In 2007, tiny-home enthusiast and builder Jay Shafer gave Oprah a tour of his 97-square-foot house and the modern Tiny Home Movement took off. Today, it’s estimated that there are 10,000 tiny homes gracing the U.S., and over half of Americans are open to the possibility of buying a house of tiny proportions (under 600 square feet). Good news for you, now that you’re selling one!
Generally, the number of tiny homes sold per year averages about 30,000 nationwide and has risen in lockstep over the years with the blossoming interest in simple living. However, selling a tiny house in a country where the average home runs about 1,600-1,650 square feet remains an intimidating prospect.
To overcome the biggest buyer objections around the lack of space, limited privacy, and zoning complications, follow these tips for selling a tiny home from tiny-home builders, owners, and an agent who managed to attract multiple offers on her client’s tiny cabin. With their advice, you’ll be in great shape to market this lifestyle while highlighting the versatility and benefits of your unique tiny home, whether it’s on wheels or affixed to a piece of land.
We’ll cover how to:
- Create curb appeal with window boxes, vertical gardens, and fresh paint
- Keep your staging minimal, using mirrors and curtains to your advantage
- Showcase your tiny home’s space-saving and convertible features
- Highlight your tiny home’s unique features and upgrades
- Sell the tiny home lifestyle, from jet-setting to cost savings
- Capture photos with a wide-angle lens on a sunny day
- Price your tiny home with a pre-listing appraisal and top agent’s expertise
- Be clear about local zoning and building rules
Create curb appeal with window boxes, vertical gardens, and fresh paint
Tiny homes get automatic curb appeal points for being so darn cute. But a few simple projects can take your tiny home exterior to the next level (and improving curb appeal is the no. 1 thing you can do to boost the marketability of your home, according to nearly 77% of top real estate agents across the country polled by HomeLight).
1. Install window boxes for a touch of charm
Window boxes filled with colorful plants are ideal for improving curb appeal when you don’t have a lot of outdoor space to play with or if you’re selling a mobile tiny home. You can purchase window boxes from any major home-improvement retailer. They come in a variety of colors and styles to match your home, and you can spend as little as $10 or as much as $100 on a single box depending on how high-end you want to go.
The more expensive boxes tend to have more intricate detailing (like this White Cape Cod Self-Watering Window Box for $65 — lovely!), but the simpler and cheaper designs come in shades of green, black, and dark orange to boot. You can hang window boxes yourself with a drill, 3-inch galvanized screws, and this handy guide from This Old House, a 40-year-old home-enthusiast brand. (Make sure to choose a window box that’s about 6 inches longer than the window).
Then it’s a matter of which plants to choose for your boxes. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, a periodical started in 1792, window boxes look best with lots of plants arranged close together. The Almanac recommends anchoring your window box with some base flowers like:
Then, you can fill the gaps with varieties like wandering jew, ivy, euonymus, heather, or vinca. Succulent window boxes with special draining trays are also rising in popularity — they look great but remain low-maintenance! You can buy a variety of succulents for around $20.
2. Make your own vertical gardens
Don’t have a huge yard with big mature trees and perfectly groomed shrubs? Such is the plight of tiny-home owners the world over. Vertical gardens — which are plant arrangements that grow in an upward or stacked fashion — are another great way to add curb appeal to your tiny home. There are lots of different types of vertical gardens, but here are a couple of the easiest ones to DIY:
Flowerpot tower (from The Self Sufficient Living)
Buy a few terracotta planters of ascending sizes. Use the biggest planter as your base, and fill it with soil. Place a rod in the middle of a planter. Stack remaining planters on top of the base, from big to small (like a pyramid) using the rod to connect them. Add flowers of choice to each planter. Violets, nasturtiums, daisies, marigolds, and pansies will be tower-garden friendly, according to TowerGarden.com.
Tiered hanging baskets (from BobVila.com)
Purchase a few durable, woven hanging baskets like these Madras storage baskets from World Market. Connect the baskets with braided rope in a color of your choosing. Add your potting soil and flower varieties, and hang the tiered baskets with a strong hook.
Ladder garden (from Ana-White.com)
Ladders serve more than their practical purpose of helping us reach high places. The right kind of ladder (preferably wood) in the right setting can be the perfect structure to support a vertical garden that you prop up against your tiny home.
Ana-White.com has a great tutorial for how to build your own ladder garden planter using cedar fence pickets. The project costs about $20 but does require using a compound miter saw and a staple gun. However, this DIY option allows you to add your soil and flowers/herbs directly into the runged planters.
Alternatively (for the more novice DIYers) you could buy a tiered ladder like this natural wood variety from Home Depot ($131), and place your plant containers on top of each tier. You could even paint the ladder a fun outdoorsy shade like robin’s egg blue or sunny yellow.
