As the founder of LiveTiny Canada, I am often contacted by people looking for recommendations on builders. One thing I’ve stuck firm to is putting the ownership of the decision back in the hands of the person that is asking me.
Currently, I don’t feel comfortable recommending builders to our readers.
I think it is important that you develop a relationship with a builder ahead of signing on the dotted line.
Like buying a car or house, a tiny home is likely one of the bigger-ticket items you will put money out for in your life.
But, unlike cars and traditional homes, tiny homes don’t have the consumer protection legislation and warranty programs in place that protect buyers from nightmare situations.
When buying a tiny home, it’s Buyer Beware!
From my experience with LiveTiny Canada, tiny home builders come and go about as fast as the seasons change.
In a time when making a professional and seemingly legitimate presence is as easy as setting up a website and social media page, how can you make an informed decision when looking for a tiny home builder?
Don’t get wrapped up in the moment
With a lot of media attention on tiny homes in the past six to eight months, it is hard to not jump on the tiny home bandwagon.
Before you do, take your time to research every aspect of your tiny home and truly determine your wants versus needs in your build.
It isn’t uncommon to review plans, mechanical, HVAC and plumbing systems for well over a year ahead of a build.
I personally have taken over six years to just narrow down plans. Don’t think you’re limited by what’s available on the internet!
Take your time. Tiny homes aren’t going anywhere and, with time, building standards will be established to help simplify things and protect consumers.
Involve a friend in your search
Before venturing out to visit tiny home builders, find a friend who is willing and able to be part of your tiny home search.
You can fill your friend in on your tiny house research and specifically what you’re looking for in a tiny home.
Your friend must not be afraid to be your voice of reason.
Going through this alone can be daunting, so finding a friend to support you through this process is critical.
Not only can your friend be a voice of reason during your search, they can also assist you by taking notes, asking questions, recalling answers/details provided by a builder and, foremost, keeping you focused.
Don’t settle for your first find
Tiny home builders are becoming a dime a dozen nowadays and are easy to find from coast to coast.
Shopping around is a critical step in your decision-making process.
Set up a time to visit and tour various builders over a weekend or perhaps a summer vacation. The more builders you visit the more informed you’ll become.
Keep an eye out for each builder’s attention to detail. If you notice a builder doesn’t do what another does or does it differently, ask them why. A logical, clear explanation should be easily provided.
Listen to what the builders are telling you about their builds. What makes them unique?
Using the “knowledge and experience” of one builder to understand the building style of another is a fair thing to do.
You’ll get an explanation of why the builder you’re questioning does things the way they do and you may learn that the other way isn’t the best way.
Don’t trust online reviews 100%
Many businesses use online reviews for their products and the tiny home industry in Canada is no exception.
Reviews of others available online should only weigh lightly in your decision-making process.
Most online review systems don’t require much more than setting up an account to post online reviews.
With that in mind, resourceful, tech-savvy tiny home builders in Canada are padding their reviews with ones written by their own staff.
Does a review have the detail you wouldn’t expect? Too little detail? No name or location attached?
Question its authenticity.
If the review sounds too good to be true, it likely is.
Don’t get wrapped up in certifications
Certifications are a great way to ensure that things are being built to a certain standard.
Builders and tiny home buyers alike find assurance in the various certifications out there and who can blame them?
CSA certification is one of the most offered designation programs by builders in Canada.
Be sure to research the various CSA designations available for mobile homes, RVs and manufactured homes to understand what minimum building requirements must be met to achieve certification.
CSA certification seems to be a self-managed quality assurance measure for companies to aim for. With it being self-regulated, that leaves opportunities for builders to cut corners hopefully without it ever being noticed.
Speak with your builder and understand how they build to meet and exceed CSA requirements.
Ask to see proof of certification ahead of committing to anything.
Looking to save money? Save smart
Finding it hard to keep your tiny home build on budget before even spending a penny?
Don’t cut corners to make the build happen.
One of the most common ways for people to save money on their tiny home build is to opt for an old RV chassis over a brand new deck over, car hauler or tiny home trailer.
Tiny homes are heavier than their RV counterparts and are built as a year-round residence versus a seasonally used recreational vehicle. A tiny home on wheels typically weighs three times that of a standard RV and the chassis is built accordingly.
It is important that the foundation that your home is built on is solid and built to last. Just like the foundation under a typical home except this one is on wheels.
Any credible builder will never suggest recycling an RV chassis for your tiny home.
Work with your builder to identify ways to save money on your build to bring things in on budget.
If the ways to save on your build are compromising too much of your tiny living dream then put off your build, save some more money and go back at it when you have the money to complete the build you imagined.
No references? Move on
Recently, I was looking into a builder to frame out my tiny home build and asked for references from previous tiny home clients.
After waiting close to six weeks, I received a reply informing me that because of a recent policy change, the company would no longer provide client references as they didn’t want to violate their privacy.
Instead, I was sent a list of three contacts that the company touts as their corporate and educational partners. Not one of them has built or received a tiny home as part of their partnership.
Is this a red flag for me? Absolutely.
First off, clients should be more than willing to offer references for a company that has built them a home if the process from beginning to end has been flawless or close to it.
Recently, I was contacted by a client of this company and now I know why references may not be readily available from clients.
Simple neglect and lack of attention to detail have compromised the build for this client. They have experienced a roof leak that was described to me as a “stream” coming into the bedroom area.
Also, many windows and the door appear to be installed poorly and leak constantly.
That being said, if there are no references available, move on. Something is being hidden from you.
Be involved in your build
An experienced builder will allow you to be involved in the various steps of your build, including some hands on should their insurance allow it.
Being involved in your build will allow you to understand the inner workings of your tiny home from plumbing to electrical to structural, you’ll have first-hand experience with how it all works.
Additionally, if you have some time to commit to the hands-on portion of your build, let your builder know. You may be able to realize some savings on the cost of your build.
If you’re not able to commit time to your build, be sure to work with a builder who is willing to provide you with frequent written and visual updates on your build.
Not being actively involved in your build is all the more reason to make an informed decision when selecting a tiny home builder.
Don’t select a builder solely from what you see online.
The unfortunate reality of the tiny home industry is that fly-by-night operations and established companies are capitalizing on the tiny house movement to the detriment of consumers.
Over the past 18 months that LiveTiny Canada has been online, I have heard from many people about problematic builders from coast to coast.
There are a few names of builders that have come up consistently which is reason for concern.
I’m not in a position to name the companies that I have received complaints about but I have made the decision to remove any reference to two of the companies on LiveTiny.ca as well as Facebook and Twitter.
We will continue to adhere to this policy going forward on LiveTiny Canada to continue to provide you a reputable resource for Canadian tiny home/living news and information.
This decision is to protect you, our readers.