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All Contents © 2020The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Andrea Browne Taylor, Online Editor
| August 15, 2018
If you're planning for retirement, downsizing is likely near the top of your to-do list. After all, it's a lot of work and expense to maintain the 2,426 square feet that makes up the typical single-family house.
Enter the tiny retirement home. Generally at under 400 square feet of living space, a tiny home requires much less upkeep and is much more affordable than a traditional house. That's an attractive combination for retirees on fixed incomes. According to the National Association of Home Builders, 45% of baby boomers would consider buying a tiny home.
Affordability is a compelling factor. On average, it costs $23,000 to build a tiny home yourself, according to TheTinyLife.com, a resource for the tiny home community. The average sale price for a single-family home is $384,900, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Just 3 out of 10 tiny home owners have a mortgage.
Despite the small size, tiny homes come in all shapes. Here are several great tiny homes uniquely suited to the needs of retirees. Take a look.
Photos by StudiObuell Photography
Square footage: 300
Model name: Escher
Builder: New Frontier Tiny Homes (Nashville, Tenn.)
Enjoy the views from just about every angle of this tiny home on wheels. There's a sliding glass door as well as a garage-style glass door on either side of the home, which allow for plenty of natural sunlight. The exterior is constructed using red cedar siding, Shou Sugi Ban (charred wood) siding and metal accents.
The kitchen has a luxe look thanks to porcelain countertops, a farmhouse-style sink, a pull-out dishwasher, a full-size stainless-steel refrigerator and a hammered copper backsplash. There’s also a washer/dryer combo located next to the sink. The bathroom has a sliding barn door, porcelain tile shower, composting toilet, bowl sink and built-in shelves to store toiletries. The bedroom is large enough to fit a king-size mattress, has floor storage underneath the bed box, pendant lights and two sliding doors for privacy.
At the opposite end of the home, there's a hallway with a walk-in closet, as well as a fold-out table along the wall that can serve as an office space. There's also an L-shaped loft area that can be used as an additional sleep space for guests (it can fit a twin-sized bed) or as a storage area.
The Escher is built on a mobile trailer, which means you can haul it from one location to the next. It can take up to three months to build and New Frontier Tiny Homes delivers anywhere within the contiguous U.S. Rates vary based on the drop-off location.
Courtesy of Clayton Homes
Square footage: 452
Model name: Saltbox
Builder: Designer Series by Clayton Homes (Maryville, Tenn.)
Many high-end finishes that are considered "upgrades" with other tiny home builders come standard with this home. This includes shiplap wood siding on the exterior, energy-efficient aluminum-clad windows and doors, oak hardwood flooring inside the home and a tankless water heater.
The kitchen has quartz countertops and stainless-steel appliances (stove, dishwasher and refrigerator). There's an adjacent dining area that can fit a table for up to six people. The hallway leading to the bedroom has a desk area and a designated space for a washer/dryer combo and storage for laundry supplies.
The bedroom can fit a queen-size bed and has an attached private outdoor porch. The bathroom has a shower/tub combo, a flush toilet and a vanity with a sink and double cabinet underneath.
The Saltbox was designed to be built on a permanent foundation and lived in year-round just as you would a traditional single-family home. It can take up to two months to build and the price listed here doesn't include delivery (fee varies depending on location), installation or the optional exterior awning (as pictured).
Courtesy of Modern Tiny Living
Square footage: 102
Model name: Nugget
Builder: Modern Tiny Living (Columbus, Ohio)
Despite being the tiniest of the tiny homes featured here, Modern Tiny Living's Nugget model offers many of the same comforts as a home twice its size. Built on a mobile trailer, the exterior has a metal roof and is constructed using pinewood siding. Inside, the kitchen has a large bowl sink, mini-fridge, butcher block countertops and a two-burner cooktop. The built-in bed area is surrounded by windows and has a storage drawer underneath. The bathroom has a shower and composting toilet.
There's built-in wall shelving throughout the entire space for additional storage. If you're hoping to lessen your carbon footprint, you can upgrade to a solar power grid system to operate the home.
Depending on the finishes and any customization requests, it can take up to four months to build this tiny home. Delivery is free for buyers located within a three-hour drive from Modern Tiny Living's headquarters. If you're outside that radius, the delivery fee is $2 per mile.
Courtesy of Tiny Heirloom
Square footage: 185
Model name: The Vantage
Builder: Tiny Heirloom (Portland, Ore.)
