‘Tiny’ getting bigger here

By on July 19, 2017
Tiny houses have compact kitchens and can even include a loft

Tiny houses have compact kitchens and can even include a loft

New housing option growing in popularity

They’re called “tiny houses” for a reason. They really are tiny!

But for millennials looking to own their first home, or adults and seniors looking to downsize and get out from under mortgage payments and high taxes, they might be just the thing.

Dan Allgyer has been selling manufactured barns, sheds, garages and homes for more than three decades. Originally called Barnyard, he changed the company name to Fort Creek Cabins (3351 Lincoln Highway East) in Paradise in 2010 to reflect the new interest in tiny homes. Today, his business card reads Tiny Lux Homes to reinforce the sales emphasis. He’ll tell you that his business has doubled in the last year and he expects it to do the same for the next two years.

Allgyer has about a dozen models of tiny homes and cabins on his Paradise site. They are far from what you might expect a small dwelling to look like. They come with a lot of creature comforts.

He says people come from all over to see the models but it is really easier to buy the home than, for now, find a place where you can place it.

Part of any tiny house sale, Allgyer indicates, is education.

“Customers are excited about the concept but need help on what to do with it and where to put it after the sale,” he said.

What Allgyer means is that townships and municipalities are just learning to deal with this new type of home with some as small as 240 square feet and others in the 700-900 square foot category. As expected, prices go along with size and range from $40,000-$70,000, depending on the fit and finish.

These homes may be small, but are a step up in many ways, from mobile homes and RV trailers. The houses are fitted with electric and plumbing to code and specifications and with proper site permits. They are ready to be driven to a location and installed.

Allgyer said most of the tiny homes and cabins are constructed in a manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania or out-of-state. Pennsylvania and, in particular Lancaster County, have always had wood craftsman who build homes from scratch or cabinetry and many worked in plants that constructed these homes.

However, a tiny home is built to Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) specifications and regulations read they must be built on trailers and townships usually indicate they cannot be permanent residences. To date, there has not been big growth, at least in this area, in dedicated communities for these vehicles although, like the trailer parks of post WW II era, the municipalities and zoning will catch up with the trend soon.

Allgyer works closely with municipalities so when the tiny home is built, it meets the municipalities codes and is ready to be set on a site, connected and lived in.

And although the Tiny Home TV reality show has a number of new owners pulling their tiny home with a pick-up truck, it’s possible. But it limits the size to eight feet in width when most buyers want homes and cabins of about 12-feet in width to better accommodate the living space and amenities they are looking for.

These small houses or cabins take about eight weeks to construct and deliver to a site after a final deposit and sales agreement.

“We originally thought the trend would be for simple cabins for hunting or a lake getaway,” Allgyer said, “but it did not develop that way.”

He explains many people are looking to downsize at a younger age, even at 30 or 40.

“These homes also can be used as a residence for an aging parent or grandparent,” he said. “When installed next to an existing home, municipalities are more likely to approve it as a temporary structure with the thought that the dwelling (usually about 700 square feet) will be removed when no longer needed.

“And,” Allgyer said, “they can be used in reverse, too. If you are the caregiver and your parent does not want to leave his or her house, the structure can be your private dwelling during the time you are needed.”

Originally tiny home manufacturers thought they could sell directly to the consumer but, like automobile manufacturers, were regulated to sell through a dealership base. And many constructed home manufacturers set up dealerships to sell both full size and tiny homes.

Allgyer keeps his finger on the real estate industry too, as do many dealers to advise buyers on possible locations to place these tiny dwellings where they will be welcomed as vacation homes. Dealers work with manufacturers to custom build and outfit each tiny home to the customers’ needs including siding and indoor finishing and appliances.

Most tiny homes have one bedroom to accommodate a queen size bed and other more Spartan sleeping spaces including bunk beds or a convertible couch.

“We tweak the inside of the house for each customer’s needs,” Allyger stresses.

The options for downsized living are many from recreational vehicles (RVs) to modular homes up to 3,000 square feet. Single and double-wide trailers have been around for decades and the industry is now embracing a fantastic growth in tiny homes fueled by popular television reality programs

How long will the trend last? Allgyer smiles and says he doesn’t know nor does anyone but until it plateaus, he and his competitors are working to meet the needs of a diversified buyer group who, for a variety of reasons, are looking to “right size” their living space whether they be 25 or, like one of his most recent customers, 80.

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