Tiny homes are in high demand amid the Bay Area’s real estate affordability crisis

With California still in the midst of an ever-deepening housing crisis, some would-be homeowners who face insurmountable barriers to buying a traditional home are turning to tiny homes — with a smaller footprint and a lower price to match.

In recent years, there has been an increasing interest — and demand for — tiny home living, particularly in the Bay Area, real estate agents say. To meet that demand, the market has become hotter, producing new manufacturers and sellers every day.

Some sellers offer lots for people to live in after they buy their tiny house. Others require them to be shipped or trucked to the country the buyers own.

But with that demand comes supply problems. Companies such as Pacifica Tiny Homes, which build and sell a variety of small model homes that ship to customers nationwide, say there is a six-month wait for any of their custom homes.

This is, in part, what drives many buyers to look to direct buyers through websites like Tiny House Listings, where a 324-square-foot redwood cottage can sell for over $300,000.

So what’s available in the Bay Area when it comes to living in a tiny house? Here are a few traits that illustrate the sheer scale of how the market is growing.

A tiny 192-square-foot home in Windsor, California. The property is listed for $95,000.

Provided by Marisa Rosas, W Real Estate

129 Katherine Pl, Unit 59, Windsor

• 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom

• 192 square feet

• Listed at: $95,000

• Price per square foot: $495

In the eight days that this tiny house — which is basically a manufactured home on wheels — has been on the market, listing agent Marisa Rosas says she’s already received more than 30 calls about it and put on 15 performances.

Most interested people are over 65 and want to downsize or move to land they own or otherwise live on. But if a buyer doesn’t have that option, they can stay on this lot, which is dedicated to a small home and rents for $631 a month from Royal Mobile Manor, the all-ages RV park in Windsor.

The solid 2×4 lumber throughout, the in-unit laundry room, butcher block countertops and garden space are just a few of the elements that draw so many customers to her listing, Rosas said. But at nearly $100,000, Rosas knows their asking price is high — although, she says, it’s never been a better time to roll the dice.

“I told my client that this market is very interesting right now, and if (they) want to try a song, they can try it now.”

A 30-foot “Tiny Victorian” model built by Pacifica Tiny Homes.

Provided by Pacifica Tiny Homes

Pacifica Tiny Homes

• 1 bedroom – 2 bedrooms, a bathroom

• 211-363 square feet

• $39,900 – $80,900

Just launched in 2018, Pacifica Tiny Homes is an example of the types of businesses emerging to meet the growing demand for simpler and more affordable housing. Although based out of Pacifica, their factory operations are located in Corcoran, Kings County, and the custom small trailer homes have been shipped all over the Bay Area, said co-owner Crystal Serrano, who started the company with her husband. . They are also the first small home company to have their plans approved by the state of California to use their homes as ancillary housing units, Serrano said.

They offer over 30 different designs and 120 color and material options, and the tiny houses can range in length from 18′ to 30′.

Each of their three models is furnished with a smart TV, AC/heating unit, and a queen-size Ikea sofa bed. Some can accommodate up to three berths.

A tiny 192-square-foot home at 129 Katherine Pl Unit 59 in Windsor, California.  The property is for sale for $95,000.

A tiny 192-square-foot home at 129 Katherine Pl Unit 59 in Windsor, California. The property is for sale for $95,000.

Provided by Marisa Rosas / W Real Estate

At the top, their 2.0 Tiny Victorian model — which is named for its gabled roof in style — comes with two sleeping or storage areas in the attic and a propane tankless water heater.

Serrano says Bay Area customers make up at least 50% of their total sales, and while many of their buyers are older and looking to downsize, many of them are also younger and building families.

“When COVID hit, we saw a bit of a lull and we didn’t know what was going to happen,” Serrano said. “It has only skyrocketed since then as there is clearly a great need for housing in the state and this has become an affordable way for many people, young and old.”

Unlike the Windsor property, people are on their own when it comes to finding a place to live in the tiny house, but Serrano says many of their clients have been lucky enough to find rental spots on Craigslist , finding RV parks that accept tiny homes, or joining small home communities like the one in Delta Bay in Isleton.

And because the company takes care of all the design and construction, customers can customize the models even further, Serrano said, adding that one buyer, a nurse who worked long hours, had requested that her tiny home be fitted with a bathtub. to build.

Some models of Harmony Communities' tiny homes.

Some models of Harmony Communities’ tiny homes.

Provided by Harmony Communities

Harmony Communities

• Studio – 2 bedrooms

• 220-400 square feet

• $67,500-$99,950

Like Pacifica Tiny Homes, Harmony Communities — one of the largest small home buyers in the state — offers a few different models for their customers to choose from, although they aren’t quite as customizable.

Based in Stockton, the company operates two plants in Lindsey (Tulare County) and Corona (Riverside County).

“They can’t get us home fast enough,” President Matthew Davies said. “We have been on the road for six to nine months with our orders.”

The reason, he says, reflects a story that has come to explain the tiny house craze: affordability, at least by Bay Area standards.

“It’s impossible (here),” Davies said, referring to the housing crisis in the Bay Area. “These are your bread-and-butter, workers who buy these … these are the workers who don’t have telecommuting jobs.”

For many white-collar workers, especially those who can telecommute, the defining trend during the pandemic has been to find more space, not less. But for working-class Bay Area residents who are increasingly expensive from cities they are tied to, living in a tiny house has become one of their only options for home ownership, Davies said.

The company sells approximately four properties per month to Bay Area buyers in three different park communities: Gilroy Garlic Farm, Bayshore Commons in San Leandro, and Creekside Village MHC in San Pablo. The houses are quite sober, but sometimes contain some extras, such as a wrap-around veranda and additional loft units that are suitable for families of up to 4, sometimes 5 people.

“The model works best for the Bay Area,” he said. “Because land is scarce and prices are already high.”

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