Do you know the difference between a tiny home and a small home? I mean, they are both small, right?

If you are considering living smaller, you need to know the differences between a tiny home and a small home.

Both offer a more minimalist lifestyle than a traditional house, but they have some differences.

In this article, we’ll dive into the difference between a tiny home and a small home, covering:

  • Size and mobility
  • Cost breakdowns
  • Advantages of each
  • Factors to consider when choosing

By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of what distinguishes these two compact housing options so you can make the best choice for your lifestyle and needs.

Let’s get into it!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I can earn commissions. If you decide to purchase through my links, it is at no cost to you.

What is the Difference Between a Tiny Home and a Small Home?

Tiny homes are under 400 sq ft and prioritize extreme efficiency. Some are mobile with wheels, and others are on a permanent foundation.

Small homes range from 400-1000 sq ft and strike a balance between space-saving and livability. These homes are usually on a permanent foundation.

Other key differences include space usage, financing, upfront cost, and structure permanence.

Both tiny homes and small homes are gaining traction with the small house movement due to housing affordability, the desire to live more sustainably, and some senior citizens to live closer to family.

Tiny Home Overview

Square footage and layout

Tiny homes are dwellings under 400 square feet. This compact size necessitates a strong focus on maximizing every inch of available space.


Interestingly, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a tiny home with a reference to a floor plan of less than 500 square feet. 🤔🤔

Designers of tiny homes employ creative solutions to make these small spaces functional, such as multi-purpose furniture, Murphy & loft beds, and clever storage systems built into walls and stairs.

Chloe floor plan

Permanent structures

One unique aspect of many tiny homes is their mobility. A significant portion of tiny houses are constructed on wheeled trailer chassis, allowing them to be towed to different locations.

This mobility enables owners to move their homes to new areas, whether for a change of scenery or to follow job opportunities.

tiny house, scene, clip art

The trailer base of a tiny home helps bypass specific building codes and zoning regulations that apply to permanent structures. A mobile tiny home is considered a movable structure like an RV.

If a tiny house is not mobile, it will be on a foundation similar to a traditional home.

Small Home Overview

Square footage and layout

In contrast to tiny homes, small homes offer a bit more living space, typically ranging from 400 to 1,000 square feet.

These homes are still compact compared to the average American home (around 2,600 sq ft) but extra square footage allows for a slightly more spacious layout.

Small homes more often have separated rooms for distinct functions, such as closed-off bedrooms, rather than the open-concept living necessitated by tiny homes.

Isla floor plan

Permanent structures

Small homes are usually built as permanent structures on foundations, similar to traditional houses, just on a smaller scale.

-> This means they are subject to local building codes and zoning laws.

This permanence can offer greater stability for those who don’t desire the more nomadic tiny home lifestyle.

Homes of this size are sometimes used as an ADU.

Tiny Home and Small Home Lifestyles

While both tiny and small homes embrace the idea of living in reduced square footage, they cater to different lifestyle preferences.

Tiny homes take the concept to the extreme, often necessitating a more minimalist, mobile way of living.

Small homes strike a middle ground – still consciously downsized but allowing for a bit more space and permanence.

The tiny house movement

Tiny Home Advantages

  • Tiny homes offer significant cost savings and environmental benefits
  • Living in a tiny home encourages minimalism and can provide more freedom

Tiny Homes have Lower Costs

One of the biggest draws of tiny homes is their affordability compared to traditional houses, even smallest ones.

Building a tiny home requires far fewer materials and less labor, which translates to major cost savings.

On average, a tiny house costs about $52,000. This is a huge difference to some places that can cost well over $500,000.

Beyond the upfront building costs, tiny homeowners also save on ongoing expenses like:

  • Lower utility bills for heating & cooling
  • Less electricity
  • Less water usage
  • Less maintenance and repair costs

Over time, these savings can really add up.

Tiny Homes can be Environmentally Friendly

Real estate has shaped humanity. Freedom

Tiny homes are also eco-friendly with a reduced environmental footprint compared to larger dwellings.

  • Fewer Materials: They use fewer building materials.
  • Sustainable Choices: Many owners choose sustainable, recycled, and non-toxic materials.
  • Off-Grid Living: Some tiny homes have solar panels, composting toilets, and rainwater collection systems.
  • Self-Sufficiency: This reduces reliance on public utilities and fossil fuels.

For those who care about the environment, tiny living is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.

Tiny Homes offer more Simplicity and Freedom

Many are drawn to tiny homes for the lifestyle beyond the cost and sustainability benefits. With less space, tiny living necessitates paring down to the essentials and living with intention.

You just don’t have a choice but to live with less – much less.

After living with less, people often find they can focus more on relationships, experiences, and pursuing their passions rather than maintaining a large home and many belongings.

Tiny homes also offer a sense of freedom if they are on wheels.

If you get a new job, want to travel, or simply crave a change of scenery, a mobile tiny home allows you to bring your entire house with you to a new location.

laughing woman while squatting

Tiny Home Challenges to Consider

While there are many benefits, it’s important to be aware of potential drawbacks of tiny homes. The challenges of tiny homes may be different than those of small homes:

  • Lifestyle Adjustment: Tiny homes require adapting to a minimal lifestyle and much smaller space. Some people find it too confining, especially with children or pets.
  • Parking and Utilities: Finding parking and hooking up to utilities can be challenging in areas not accustomed to tiny homes.
  • Financing and Insurance: Financing and insuring a tiny home can be tricky if it doesn’t meet the standard definition of a residence. However, tiny-home-specific loans and insurance options are becoming more available.
  • Cost Per Square Foot: While tiny homes cost less overall than traditional houses, the price per square foot is often higher. Kitchens and bathrooms are expensive, even in miniature form.

