Why the big interest in tiny houses? | Hepburn Property Guide summer edition

Special Publication

In recent times, two recurring themes in property circles have been housing affordability and the advocacy of minimalism. 

With their compact, pod-like design, tiny houses address both these issues, creating quite a stir in the building industry and with those who have embraced the notion of living with less.

The buzz recently went mainstream, making headlines this past spring when a 14.4 square metre tiny house sold at auction in Melbourne for $56,000, with a reported 10,000 people inspecting the house and 2000 turning up for the auction.

Daylesford builder Steve Ralph recognised a burgeoning interest in tiny houses a couple of years ago, launching Tiny Houses Daylesford to fill a gap in the market. “Tiny houses are about a sixth of the price of a traditional house,” he says. “You work hard for five years to pay it off, and then you can travel and do your thing.”

Steve builds tiny timber houses (“I’m a timber guy, I like cedar weatherboards because they’re light, durable and look great”) in the backyard with his two sons, each dwelling a bespoke model that’s designed in collaboration with the homeowner to ensure fittings such as the stairs, windows and the shower rose are all at the perfect height for the people who’ll be living there. 

Steve says tiny houses could suit a couple with a child, but also acknowledges millennials who see it as means of securing a foothold on the property ladder, in a home they can move with them if they change jobs or meet a partner who lives in another postcode. “In the short-term they can work at a manageable rate, then end up with something that’s an asset, and if they want, sell it - it doesn’t depreciate in the way a caravan does.”

This story is from the summer edition of the Hepburn Property Guide. Click here to read the entire publication.

Together with being a more affordable housing option and forcing you to reevaluate and live with less, what’s also important is a tiny house’s comfort level, particularly given the extremes in temperature the Hepburn Springs and Macedon Ranges regions can experience.

Founder of Fred’s Tiny Houses, Fred Schultz says even minimally insulated tiny houses can be warm in winter, no matter what the means of heating. Based in Castlemaine, Fred runs workshops that teach people about important design considerations for a tiny house, and says having designed, built and lived with his family in an off-grid tiny house has armed him with experience and pragmatic ingenuity.

“When you let it sink in that you will be warm in winter in a tiny house, then the focus for your design can shift to making your tiny house suited to the local micro climate, which is often about how to stay cool in summer, particularly if you are trying to sleep near to the roof in a loft bed in the blazing heat of summer,” he says. 

“In my experience, once you’ve eliminate all the drafts that come with poorly installed insulation, then Australian tiny house DIY builders and buyers can shift their focus from chasing high R-value insulation and double glazing, to creating a home suited to the local climatic and environmental resources of the land on which a tiny house will rest.”