The exterior of this tiny home is constructed using tight knot cedar siding, and it has energy-efficient vinyl double-pane and tempered windows. It comes with many features you'll find in a traditional single-family dwelling including recessed LED lighting, an electric water heater and a porcelain flush toilet. There's also the option of adding a washer/dryer combo space to the design plan.
The kitchen has butcher block countertops, a single-burner cooktop, a stainless-steel tile backsplash, and an undercounter mini-fridge. The bathroom has a fiberglass shower, a vanity area with a cabinet and a wall-mounted sink.
The sleeping area, which is surrounded by windows, has a bed platform that can fit a queen-size mattress with built-in storage underneath. If you still need more space to store your stuff, there are two shelving areas located near the kitchen. During the colder months, an electric space heater helps keep things warm and cozy.
The Vantage is mounted onto a bumper pull trailer. The build time can take up to four months. Tiny Heirloom delivers within the contiguous U.S. for a fee of $2.50 per mile.
Courtesy of Wheelhaus
Square footage: 400
Model name: The Wedge
Builder: Wheelhaus (Jackson, Wyo.)
The unique shape of this tiny home is a definite conversation starter. It's a wedge -- hence, the model name -- and despite its compact size, can sleep up to four adults.
The sliding glass door located at the front of the home serves as the entry and helps illuminate the main living area with natural sunlight. This gives the illusion of more space. The living room can fit a pull-out sofa for overnight guests. There's a full bar located in this same area that can be used for dining. The kitchen has soft-close cabinets, a two-burner cooktop, dishwasher, microwave and a mini refrigerator with a freezer. The bathroom has a designated space for a washer/dryer combo. Located at the rear of the home, the bedroom can fit a king-size bed and two side tables. It has built-in storage and a sliding door for privacy.
The Wedge has cable and internet hookups. Upgrades are available and include a fireplace in the living room, exposed timber ceiling beams and air conditioning.
Moderate modifications can be made to the design plan upon request. Build time can take up to four months. This tiny home can be built on a steel frame with wheels and skirted once set in place, or it can be built as a modular home placed on a permanent foundation. Wheelhaus delivers anywhere in the U.S. and the fee starts at $6 per mile.
Photos by Mark Sharley
Square footage: 204
Model name: Amelia
Builder: Tiny Innovations (Gresham, Ore.)
If the modern aesthetic is more your style, this tiny home might be what you're looking for. It's built on a mobile trailer. So if you plan to travel during your retired life to see family and friends, this home can hit the road with you.
The kitchen has a stainless-steel sink, a propane cooktop range/stove combination and butcher block countertops. In the bathroom, there's a vanity with a porcelain sink and cabinet, dual flush toilet, shower and a vent fan to help prevent moisture build-up. There are several upgrades to the standard design plan including a washer/dryer unit in the bedroom, quartz or granite countertops in the kitchen, a decorative backsplash in the kitchen and a fireplace in the living room area.
If you have specific requirements -- for example, you need a walk-up ramp at the front of the home instead of steps -- the design plan is customizable. It takes three months from the date of purchase to complete construction. Tiny Innovations delivers anywhere in the U.S. and the fee varies based on the final destination.
Courtesy of 84 Lumber
Square footage: 160
Model name: Degsy
Builder: Tiny Living by 84 Lumber (online or store locations nationwide)
The exterior of this single-level tiny home, which sits on a steel trailer, is constructed using UV-resistant cedar siding. Inside, the kitchen is situated on a raised platform and has two steps that separate it from the main living area. There's an Energy Star-certified refrigerator, butcher block countertops, an electric cooktop and an island that can be used as a food-prep area, dining table or even as a desk.
The main living area has recessed LED lighting, a built-in storage drawer and a closet. It can also fit a pull-out couch. The bathroom has a shower stall, a bowl sink with a cabinet underneath, a composting toilet and built-in shelves along the wall.
The price listed here is for a move-in ready dwelling, but you can purchase the design plan and custom trailer for $6,884 and build it yourself. Or purchase the pre-built shell (house frame is placed onto the custom trailer and comes with the windows, front door and bathroom intact) and design plans for $24,884. Potential buyers who plan to go the DIY route should know that this tiny home is designed specifically for a mobile trailer and isn't intended to be placed on a foundation.
It can take up to 10 weeks to complete construction. Delivery is available, and the fee varies based on the drop-off location.