Small Home Advantages

Small homes provide a bit more space, comfort, and a sense of permanence.

Small Homes offer More Space and Comfort

Since a small home has more square footage than a tiny home that extra space can make a significant difference in daily life:

  • The additional hundred square feet allows for slightly larger furniture, appliances, and storage solutions, making the home more functional and comfortable.
  • Separate spaces for different functions, such as a dedicated bedroom, living room, and kitchen, are possible in a small home, providing a sense of privacy and organization.

Small Homes Feels More Like a “Real Home”

kitchen of small home

Small homes provide a greater sense of stability and belonging compared to the mobile nature of many tiny homes:

  • The permanent foundation of a small home can make it feel more like a traditional house, which may be more appealing to some homeowners.
  • Securing a traditional mortgage for a small home is generally easier than financing a tiny home, as banks are more familiar with standard housing structures.
  • Small homes are typically better insulated and equipped to handle weather extremes, providing a more comfortable living environment year-round.

Resale and Appreciation of Small Homes vs Tiny Homes

AspectSmall HomesTiny Homes
Resale and AppreciationEasier resale due to larger buyer pool and potential for higher appreciation.Harder resale due to smaller, niche market.
Buyer MarketLarger market, making resale easier and potentially more profitable.Smaller, more specialized market.
Mortgage EligibilityEligible for traditional mortgages, attracting a wider range of buyers.Often not eligible for traditional mortgages.
Investment ValueMore likely to appreciate over time as a conventional real estate investment.Less likely to appreciate, seen as unconventional.

Investing in a small home may be a more financially sound decision in the long run due to a larger buyer pool and the potential for appreciation.

Tiny Home vs Small Home Cost Comparison

When it comes to choosing between a tiny home and a small home, cost is often a major factor. Let’s break down the typical costs associated with each option.

Tiny Home Cost

Tiny homes are known for their affordability. Here’s what you can expect:

Cost FactorRange
Total Cost$30,000 – $80,000
MaterialsSmaller, fewer, lighter
UtilitiesReduced hookup and permitting costs
DIYCan significantly cut costs

Tiny homes use less materials, have fewer appliances, and often have reduced utility hookup and permitting costs. If you’re handy, you can even build your own tiny home to save even more.

Small Home Cost

Small homes, while still compact, come with a higher price tag than tiny homes:

Cost FactorRange
Total Cost$80,000 – $200,000+
MaterialsMore materials, appliances, finishes
Land & FoundationAdds significant costs
PermittingMore complex and costly than tiny homes
DIYHarder to avoid costs at this scale

Small homes require more materials, have more appliances and finishes, and often need a foundation and land which adds to the cost.

Permitting could be more complex and costly. DIY is harder at this scale, so it’s tougher to avoid costs.

The Growing Popularity of Small Homes &Tiny Homes

Smaller homes have gained increasing popularity in recent years as more people prioritize simplicity, affordability, and environmental consciousness.

The two options are being used for multi-generational housing due to the increased need for affordable housing.

Some factors driving the small home trend include:

  • Rising housing costs making larger homes less attainable
  • A desire to reduce environmental impact and live more sustainably
  • Shifting priorities towards experiences and financial freedom over material possessions
  • An aging population looking to downsize and simplify their living arrangements

For those intrigued by the idea of living with less but not ready to commit to the extremes of tiny home living, small homes offer an appealing middle ground.

They provide enough space for comfortable daily life while still encouraging a more intentional approach to possessions and resource consumption.

image 2

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the difference between a tiny home and a small home, you can decide which is right for you.

Consider your budget, space needs, desired lifestyle, and long-term goals when deciding between a tiny home and a small home.

If you’re a minimalist who values mobility and low costs above all else, a tiny home could be perfect.

If you want a permanent, slightly more spacious place that still encourages simple living, a small home may be the better fit.

What aspects of tiny home and small home living appeal to you most?

How might each option fit into your vision for an intentional, fulfilling life?

Take some time to reflect on your priorities and imagine yourself in each scenario.

With careful consideration, you’ll find the compact housing style that’s just right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between tiny houses and small houses?

Tiny houses are under 400 sq ft and often mobile. Small houses are larger, on permanent foundations, and meet traditional building codes.

Are the regulations different for tiny houses and small houses?

Yes. Tiny houses often bypass codes by being on wheels. Small houses must comply with local building codes and zoning laws

How do the costs compare between tiny houses and small houses?

Tiny houses are cheaper to build overall but cost more per square foot. Small houses cost more due to land, permits, and construction expenses.

  • Erin Hybart

    Meet Erin, a real estate enthusiast with a wealth of knowledge and an insatiable curiosity for all things Real Estate and living with intention. She passionately advocates for alternative, affordable, and eco-friendly housing solutions. She believes in pushing the industry's innovation boundaries and thinking outside the box. As a licensed real estate agent in Louisiana, Erin dedicates herself to assisting clients in buying and selling properties and mentoring fellow agents to succeed in their own Real Estate businesses. In addition to her professional pursuits, Erin channels her expertise into captivating house-flipping adventures.

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