WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE THINKING? OR ARE YOU?
There's a scourge sweeping this land of ours.
It has been fueled by reality TV.
It's prompting Americans to make foolish decisions.
Soon, the landscape will be dotted with the detritus left by this toxic trend.
Of course, you know of what we're speaking here.
AIEEE! TINY HOUSES!
The tiny-house movement is taking the country by storm!
Idealists and empty-nesters, weirdos and hipsters, artists and wannabes--all kinds of folks are flocking to the fold.
We're seeing it here where we live, outside of Park City, Utah.
Realtors we know are flooded with phone calls. Starry-eyed dreamers are asking, "If I buy property in X subdivision, can I put a tiny house there?"
There are even stories of an upper middle-class neighborhood near us where a nightmare tiny house is soiling the landscape.
OUR OWN NEIGHBORHOOD IS RURAL AND CHALLENGING
Where we live, we have dirt roads and no phone lines.
In the winter, you're welcome to try driving up here.
But if you don't have 4 x 4 and good snow tires or chains? They probably won't find your body until spring.
A real-estate-agent friend of ours routinely talks to starry-eyed Keebler-elf aspirants who ask if this mountain enclave is a place where they could buy a lot and park a tiny home.
Are you nuts?
Let's forget that the HOA will not allow erection of a temporary structure for longer than six months. (After all, we do have CC&Rs. We are not total animals.)
Let's consider that the real estate market at large has been superheated by the Vail Resorts empire sweeping into town and creating the nation's largest ski resort.
LAND HERE IS NO KIND OF BARGAIN-BASEMENT VALUE
Do you really want to buy an unimproved lot for double the price of your microscopic mobile chalet so you can park it here and live without electric or water until you become hermetically sealed inside your bungalow box by the epic snowfalls of the Wasatch back--the same kinds of snows that engulfed the Donner party and drove them to cannibalism?
Again--they will not find your body until spring.
But let's forget the impracticalities of living in a house on wheels--a space whose layout is constrained by the limitations of the United States Department of Transportation.
CAN YOU REALLY LIVE IN THERE?
You and your partner?
In a space the size and shape of a well-decorated shipping container?
"Yes, it's small and has bad feng shui. But look at the cute drawer pulls in the kitchen! You can even see them from the bedroom!"
Do your house guests mind sleeping with their head in the oven and their feet in the composting toilet? ("It's green, ya know!")
As Austin-based freelance writer, Lauren Modery says in her "Dear People Who Live In Fancy Tiny Houses":
What the hell happens when your
tiny house partner farts Mexican
food farts, huh? Where do you
escape to? Nowhere. You have
nowhere to run. All you can do
is walk three feet to the other
end of the house and pray.
This pungent speculation helps smoke out one of the greater challenges with tiny living: the people who are doing it simply aren't considering the long-term logistical realities of the format.
BUT LET'S FORGET ABOUT FUNCTION VS. FRAGRANCE FOR A MOMENT
Let's look at the fiscal foolishness that's driving people over the horizon with elfen treehouse cookie bakeries strapped to their bumpers.
Let's look at the young dreamers driving into the sunset with "The house of our dreams!"
This epic foolishness was driven home recently with an episode of one of the plethora of tiny-house reality shows on that sinister and tiny-house titillater, HGTV.
A local couple, some kids who had been working in restaurant right here in Park City, were hunting for a tiny home.
THEY WANTED SOMETHING TO "CALL THEIR OWN"
These two aspiring chefs were planning a move to the Pacific northwest.
With a budget of $50,000, they were planning on ditching their "huge," 1,200 square-foot apartment and taking to the road with "something we own!"
The story line followed the model of all of these shows where people hunt for homes.
After looking at three tiny homes on wheels, they picked one.
After making their marks upon it, they drove away on Interstate 84 towards the land of seasonal affective disorder, presumably in search of abundant coffee, rain, and small amounts of marijuana for personal use only.
"AND WE OWN IT!"
Yes, you own it.
An uncomfortable, impractical, depreciating asset on wheels.
It's not like you kids bought actual real estate.
There's no hope of that diminutive domicile appreciating in value over time.
As you drive towards the rainforests of the great American northwest, see that cloud in your rearview mirror?
It's made up of dollar bills fluttering out the door of your mobile abode.
Do you even understand anything about investing?
A TINY-HOUSE IS A BLACK HOLE
You've just paid $50,000 for a box on wheels that requires you haul it with a full-size pickup truck.
If you had simply driven to Seattle, rented a tiny apartment for 750 bucks a month, found a job, and invested, say, $40,000 of your nest egg in a total markets index fund at roughly 6% return, in one year you'll have several thousand dollars more in your pocket (plus whatever you're making at your greasy kitchen job).
Or, if you'd spent $8,000 on a used travel trailer, you would have bought a living situation that holds its value fairly well, you'd still have $42,000 in your pocket, and also have exactly as much flexibility as living in the claustrophobic cabin of your wildest 20-something dreams.
Or, if you're industrious, you might even have been able to find a tiny condo, or a tiny house without wheels, and use your available cash as a down payment on actual real estate, which is an appreciating asset. (Hint: that typically means you make money instead of losing it.)
As The Fabulous Honey Parker said just the other day, as we were driving past the Park City RV Park, "There's a tiny home in there. All the camping trailers and motorhomes are laughing at it."
KIDS, YOU BOUGHT INTO A DREAM DESTINED TO BRING YOU DOWN
You're young and unemployed in a job category that doesn't pay well.
You threw everything you have at a depreciating asset.
Parking and maintaining that depreciating asset will require some kind of monthly "rent."
The resale market for used tiny homes is a buyer's market, for sure--because nobody is buying the damned things.
People across the country are abandoning their dreams of tiny-home living, which have been dashed upon the rocks of financial reality.
But you own it! Wheeeeee!
BUT THANK YOU, REALITY TV
The reality is that they're selling a flawed dream to the uninformed and unsophisticated in the name of entertainment.
And those starry-eyed viewers are taking it all as some kind of gospel and chasing those dreams to possible financial insolvency.
Certainly, there are people who can make it work.
But if you look at the folks who build tiny homes on an actual plot of land, one of the first things you see them do is MAKE THEM BIGGER.
Reality TV is no basis for making real life decisions.
It is entertainment at best.
Following the lead of reality TV could mean entertaining ourselves to death.
Change the channel on that tiny brain, please. Make it bigger.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.