A home equipped with all your basic needs – bathroom, kitchen, bedroom — as well as extras like a built-in wine rack, storage built into the staircase and plenty of windows all around. But it’s only 300 square feet. It’s a “tiny house.”
Several types of tiny houses, which are commonly built on a trailer platform, were on display in the “Tiny House Village” Friday during the Napa-Solano Home & Garden Show that runs through Sunday at Napa Valley Expo.
“It has everything you could ever want; it’s just miniature,” said DeWayne Clover, office manager at Thimble Homes, an Oregon manufacturer of customizable tiny homes. Their 300-square-foot home at the show was built on a 24-foot platform and is “fully loaded” with washer and dryer hookups, a refrigerator, cabinets, two lofts and heating and air conditioning. It’s priced at $75,000.
A frame is available for $14,000 (one was even for sale at the show) and custom tiny houses start at about $30,000, Clover said. The price goes up depending on what types of materials are used, he said.
Tiny houses are becoming increasingly popular, especially since they have gotten a lot of attention on television.
“People are enamored by ‘tinies,’” said Lou Pereyra of Tiny Mountain Houses, also based in Oregon. He said that he has been featured on HGTV several times as well as FYI for his tiny homes.
Pereyra thought tiny houses were too small when he first was introduced to them, but quickly changed his mind when he realized all of the ways they could be customized. One of his displays featured huge windows, which allowed for a great cross-breeze, high ceilings, a combination washer and dryer, other appliances and a French entry door. It was priced at $57,000 – the standard base price starts at $39,995.
“Tiny houses are so nichy right now,” Pereyra said. His houses are shipped all along the West Coast as well as the East Coast, Hawaii and Alaska.
Tiny houses are chic and cute, but who lives in them?
“I think the appeal is kind of broad,” Clover said. They work for students who have graduated from college and are just starting to work, but can’t afford high rents and don’t want to move in with their parents. A tiny house can be put on mom and dad’s property without a lot of trouble, he said.
Clover said that older homeowners who find that have too much room in their home sometimes will put a tiny house on their property, move into it and rent out their larger home.
As she gets closer to retirement, Ellie Carroll of Napa, said that she is very interested in tiny houses. She and her husband used to live on a boat, so she is used to living in a small space and she likes the mobility of the tiny houses.
“The smaller, the better,” she said. “We don’t have to have a whole lot of room.” Downsizing makes life simple and prevents you from accumulating too much “junk,” she said.
“If I lived in something like this, it would be really easy to keep clean and you’d just have the basic things you need,” said Kathy Bliss of Napa. Bliss said that living in a small space forces people to prioritize more and focus on living life. “You’d want to have an active life I think in a small space like this,” she said.
Tiny houses aren’t just for living in, though. Some people said that they would want to use them as a second home, use them instead of adding an addition to their home, travel with them or even rent them out.
Julie Mitchell of American Canyon wants one to use for her business. As the owner of a jewelry business, Mitchell said that she has a lot of consultants who want her to attend big state fairs with them all across the country. She is looking into getting a tiny home so that she can take it with her to these events and still feel like she is “at home.”
“It’s really great because they can really customize (them),” she said. Mitchell even said that she wouldn’t mind living in one full-time after her daughter goes off to college. They seem like a great option for people, especially for couples without children or military families. “They’re awesome. I love them,” she said.
Because tiny houses are built on wheels, they don’t have the building codes that are required on standard homes, explained Clover. Most can be certified by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), which means that if you’re allowed to park an RV on your property, you should be allowed to park a tiny house on your property, he said.
Mitchell, who has been looking into it for herself, said that the rules, permits and fees required for having a tiny house are almost cost-prohibitive. “There’s a lot of rules and regulations in Napa County and pretty much every place else,” she said. “It’s too bad, too, because they’re really cool.”
People interested in buying or building a tiny house inside the city of Napa should come to the planning department with some kind of draft proposal or plans first, said Emi Theriault, assistant planner for the city.
“In theory, a tiny house is definitely possible, “she said. “It boils down to the design of what they’re proposing.”
Theriault explained that if the tiny house is going to be inhabited, there are two options. If it is going to keep its wheels, she said, it can be placed on properties zoned for mobile homes. In order to be in a standard residential area, though, it must be on a foundation. Permits for a second unit are less expensive than for full-size houses, but there are other considerations like sanitation, public health and fire safety that need to be taken into account.
If it is not being operated as a housing unit and is just being stored, while on wheels it follow the same rules as an RV, which cannot be stored on any front or side setback. They can be stored in a garage or backyard, Theriault said.
No “tiny house” applications have been received by the city, according to Rick Tooker, director of the Community Development Department in Napa.