Should we get a tiny house?

I’ve written about getting a tiny house before, way back before we found our current home and bought that (and now a few weeks ago realized I want to be an organic farmer).

Back then, we put the idea aside because we were going to stay in our current city for the foreseeable future until our dream homestead came along. Here we have ample opportunities to rent, and even managed to get onto the first rung of the housing market!

The problem is that the organic farming school I would like to attend is located in a small county on the west coast of Norway. Most students live in the dormitory on campus grounds, but that is not feasible for us since Mr. Frugasaurus is coming along for the ride.

This county is so small and so far from any of the larger cities that there is little to no long-distance commuting. The last time I checked, there were zero apartments for rent and five houses for sale, only one of which we could feasibly afford (and definitely don’t want to buy because we don’t think we will be staying there for more than two years).

So we have been scratching our head, wondering how we could make this move in the best possible way when the time comes in a few years. Should we sell our current home or try to rent it out (I am heavy in the “sell” faction at the moment)? Should we try to advertise to the locals and see if they have a place to live they just haven’t put up for rent online? Should Mr. Frugasaurus do something else in the meantime? The latter is not high on our lists, neither of us would like a long distance relationship, especially for as long as two years.

Could a tiny house provide a solution?

We have thought about tiny houses before, but put the idea aside due to lack of experience and our own discomfort with stepping on each others toes and needing space for work and relaxation. A lot of tiny houses we’ve seen online seem to be built with the intention of using the outdoors as an extended living room. This is just not feasible in Norway several months of the year.

But even though we are nervous about living on top of each other, there are distinct parts of the tiny house movement that appeals to us.

It’s mobile

If you build it right, you can always take your home with you when you move. You don’t have to worry about fluctuating rent prices or galloping house prices. Find someone who will let you park it on their land and you are good to go.

With a tiny house, we can live anywhere we want, not just where there are houses for sale or apartments for rent. We could go to that school and later, when we found our homestead, we could bring it there and either build a house if there isn’t one, or refurbish the one that’s there if it is terribly run down. Later we can use the tiny house as an office, workshop, or guest house/airBnB. It certainly wouldn’t be wasted!

It’s cheaper than a regular house

Tiny houses are not big in Norway yet, but I have found a few firms who do build them. One of which advertises a completely off-grid home with solar panels and gas stove from 780 000 NOK ($91k). They had cheaper versions, but I love the idea of providing your own electricity.

If you assume that half of what you pay for is labour, it would not seem too impossible that raw materials might net you somewhere around 400k NOK ($47k). The trailer base alone costs 80k NOK ($9.5k), and is not something you’d want to mess with. Solar panel installation might be in the 40-60k NOK range ($5k), while a building consultant (wouldn’t want to not pass our plans through one as we are not experts), an electrician and a plumber would all add to the total on top of materials. I would also need to get more formal driving training to get car + trailer on my licence, unless we pay someone to move the house for us (around 10k NOK or $1.2k)..

With just this super rough estimate, 400k NOK does not sound all that unrealistic. Even if we are not able to save up all that money in 2.5 years, it is still less than 1/4 of our current mortgage. Interest on smaller loans are higher, so I don’t think costs would be fully 1/4, but should certainly be less than half, if not a third of what we currently pay. That last part certainly sounds really attractive to anyone who is trying to make a living through the self-employment route. It makes for a great tool to lower your expenses so you can get that income snowball rolling.

What about the downsides?

Obviously, there is no clear cut answer. That is why I am writing this post! I hope to gain some insight from people with different experiences.

For one thing, we would get a storage unit for the things that don’t fit in the tiny house, such as Mr. Frugasaurus’ small library worth of beloved books, and a few, choice pieces of furniture we really love.

We like our separate spaces

Put simply, both Mr. Frugasaurus and myself really like having a corner in our living quarters that is just ours. A desk where we can make as much mess as we want without worrying about tidying up before supper has to be served there. We like working from home, and even if I am planning on going to school and am probably going to spend a lot of time there, I still like to have a small workstation at home for work and study.

For Mr. Frugasaurus, this is even more important, as he is the one working from home. He has ADHD, which practically means that he needs a small “reading nook” type place where he can snuggle up, draw the blinds to reduce distractions, and type away. He especially benefited from our upgrade to a larger home with his own office, so this is a difficult conundrum for us.

