Tiny House Roadshow invades Expo center

Colleen Creamer • Updated Nov 23, 2016 at 11:00 AM

The burgeoning tiny house industry was on display last weekend at the new Wilson County Expo Center with a selection of little homes, both mobile and stationary.  

The three-day “Tiny House Roadshow” featured exhibitions from across the country with the latest in tiny home construction, technology and features. 

Baby boomers, millennials – and a lot of people in between – are taking a look at the small homes. Larger homes keep owners financially strapped, as well as immobile. With millennials swamped with college debt, and boomers, historically not retirement savers, see the small ergonomic dwellings as a possible answer.

The typical small or tiny house is between 100-500 square feet. The typical tiny house on wheels is usually less than 8 feet by 20 feet for ease of towing and to exempt it from the need for a building permit. These homes are sometimes built on flatbed trailers. However, small cabins, cottages and other small homes can also be considered tiny houses.

David Pulliam of the Georgia-based Compact Cottages, which had a presence at the festival, said construction of a tiny house is similar to regular housing construction.

“This is built with typical house-building materials, so this is nothing like an RV; it just happens to be on a trailer frame,” Pulliam said.

The average new home built in the United States is more than 2,400 square feet and sells for roughly $360,000. Tiny houses generally range in price from $40,000-$60,000. Some people say they have spent between $15,000-$25,000 on their homes, not including their own labor.

The tiny house movement began about 10 years ago and revolves around a desire to live more simply while conserving resources. Because they are less expensive than traditional homes, owners can get rid of their monthly mortgage payments. For many retirees who have been in the same place for decades, these homes also afford them a way to travel as some of the homes can be pulled by a heavy-duty pickup truck.

The small homes appear to be part of the wave of sustainable living trends. Fewer materials mean a lighter carbon footprint as does taking up less acreage. There are now a number of tiny house communities. Also presenting housing options at the roadshow were the developers of the Village of Wildflowers, a community of tiny homeowners on 26 acres in Flat Rock, N.C. For more information, check out thevillageofwildflowers.com.

Pulliam’s design has a bedroom downstairs, different from many designs that use a small loft over a portion of the house for sleeping.

“My wife said to me do you plan on getting older?” Pulliam said. 

With boomers now aging at such accelerated rate, those upstairs plans are replaced with floor plans that have the main sleeping area downstairs and possibly a small loft for the grandchildren upstairs.

The resale of the houses has yet to be determined as the industry is so new, but Pulliam believes it will be much higher than the resale of a live-in recreational vehicle.

“I have had people tell me that I build mobile homes and I say, ‘No, we build a home that is mobile, and there is a difference,’” Pulliam said.

Many retirees have enough equity in their regular homes that if they cash them out entirely, that can cover the cost of a tiny house with enough money left over to put in the bank or to travel.

“If you were downsizing, then you probably have enough equity to buy one of these. You can live debt free,” Pulliam said.

Pulliam said he knows of a few tiny homeowners who bought the houses through financing, put them near beaches or mountains and then rented them for a few months out of the year to help pay for them.

“I can have this set up and livable in less than an hour,” Pulliam said. “These are easy to rent, and they are easy to get pretty much anywhere.”

For more information on Pulliam’s work, check out compactcottages.net/contact.html.

The next stop on the “Tiny House Roadshow” will be in Orlando on Dec. 9-11. For more information on the festival or vendors, visit tinyhouseroadshow.com/thr/event_info.

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