You’ve probably heard about the tiny house movement. After all, it’s everywhere.
If you haven’t, the easiest way to explain it might be to call it “extreme downsizing.” In short, people are giving up their huge houses and their giant mortgages – and moving to houses 400 square feet or less.
Sometimes much, much less.
If you think that sounds like something only young, free-loving souls could enjoy, think again. Tiny houses are becoming increasingly popular with older generations, who don’t want to deal with the burden of big houses once the kids have moved out.
Tiny Houses, Grand Design
Jamie Mackay is the founder and owner of Wheelhaus, a company that builds tiny houses that pack on the wow factor.
We’re talking jaw-dropping rustic and modern designs using reclaimed wood, walls of glass, private decks, Kohler fixtures, Pella windows … and all at under 400 square feet.
One of their biggest sellers is the Caboose model (pictured), which consists of one bedroom, one bathroom, a kitchen/living room plus a 150 square foot loft. “This can be used as a second bedroom or as the main bedroom with the main level bedroom used as an office or dining room,” explains Mackay.
While Mackay says their tiny houses aren’t designed for any age in particular, the 50+ crowd has bought into the movement quite happily. “The Tiny House movement is about simplifying one’s life to free up time and money and energy to pursue one’s passions,” he explains. “This uncluttering of ‘busyness’ is appealing to young and mature alike.”
Perhaps one of the reasons tiny houses have become popular with those over 50 is that they offer a chance to live with less without giving up comfort. “The company slogan at Wheelhaus is ‘Living LARGE with less’,” Mackay explains.
“Our cabins are plenty luxurious with bedrooms designed to fit a king-sized bed, bathrooms with top of the line fixtures, kitchens equipped with state of the art appliances, flat screen TVs, lighting installed to highlight artwork, and walls of glass that open to private decks.”
He adds that this was one of the goals of the company from the beginning: the ‘less is more’ variety of tiny house living achieved through efficient use of space while retaining the luxurious touches – regardless of what your ideal style is. “Across our many cabin models, one can go from rustic western to modern urban or something in between,” he says.
Quality is King, Amenities Rule
The boom of the tiny house movement means buyers have more options than ever.
Dan George Dobrowolski, the owner and founder of ESCAPE – which builds tiny houses with eco-conscious materials and construction – says one of the most common requests they get from the 50+ crowd is high-quality amenities. “Baby boomers have earned a few luxuries and don’t want to forgo them simply because they’re downsizing,” Dobrowolski explains. “The ESCAPE tiny homes offer steam showers, granite or stone countertops, heated floors, and more.”
Another common request: quality construction? Dobrowolski says his older clients want to know their home is built to last with minimum upkeep.
“Our homes are built in a climate controlled environment with the highest quality materials and can withstand Wisconsin winters with temperatures at negative 35 degrees,” he says, adding that most clients over 50 want the perfect union of “downsizing your space, upsizing your life.”
One final advantage: most tiny houses in the market today can be built as either a park model or a modular home. Park models are built on a wheeled chassis, which means they are legally considered RVs and can be towed easily by a truck – adding the advantage of mobility to the already many benefits of tiny living.
Tiny Houses on the Go
One of the things that make tiny house living so enticing to the 50+ crowd is that it affords them a lot of freedom.
Dana Lynn Greyson and her husband Wayne Phillip Seitz, both 53, cite that as the main reason they gave up their “traditional” home and opted for a tiny house – and a floating one at that.
“Our boat is roughly 150 square feet of living space inside the cabin, though we have on helluva back yard,” Greyson says. “We sleep in the v-berth, where our toes mingle where it narrows down to 18.”
She adds that because their boat was designed for couples, it also has a nice bathroom for a boat its size, toilet, medicine cabinet, sink and shower. “We also have a very functional small kitchen with a deep chest fridge freezer, a small gimbaled stove/oven, and a sink,” she adds. “Go up the companion way stairs and you’re in our cockpit, the best place to hang out on a nice day.”
The couple paid $30K for it (cash – no loan) plus upgrades and repairs. “Our boat was the best ‘blue water’ boat that fit our budget,” she answers when asked to explain their choice.
Dana is technically retired and has worked a number of odd jobs over the last few years, including “a stint as a West Marine cashier thanks to their killer employee discounts on boat stuff.” When they’re not cruising, she takes on some freelance writing and editing work.
Wayne Phillip Seitz retired from the Air Force three years ago and now works as an aircraft mechanic. “When we cruise, we simply quit work and assume we’ll resume it when we stay someplace long enough,” she says.
The main reason they love their tiny living space?
Life is simple and cheap, and their environmental footprint is small, according to Greyson. “Our home transports us to amazing places most folks will never see,” she says. “Who else gets bopped in the head by a flying fish at midnight doing a night watch on an ocean passage? Or has dolphins pause in their travels to play in our bow’s wake?”
Who else indeed.
When asked what makes tiny houses such a great choice for the 50+ crowd, Greyson says they’re cheap and there’s have less upkeep – plus there’s no lawn to mow.
“It’s not for everyone, but for those who like adventure, are a bit unconventional, and are not attached to their stuff, it’s great,” she adds.
Photos courtesy of Wheelhaus