Can Tiny Homes Be Used for Commercial Office Space?


A friend of mine recently opened a business and wonders whether her 450-square foot mobile home can be used as an office space. I’ve done a bit of research on the subject, and I think you might find it interesting.

Can your tiny home double as a commercial office space? The fiscal benefits of tiny homes tend to attract frugal entrepreneurs who anticipate business growth. With the right permits and regulatory accommodations, you should be able to convert your tiny home into the quintessential workspace.

Tiny homes in lieu of supersized corporate towers are hard to beat. They’re perfect for budding organizations in terms of maintenance and ownership costs. However, commercial building codes are often strict and tricky to navigate. Keep reading to learn all about tiny office spaces and whether or not they’re the right fit for your company.

Tiny Homes as Office Space

The tiny house movement began as an architectural and sociological crusade in favor of simple living. A tiny home isn’t really bound by any concrete rules of dimension, but any consolidated living area under 500 square feet is generally in line with this contemporary, minimalist drive.

Not everyone acquires a tiny home in protest of excessive living: Some business owners merely appreciate the low-cost payments and ease of maintenance that coincide with low square footage. Businesses projected to grow in the near feature lean toward tiny homes in place of conventional office buildings, so as not to waste money on a build-out that exceeds general revenue.

This overhauled tiny house movement is one of enterprise rather than lifestyle. And it’s become exceedingly popular in recent years: Fastcompany.com reported just last year about a “bootstrap startup” called Coroflot that built an entire made-to-order office building for less than $40,000.

“’Looking from our point of view at Coroflot, a small bootstrap startup, [the biggest benefit] is that it isn’t wasteful,’ says Los Osos principal Laurence Sarrazin. ‘The money spent on the build-out isn’t permanently tied to the building or location. The space investment is mobile, liquid, in a way; it can go places, it can be sold if necessary.'”

(Read the full article here.)

Modern Spaces and Sheds, a California-based construction company, is one of many organizations that specialize in building tiny homes for the express binary use of office and home. Owner Eric Enns describes the practicality of a tiny unified work and living space: 

“It’s a great situation for people because you have that separation. If you have kids you don’t have to worry about them being loud or interrupting you. But you still have just that short commute to your backyard and you don’t have to deal with traffic or anything.”

Tiny homes are modern, easy to build, and socially conscious. Contemporary businesses can simultaneously customize the workspace to their individual needs and preferences and combat homelessness with an urban office that occupies no urban space for little budgetary loss whatsoever. The “office-on-wheels” fad is taking off, and there’s more room on board for expanding startups than you might expect.

Benefits of Tiny Office Buildings

We’ve discussed some of these advantages already, but I’d like to go a little more in-depth. The following is a list of the major attractions of tiny office buildings so you can determine whether or not this paradoxically largescale mini-movement is right for your business.

  • If your business is small enough, meaning you make up the majority of its workforce, a tiny office may be the optimal way to work from home. Many freelance writers, designers, publicists, etc. have transformed their tiny homes into dual workplaces and living areas, thus maximizing efficiency and convenience. 
  • Once again, tiny homes are essentially cut-rate office buildings. If you’ve just launched a startup of three or four employees, housing it in a just a few hundred square feet can provide all the necessary space for none of the undue cost. 
  • Utilities aren’t necessary. Tiny houses were made for that unruly, off-the-grid way of life. If certain unnecessary water and electricity bills can be substituted by battery-operated lights and a few pallets of Dasani bottled water, you can save hundreds of dollars in utility costs.
  • Finally, tiny homes are easy to outgrow. They are usually purchased with the anticipation that, someday in the near future, they will be sold again. Thus, by nature, they imply a hassle-free resale. The ever-growing demand for tiny homes ensures that your newly too-small office space won’t linger on the housing market for long. Even if it does, however, it wasn’t too much of an investment in the first place.

Disadvantages of Tiny Office Buildings

It’s always wise to weight the pros and cons, which is why I’ve compiled a list of possible downsides to tiny homes as office space. Hopefully, it’ll help you understand what aspects of your business might not thrive in such a compact locale.

  • If handled incorrectly, a combination office and living space can prove detrimental to professionalism. When your morning coffee and employee pay stubs sit at the same bite-sized dining room table, things can get messy. If you struggle with organization, it might be best to separate church and state, so to speak.

“Having a dedicated space to house your laptop, pay bills, and keep track of important papers can make it easier to stay on top of life’s administrative tasks.”

