The tiny house movement has been thriving for several years, attracting minimalists, environmentalists, and extremely frugal consumers alike. In case you aren’t familiar, the idea is to minimize the amount of physical space in your dwelling; while the typical American home is something like 2,600 square feet, a tiny home is between 100 and 400 square feet, affording just enough space to live, cook, eat, and sleep. These homes tend to be much less expensive to buy and maintain, and are eco-friendly as well.
To the average college student, they may seem like an attractive housing option—especially if you aren’t interested in living in the dorms—but are they a good idea?
There are certainly some perks to buying a tiny house:
- Low costs. While the most extravagant and well-placed tiny houses can cost as much as $180,000, the most basic units can be as inexpensive as $10,000, making them an affordable housing option for pretty much anyone. You can choose to buy or rent your tiny home, though most people opt to buy due to the accessibility of this price point; in any case, you’ll almost certainly end up paying less per month than you would for on-campus housing, dorms, or a nearby apartment.
- Environmental friendliness. You can also take pride in the fact that tiny homes tend to be much more environmentally friendly than their larger, more traditional counterparts. They don’t take nearly as many building materials to construct or maintain, and because there’s far less total space, you’ll use your heating and cooling systems far less.
- Proximity and/or Tiny homes are quick and easy to construct, and they can fit into even small property lots. Accordingly, you’ll probably find a few attractively placed options near campus. If there aren’t any, you could have a new one constructed for a minimal investment. They may not be as close to campus as the dorms, but they’ll certainly be closer than most other apartment or housing options.
- Tiny houses are currently highly liquid. There’s high demand for these structural units, and if you get yours close to campus, there will be consistent demand from other college students as they begin their education after you. That means after you’ve graduated, you can sell your tiny home (if you choose) without worrying about too much of your money being tied up in the investment. In fact, you may even turn a profit if prices in the neighborhood consistently improve (and if the tiny house movement lasts).
- Personal control. If you own your living space, you’ll have much more flexibility over what you do with it and how you decorate it. And there are many beautiful ways to improve the aesthetics of your tiny home, from installing better window treatments to modernizing the furniture. It may seem like a small perk to consider, but your control over your environment can play a massive role in your mood and self-esteem; if you feel better about your living situation, you’ll be less stressed, and will likely perform better in your classes.
There are, however, some downsides:
- Lack of community. One of the biggest benefits of going to college is having a sense of community, sharing the same space with other like-minded people. Dorms are a chance to make new friendships and study together, and living on campus gives you lots of chances to run into other people and socialize. If you live on your own in a tiny house off campus, you’ll have fewer opportunities to meaningfully engage with other people.
- Lack of studying space. Depending on what you’re studying, a tiny house may not be conducive to your academic efforts. If you need several books open at the same time, and plenty of space to work with your computer, your home may feel cramped. You could always go to a library or other public studying place, but this can certainly make your life less convenient.
- Financial commitment. Despite the low entry costs, buying a home is still a significant financial commitment, and one that you may not be ready to take on if you’re just starting your education path. If you haven’t yet led a career, you might not have enough cash for a down payment, and if you’re tied down by your investment, your flexibility upon graduating may be limited.
It’s irresponsible to claim that tiny houses are completely good or completely bad for all college students; the truth is that some college students will find them to be a near-perfect housing option, while others may see little benefit to investing in them. Think carefully about your budget, your needs, how you prefer to study, and what you’re hoping to get out of the college experience.