Downsizing to a tiny home lifestyle has become an increasingly popular trend over the past decade. With skyrocketing housing costs in many areas, tiny homes offer an appealing way to reduce your living expenses and mortgage debt.
But when it comes to tiny houses, two main options emerge: building on a trailer or building on a foundation.
Each option has its own pros, cons, and considerations when it comes to mobility, cost, investment value, and more. This guide will walk through the key factors to weigh when deciding between tiny houses on trailers vs. tiny houses on foundations.
The Tiny House Movement
The tiny house movement emerged in the early 2000s as people looked to downsize their lives and housing footprints. Tiny houses typically range from 100 to 400 square feet.
Some of the benefits that draw people to the tiny house lifestyle include:
- Lower housing costs and debt – With a much smaller space to pay for and maintain.
- Environmental sustainability – Smaller homes require fewer resources to build and operate.
- Minimalism – Living with less allows people to focus on experiences over stuff.
- Freedom to relocate – Tiny homes on trailers offer mobility.
While tiny houses on wheels get a lot of attention, tiny homes built on foundations have been growing in popularity as well.
Tiny Houses on Foundations
Constructing a tiny house on a fixed foundation offers several advantages:
- Long-term stability – The home remains securely in one location.
- Home equity – Like a traditional house, a tiny home on a foundation accrues equity as you pay off your mortgage.
- Easier financing – Secured loans with lower rates are more accessible.
- Insurance savings – Foundation homes often have lower insurance rates.
- No need for a trailer – Foundation builds to avoid the cost of a trailer and tow vehicle.
- Resale value – Fixed tiny homes may have higher resale value.
- Safety – A permanent foundation anchors the home against high winds.
- Zoning – Some areas only allow tiny homes on foundations, not trailers.
However, foundation tiny houses also come with some downsides:
- Higher upfront cost – The foundation itself is an added build expense.
- Permanent location – The home cannot be relocated easily like a trailer can.
- Land requirements – You’ll need to buy or rent land for the home.
Tiny Houses on Trailers
Meanwhile, tiny houses constructed on wheeled trailers offer their own pros and cons:
Benefits of Tiny Houses on Wheels
- Mobility and travel – The ability to relocate is a top perk for many tiny house owners. Hit the open road and bring your home along.
- Avoid natural disasters – If extreme weather strikes, hitch up and head to safety.
- Change rental locations – Since the home is mobile, you can move when rental agreements end.
- Temporary housing – Bring your tiny guesthouse along on vacation.
- Cheaper startup costs – Trailers avoid land purchase/prep and foundation expenses.
- Fewer zoning issues – Trailers may bypass certain foundation regulations.
Drawbacks of Tiny Houses on Wheels
- Safety concerns – High winds can be dangerous without a fixed foundation. You’ll need to securely anchor with straps and posts.
- Equity and value – Trailers depreciate in value like RVs, unlike fixed homes that gain equity.
- Insurance challenges – Insuring a home on wheels is often more costly and difficult.
- Transportation requirements – You’ll need a heavy-duty tow vehicle, hitch, and RV insurance.
- Relocating challenges – Finding a legal spot to park your home may get harder. Some RV parks limit stays.
- Resale concerns – There is not currently a booming resale market for used tiny house trailers.
In terms of upfront costs, tiny houses on trailers tend to be cheaper as they avoid land acquisition/preparation and foundation expenses. However, over time a fixed tiny house accrues equity like a conventional home. With a trailer, you own the rapidly depreciating home itself, but not the land it sits on.
Here’s a look at average tiny home costs:
- Tiny house on trailer – $45,000 to $65,000.
- Tiny house on foundation – $85,000 to $150,000.
Ongoing costs are also a factor:
- Utility hookups – More complicated for trailers. Need to move connections when relocating.
- Insurance – More expensive for trailers.
- Mortgage rates are lower for fixed foundation homes with secured loans.
- Rent – Need to continually pay for trailer parking spots.
- Towing vehicle/maintenance – Significant for trailers.
Financing a tiny home can be challenging compared to traditional houses. Banks shy away from lending for homes on wheels. However, foundation tiny homes may qualify for conforming mortgages. Some specific tiny home lenders are emerging, but often charge higher rates.
Making the Right Choice
Deciding between a tiny house trailer or foundation comes down to weighing your priorities:
- Freedom of mobility vs. long-term stability.
- Lower startup costs vs. potential home equity.
- Zoning laws and regulations in your area.
- Resale value considerations.
- Safety and durability concerns.
Talk to local zoning offices to understand rules and restrictions in potential locations. Research tow vehicle requirements and tiny home insurance options. And inspect sample tiny homes in person to decide which building style suits your needs.
Many companies now offer pre-built tiny home kits that allow you to construct either on a trailer or foundation. This can give you flexibility in the future.
While the popularity of tiny living continues to grow, the choice between building on wheels or a foundation comes with trade-offs. Carefully assess your budget, lifestyle needs, potential locations, zoning regulations, insurance, and equity goals before deciding.