3. Give your front door a fresh coat of paint
Take a look at the condition and color of the front door. If it doesn’t wow you, dress it up with a fresh coat of paint for a dash of instant pizzaz. If your tiny home exterior is neutral, consider a bold color like Moroccan red, blue loch, lemon twist, or sassy green. Alternatively, you could stick with earthy tones like olive, jade, or black.
Keep your staging minimal, using mirrors and curtains to your advantage
When it comes to staging your tiny house, less is more. With so little square footage to work with, it’s very easy to over-stage, which makes the space feel cluttered and small.
Your top priority, before you bring in any extra decorative items, is to keep an exquisitely neat and tidy home. If your closets and cabinets look stuffed, eliminate items such as excess coffee cups, clothes, and kitchen gadgets to make each precious storage area appear sufficiently spacious. What you do with the overflow is up to you: Sell, digitize, donate, and box up anything you can’t part with. Temporarily place your boxes in an offsite unit or friend’s garage, but get it off the property.
As for other tiny home staging techniques:
- Limit your use of rugs to keep the room-flow open and stick to smaller furnishings proportionate to your square footage.
- Paint walls a shade of white.
- Draw the eye outdoors using large mirrors.
- Hang curtain rods 4-6 inches above windows and use rods that extend 3-6 inches beyond both sides of the frame. Select curtains with a subtle vertical stripe or pattern to add the illusion of height to the window.
Showcase your tiny home’s space-saving and convertible features
People out shopping for tiny homes may be coming from regular-sized, single-family residences with walk-in closets and tons of cabinets. They know they’ll need to downsize their belongings to comfortably live in a tiny house and shift gears on how many guests they can entertain.
However, the more you can show off the storage potential and modifiable room arrangements of your tiny home, the more attractive it will be to those coming from different ends of the “I’m a minimalist” spectrum.
Take, for example, the 304-square-foot, off-the-grid cabin of John and Fin Kernohan in the woods of Georgia. The Kernohans, who are also the founders of United Tiny House Association, an organization for the advocacy and support of the tiny house movement, shared that their L-shaped sitting area serves three purposes:
- Entertaining room in the daytime and evenings
- Sleeping quarters with two convertible single beds for overnight guests
- Storage with 48 cubic feet of space beneath the seating
If the Kernohans were (theoretically) selling their tiny cabin, they would want to include images of this space that illustrate each of the three setups and include a summary of the convertible options in the listing description. This differs a bit from a regular listing, where you’d likely capture photos of each room but wouldn’t have to demonstrate multiple arrangements.
Highlight your tiny home’s unique features and upgrades
Our homes are extensions of ourselves, and that sentiment is amplified among tiny-home owners. Whether you built your tiny home from scratch or selected each update with care, you take great pride in every little detail. Meaghan Baker, a top-selling real estate agent in Dickson, Tennessee, found this to be the case when she sold a client’s one-bedroom, 528-square-foot house in her area.
“When I was doing the property description, I tried to really focus on the fact that it was a little cabin, a getaway in the woods,” she recalls. “The house had a connection to the land and it also had a connection to my client — because that’s his family’s land and he really put a lot of thought and a lot of his heart into creating this home for himself.”
This particular seller had invested in what Baker estimated to be $3,000 African mahogany countertop in the kitchen. He also hand-built — with wood right there from the land — a cherry barn door to separate the bedroom and living room. The best way to convey these details about your own home to potential buyers? Have a conversation with your agent about your home’s history and what makes it stand out.
“I really sat down with the client and asked him to give me all the details on every type of wood he used and where he used it,” Baker says. “It was really important to emphasize that in the listing.”
Her strategy worked: The tiny home she was selling (much to her surprise!) attracted multiple offers and sold over asking.
At the end of the day, ensure that whatever features are unique to your tiny house shine through as you market the property, whether it’s a high-end stackable washer and dryer, your dedication to using sustainable building materials throughout, your handy bike storage contraption, or a rooftop terrace.
If your tiny home is permanently placed (i.e., not on a trailer with wheels), highlight the parcel of land your property is on. Show how it’s nestled at the foot of a mountain or situated in a beautiful wooded area. High-end professional photography is a must, and you could even capture some aerial shots using drone technology.
Sell the tiny home lifestyle, from jet-setting to cost savings
In Baker’s experience, “Offers [on the tiny home] came in from everywhere, but each of the buyers was looking for the same thing — a more minimalist lifestyle to get away from the upkeep.”
