Tiny Houses

11 December 2014


You might think that construction costs are all that we have to worry about. Not true. There are many and varied expenses that make up the cost of a development project, whether tiny or not.  We’ll have to consider this entire checklist:

•   The cost of the land;
•   A survey;
•   The Minim plans;
•   Architect fees to help with zoning code compliance, permitting and contract administration;
•   Site engineering;
•   Permitting fees;
•   Legal fees to purchase the land and sell the house;
•   Title, recording fees and transfer taxes;
•   Holding costs including property taxes, water, sewer and interest on a construction loan;
•   Insurance;
•   Earthwork;
•   Concrete foundations;
•   Utility hookup fees;
•   A crushed gravel, paver or concrete driveway and a curb cut to the street;
•   The house;
•   Appliances, including stove, refrigerator, dishwasher and washer/drier;
•   The deck and stairs; and
•   Landscaping, including the removal of a very large tree at the corner of the site.

We’ll have to consider all of these before we set a sales price. Affordable is the goal.  I’m going to sharpen my pencil now.


  1. Kevin G. Schifino said on

    I would love to build a tiny house in Pittsburgh and especially in the east end neighborhoods such as Garfield. However, I am quite dismayed and disturbed by the fact that these houses are not as affordable as they should be. There is no way you will get enough people on board with this if it’s going to cost someone $150,000.00 to build a roughly 500 square foot house when one could buy an existing house in the Pittsburgh market for way less than that and upgrade it to an eco-friendly structure for about the same amount of money and have way more square footage. I can find multiple examples of existing housing stock in Pittsburgh and its inner ring suburbs. Post WWII 6 room brick veneer houses roughly around 1200 square feet are plentiful in Pittsburgh for around $50,000 to $75,000. Buy one, put another $50,000 into it with green technology upgrades and you come out ahead of building a tiny house. There must be a way to make these tiny houses cheaper for people like me. I so want one of these tiny houses in Pittsburgh. I have a background in residential architectural design and have designed a house for myself that is less than 1000 square feet that could be built using green design principles, but why should it cost me upwards of $200,000 to do it? Doesn’t make sense to me! I would be willing to participate in a workshop to address this very important issue or perhaps I’m completely wrong and this isn’t an issue? In my income bracket my comfortable budget would be around $110,000. I should be able to build my dream small house for around that sum, but I don’t think it can happen in Pittsburgh. Help!

  2. Kevin, you aren’t wrong. It’s very difficult to build a new house for under $100,000 but we are working on it. The Urban Redevelopment Authority assists with funds that help to write down the cost of new construction to make it affordable. There are other issues, like PWSA hookups and curb cuts, that are much harder to deal with than building costs. It currently costs $15,000 per lot to tie into the water and sewer system and that means any chance of affordable (literally) goes down the drain. And the City requires an off-street parking space for each house which is crazy. You have to cut into the curb, rebuild it, pour new sidewalk and you lose space on the site. In the meantime, you’ve lost a space on the street as well. Many of the advantages of a new, tiny house will come after you move in. It’s going to be much more affordable to live in a tiny house that’s well insulated and has been built with good quality materials. This is the appeal to some people. If you are looking to live in 1000 s.f. and up, you are right, it may not make sense. There are plenty of old Pittsburgh houses that will serve that purpose with some loving care.

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