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Mortgage free: Escape financial stress with a tiny home

tiny house
Interest in tiny houses exploded during the pandemic. (Source: Aussie Tiny Houses)

Around five years ago, Briony Jenkinson took up the tiny home lifestyle out of financial necessity.

After walking away from a divorce with very little, she spent 18 months in a government-subsidised unit with her two children.

But even that was unaffordable for a mother-of-two on a single income.

“I had a lot of anxiety around bills and was always looking inside the letterbox with dread.”

Eventually, she decided to do something drastic to free herself from her financial struggles.

She sold everything she owned and bought an “old clanger” of a caravan for her and her children to live in.

Jenkinson was fortunate enough to have secured a block of land in her divorce in Trentham, Victoria, where she was able to park the caravan.

While it was brutally cold during winter, Jenkinson said it was “still the best thing I ever did”.

She said she no longer had to stress about money, and could afford to eat out and do other nice things.

The family also became super close living in the 10sqm caravan. “We had great deep late night chats.”

After living cheaply for 12 months, Jenkinson was able to afford a “very, very cheap” tiny house on wheels for $35,000. She also moved to a nicer block in another town.

Briony Jenkinson outside tiny house
Briony Jenkinson outside her tiny house. (Source: supplied)

By living in an off-grid tiny house, Jenkinson has managed to cut her expenses by 10 per cent compared to her life in traditional housing.

And while she wouldn’t say no to a little more space, she can’t imagine going back to live in a “McMansion”.

“I've thought about it for a hot second, and then I imagine all the bills in the mail and the cleaning involved," she said.

“I just don't want that lifestyle.”

Tiny homes went bonkers during the pandemic

Jenkinson was glad she bought her tiny home when she did because interest in the small dwellings have since exploded.

She said skyrocketing building material costs and higher demand for tiny houses has driven up prices, with $100,000 now the entry-level price for a tiny home.

Thiago Perrone, operations manager at Aussie Tiny House based in Brisbane, said there were a lot of potential customers “on the fence” before the pandemic hit.

inside tiny house
Everything has its place in a tiny house. (Source: Aussie Tiny Houses)

“Many were thinking ‘do I get into a mortgage for a three-bedroom house, or, do I go and live in a tiny house, in the middle of the bush, where I can use my time and money for things that I like’,” Perrone said.

He said the pandemic forced people to make a decision.

There was a lot of uncertainty about the economy when COVID first hit, with many concerned that interest rates would rise. Perrone said many saw tiny homes as a risk-free option financially.

Who’s living in tiny houses?

Perrone said his customers came from all walks of life, with about 60-70 per cent living in the homes themselves and the other 30-40 per cent putting them on Airbnb or short-term accommodation.

Tiny house in paddock
It's common to see tiny houses on Airbnb, like this one in Wollombi, NSW. (Source: Airbnb)

With the booming housing market leaving traditional home ownership out of reach for many first home buyers, Perrone said it was common for people to put tiny homes on their parent’s land.

Increasingly, farmers were also parking them on unused land and renting them out.

Other customers were using them as an extra dwelling for an elderly parents or older children.

Do you need council permission for a tiny home?

In Australia, it’s common to see tiny homes on wheels rather than freestanding structures.

That’s because this allows them to be treated as caravans.

This means they don’t need council approval, however, some councils do limit the amount of time someone can permanently live in one.

While tiny houses connect to electricity like a normal caravan, Perrone said his company’s tiny homes can go completely off-grid.

They come with composting toilets - which do not smell, according to the company’s website - and can be equipped with a solar system and water tank.

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