He is also distracted by noise, such as my tap-tap-tapping away on my keyboard, and he cannot work with his back to the room. His noise cancelling headphones has really helped a lot on the former, but we still need to design a tiny house in such a way that Mr. Frugasaurus gets a small office that is just his own (probably the loft that is not used for sleeping, if we are to take inspiration from other tiny house plans), with sliding doors and everything we can think of to keep it quiet and free of outside distractions.

Our main anxiety is that no matter how clever we design the tiny house, it will still feel as if we are living on top of each other. I suppose this is not something we can know for sure until we try it out, which leads us squarely to the next point.

It’s more difficult to sell

Our house, while not the prettiest on the block, is still a house in one of the largest cities in Norway. Even if we don’t net a huge profit while living here, it should still be not too difficult to sell it again when and if we move, as there is always a demand for housing in the “first rung” bracket on the cheaper side of the scale. It’s commutable too, with a bus just 3 minutes away.

A tiny house, by comparison, is not a known entity. If we sink a lot of money into it, it could be terribly difficult to sell if we discover that our fears are true and we don’t like living in one. In that case, our money would, in essence, be lost into an illiquid asset instead of invested in the market. Not a terribly clever move if you are trying to be financially independent.

An obvious answer to the “will we like to live in it?” question might be to see if we can find one and try it out. My worry with that is that a tiny house designed for someone else might not work for us, and we might conclude we don’t like it, when it was just that the design was not customized for our needs. Not a big problem, I suppose, but something we are considering.

Should we get a tiny house?

What do you think?

Please let us know! What are some of your experiences with living small? I know that if I was still single, this would not even be a question in my mind. But another person adds a whole slew of new complications and considerations into the mix.

Can two introverted, personal-space loving hermits pull it off? Or should we try to think about a different solution? Other than living in a tent for two years, are there other obvious things we have not thought about? Do you have experience co-existing well in a tiny space? We’d love to hear about tips and tricks.

I am intrigued by the thought. But can we pull it off?

4 Comments on “Should we get a tiny house?

  1. Given how much you two like your space, I’d say a tiny house is a bad idea. Especially with the question of resale. But full disclosure: tiny houses have never appealed to me in the least and, when I was married, it sounded like my own personal hell. So I may not be the most unbiased person to make the call.

    • Those are some very valid points. I think if I was single, I’d jump on a tiny home no question. But being two complicates things.
      Our second idea is to advertise online to see if anyone has anything we can rent. Perhaps there will be closer to the beginning of the school year.

  2. Bear in mind that I’m making these suggestions as an American, based on my experiences in the US. They may or may not be applicable in your situation.

    Firstly, I understand that most students live on campus in dorms, but have there never been any (married) students that lived off campus? If so, where did they live? Is there no person on staff at that school responsible for student housing? What suggestions does that person have? If that person doesn’t know what the few students who lived off campus did to secure housing can the school at least put you in contact with those alumni, who lived off campus, to find out what living arrangements they made?

    Secondly, my boyfriend frequently makes the point that tiny homes are a more designer/upscale version of RVs that people can adapt to better suit their needs. RVs though, are still extremely functional and often a fraction of the cost of a tiny home. I realize that RV sizes are likely much larger in the US, but I wonder if you’ve looked into a larger used RV. It might cost significantly less than even building your own tiny home. A used smallish RV in pretty decent shape was recently for sale near me for around $15,000. One option might be to find a slightly larger RV for the two of you to live in with one office space and find a smaller RV (maybe even something with engine problems, but that’s been well maintained inside that costs very little money) to park right next to it for that second office space. The RV route could save you money and definitely time that you could spend on your side hustles and other income generation streams since you wouldn’t have to build them. They might also be easier to sell or you could keep them and use them for lodging options on your future homestead.

    You’ve got some time before you have to make any decisions. You could go ahead and put some feelers out locally about potential rental opportunities and see what kind of responses you get.

    Just a couple thoughts for whatever they are worth….

    • Wow, thank you for such an in-depth, considerate response!

      I have asked the contact person about couples and dormitory, but haven’t received a response yet. With a school of only 53 students, I think they’ve made accommodations previously as well.

      The RV route is not a bad idea! My main concern would be with the insulation, as they are frequently not very suitable for full-time accommodation in winter. But it is definitely something we should consider looking into. Especially if, as you point out, it could be half the price or less! They’re a more known entity on the market too, so might be easier to re-sell if we choose to do that. The second RV as an office is a marvelous idea too. I hadn’t thought of that – thank you!

      We are definitely counting on time being on our side. Both when it comes to discussing different opportunities and figuring out what we really want. Thank you for providing such insightful discussion points. 🙂

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