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     September 11, 2017      #84-253 a2z

Are you ready to go 'tiny?'

¿Estás listo para ir a ' minúscula ?

Dennis Yohnka

Editor's Note: Our Property Watch features traditionally offer an inside look at unique local homes for sale. Today's subject is a little different. Instead of focusing on one house, we are presenting a look at an unconventional new style of homes, the "Tiny Houses" popularized on multiple cable TV shows. These homes are available for sale in nearby Frankfort, at Timber View RV Center. These models can be moved to locations within the Daily Journal readership area. But rather than looking at one specific home, this Property Watch will look at the model homes and the movement.

From "Tiny House Hunters" to "Tiny House Builders" and "Tiny House Nation," there is no shortage of TV programming devoted to the latest trend in minimalist living. But is it catching on in this part of the Midwest?

The answer seems to be a resounding "yes," and a definite "no."

The confirmation comes from Laura Schwitters of Timber View RV Center in Frankfort. The larger focus is on the more traditional recreational camper trailers, but they carry the smaller, heavier models designed for more permanent installation. She noted sales of those types of residences have grown by 20 percent in recent years.

"And I get people who just pull in [off of Illinois Route 45] and ask if they can look inside our 'tiny houses,'" Schwitters said. "They tell me they see these on TV and want to look at them up close."

The denial of the trend would come from a look at the real estate listings in Kankakee and Iroquois counties. The smallest house on the market was more than 700 square feet and was priced at $45,000. The models on sale at Timber View measure about 400 square feet and range from the mid-$40,000s to the mid-$60,000s.

"Really, it's only the TV shows that are new," Schwitters said. "We've had products like this for years. The Kropf Company [based in Goshen, Ind.] has been building them for decades."

The Timber View models are not billed as homes for year-round living, as the TV shows promote, but they do come with all of the conveniences and the unique features appreciated by cable viewers.

One model offers a classy stone backsplash in the kitchen. The fireplace is stone, too. The bathrooms aren't spacious, but they are complete. The appliances are upscale. The window treatments and other furnishings can be upgraded, too.

But maybe the most critical factor in the layouts here: The bedroom is on the main level, not tucked into a loft and accessible only with a steep ladder.

National statistics reveal that folks older than 50 are a major part of the target demographics for these homes, and that age group isn't real keen on climbing a ladder to go to the bathroom at night.

Other stats note that 65 percent of the folks living in tiny house have no mortgages. Of the homeowners with more traditionally-sized houses, only 29 percent have paid off the bank.

"We see all kinds of people who buy these homes," Schwitter said. "Sometimes a spouse has died and the widow or widower will keep one place up north and maybe one in Florida. It reduces the upkeep and it's big enough for most folks.

"Others just want to have a weekend cottage by the lake and they get a very nice place, instantly," Schwitter said.

The layouts vary only a little. There aren't a lot of options when the space is going to be only 13 feet tall, 38 feet long and 11 or 12 feet wide. But there are creative uses for the space, from queen-sized hide-a-beds to 32-inch flat screen TVs.

"These are heavy structures," Schwitter said. "They'll weigh 14,000 to 18,000 pounds. You'll need a semi to haul it to your lot. You'll probably need permits to take it down the road. You aren't going to travel around the country with it."

The sales materials bill these models as "three-season" homes. With only skirting materials around the based of the house, water pipes likely would freeze without significant modifications. But modifications are part of the process.

"If you're going to order something specific, you can customize it to your taste," she said. The brochure backs her up. There are five options on cabinet styles. You can make your own choices on flooring, lighting, bathroom fixtures and kitchen appliances.

The proponents of the movement call it an environmental commitment, a financial statement and a clear indication you've chosen freedom over brick-and-mortar stability. The opponents of the this brand of life simplification suggest getting rid of clutter and clothes will take some of the variety out of life.

Schwitters suggests looking at the models first, and then making up your mind. Timber View will host an open house in April. For additional information on that event and a look at the homes, visit the RV center's website at timberviewrv.com.

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