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What Is a Tiny Home Anyway?


From Tiny House, Big Living, to major headlines in the New York Times, Washington Post, and even the Economist, it feels like tiny homes are a huge deal right now. But what constitutes a tiny home to be, well, tiny?

While there’s no formal definition, most American specialty insurance companies categorize any house up to 400 square feet as ‘tiny.’ More liberal views may extend the maximum up to 1000 square feet.

While square footage is the primary variable that defines tiny homes, it’s not the only one. Here’s a breakdown of what constitutes a tiny home in most people’s eyes.

What Is the Average Size of a Tiny Home?

The average American tiny house is going to land somewhere between 100 square feet and 400 square feet, depending on just how cozy you want to make it. This isn’t the entire picture, though – prefab tiny homes are often very good at using spaces such as a loft layout (upper story) to add some extra wiggle room.

The 400 square foot figure comes from the International Resident Code, Appendix Q, but is just one of many definitions. Specifically, this metric leaves out any additional loft space that is used in the tiny home. 

Mobile tiny homes have specific clearance dimensions you must abide by. Specifically, they must not be over 13.5 feet high, 8.5 feet wide, and 40 feet long. Keeping it under these dimensions will ensure your tiny home is road compliant and can be driven wherever you like without a permit. 

Are Lofts and Condos Considered Tiny Homes?

A lot of you are probably thinking, “Hold up. I know that there are a lot of small lofts and condos out there. Are these considered tiny homes as well?”

Generally, these aren’t considered tiny homes, but it depends on the area. Many regions specifically mention that the tiny house in question needs to be “self-contained.” This rules out most properties that are part of a larger complex, such as big city lofts and condominiums. 

There is a concurrent trend of making tiny-sized apartment units to combat the high need for housing in many cities. Generally, these are called “micro-units” but are, however, a separate phenomenon amongst the tiny home communities.

Are RV’s Tiny Homes?

Generally, RVs are not considered tiny homes. This is because they are treated more like a vehicle in many jurisdictions. They’re also assumed to be intended for recreational purposes, and not as a permanent residence.

However, some people will set up a travel trailer home in a permanent location. This may be considered tiny within some legal frameworks, and you’ll have to speak to your specialty insurance company to go through the exact details.

It’s worth noting that a prefab tiny home on wheels is often considered a recreational vehicle rather than a full-time living residence. In most instances, specialty insurance or normal home insurance companies define tiny mobile homes as recreational vehicles. 

Is an ADU a Tiny Home?

ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) are typically considered to be any small property that is constructed on the property of a larger one. This means that a tiny house put in the backyard of a larger house could count as an ADU. 

However, not all ADUs are tiny houses. A basement suite, for example, is an ADU that is not considered a self-contained tiny house, and the same would go for an apartment that is placed above a garage. 

Are Mobile Homes Tiny Homes?

Mobile homes specifically refer to prefabricated homes that were constructed prior to 1976. Theoretically, if one of these mobile homes was small enough, it could indeed classify as a tiny home. These homes had lax zoning restrictions that were updated in 1976. 

Any prefabricated home made after that date would be classified as a “manufactured home.” 

Tiny homes specifically refer to the size of a home, regardless of if it was prefabricated or built from scratch. 

What Else Makes a Tiny Home?

Beyond size, all tiny homes must be self-contained dwellings. In other words, they can’t be part of any larger structure. In some areas, to avoid being classified as a Recreational Vehicle, a tiny home needs to be hooked up to city utilities to count as a residential home. This would include common bills such as water and electricity. 

Ready to Get a Tiny Home of Your Own?

If you are ready to make a big investment on a tiny home, CoverTree has your back. We’re dedicated to making home insurance easy, no matter the size of your home. From tiny homes to manufactured homes, we want to ensure that every homeowner can feel secure that their property is insured.

Some of you may be pointing out that in your jurisdiction, tiny homes don’t necessarily need insurance. Even though they’re affordable, however, most of us are going to take out some kind of loan to finance our tiny home. This loan could require its own coverage, just like with cars and homes. Most states will also need you to get your tiny home covered if it’s mobile, just like an RV. 

A good tiny home can cost from $10,000 to $100,000 and are just as exposed to wear and tear or theft as any other house. Tiny homes with wheels are even vulnerable to being driven off entirely! It just makes sense to cover your tiny home as best you can. 

CoverTree’s specialty insurance packages are comprehensive. Depending on the package you select, we’ll insure your home, your belongings, personal liability, loss of use, and medical payments for any injury on your property. 

Best of all, CoverTree is easy. You can file an insurance claim online in only three minutes. It’s easy to manage that policy online, and you can forget all about lengthy paperwork and unnecessary phone calls. Apply for your tiny home, specialty insurance today.

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