(Read the rest of this flexjobs.com article here.)
  • The tiny house movement seems to be moving more quickly than laws can adapt to allow. If your business is quickly developing, the potential regulatory hurdles and red tape to surpass before it can legally proceed in a too-small space may not be worth the effort.
  • Tiny houses with actual foundations can be just as costly as a full-sized home. Zoning laws and regulations make it difficult to acquire a plot of land to scale with a tiny home. Thus, a small business space may not be as economical as you expect it to be. There’s an easy fix here, though: Just get a tiny house with wheels.

How to Use a Tiny House as an Office 

If you’ve decided that a tiny house could be an option for your potential workplace, you’ll need to adhere to some specific housing and zoning regulations. These vary from state to state, but I’ll try to include as many general rules as possible.

(Note: Housing laws are terribly disparate between the United States and other countries. If you do not live within the U.S., consult your nation’s or area’s living codes before constructing or purchasing a tiny home.)

Living in a tiny house can save you more than $1,400 on rent. Before you get too excited, however, we should go over what sacrifices you’ll need to make if you want to keep that extra grand and a half.

Viewpointcloud.com’s A Government’s Guide to Tiny House Regulation is a great resource to consult before buying or building a tiny office space. It details the exact codes regulating tiny house ownership imposed by certain U.S. governments.

For example, the Fresno, California, local government has already written tiny house standards into their municipal codes. Less direct governments, however, like that of Portland, Oregon, subtly address tiny houses under the guise of an Accessory Dwelling Unit, or ADU. It’s important to note these state-specific intricacies and interpret them accordingly before stationing your startup in any tiny office space.

The American Tiny House Associations (yes, it exists) also provides a comprehensive list of individual states’ regulations regarding the construction and ownership of tiny houses. The questions this resource should help you to answer are as follows:

  1. “Is there a minimum square foot requirement for new houses on foundations?
  2. “Does the area allow a tiny house in the backyard of an existing home?
  3. “Is ‘camping’ allowed on private land? If yes, is there a time limit?”

(You can read these local codes here.)

As a workplace must be ADA compliant (accessible to employees with disabilities), you’ll want to ensure that your tiny house possesses all the necessary features to accommodate persons with special needs.

There happen to be plenty of tiny homes already built with the express intention of ADA accessibility. For the sake of convenience, you may wish to purchase one of these homes right off the bat. If an already accessible house is too expensive, you might consider hiring a temporary contractor that specializes in disability accommodation. 

Nashua Builders, a premier American modular manufacturing organization, notes that the lack of definite dimensions for a tiny house makes zoning laws difficult to apply.

“A ‘tiny house’ is currently defined  as being between 100 to 400 square feet, according to  The Tiny Life, and [Atlanta] uses the International Residential Code for new construction guidelines. But that only covers construction for these tiny houses, and not zoning issues established by local governments.”

(Read the full Nashua Builders assessment here.)

It is always critical to abide by your local laws and regulations before establishing a home for your business. Certain housing code violations can completely discredit your business before it’s even off the ground.

Don’t use this article as your only reference when converting a tiny house into an office space. Our website provides plenty of information about tiny houses. It will serve as a great resource in helping you determine where your business should reside. Do as much research as you can. Your company’s headquarters should be as valid sophisticated as the company itself.

Naturally, a tiny house isn’t ideal for any large or otherwise prominent business or organization. But it’s a great starting point for fledgling operations, and its benefits seem to outweigh its easily reconditioned defects. Whatever your decision may be—a miniature office building or the floor of an urban skyscraper—I wish you and your company the best of luck.

Related Questions

How can I acquire a tiny house? There are many options when it comes to buying an already built tiny home. Trailers and RVs technically qualify as tiny homes, if either of those suit your business. If you’re looking for something more personalized, wherever you live, there is probably a company willing to build tiny office spaces or even one that specializes in their construction. 

How should I design my tiny office space? If you’re designing your own tiny office, you’ll want to take into account your company’s specific needs. Some companies priorities production over quality, in which case, less room is required for resource material. Conversely, quality-centric organizations need tactile work surfaces. Whatever the business, make sure you leave some room to relax on this small-space ready sofa bed

What’s the difference between a tiny office and a backyard office? Tiny offices can serve as both home and office, whereas backyard offices are merely compact work locations close in proximity to one’s own home. Both are great options for a new company, but if outlay is your foremost concern, the former might be the best recourse. 

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