PORT ORCHARD — The tiny homes housing phenomenon is starting to become big business for some small entrepreneurs and builders.
HGTV and DIY are just two of the home-improvement cable outlets that have jumped on the tiny homes bandwagon with shows touting micro-sized units as housing solutions for thousands of Americans attracted to their budget prices or wanting to drastically downsize their lifestyle.
The interest certainly is there; the programs are some of the highest-rated on television, according to cable programmers.
Despite the popularity of the shows, relatively few have opted to forego their traditional three-bedroom house and yard, dramatically downsize and take on the minimalist tiny-house lifestyle.
Construction builders say the market, although emerging, is still in its infancy. Local builders Bob and Cheryl Bretey of South Kitsap have formed a side business, Tiny Houses of Washington, to tap into that market.
The husband-and-wife Breteys have been in the construction business for more than 30 years. While traditional new construction projects, house framing, remodeling and finish work has sustained their business, Bretey’s Construction LLC, they also have entered the tiny home market with high hopes but realistic short-term expectations.
“I’ve watched those shows myself,” Bob said. “I think it’s a good idea and thought it’d be kind of fun to do.”
So far, the construction builders haven’t yet sold a tiny home, but they have built a well-appointed model — the King’s Loft — that the Breteys tow to community events, such as the recent Festival By The Bay Street Fair in Port Orchard Aug. 13. The unit is priced at $60,000.
That model has elicited plenty of comments from the public.
“Some are really surprised when they walk into the model,” Cheryl said while giving a tour inside, positioned on their property at SE Olalla and SE Mullenix in South Kitsap.
“I heard a comment the other day from someone who said, ‘This is neat, but I’d have to get rid of a lot of stuff.’ ”
That’s one of the drawbacks of transitioning from a traditional, 2,000-square-foot house to space barely 300 square feet, which Bob Bretey said is about average for a tiny home. One solution tiny home buyers have found is to build a stand-alone garage next door to their unit, on property they own.
Storage space inside is a precious commodity, but the Breteys said their tiny home is dotted with little cubby holes for their must-haves. Bob said the wheel wells have been hidden within cabinets, but just about every inch of that space not touching rubber has been allocated for storage.
Their tiny-home model is tricked out with contemporary design features familiar to buyers of new traditional homes. A well-appointed kitchen with a propane gas four-burner cooktop and oven, standard-size refrigerator, composite countertop and wide sink is decorated with a tile backsplash.
The living room, while small, is brightened by extra windows near the ceiling and LED lighting. It’s equipped with a propane fireplace and a flat-screen television mounted to the wall. At the other end of the home is a relatively spacious bathroom with a tile-lined shower and space for a stack washer-dryer.
Upstairs is a 96-square-foot bedroom loft, accessed by a hide-away ladder. All told, the home is 24 feet long and 8 feet, 6 inches wide. It rests on a travel-trailer frame typically used for RVs. While it has wheels for transport, Bob Bretey said the home is designed to move infrequently and must have a road permit to be moved.
Bob said potential buyers expect a tiny home that is energy efficient.
“We have LED lighting, an on-demand propane hot water tank so you’ll never run out of hot water,” he said. “Buyers also are trying to get away from having the traditional mortgage on a traditional house. You could basically buy one of these for what you’d pay to lease a house.”
Oregon-based Umpqua Bank has a new financing option that caters to tiny homes buyers, the couple said.
With the rising popularity of tiny homes, the Breteys say potential buyers need to do their homework before signing on the dotted line. They added that the state’s Labor & Industries department keeps records of businesses and their possible infractions.
“I’d make sure to buy a home from a reputable builder who has gotten all the necessary inspections and is licensed and bonded,” Cheryl noted.
She said some builders have entered the market without licenses and don’t follow the permitting process. Others with minimal construction experience often take on the project as a “handyman special,” with predictable results.
The couple said they expect the market for tiny homes will expand in Kitsap County once the fast ferry system to downtown Seattle fully gets underway in the next few years. “Real estate people have told me that house prices in Kitsap County are set to go up when it happens,” Cheryl said.
The Breteys can be reached at 253-851-3156 or through their website at tinyhousesof washington.com.