Is there anything worse than young homebuyers on a television show? They walk through some houses, declare one too big and another too small, and then when all is said and done and they’ve seen three homes they buy the home that they like- because it’s far from work and it backs up to a highway but it has a “Man Cave” in the basement. Sold! This variety of young buyer might be better than the variety that isn’t going to a buy a house at all. Nice job? Check. Crazy-fake low interest rates? Check. Housing crash that halved the values of most homes? Check. Renters for life because they don’t want to be burdened by home-ownership? Check. Both examples of young buyers are equally as ridiculous, equally as foolish, equally as devastating. But I think I’ve found an even worse idea.
HGTV has figured out how to appear to be an expert, much in the way that Zillow has. Throw a bunch of stuff at the wall, in HGTV’s case literally and in Zillow’s case figuratively numerical, and something is bound to look right. This is why I watch this channel from time to time, without any particular affinity for any particular show, and lacking any dedication to watch any singular show from beginning to end. I watch the channel because I have to, because I must know what the real estate pros at HGTV are preaching to the attentive public. Because I search for this truth, and I’ve waded through so much house-hunting crap, I found myself watching a show called Tiny House Hunters.
At least I think that’s what it’s called. I cannot remember if I watched just one show, or if I watched several, because I was flipping back and forth between this and the Grand Budapest Hotel, which made certain that I wouldn’t quite understand what was going on in either. One lady was searching for a tiny house, because her current house was too big. It was a 2000 square foot ranch home, and she hated taking care of it, and etc and etc. She hated all that square footage so much that she decided to look at homes that were less than 200 square feet. As I sat in my den- a room that is admittedly two or three feet too small in one direction- I was aware that the room I was lounging in was larger than the object of this woman’s desire. She had a tall, bumbling boyfriend, and she brought him with for support, or for the spectacle that is a 6′ 4″ human trying to scramble up a ladder where the (foam mattress wedged into an “attic space”) bedroom was.
I watched as the lady went from tiny house to tiny house, saying one was too tiny and another was sort of tiny. She opened closets the size of a singular kitchen cabinet and said that her clothes would fit in there, no problem, she said. Then, she’d sit on the couch that faced the television, and she’d say that the four feet between her face and the television screen felt really, really good. Then, she’d sit on the deck that was large enough for one smallish rocking chair, and say that she could see herself sitting there, looking out at the trailer park view, because that’s what will fix what ails her. Don’t forget, what ails her is square footage, closets larger than microwaves, and decks so insanely large that they can fit at least two rocking chairs. She pressed onward.
At the end of the show, she bought a brightly colored tiny home for $58,000. My first home cost $46,000, my second home cost $38,000, and both of those came with deeds and foundations, but that’s getting ahead of myself. The home she bought she loves! It’s perfect for her, and the cats that she’ll someday get to keep her company. The tall fella stuck around for the photo shoot, but he’ll be leaving soon, and that’s when the cats will come. At first, it’ll only be one, a feral sort, and she’ll feed it tiny sips of milk from a tiny cup that she’ll set on her tiny porch. It’ll get in the way of her rocking chair, but that won’t matter. Soon enough, she’ll have a dozen, and they’ll be sleeping in her tiny bed that’s really just a squashed attic loft. But again, I’m moving too quickly, spoiling the ending. Did I mention this tiny house has wheels and isn’t a tiny house at all, but is, in brutal fact, a trailer with siding and a shingled roof?
As I type, there’s an open tab on my web browser that says “tiny Montana cabin”. My wife sent me the link, and I tell you this so that you know I’m a huge fan of tiny houses. In fact, I’ve spent a great deal of energy trying to convince buyers that tiny cottages are where it’s at. If their Lake Geneva budget can afford either a bit big house in a boring location or a tiny house in a prime location, I’ll suggest the tiny house every single time. I love tiny houses. I don’t live in one, but I like them. I subscribe to Dwell magazine, because I like looking through pictures of hipsters sitting in their all glass houses, but also because I like tiny houses, modern or otherwise. But the sorts of tiny houses I like are actually, you know, houses. They have foundations of some sort, or at least they aren’t on wheels. They’re just tiny houses, and usually, in the context of what I like, they’re tiny- but they’re like 500-900 square feet. That’s tiny, sure, but that square footage doesn’t require a toilet immediately adjacent the tiny countertop refrigerator.
Where I come from, which is Williams Bay, on the lake in a brown shingled house, about a half mile from where I’m typing, we called houses with wheels trailers. We didn’t know much about them, because trailers aren’t common place on Upper Loch Vista, but I knew enough of this big world to know that houses on wheels aren’t houses at all- they’re trailers. HGTV’s show couldn’t be called Tiny Trailers, because who would watch it? There’s already a show called Flipping RV’s, and that show is both more interesting and makes much more sense, so they couldn’t crowd that space. Instead, they have a show about tiny houses that’s really about tiny trailers, where single cat-ladies pay $2000 per square foot for a home that can be stolen by anyone with a half ton pick up truck equipped with a 2″ ball.
Back to why this is a sad show: Can you imagine the re-sale value of a tiny house that’s really just a crappy trailer? Neither can I. If you put a lattice skirt on the trailer, it might pass as a house, assuming its resting on blocks in a trailer court, but even so, what then? Is there, as the show suggests, a movement that finds tiny houses to be desirable? Sure there is, in the same way that there’s a movement afoot wherein the members roam the woods in animal fur clothing, finding bits of things in those woods and then trading them for cash so that they can walk into town and buy a hamburger. Mick Dodge is doing it like crazy, and so is everyone else.
Let’s make a very important pact. If we get wind that someone we like is considering buying a tiny house trailer, we’ll intervene and put an end to that madness before it begins. Unless we dislike the person and we wish to see them declare bankruptcy once faced with the illiquidity that is a tiny house trailer, then let’s encourage them.