You can buy anything on Amazon these days — including buildings.
In 2019, the media started buzzing about a $3,000 tiny house kit that became available on Amazon. The 76-square-foot structure was popular enough to sell out and was only available on back order through the manufacturer. But let’s be honest: It’s more of a semi-finished shed than a house, with no plumbing, electricity, insulation, or climate control.
Still, it raised some intriguing questions about the nature of housing. As a property investor, I often hear real estate described as the last industry resisting disruption. But real estate is changing, and nowhere is that more obvious than the increasing creativity seen in how people buy, build, and think about housing.
And though that particular tiny home kit may have sold out, there are a range of options for buying tiny — and a few not-so-tiny — homes on Amazon, for far less than what a traditional home costs.
Uses for a Tiny Home
While tiny homes have been a fringe movement since the 1980s, they skyrocketed in popularity in the aftermath of the 2008 housing crisis and subsequent Great Recession.
Not without cause, either; they’re cheap, cozy, and often portable. They also force a certain minimalism that would make Marie Kondo proud.
Even if tiny living isn’t for you, there are many other uses for a tiny home.
In-Law Suite/Granny Flat
With people living longer and collecting less Social Security, many older adults find their nest egg stretched thin. And the cheapest option isn’t aging in place or moving into an assisted living facility; it’s moving in with the kids.
While you love your parents, sharing a roof with them can be awfully trying. That goes doubly when you’re in the midst of raising children of your own.
So middle-aged adults are increasingly opting to put up their parents in a detached “granny flat,” also known as an in-law suite, guest house, casita, or accessory dwelling unit. You and your parents each get to maintain some privacy, and you can see each other as much or as little as you like.
Home Office/Escape Retreat
Alternatively, you can add a tiny home to your property as a detached home office or a retreat to get away from screaming children, nagging spouses, or both.
The costs may even be tax-deductible as part of the home office deduction, or at least depreciable. Just keep in mind that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 changed the rules on home office deductions, and employees can no longer claim unreimbursed expenses such as maintaining a home office. The self-employed can still deduct it as a business expense, however.
Speaking of entrepreneurship, you can build an accessory dwelling unit on your property specifically to rent it out. In a perfect world, the rental income from the detached building would cover your entire mortgage.
You could also rent it out on Airbnb if you don’t want to hassle with permanent “neighbors.” I’ve rented guest houses before while traveling, and it worked out well for everyone involved.
These creative strategies are called house hacking, which involves renting out part of your home to reduce or eliminate your housing payment. Given that housing is the No. 1 expense for most of us, it’s a great way to boost your savings rate.
Second Home or Vacation Rental
No one says you have to build a tiny home on the same plot of land where you live. You can also build it somewhere you like visiting. When you’re not using it yourself as a vacation home, you can rent it out as a short-term rental on Airbnb or through a vacation rental agency.
It’s kind of like house hacking, except you never have to see the renters. Of course, you will have to actually buy another piece of land.
Portable Cabin for Traveling
Tiny homes don’t have to sit on permanent foundations. You also set them on a hitchable trailer and go practically anywhere.
You could tap into water and electrical hookups designed for mobile homes. Or if you’re serious about self-sufficiency and green living, you could set up a solar roof and rainwater reclamation system. It’s as good a way as any to travel for free or close to free.
Buying Homes on Amazon: What You Need to Know
You can just whip out your credit card and have a livable tiny home delivered a few days later, right?
Not exactly. To begin with, most of the “tiny homes” you find on Amazon are DIY cabin kits. What you’re buying is essentially the lumber, screws, windows, doors, and plans. You then build the home yourself, ideally with a few close friends and a case of beer. Manufacturers claim that many of the smaller structures can be built by two adults in one day using only basic essential tools.
Of course, that only includes the building assembly. Most kits don’t include the foundation, roof shingles, electrical systems, plumbing, bathroom or kitchen fixtures, insulation, or any climate control apparatus. The one- to two-day building assembly timeline only applies to the bare-bones structure. All of the details and finishes that make it a home, and not a glorified shed, take significantly more time — and money.
Risks of Ordering a Home on Amazon
When was the last time you ordered something on Amazon that cost $20,000? The higher the price tag, the harder it is to swallow paying for it online, sight-unseen. Especially something physically enormous that can cost four digits to ship back if you don’t like it — if the seller even accepts returns, that is.
Speaking of shipping, costs vary wildly when you buy homes or home kits on Amazon. In many cases, it’s free. In others, it costs upward of $3,000. If you’re serious about buying a tiny home on Amazon, make sure you factor in shipping costs.
