Real Estate

Everything you need to know about becoming a tiny house owner

Tiny home

Drawn by the pull of micro-mortgages, minimalism, and eco-friendly living, an increasing number of Canadians are starting to consider going the small and simple route.

Regardless of whether you’re looking to (seriously) downsize, or interested in purchasing a mini cottage, here’s everything you need to know about tiny home ownership:

First, you’ll need to decide where you want to “build”

Despite its growth in popularity, tiny home ownership is unfortunately still a grey zone when it comes to legalities. Many municipalities have bylaws that prevent people from living in homes below a certain minimum square footage or that don’t have a permanent foundation.

Navigating these bylaws and codes can be complex and may affect the final design of your tiny home, so from the outset, you’ll need to have an idea of where you’d like to live.

The freedom of wheels has its own cost

To further complicate things, if you decide to keep your home on a trailer—a popular option for tiny homes—it will likely be classified as a “recreational vehicle” rather than a home. (In Toronto, for example, tiny homes on trailers are classified as vehicles, and city bylaws prevent people from living out of vehicles.) You may have to find a plot of land that is specifically developed for RVs, such as a trailer park. This will also affect the design of your home, including how you handle wastewater whether, and if your home can legally be off-grid.

For the would-be nomads, you may be required to obtain a special licence to tow your home and will have to make sure that it’s road-legal. Finally, while repurposed materials can be used to construct your tiny home, most builders advise investing in a high-quality new trailer.

Finding a tiny homebuilder

While you can certainly DIY a tiny home, countless companies are springing up that do custom builds. In Canada, a tiny home will cost anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000, with higher-end models having price tags of $50,000 upwards. The Tiny Home Alliance Canada has a full list of provincial builders on their website and if you’re willing to do the dirty work yourself, many of these builders also sell tiny home plans.

Designing your tiny home

In addition to working within the limitations imposed by your municipality’s bylaws and building codes, there are many considerations for your tiny home’s final design, including:

• Choosing a toilet: Two popular options are composting toilets (including those which use layered sawdust) and RV toilets with wastewater tanks.

• Dealing with wastewater: You could choose a grey water tank (similar to an RV) or if you’re living in one place and have access to a sewer system, conventional plumbing can be used.

Heating your home: Remember that cold, northern climates present a unique challenge for tiny homes—particularly if you want to live in them year-round.

• Off-grid or on-grid: Are you willing to give up some modern conveniences?

Remember that tiny living isn’t for everyone

While Pinterest, blogs and documentaries have popularized tiny homes, living in one year-round is a full-time commitment. Unless you’re Thumbelina or an extreme minimalist, living in less than 500 square feet will take some getting used to, with little room for growing pains.

However, less room indoors means that you’ll want to spend more time outdoors—which is part of what makes them a great option for a seasonal cottage or an income rental property.