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Posted: February 27, 2014

Tiny houses: Casting off the big mortgage

Eight things we give up to own a home

Thomas Frey

(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part One.)

In the movie Fight Club, author Chuck Palahniuk makes a rather profound statement when the lead character Tyler Durden says, “The things you used to own, now they own you.” 

We make many tradeoffs throughout our life and most of them somehow pass through our internal filter for what constitutes the good life. In doing so we find ourselves caught up in an endless quest for more, which invariably costs us time and money at every turn.

One of the biggest boat anchors for our lives tends to be our home and the gigantic home mortgage that comes with it. We sacrifice much for the sake of paying our mortgage. Here are some of the things we give up:

  • No Life of Passion – Want to be a musician, writer, artist, poet, actor, actress, clothing designer, or movie star? The job you take to pay your mortgage will almost always get in the way.
  • No Time and Money for Travel – Are you jealous of people traveling to China, Brazil, Norway, and Italy? If you didn’t spend money on paying rent or a mortgage, how much money could you dedicate to doing something else?
  • No Spending Time with Family and Friends – Because you’re always working, family and friends always seem to come in second place.
  • No Ability to Move Quickly – Selling a home is a complicated, time-consuming process with a huge number of fees and commissions.
  • Limited Ability to Switch Jobs – Once you’re in a home, your ability to switch jobs and careers is clouded by the number of employers in close proximity to where you currently live.
  • No Ability to Explore New Cities – New cities mean new cultures, new friends, and a new way of thinking.
  • Limited Ability to Find New Opportunities – If you come across a new opportunity, but it requires you to live somewhere new for 3-6 months, being tied to a home makes that nearly impossible.
  • No Time for Dreams – How do dreamers live? What is that big dream that you’ve had on hold forever? Would you go to Burning Man? How would your life suddenly be different if you were no longer tied to a job or a location?

The Missing Pieces

Currently no city has stood up and labeled themselves as “tiny home friendly.”

This means there are no tiny home neighborhoods, no tiny home parks (like trailer parks), and no rules, laws, or ordinances governing their construction, installation, and transport.

If you own a tiny home and drive it into a new city, you may have difficulty finding a place to put it. Yes, you can always pull into a local KOA campground and hang out there with all the RVs and campers, but tiny homeowners are looking for better ways to integrate into a community.

These missing pieces mean huge opportunities for the future. Here are a few of the opportunities for someone wanting to capitalize on this trend:

  • Tiny Home Pads – If you have a large yard, just add a pad with power and utility hookups and you can generate extra rental income for very little investment.
  • Airbnb Rental – If you add a tiny home to your back yard, rent it out through Airbnb.
  • Tiny Home Association – As the numbers grow, this industry will need more clout when it comes to city rules and regulations. Each state will eventually have tiny homeowners associations.
  • Tiny Home Realtor – Since many of these homes are mobile, people will easily travel cross-country to pick up a home they buy.
  • Tiny Store Front–Home Combined – Not only a place to live but a way to earn a living while traveling as well.

Final Thoughts

Think of this as an obvious backlash to the banking, mortgage, and credit card industry. It’s also a backlash to glutinous consumption, poor job opportunities, and young people feeling betrayed by older generations.

Living in a trailer house has a bad connotation. But living in an even smaller tiny home, that has many of the same features as a trailer house, is suddenly all the rage, chic and cool tied up into one super cute little package.

But the big thing this trend offers is freedom, and that’s not easy to quantify. It’s not just an efficient lifestyle, but a culture, a door-opener, a character-builder, and untethered nobility all rolled into one.

Cities will have to adapt. People without permanent ties to a community are difficult to regulate and factor into city planning, but people with tiny homes will happen anyway.

I’ve only mentioned a few of the possible opportunities ahead, but there will be many more. So I’d love to hear your thoughts on the tiny home movement and how it will affect your thoughts on home ownership in the future.

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

Mr. Frey, what do you say to the financial gurus who say it's ok to have a mortgage even after retirement? I find it so interesting that many financial "advisors" do not include Paying off the Mortgage As Soon As Possible" in their spiels. As a mortgage-free person of more than 12 years, I can attest that the freedom is not only wonderful, it is tangible in all ways. By Vicki on 2014 02 27
Thanks for the great article. In my last career I owned a business that implemented time management skills along with organizing peoples, homes, offices, and lives. My mantra to my clients was "The more you have the more you have to take care of". And "Be careful what you want to own because it just might own you". I have found that life is so much better when one is free of useless crap that we are brain washed into "needing". Arlys By Arlys on 2014 02 27
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