What a great insight for tiny-home sellers! You too can highlight how low-maintenance your home is (“It only takes 30 minutes to clean from top to bottom!”) and everything you’re able to do because you’re not tied to a traditional house: Travel, spend time outdoors, work fewer hours, whatever the case may be. “Believe it or not, one of Fin’s main reasons for going tiny is the ability for us to clean our house quickly and thoroughly in a very short amount of time,” John Kernohan says.
You should also spell out the cost savings, including what you normally pay in utilities each month. “Utilities in a tiny home are just a fraction of the cost of living in a conventional home, as much as 85% less,” says Dan Louche, the founder of Tiny Home Builders, one of the country’s largest tiny home manufacturing companies. Tiny house living can relieve dwellers of many expenses, leading to debt-free living, and who isn’t excited about that possibility?
Depending on your comfort level, the more personal you can be, the better. When buyers are new to the tiny house lifestyle, it pays to educate and share your experience with the home and to really illustrate what your day-to-day life looks like. You can include an FAQ sheet in your marketing materials or provide a personal statement with the property to give potential buyers insight into the tiny home benefits they’d never dreamed of.
Capture photos with a wide-angle lens on a sunny day
“In our experience, a wide-angle lens is a requirement [for marketing tiny homes],” Louche says. Wide-angle lenses have a wider field of view than the human eye and the photos they’re able to capture make tight spaces look roomier.
The trade-off with a wide-angle lens, however, is you’ll get a distorted fish-eye look in your photos if you don’t use the technology properly. To avoid that, Louche recommends running the images through software (here are a few methods with varying degrees of difficulty), to correct the images. When in doubt, hire a professional photographer with experience using a wide-angle lens to photograph your home.
Be sure to capture photos on a clear bright day, as “You’ll want to show off the natural light that pours into your home,” advises John Kernohan. Lighting a tiny home naturally is much easier than bringing in professional lighting equipment, which can be challenging in a cramped space.
Price your tiny home with a pre-listing appraisal and top agent’s expertise
According to a Reader’s Digest interview with the producer of Tiny House, Big Living, tiny home prices can range anywhere between $10,000 and $180,000 but tend to average around $30,000-$40,000.
All in all, valuing tiny homes can be tricky. For one, from a price-per-square-foot perspective, tiny homes are expensive, making it hard to compare them to any other kind of real estate.
Data show tiny homes cost $300-$400 per square foot to build, compared to $150 per square foot for regular homes. When you’re packing so much function into a small space, each part of that space becomes more valuable. Think about how, in a tiny home, kitchens, beds, and baths account for a greater proportion of the total square footage that would otherwise go to hallways, closets, entryways, etc.
You also have to adjust your price based on the features and upgrades of the home. Expensive materials and selections (like the luxury cabin in the woods offered) are going to sell for a premium while a no-frills basic version won’t fetch a fraction of the same cost.
Pricing is also completely different depending on whether you have a permanent location versus mobile tiny home on wheels. A mobile tiny home isn’t going to gain value in the same way. It’s actually the land your home is built on that appreciates, which is why location has such a big impact on a property’s value.
With all of these factors to account for, you can opt to get a pre-listing appraisal from a professional appraiser to use in your pricing strategy. If you need to factor in any land, you can look at comparable land sales in the area to get a price-per-square-foot comparison.
Baker’s experience is an excellent example of how pricing a tiny home can be a bit of a moving target:
“The seller had gotten an appraisal on the house a few months before we put it on the market,” she recalls. “We took his appraisal, and we looked at the other land that had sold in the area and got the square footage price, which brought our price down a bit to $129,900. We ended up selling it for $140,000, which was close to the original appraisal.”
Be upfront with buyers about zoning and building rules
It’s no longer the Wild West (as fun as that would be!) Today, city and state zoning laws set rules for how land can be divided and which types (and size) of structures you can put there. Unfortunately, tiny homes often clash with building and zoning regulations, particularly local minimum square-foot requirements for new construction. When a house doesn’t meet these local requirements, you can’t build it on a residential lot.
To circumvent this issue, many tiny homes are built on trailers and parked in lots or RV parks (which may require appropriate permitting). In that case, you’re selling a personal property, which can be registered as a trailer, explains Louche, and you should be transparent about what buyers are getting, i.e., just the house — not any land.
If you own, instead of lease or rent, the plot of land the tiny house is on, you’ll need to consult with your real estate agent and possibly an attorney about the legal requirements in your area. If the home’s foundation is in the ground and your utilities are wired into the grid, you’ll have little choice but to package the home with the parcel of land.
When looking for a top local agent to sell your tiny home, make sure whoever you choose has experience in the market and strong familiarity with the zoning laws in your area to help you navigate these intricacies.
Header Image Source: (Tiny Home Builders)