Another risk of buying a DIY home kit is that you won’t, in fact, be able to build it yourself. One customer on Amazon outlined his bad experience in trying to assemble the lumber, which had warped almost immediately in the hot, dry Arizona air where he lived. In the end, he was forced to pay a contractor to reshape the planks and build the structure for him at a cost in the four digits.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, not all of us are as handy as we’d like to think. Even without the wood warping, you may still find your construction skills fall short and end up having to outsource the work.
Finally, keep in mind the additional costs to make the structure livable, which aren’t typically included in these home kits.
Making Tiny Home Kits Livable
As mentioned above, the following components aren’t typically included in a tiny home kit:
- Roof shingles
- Kitchen and bathroom fixtures
- Electrical outlets
- Light switches
- Climate control
That might be fine if you’re Henry David Thoreau writing “Walden” by candlelight in 1854. But for anyone not looking for an existential experience in the wilderness, it’s a problem.
Of course, your needs vary based on how you intend to use the structure. If you just want a pool- or garden house, you may not need anything beyond the roof and foundation. But if you want to create a livable structure, you need all the rest, possibly excepting the insulation and climate control depending on where you live. Many of the kits below include optional add-ons for insulation framing, if needed.
For homes located on your own property, it’s often easy enough to run power and plumbing lines to another structure. Alternatively, consider solar power and a rainwater reclamation system, possibly coupled with an external composting toilet.
The easiest option for heat is usually a pellet- or wood-burning stove. They’re cheap to install and operate, and incredibly effective.
The bottom line is that the structure kit is only the beginning of your costs and work. Expect these to multiply several times over by the time you account for the mechanical systems needed to convert a structure into a livable home.
14 Tiny Home Kits on Amazon
By now, you should be aware that you can’t put your dream home on your credit card for $3,000 and drive off into the sunset with it hooked up to your truck. But there’s still something to be said for the simple home kits and manufactured homes available for sale on Amazon.
While some of the following examples are DIY structure kits, others are prefabricated structures you can just plop down on your property. As always, do your homework before spending thousands of dollars on any of these.
The following tiny home kits sell for under $6,500 on Amazon, including shipping.
1. Lillevilla Escape
The Lillevilla Escape offers 113 interior square feet plus a porch overhang. The manufacturer claims it takes two adults about one day to build, although whether that means 16 man hours or 48 man hours is open to interpretation.
With such a small interior space, the manufacturer suggests only insulating the floors and ceiling for cold-weather use, not the walls.
2. Allwood Halmstad
The Allwood Halmstad has a tiny footprint with no covered porch and 106 interior square feet. It comes with plenty of natural light, though, thanks to three nearly full-length windows and a glass door.
Don’t expect to live in this one comfortably, but it could make for a pleasant garden house.
3. Allwood Estelle
With a larger 157-square-foot floor plan, the Allwood Estelle offers two rooms. The smaller room could be used as a bathroom or sleeping alcove.
The manufacturer claims the Estelle can be built in 10 hours by two adults. But like the Escape, roofing and foundation materials are not included.
These structures could make for a nice detached office or domestic escape.
4. Allwood Mayflower
Unlike most structures on this list, the Allwood Mayflower looks like neither a cabin nor a hyper-modern Scandinavian rectangle. And it has wheels.
It’s still pretty small, with only 117 square feet. But it promises to be bright, with windows on three sides, and the curved roof is indisputably quaint.
Just don’t expect the roof tiles to come with the kit.
5. Allwood Claudia
The Allwood Claudia looks more like a real house than some of the others on this list, albeit a tiny one at 209 square feet.
It too boasts windows on three sides for plenty of natural light. While the kit does not include interior wall partitions, you can buy them as an add-on.
The manufacturer claims that two adults can build the Claudia in one full day, but they still doesn’t include the roof shingles or foundation in either the price or the construction time estimate.
6. Allwood Sommersby
While it’s smaller than the Claudia at 174 square feet, the Allwood Sommersby includes interior wall partition for two separate rooms. The seller claims it also takes a full day for two adults to build.
Again, the Sommersby could make a pleasant pool house or garden house, but it’s hard to imagine living in it.
7. Allwood Arlanda
At 273 square feet, the Allwood Arlanda looks a little more like a home, albeit a boxy, modern, Scandinavian home.
It has two rooms and windows on three sides, although one is quite small. Don’t expect to squeeze a bathroom into the Arlanda, though.
As with the kits above, the Arlanda doesn’t come with roof shingles or a foundation, and it supposedly takes a day for two adults to assemble.
