TINY HOUSES, BIG OPPORTUNITIES
"Let’s break down the examples stated above in three commercial categories; rental projects, workforce housing and mobile business."
Such as displayed on social media and in the news, tiny houses are mostly used as a primary or secondary residence, by individuals (single men/women, couples, small families, retired people). The goal is either downsizing to reduce the ecological footprint and live in a more minimalist mindset or the decision is purely based on the acquisition cost of a house in their local housing market being too high for what they are able/willing to pay.
Let’s not forget that the tiny house movement began to attract more attention right after the 2007-2008 financial crisis, where tiny houses were seen as an alternative housing solution coming at a lower price point than the average house on the market. While being the primary/secondary residence this is the typical use, there are indeed many other purposes for which tiny houses happen to be a great solution, even sometimes addressing many social economic issues. Let’s get into it.
Here are a few examples of commercial/non-standard projects we’ve been working on or requested for in the past years:
-Tiny houses by the sea in a Nomad model at Chalets Didoche; -Ticket station for ski resort (based on Nomad model shell);
-Stowe tiny resort in Vermont, 10 minutes from Stowe, amazing view on the mountains;
-Weaving workshop (backyard setup, based on Nomad model shell);
-Annexed office for 4 workers (ArcelorMittal, industrial site, based on Nomad model shell);
-Workforce housing for farming/construction industries;
-Mobile dental clinic;
-Tiny house resorts/communities on campgrounds converted for 4 seasons use;
-Student housing for community colleges;
-Natural disaster recovery;
It is now obvious that tiny houses can be versatile with minor tweaks to the initial concept. Most of the cases stated above represent a form of opportunity for the owners to generate income with their investment, but it also helps democratize the tiny house movement by allowing people to try this alternative lifestyle. Let’s break down the examples stated above in three categories; rental projects, workforce housing and mobile business.
Nothing new here, you might think? Well, 4 seasons tiny houses are relatively new to the short term rental market. The business model we see the most is the ‘’converted campground’’. Indeed, most campgrounds already have key elements in place: proper zoning, prime location (proximity to major cities, but in a more rural environment), natural features (lot of trees, lake or river nearby, etc) and an existing infrastructure to start with (reception building, electricity, septic, divided lots, etc). Therefore it is much easier to start a project with those elements already checked. Of course, most of those campgrounds are not made for year round use, so the owners will eventually need to bury the water lines and septic below the frost line if the campground is located somewhere where winters get below freezing point if they want to operate year round. This investment will sometimes double the period of activity of the site, which is definitely a game changer in terms of occupancy rate and profitability. Those converted campgrounds sometimes take the form of a ‘’tiny house community’’ where people can install their own tiny house on a rented pad with services or it can be also in a form of a ‘’tiny house resort’’, where units are already installed for people to rent, either for a getaway vacation or for longer periods of time. This type of project can also be implemented on another type of property, but you would need to inquire for proper permits and look into local municipality bylaws.
‘’Truth is that a lot of the people interested in our products would take the leap right away if either bylaws were more flexible or if there was a tiny house community in their area.’’
When thinking about investing in such a project, we strongly recommend a minimum of 5 units. Indeed, this should bring enough income to cover expenses related to cleaning, managing and operating costs. Therefore, it gives you time to either focus on something else or work on scaling up your project. Truth is that a lot of the people interested in our products would take the leap right away if either bylaws were more flexible or if there was a tiny house community in their area. Again, if/how you want to scale up the number of units on your site is up to you; the more diversity in the offer, the better it will be for the whole tiny house industry. We are still at the early stages of this new form of estate, possibilities are infinite.
If you think of the typical travel trailer, the word that comes to mind is normally vacation, not work. That being said, there are many ways to take advantage of mobility when it comes to using those in a totally different environment, such as mining projects, windmill projects, remote construction sites, etc). The biggest advantage of using ‘’tiny houses’’ for workforce housing is that they can be easily deployed in any conditions where workforce is needed without investing in permanent infrastructures and drastically interfering with nature. They can either accommodate multiple workers in the form of a dorm or can simply be a mobile suite for 1 or two workers or managers. Let’s remember that most major construction projects in remote areas will create high demand for housing, but for a relatively small period of time.
‘’They can be easily deployed in any conditions where workforce is needed without investing in permanent infrastructures and drastically interfering with nature’’
Most ‘’construction facility trailers’’ are known for their major flaws when it comes to structure, insulation and overall durability. Of course they come at a lower price point, but you will most likely scrap 3 or 4 by the time your ‘’tiny house trailer’’ will still be up and running, just because of the way it’s built. Money wise, it doesn’t make sense anymore to invest in poorly conceived mobile structures. Our actual products can easily be adapted to serve a different purpose than full time living for individuals (mud room, bunk beds, tougher materials for extensive use, etc). Mobility and durability for workforce housing are key elements for sustainability of those construction projects. Investing in well constructed structures is totally aligned with the new trend of smart and eco-conscious development. Not only is it better for the environment, but the benefits of tiny houses are quickly felt at all levels; the companies/employers are investing in quality/durable housing for their employees who enjoy a happier/healthier lifestyle when out there working long hours in harsh and demanding conditions. A lot of workers will value quality housing, as it shows the company really cares.
This type of use is gaining in popularity, because of the whole work from home movement and overall creativity we see from new business owners. Many different sectors of activity can be reached with compact/mobile units, let’s name a few to highlight the diversity:
-Work from home personal office
-Mobile restaurant/coffee shop
-Yoga retreat studio
-Mobile healthcare center/dental clinic
-Physiotherapy/massage therapy clinic
Note that the wheels can be removed for a more permanent look of your setup. On a special order, we can also offer removable trailer tongue and axles. Having the possibility of moving the unit is a real advantage considering the costs and hazards related to adding an extension to your property. Of course, you need to confirm with your local municipality if you plan a commercial use of a mobile unit on your property. In the case of a mobile restaurant or something similar, you will mostly need to have an agreement to install your unit temporarily or semi-permanently, like we regularly see with food trucks for example.
If you have a commercial project in mind (tiny house rental or similar), we now work with lenders specialized in loans for multiple units purchase. Whether you are located in Canada or in the USA, they might be able to offer a financing solution for your business. Of course, like any other type of financing, you must qualify first and a down payment or equity will most likely be required. If you are looking for a loan on a single unit, there is also a possibility of a commercial RV loan. The terms and conditions will vary depending on your company history and your personal file. We also strongly recommend applying for government grants if possible, as many programs can be helpful when starting your business. Contact us if you need more information about financing options for commercial projects.
As you can see, tiny houses can add another dimension to many different existing markets and employment sectors. While a fixed building might be ideal in certain circumstances, mobile units can definitely add extra value to some major industries with the creativity and innovation of today’s entrepreneurs. The way we conceive and construct our products makes mobility and durability possible, all year round. Let’s revamp campgrounds into tiny house communities, let’s innovate workforce housing, let’s bring your professional life to the next level with a well thought product aligned with your vision. Ultimately, let’s democratize the tiny house industry.