Spanish Fork, Utah
Tiny and micro homes
Spanish Fork, Utah
Industry: Built Environment
Product: Tiny and micro homes
The best ideas often come after a good meal. At least that's the experience of tiny and micro homes manufacturer, Jamon Scott.
Several months ago, Scott's daughter tried to rush through their dinner together so she had time to sit down and watch her favorite reality show. "I had no idea what she wanted to watch," Scott says. "I thought it might be another survival show or someone trying to win a bachelor. But my daughter promised I'd like this reality show."
Not only did Scott like the show, an HGTV show on tiny houses, it changed the direction of his professional and personal life. "On the way home from dinner, I looked at my wife and said, 'You know, honey. . .' and she said to not even think about it."
But he didn't stop thinking about it and, a year later, Scott and his wife are building their own tiny house and working to build Micro Homes of America with their partners.
Within the industry, wording is important. A tiny house is portable and is built on wheels for the purpose of being movable. A micro home does not include a transport system and is more permanent.
Whether micro or tiny, Micro Homes of America plans to place up to 24 homes this year. "That's where we are aiming," Scott says. "We would like to be able to build four a month."
Each micro and tiny home takes four to eight weeks to construct, and Micro Homes has the ability to work on four at a time. If the house is built on a trailer, Micro Homes purchases the trailer from suppliers in the region as a construction platform. "We frame the walls, enclose it, and go from there," Scott says.
Because these homes are portable, they must be able to withstand wind gusts as they travel 60 miles per hour on the highway. "They are very structurally sound," Scott says. But to attract a buyer, Scott knows they must be more than sound. They have to be, as he says, "real cute."
"We need a good layer of the cute factor," he says. "If it's not cute, it's not the tiny house people expect after watching television. It's just a house on a trailer. The homes have to be as cute as they are innovative."
An average micro home is 900 square feet and costs $120 to $150 per square foot. "We have to give a buyer a bath/shower, washer, dryer, vanity, and linen closet in 40 square feet," says Scott. "It has to be extremely ergonomic and efficient."
Challenges: Zoning. In the end, Scott can only build them as quickly as Utah can find a place to put them. Though HGTV makes tiny houses seem modern and fun, city and county codes are just now beginning to allow them "The challenge in Utah is where to put them," Scott admits. "But it's changing. Washington County changed their rules last fall. They were followed by Pleasant Grove and other Utah County communities. Even so, it's still a big problem for us in the state." One of Scott's competitors has built 48 tiny homes in 12 months. Only three of the 48 stayed in Utah.
The cost of customization is another challenge. A tiny or micro home can cost $70,000 and buyers are balking at the price tag. "We can get prices down if we can come up with a combination of mass producing 70 percent of the home and only customizing 30 percent," Scott says. "The high price comes from customizing each and every home."
Opportunities: Catalogs. If jumping online to purchase a tiny or micro home reminds you of your grandparents stories of ordering a home from the Sears catalog, it should. The process may be coming back. "We've been approached by some large marketing companies to come up with a catalog where people can order the type of house they want. It's come back, full circle."
Needs: Innovative people. "We need to get some good, qualified construction people that are committed to tiny houses," Scott says. "We get a lot of people wanting to build the way they are used to. We want people who are willing to be passionate about building the tiny house way. We need people who love a challenge. If a worker just wants to put in the hours and go home, tiny house building may not be the best match for them."