South Taranaki Star
Tiny is big right now, so what does it cost?
A small home doesn’t necessarily come with a small budget – it all depends on the level of comfort you want, writes Joanna Davis.
Most people who choose to ‘‘go tiny’’ have financial constraints. So, just how much do you need to pay to buy your very own tiny home?
Depending on what you want to spend and your building skills, the cost can range from under $50,000 to above $200,000.
Sharla May, the founder of the Tiny House Hub and Tiny House Expo, says she built her own about five years ago ‘‘on the real cheap’’ for $65,000. She has since sold that and now lives in a converted school bus.
Costs depend on size, she says, ‘‘and whether they want high spec’’. Of course, it will be cheaper to build your own if you have the DIY skills. ‘‘If you’re relying on contractors, the labour adds up.’’
May says that while you can get a cabin with no bathroom or kitchen for $20,000, a realistic minimum cost for a self-build would be $50,000.
‘‘A decent trailer is $12,000,’’ she says. ‘‘I absolutely would not scrimp on the trailer. In a few years’ time your walls will start shifting; you’ll get structural problems . . . especially if you’re building to the maximum of the trailer’s weight capacity.’’
For a ‘‘high-end, high-spec’’ $200,000-plus home, she says you can expect the house to be at the ‘‘larger end of the tiny range’’ – about
3.1 metres wide by 8.5m or 9m long.
May’s tinyhousehub.co.nz website has a range of tiny home building companies, searchable by geographical area and price range.
Nelson woman Eva Pomeroy estimated that her self-build several years ago cost her only $25,000.
That included all the tools she needed as well as a good-quality $12,500 trailer for it to sit on.
A friend of Pomeroy’s drew up the plans, and she picked up the building skills as she went along, while keeping another builder friend on speed dial. She used as many donated and recycled materials as possible – cutting the financial costs and the impact on the environment.
About $50,000 – the self-builds
Wellington water engineer Matthew Lillis says the second tiny home he has built will end up costing about $50,000 all up once it’s completed in two or three months’ time.
Lillis, 30, got a great start on the build when 16 students and six builders made it their how-to project at an Ever Homes tiny-home building intensive course. As a fan of the outdoors who slept for a month in a tent while walking the length of the South Island, Lillis says tiny-home life is ‘‘luxurious’’ in comparison.
Registered nurse Georgia-Rae Flack had had enough of flatting in Dunedin and had been ‘‘obsessed with tiny homes for years’’, she says.
Flack (Kāi Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe) took 26 months to complete her new home on her days off and estimates it cost about $50,000 in total, with the largest portion of that going on the new trailer.
She taught herself how to build. ‘‘I watched a few Mitre 10 videos on how to build framing, so I knew that it was safe and built to code. Everything else I just Googled and YouTubed.’’
From $50,000 to $100,000
Caroline Weatherspoon spent 18 months travelling the North Island in a caravan before settling in an Ark tiny home in Rangataua, Ruapehu.
She paid $52,000 for her 28.8-square-metre home, which included an extra 3m of decking.
Weatherspoon says she finds the home spacious enough and that deprivation is a state of mind. Her last home was only 80sqm. ‘‘I raised three children in there. The Ark is almost like, wow, I can spread out.’’
Trade Me is one place to find secondhand homes in the $50,000 to mid-$100,000s range. A home listed for sale in Christchurch is 23sqm and advertised as ‘‘almost complete, ready to live in’’ with only curtains and spouting needed. The asking price for the home, built in 2019, is $89,000. Chattels include a gas oven, fridge, microwave, carpet, washing machine, television, bar stools, mattress, pillows, blankets, decking and steps.
$100,000 and up
Margie Etherington is delighted with the tiny home she bought for $150,000 in 2020 from NZ Tiny Homes, after leaving a marriage with insufficient funds to buy a larger house.
Etherington’s 10.75m by 3m home comes with many features she values: It is all on one level; the kitchen has a full-size oven and fridge; and the bathroom has a standard-size shower and a washing machine.
Triathletes Erin Baker and Scott Molina paid $180,000 for their Ruru holiday home last year, and had it barged into position at Awaroa in Abel Tasman National Park. The Christchurch-based pair, both former Ironman world champions, have been holidaying in the area for years.
Their new home is a 10m by 3m design, with two mezzanine floors giving a total of 45sqm. It will be completely off-grid, with gas water heating, a tiny logburner, solar power, and an Ecoash incineration toilet, which does not need water.
The prices have gone up a little since. Fran Huelsmeyer, from Ruru Homes in Motueka, Tasman, says it doesn’t make sense to compare costs between people building their own tiny home and what her company does with its homes, which typically cost between $175,000 and $199,000.
Ruru Homes gives a fixed price and delivery date, meaning the company takes on the financial risks, and it also uses quality, locally made materials – many of which have been subject to price increases lately.
‘‘For example, New Zealand-made roofing panels are going up 13 per cent [this month],’’ Huelsmeyer says.
She says the engineering required for a moveable home is much more intensive and expensive than for a small dwelling built on the spot.
‘‘Imagine what the houses need to last through travelling from Motueka to the Far North – it’s like a two-day earthquake. Our homes have proven to be still in perfect shape, with all windows closing perfectly, no broken or cracked walls, no issues with the roofing – thanks to the structural design and the braced materials we use.’’