The tiny-house movement, equal parts housing trend and philosophical shift, is on display this weekend in Lexington.
“This is the first true paradigm shift in my lifetime,” said Dale Geist, founder of the Tiny House Roadshow, which is at the Lexington Convention Center through Sunday. “People are really serious about this.”
Geist, who previously developed regular-size houses, said he started exploring tiny houses after the 2008 economic crash. He discovered the movement through websites, including Tiny House Talk. HGTV has broadened the audience significantly, becoming tiny-house central with Tiny House Big Living, Tiny House Builders and Tiny House Hunters.
Geist’s company, Tiny by Design Homes, has benefited with the rest of the growing industry. He recently received two orders requesting a total of 1,000 homes.
Even 84 Lumber is getting into the tiny-house business, offering four models of less than 200 square feet with a starting price of $6,884.
Why go small?
Tinytalk.com lists a simple life with minimal maintenance as the biggest draw.
Another attractive feature, Geist said, is that a tiny house “comes with a small space but even smaller payment.” And paring down your housing budget means money for other things, such as travel.
“It’s freedom, honestly,” Christie Primeaux said between strolls among the tiny houses on display.
Primeaux said she sees a tiny house as a way to get out from under a big mortgage payment. Tiny houses typically run from $35,000 to $70,000, Geist said. That, said Primeaux, who works to finding housing for the homeless, “is about the cost of a small house in a bad neighborhood.”
That brings the cost of a house, adjusted for inflation, back to the $30,600 average price of a house in the 1940s, when the U.S. Census Bureau started collecting housing figures, according to Census.gov. The average sale price of a house as of July, according to the census bure4au, is $355,800.
Primeaux said she is seriously considering a tiny house. So is her friend, Anna Preus, who said she tends to collect stuff she doesn’t need. “This will force me to get rid of some stuff,” she said.
Inside the expo in Heritage Hall, the houses did indeed look tiny. But the display models reveal just how much can fit into a tiny space.
A 280-square-foot model from Unique Tiny Homes, listed at $49,000, included an oven, a full-size refrigerator, a stacking washer and dryer, a sitting area, a separate bathroom with a tub, and a loft space for sleeping, accessible by steps.
Tanya Ward, a co-owner of Unique Tiny Homes, said it’s all about making the most of available storage. For example, the space under the stairs is all storage. A “pull-out” extension in the loft creates 8 feet of closet space. And, she said, the walls are designed with room for additional storage space as needed.
Affordable housing and a small carbon footprint that can be moved easily are the biggest bonus selling points, tiny-house advocates say. In Detroit and other cities, tiny houses are considered a means of helping the poor and homeless, and eliminating urban blight.
So far, 15 tiny-house communities have sprung up across the country, said Bob Thomas, a tiny-house consultant for the The Village of Wildflowers in Flat Rock, N.C. The tiny-house community, which had a display at the road show, offers 160 lots on 26 acres and the chance for owners to rent their property if they want to travel. Properties start at $69,000, and there is a special Village of Paws to help with pets.
One selling point is the lack of property taxes on the homes, but in some states, the houses can be taxed as RVs. You also need to find some land to put your tiny house on.
Still, Geist, who had his sons, wife and grandchildren helping with the road show, is a believer. He said he used to like stuff — he had three houses, a boat and an RV before getting rid of them after the housing crash. He said he felt the freedom of letting that stuff go.
When he sold a house in Ohio that his family hadn’t lived in for 10 years, he said, “I walked out of the driveway and it was a relief. The burden was done.”
Tiny houses might seem a hipster sort of thing, Geist said, but baby boomers also are all in.
Getting out of an acquisition mindset, he said, “is kind of an act of rebellion.”
“They don’t want to be free,” he said. “They want to be totally free.”
Tiny House Roadshow
When: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Sept. 17; 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sept. 18
Where: Lexington Convention Center
Tickets: $5, children 12-17; $10 ages 18-65; $9 seniors and military.
More information: TinyHouseRoadshow.com