21 PM Mandel Says:

Same size as the houses/apartments at the Williamsburg/Brooklyn community, Small in size big in price!!!

3

 Nov 29, 2010 at 02:46 PM basmelech Says:

Is that a shed or a playhouse? It's for sure not for me - I'd be claustrophobic in it.

4

 Nov 29, 2010 at 02:54 PM FinVeeNemtMenSeichel Says:

People, gimme $75,000 and I will give you a cardboard box, made from recycled/sustainable/tree-free/emissions-free/organic material. Gone are the unnecessary "amenities" which other companies are compromising on (e.g. toilet, electricity, etc.). Very versatile it is, you can even fold it up and put it under the driver seat of your Smart Car.

5

 Nov 29, 2010 at 03:36 PM sasregener Says:

Reply to #4  
FinVeeNemtMenSeichel Says:

People, gimme $75,000 and I will give you a cardboard box, made from recycled/sustainable/tree-free/emissions-free/organic material. Gone are the unnecessary "amenities" which other companies are compromising on (e.g. toilet, electricity, etc.). Very versatile it is, you can even fold it up and put it under the driver seat of your Smart Car.

To whom should i make the check out to?

6

 Nov 30, 2010 at 09:58 AM MeirYaakov Says:

What's the point? Frum yidden didn't tend to live in the houses with the huge 2-acre+ lots because we need to walk to shul on Shabbos!

And of course, families with kids will not be able to fit in such a tiny house!

7

 Nov 30, 2010 at 03:21 PM Eliyahu Says:

Reply to #6  
MeirYaakov Says:

What's the point? Frum yidden didn't tend to live in the houses with the huge 2-acre+ lots because we need to walk to shul on Shabbos!

And of course, families with kids will not be able to fit in such a tiny house!

The point is that Americans need to learn to stop supersizing everything and begin living more modestly. It's actually a fascinating trend, which will only grow as the recession drags on.

Stop being so self centered and you might learn a thing or two.

8

Sign-in to post a comment

Scroll Up
Advertisements:

Sell your scrap gold and broken jewelry and earn hard cash sell gold today!