Architecture

The current economy is forcing seniors to live in tiny homes, and some of them are making it work

There seems to be a growing trend among seniors to downsize in their latter years into tiny solar powered houses that look straight out of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale.

The low cost of utility bills and easier upkeep makes these tiny homes an appealing alternative to full-size homes to retirees, especially those living on fixed incomes.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median sale price of a new traditional house is around $300,000 and currently less than 30 per cent of house owners in the US are living mortgage-free. This scenario is similar in most developed countries, and the numbers in developing countries are even worse.

These tiny residential units have the advantage of costing just a fraction of a normal house. Plus, they’re mobile, which means residents can hook up their whole home to a car and just take to the road whenever they feel like it – an appealing concept to retirees with spare time on their hands.

Tumbleweed is an American company spearheading this trend. Since 1999 they’ve been offering cost-effective, portable housing, but in the current economy they’ve found a footing among the senior niche.

They make a particular appeal to older folks on their official site: “Where will you live when you retire? Will you be able to maintain your house and a lifetime of belongings during your golden years? Or could a simpler lifestyle reduce your burdens?”

Probably their most visible customers are the Sausage Nonnas, an innovative catering company/marketing stunt formed by three adorable grandmothers in partnership with Uber and Johnsonville Foods, one of the largest sausage producers in the United States.

They cook delicious Italian delicacies in their portable housing units and deliver the dishes to their customers straight out of their ovens.


Recently Spam, the famous canned meat producer, also teamed up with Tumbleweed to create a tiny house for their marketing event, the 2017 Summer Sizzle Tour. The minuscule unit, equipped with a commercial kitchen, will tour the whole country stopping in 12 different US cities offering food samples at various festivals and events.

Alongside Tumbleweed, Meka, Escape, Tiny Home Builders, Zyl Vardos and Minim Homes are among the strongest companies today competing in this rising market.

These doll-like houses can be customised to feature all kinds of comforts, like bath tubs, specialised medical equipment and access ramps for wheelchairs. Their prices range from $62k for a 57-square-metre home up to $73k for a 78-square-metre home They also offer DIY alternatives from $20k.