What no one is telling you about tiny home living
If you are interested or even slightly curious about tiny home living, this post is a must read!
I wrote this post so others can avoid a major pitfall that I fell into unknowingly.
Learn what I wished I’d known before I bought my first tiny home, what I’d do differently, and how to choose the right home for you.
FIRST START WITH YOUR “WHY”
What first attracted you to tiny home living? Did you want to travel the country towing your tiny home with you? Set down roots in a new location? Have the ability to pick up and leave taking your home with you at any time?
Maybe you saw a tiny home tv show and loved the idea of having your own home, no mortgage, living simpler, without debt, and with more freedom?
This definitely appealed to me when I first started looking into tiny home living.
My first glimpse at tiny homes was just that, a tv show that featured adorable smaller tiny homes, out in nature, a simpler lifestyle, and gone the days of massive mortgage payments. I liked that idea a lot!
And while in hindsight I would have made a different choice in the home I chose, I don’t regret even for a moment making the leap to tiny home living.
In fact, I love tiny home living so much that I am building another tiny home (spoiler alert) – it is NOT built the same way my first home was and that’s intentional. What I am about to share will explain why.
And hopefully by naming your WHY and learning from what I will share, you will avoid the pitfalls I fell into and walk away knowing the right type of tiny home for you!
THERE ARE DIFFERENT KINDS OF TINY HOMES
Gulp! I didn’t know this at the time. There’s off-grid, RV-certified, and Park Model tiny homes.
And while there are tiny home RVs that are built which are not certified for various reasons, for this post we’ll not dive into those. Some but not all of which are built poorly by inexperienced or unscrupulous builders and I wouldn’t recommend. (I’ve rented more than a few of these with firsthand experience).
After renting and trying out more than 5 different tiny homes (one which had a compost toilet – eeek), I still had no idea there was a difference between tiny homes. I wouldn’t find this out until after I had purchased my first tiny home.
Interested in renting one of our tiny homes, check out our luxury rentals.
And the most important question to ask yourself before you choose which type of home that is right for you is – do you want to move your tiny home regularly or plan to find a location and settle in?
HOW THESE HOMES ARE BUILT DIFFERENTLY
Why does this matter? Well, certain aspects of these homes are built quite differently: most importantly the hook-ups for sewer and energy.
Depending upon the kind of tiny home you buy, the septic system can be a real pain in the you know what.
My first tiny home is an RV- certified tiny home. And it is also an “off-grid” tiny home. For ease while reading, let’s call her OGRVC.
An important distinction upfront, OGRVCs are a type of RV-certified tiny home, but not all RVs are off-grid designed.
As an off-grid home, your home is built and designed to take just as it says, “off-grid.” And while that can sound very appealing, it did for me at first, there’s more to it than meets the eye.
In addition to septic hoses like rv-certified homes, it also contains it’s own water tanks (grey and black). These tanks require emptying – a major difference and can in all honestly be a major pain.
My first OGRVC tiny home has three (2 grey water tanks and 1 black water tank). These tanks cannot be bypassed to directly connect to the communities’ sewer.
What this means is that you will have to watch to be sure that the tanks empty properly, do not get stuffed up from tissue (yep – a real issue), and that you open up the black water tank whenever it fills up to allow it to drain out into the communities sewer system.
Also, the OGRVC and RV-certified tiny homes are usually designed with propane for energy.
My OGRVC tiny home uses propane and there are pros and cons. One benefit is if your community or town loses electrical power, you still have propane for energy while others won’t – depending upon how your home is hooked up.
Since my home is configured for “off-grid” living, it’s designed if electricity goes off that propane will take over and keep my refrigerator running. And the batteries will kick in and provide lighting and some electrical in the home. Pretty cool, right?!
Though, it is often prudent when tiny home living to have a generator as a back up system regardless of which type of tiny home you have.
Of course, there are things to consider regarding propane and certainly your home needs to have a carbon monoxide sensor and I always keep the vent on when cooking (and often the window slightly open) just to allow any fumes to disperse.
And with propane, you’ll need to make a trip regularly to fill up your propane tanks and replace them (and they can be a bit heavy for a single person to maneuver, though I’ve managed a crafty method to change it myself.)
My best recommendation, only choose an off-grid home if you plan to be moving it regularly and to be “off grid.”
