How Much Does It Cost to Build a Tiny House?

So you binge-watched "Tiny House Hunters" and "Tiny House, Big Living" until you can't watch any more, and you've decided to go for it: You want to trade down from the average 2,400-square-foot home to a mini version of just 400 square feet or less.

There's no doubt, tiny houses are hugely popular not only because they're cute and environmentally friendly, but also because they're cheaper to maintain. In fact, if you're at all handy, you might have even considered curbing your expenses by building one yourself.

So how much does it cost to build a tiny house, compared with a traditional home?

Cost to build a tiny house

Teri Page, aka Homestead Honey, who built a 348-square-foot home in Missouri and blogs about tiny-house construction costs, estimates that the average payout for a 200-square-foot home runs from $25,000 to $35,000.

That said, costs can vary widely beyond that ballpark. Page's house cost only $8,270 to build. But her neighbor's even tinier 120-square-foot home cost more than double that amount, at $21,200. Page breaks down the line items to consider, which account for the price fluctuation:

  • Permits: The fee for local building permits can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands. Check out what permits are required to build a tiny house where you live to get a sense of how much they'll set you back -- even whether it's legal to keep a tiny house on your property.
  • Materials: Decide if you're going to use new or recycled materials. "The quality of your components -- a granite countertop vs. a used counter from the Habitat ReStore -- can be the difference of several hundred dollars," says Page. She spent $7,800 on a combination of new and reclaimed items like siding, windows, and doors.
  • Labor: Determining whether you're doing the building yourself (Godspeed!) or hiring laborers can greatly affect a tiny home's overall price tag. Page's husband did the bulk of the work on their house, eliminating labor costs. Her neighbor's home took 1,565 hours to build, 465 of which was hired out at $15 an hour for a total of $7,000.
  • Insulation: This is often a huge line item in tiny-home building; one tiny-house owner spent $1,500 to insulate 200 square feet. But the initial outlay pays off when it comes to slashed heating and cooling costs.
  • Electricity and plumbing: Based on estimates, owners of tiny homes may spend around $1,000 on plumbing and $300 on wiring, but this cost depends on whether you'll be living on or off the grid. Many tiny houses are solar-powered with no connection to main sewer or water lines. In that case, you'll pay around $3,500 for solar panels.

Not so handy? Try tiny-house kits

If you're worried you don't have the DIY chops to build a tiny home from scratch, you can also buy a tiny-house kit which comes with instructions, prefab materials or some variation thereof to keep your floundering to a minimum.

Tiny-house kits even come in varying levels of ability. At Tiny Living by 84 Lumber, for instance, you can buy a bare-bones DIY kit for $6,884, which comes with blueprints, a customized trailer on which to build, and a list of materials to buy. Or for $19,884, you can get the semi-DIY version which comes with the shell of the house on top of a trailer complete with doors, windows, and a shower, leaving just the interior and exterior finishing touches to you.

Both DIY kits definitely beat buying the same model move-in ready for $49,884, but you should weigh carefully whether you're biting off more than you can chew -- because a tiny house is, after all, still a house.