None of the kits above look particularly livable. But as the prices rise, the structures start looking more like viable homes.
8. Whole Wood Cabins Eldorado
With a pleasant-looking porch overhang and two separate rooms, the Whole Woods Eldorado sports 291 square feet. Adding a bathroom might be too much to ask of the Eldorado, but you could theoretically create a bedroom and living space with kitchenette.
The seller claims that it should take two people “a relatively short period of time” to build, whatever that means. They do include a detailed instructional video, though.
9. Lillevilla Getaway
The Lillevilla Getaway cabin has two stories — sort of. It has a sleeping loft, which isn’t full-height, but it’s still something the others on this list don’t offer.
The main story includes a living area and two bedrooms for a total of 292 square feet. The sleeping loft, which sits above the two bedrooms, looks to be another 100 square feet or so. You can’t stand up in it, so it’s useful only for sleeping.
The Getaway comes with a nice little porch as well, complete with railing. Lillevilla estimates this cabin will take you two to three days to build with a building partner.
10. Vermont Cottage Timber Frame Cottage
The Vermont Cottage Timber Frame Cottage is a 20-by-16-foot structure with 240 full-height interior square feet, a 96-square-foot loft, and an 80-square-foot porch. While the loft isn’t full-height, it’s taller than the Getaway’s.
It doesn’t include any interior walls, but there’s room inside to build out a bedroom and small bathroom.
The most impressive thing about the Vermont Cottage is that it includes a complete roof — a dark green, corrugated metal one. The windows even include screens, which is starting to sound downright homey.
The seller claims an assembly time of 40 hours for two adults. If that seems longer than the kits above, bear in mind that they’re including the complete roof in that estimate.
11. Allwood Ranger
The Allwood Ranger offers 259 square feet on the main level plus 168 square feet in the loft. It also has interior walls for a bathroom and a railing-enclosed front porch.
The Ranger is clearly designed for living in, or at least staying in as a cabin, unlike many of the garden houses earlier on the list. Besides the more generous square footage and interior bathroom design, it also offers features such as thicker-than-usual wall planks and roof angling designed for solar panels. The Ranger does not include roof shingles, however.
The seller claims it takes around two days for two adults to build the Ranger.
If you’re looking for a structure you could live in full-time, year-round, these pricier options may be for you.
12. Weizhengheng Solar-Powered Container House
Shipping container homes are just what they sound like: structures built from used shipping containers. And the Weizhengheng container house is what they look like.
It requires only minimal assembly — two hours, according to the seller — and there are no planks or boards. It not only has a roof, but the roof is made of solar panels. A functioning bathroom, kitchen, and electric system are all included.
While the manufacturer claims this house measures 40 feet by 20 feet, it’s not actually an 800-square-foot home. That measurement includes its porch and a slide-out extra room, which is not full-length.
13. Allwood Avalon
The Allwood Avalon features 540 square feet on the main level plus a 218-square-foot sleeping loft.The main floor includes a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and double living space. Roof shingles, wiring, plumbing, kitchen and bathroom fixtures, and the foundation are not included.
The Avalon’s walls are thicker than usual, helping to insulate it. For a family with one or two young kids, it could make for a fun vacation cabin. Estimated assembly time is about a week for two adults.
14. Allwood Timberline
With 354 square feet on the main level and 129 square feet in the loft, the Allwood Timberline is slightly smaller than the Avalon. But it offers a gorgeous porch, plus a higher loft ceiling thanks to its steeper, snow-shedding roof pitch. Its standard snow load capacity is 46 pounds per square foot, but buyers can optionally purchase heavier roof reinforcement if they wish.
Like the Avalon, the Timberline comes with thicker walls for improved insulation. The layout includes space for a bathroom, a first-floor bedroom, and a larger living-dining-kitchen space.
As with all other Allwood models, the Timberline only comes with planks for the structure itself. But it does come with dual tongue-and-groove wind blocking, allowing it to withstand winds up to 120 miles per hour, and an optional add-on for thicker wall insulation.
So should you buy a tiny house on Amazon?
You can certainly buy kits affordably if you’re willing to put in the labor to build the house yourself. But before you get carried away with the idea, make sure you price out all the additional modifications you’ll want. That could include plumbing lines and fixtures, wiring and electrical fixtures, a wood-burning stove, additional insulation, and even solar panels. Plus roof shingles and the foundation, of course.
If you’re handy and looking for a fun project, however, the small cabins above could serve as a guest house, vacation rental, detached office, or just a fun garden house to relax in on summer days.
Have you ever considered a tiny home? Why did or didn’t you move forward with it?