In addition to being able to empty your tanks regularly, the movement of the home helps to “move” remnants to keep things from getting stuck in the tanks.
RV-certified tiny homes
RV-certified tiny homes have black and grey sewer water hoses, which by default run exterior to the house. (this applies to both OGRVC and rv-certified homes)
With my OGRVC, I could go ON and ON and ON about how much I struggled with these hoses and its water tanks for my first 8 months and through my first winter season, but I am afraid unless you lived it you’d not really fully appreciate the headaches – please take my word for it.
And despite googling extensively before winter set in and asking everyone under the sun locally (and getting vastly different answers), it took some good ole’ fashion hard-knocks to figure it out.
Eventually I found the best way to set things up with the help of a good plumber, contractors, ($$$), and trial by error. So I feel immensely compelled to share this with you! If I can help even one person choose the right home and avoid the same pitfalls, it will be worth it!
Just to give you a better idea – Imagine, waking up each morning and jumping out of bed to see if the wind had blown your hose over, ripped it off the house, or if the snow and ice had buried them. Or your hose freezing and breaking off and water draining under your home with snow blizzarding around you. Not fun!
My best recommendation if you are going to choose a location and settle in and you have an RV-certified home, hard-pipe your hoses especially if you have inclement weather, high winds, and heavy snow in the winter.
It’ll give you great peace of mind and ease of tiny home living!
Park Model Tiny Homes
Now comes my personal pick for tiny homes! Remember, I said that my second home would not be built the same as my first. My second tiny home being built is a park model RV tiny home.
The key difference between the park model RV and a more traditional form of RV-certified tiny home is in the length of time the RV-certified tiny home stays in one spot. Traditional RV tiny homes are manufactured to be on the go.
Park Model RVs are designed for more long-term residency. They’re not as mobile as the traditional RV tiny home. And my perspective is that they would not travel as well as the homes shift inside from being on the road. RV-certified homes are built to travel often, park models are not. So again, if you want to travel, a park model would not be the best choice.
The park model tiny home has it’s septic hard-piped into the communities sewer system. Easy peasy. It’s the most like a traditional home.
It is, however, important to note, whichever type of tiny home you choose, you’ll still need to drip your faucet water when the temperature drops below freezing to keep the pipes from getting frozen. The great advantage though, with a park model there’s no day-to-day focus on your septic system. What a joy!
And with a park model, typically the energy source is natural gas so you won’t be fussing with propane or propane tanks.
A Park Model RV is my best recommendation if you plan to choose a location and settle in. Make sure that you like the community as you’ll be staying put for quite awhile.
Also, check out the septic, electric, and water and make sure that they are in good working order and stable in the community/town.
Don’t overlook this step, there are many communities out there that are not I am sorry to say.
WHAT I WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY
I’m going to be honest. In hindsight, I would not have chosen an OGRVC tiny home, if I’d known what I know now…..and it’s probably not for you either UNLESS you truly want to drive your tiny home around the country and are equipped with a truck to regularly empty your black water tank.
And while the “off-grid” option was appealing, the very random time I might need it just doesn’t make it worth the day-to-day requirements of septic maintenance.
WHAT’S THE BEST HOME FOR YOU?
If one of your reasons why you want a tiny home is to move around A LOT, and enjoy the transient RV-style life, then yes an RV-certified tiny home might be perfect for you.
If you are planning to move your tiny home often or travel the country with it, then I would certainly look at getting an RV-certified home.
And if your idea is to take it to places without hookups for septic and power, than you will most likely want to look into the OGRVC tiny home. First a word of caution…
If you are talking to a builder who sells RV-certified tiny homes, be sure that you get some referrals from other customers who are living in their homes full-time. Don’t skip this step!
My experience is there are RV builders who “jumped on” the tiny home fad, and customers find themselves living in a home that wasn’t designed optimally for full-time living.
Also, keep in mind that some local jurisdictions do not allow living in RVs full-time (tiny home or otherwise).
If however, you really just want to park your tiny home in a location and have the option one day to move it if the desire arises, then I would recommend a park model RV tiny home. (though stay tuned for an upcoming post where I’ll talk about why rv-certified homes are much easier to get financed)
There you have it! Now you should have enough of hindsight knowledge to lead the way in choosing the right tiny home build for you! Feel free to share in the comments what you have decided or learned and your next steps!
Interested in renting one of our tiny homes, check out our luxury rentals.