Courtesy of Tiny Home Builders
Home model name: Simple Living
Builder: Tiny Home Builders (DeLand, Fla.)
At well under 200 square feet, this tiny home is the definition of cozy living. The design plan is customizable, so you can nix the standard sleeping loft and give this dwelling an open floor plan. If you have any other specific design requests, such as adding grab bars near the toilet and in the shower for added stability, the builder can accommodate them.
The home is constructed on a mobile trailer. The main living area can fit a small couch. If you plan on having a TV, you'll want to consider hanging a flat screen version on the wall to help maximize space. The kitchen comes with most standard appliances including a refrigerator, oven and microwave. The bathroom has a 36-inch wide shower stall.
For budget-conscious buyers, this is Tiny Home Builders' least expensive model. To help keep costs low, they've swapped pricier materials for less expensive versions that are still durable. For example, you'll get plywood siding instead of cedar wood and vinyl windows instead of aluminum-clad solid wood versions.
The purchase price includes builder construction and labor costs. However, you do have the option of purchasing the design plan only for $197 and building this structure on your own. Depending on the types of materials used (for example, reclaimed wood), Tiny Home Builders estimates that DIYers can construct it for as little as $10,000.
If you have the builder deliver a finished home to a desired location, it costs $3 per mile.
Image renderings by Abdulaziz AlKandari
Square footage: 218
Home model name: Ashmere
Builder: B&B Tiny Houses (North Adams, Mass.)
The exterior of this home is an instant conversation piece. There’s an asymmetric roof, large windows and a glass front door. Inside, recessed lighting is situated throughout the space and the walls are constructed using horizontal shiplap wooden boards.
The kitchen has a full-size refrigerator, a sink, an L-shaped countertop with a two-burner cooktop, as well as upper and lower cabinetry. The designated dining space has a breakfast bar that faces a window. Nearby, there’s a built-in bench with storage underneath. The main living area can fit a loveseat and small bookshelf.
In the bathroom, there’s a toilet (you can choose from a regular flush, macerating, dry-flush or composting version), a sink, shower/tub combo and linen storage shelves. The bed area can fit a queen-size bed and there are built-in storage shelves and a drawer located in this same space.
The Ashmere can be built on a trailer and lived in as a mobile home for road travel. Or it can be built as a modular structure and permanently attached to a foundation. It can take up to two months to construct this tiny home model. B&B Tiny Houses delivers anywhere in the U.S. and the fee varies based on the destination.
Courtesy of ZeroSquared
Square footage: 374
Model name: Aurora
Builder: ZeroSquared (Calgary, Canada)
ZeroSquared's Aurora model is versatile. It has an expandable living room and bedroom design and can be lived in as a mobile structure or a permanent one. If you prefer to put the home in a permanent location, you'll need to sit it on blocks and skirt the wheels just as you would a park model RV home. The builder will provide an interior and exterior trim kit that insulates and seals the openings that allow the home to expand and contract. If you plan to travel regularly, the mobile set-up is ideal and operates using a heavy-duty motor system that expands the living room and bedroom areas when parked and contracts for road travel.
Inside the home, the kitchen has a full-size refrigerator, stainless-steel sink, full-size microwave, food pantry, oak countertops, a stainless-steel refrigerator and gas stove. There's also a drop-leaf table near the kitchen area that can double as office space when not being used for dining. The bathroom has a full-size shower, a wall-mounted sink with space underneath to fit a washer/dryer combo unit, cabinetry and a full-size RV toilet. In the bedroom area, there's a queen-size Murphy bed. There are built-in storage drawers and cabinets throughout the space.
Upgrades are available including a dishwasher and an off-grid solar package. The builder is based in Canada but delivers to most locations in the U.S. The delivery fee varies based on the drop-off location.
If you're thinking about downsizing to a tiny home in retirement, these are some of the most important aging-friendly design features to look for in any tiny home:
Main-level bedroom. Going up and down a ladder to reach a loft bed increases the risk of falls and strains already achy joints.
A full bath. Opt for a raised toilet, walk-in shower, grab bars and slip-resistant flooring for safety and comfort.
Easy-to-reach storage. Storage space should be easily accessible -- no ladders. Add built-in drawers beneath beds and sofas.
Accessibility. Build low to avoid steps, if possible, or install a ramp entryway. Doorways should be wide enough to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs.