Tiny Homes

By Ninah Hunter, Real Estate Editor

[January 2020 | San Juan Silver Stage | By Ninah Hunter, Real Estate Editor]

The Tiny House movement has taken the country by storm, with Colorado leading the way. These micro homes, generally 400 square feet or less, either present an idyllic lifestyle of freedom or a panacea for affordable housing.

While a Tiny House may be on wheels or a permanent foundation, it is not the following:

• RV. A Tiny House on Wheels (THOW) is not an RV. RVs are regulated by the RV International Association (RVIA) and must be constructed in compliance with the National Fire and Protection Association (NFPA) 1192 Code.

• Manufactured Home. Often referred to as a “mobile home,” these structures must be built to HUD standards in HUD-approved manufacturing plants. HUD specifically exempts homes under 400 square feet.

• Modular Home. This offsite-built home is governed by the International Residential Code (IRC). It is assembled and placed on a permanent foundation on land and treated like a regular, on-site built home.

Tiny Home built on a foundation. /image, Flicker.

Tiny Home Challenges

Because Tiny Houses have not been regulated and often do not fit the local jurisdiction’s definition of a “dwelling,” the Tiny House owner may be met with some unexpected challenges. Here are the three major ones.

• Financing. A THOW cannot be financed with a regular mortgage. Even if a Tiny Home is set on a permanent foundation, lenders may be reluctant to finance it.

Wee Casa Tiny House Resorts, Colorado.

• Zoning. Local zoning laws and subdivision rules often limit or prohibit where you can park or build your Tiny House. Minimum square footage requirements often exclude a Tiny House. While you may be able to park it on yours or someone else’s property, zoning may prohibit living in it or renting it out. The length of time you are allowed to “camp” in your THOW may also be limited, even on your own land!

• Building Codes. Since Tiny Houses are not required to be built to any standard, insuring them can be problematic. THOWs may not be permitted in some RV or mobile home parks. It may be difficult to get an RV license to tow it unless it is RVIA- or National Organization of Alternative Housing-certified.

The Good News

Yes, there is some! Fortunately, Tiny Houses are gaining credibility and acceptance. Organizations, such as the American Tiny House Association and the Colorado Tiny House Association, continue to grow and advocate for these homes. The IRC recently adopted specific regulations and standards for Tiny Homes.

Professional Tiny Home builders, such as Tiny Custom Homes of Colorado in Montrose, Sprout Tiny Homes in Pueblo, and Micro Living, LLC, in Steamboat Springs, have sprung up around the country. Municipalities across the country are beginning to change their zoning to allow them, spawning Tiny Home communities such as Escalante Village in Durango, Beloved Community Village in Denver, and the Cheney Creek Tiny Homes near Steamboat Springs.

The Tiny House Festival in Brighton, Colorado, has become one of the largest and most popular in the country. The Tiny House is, clearly, not just a fad. But do your research before you buy!

Ninah Hunter is a Realtor® and avid outdoors enthusiast. Her blog,, is a great resource for residents and visitors. She provides valuable information about local real estate, re-gional activities, and community events. Ninah lives in Ridgway, Colorado.