The Ugly Truth About Amazon's Gorgeous $100K House
By Erica Sweeney | Aug 20, 2019
Amazon sells just about everything, even homes. The online giant has boasted several listings for tiny houses recently, with some going viral.
Now, Amazon is upping its house-selling game with a new three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 774-square-foot house for $105,000. The home features an open kitchen, dining room, and even a sauna. It comes fully furnished, and its exterior is nearly all windows—so if you love lots of light (and aren't a stickler for privacy), this place seems like a dream come true!
It's called the Cliff from Q-haus, an Estonian producer of prefabricated wooden structures. Designed by architect Kertti Soots, it's also one of the larger, pricier houses for sale on Amazon.
But is it worth it? Before you add this massive purchase to your cart, there are a few things to know.
Delivery could take several months
The Amazon listing implies that the home could arrive within about a week. But, according to Q-haus, after signing the contract for the Cliff, production takes about three months and delivery times and rates vary depending on location.
The home, which weighs more than 44,000 pounds, arrives in two “fully insulated modules” and includes the built-in furniture and appliances.
You have to assemble it yourself
Q-haus boasts that the tiny home is move-in ready within a few days, but “two skilled workers” are needed for assembly. Most likely, professional contractors will need to be hired to put it all together, adding to the overall cost.
Marianne Cusato, partner at Cypress Community Development Corp., which provides affordable workforce housing after natural disasters, says the time frame of a few days is “unlikely”—but it will still be faster than constructing a home from the ground up.
“The materials say the unit comes in two boxes, which means there will be interior finishes that will need to be stitched together,” Cusato says. “There will also be welding to attach the unit to the foundation and plumbing and electrical hookups.”
Also, she cautions that since the unit is fabricated in Estonia, there could be issues with standard sizes of materials that could complicate and delay installation.
However, Q-haus CEO Reino Soots told realtor.com via email that the company is working with a U.S. designer to ensure that the materials adhere to local standards.
The foundation is another major cost
Cusato says the price of the home is “reasonable, but understand that it is not a turnkey price.” Buyers will need to also pay for permits and utility setup, and hire contractors to install a foundation and assemble the tiny home. There’s also the cost of purchasing land.
One of the biggest costs—on top of the purchase of the home itself—will likely be installing the foundation, says Tyler Drew, president of Anubis Properties. On average, foundation costs between $4 and $7 per square foot—so for this 774-square-foot house, that would amount to $3,096 to $5,418.
“This says it’s designed for concrete piles, which is a big no-no in seismically active areas,” Drew explains.
According to Q-haus, “seismic resistance is under calculation.” Whatever that means!
Building permits and setting up utilities add to the costs
Before purchasing any prefab or tiny house, make sure setting up such a structure is allowed in your area and that you have all required permits. Zoning rules and requirements vary by location—and the permitting process can take time.
“Without an understanding of the process, homeowners risk purchasing a unit that does not meet local codes,” Cusato says. “That is a lot of money to tie up while you work through permit details.”
Connecting the tiny house to water, electricity, and natural gas could also delay move-in and tack on extra fees, says Brian Davis, real estate developer and co-founder of property management software SparkRental.com.
“That could mean a hookup to public utility lines, or it could mean creating your own off-grid solar power and well or rainwater reclamation and filtration system,” Davis says.
Buying a home on Amazon could be risky
Another concern with purchasing a tiny house on Amazon, Cusato says, is that homeowners have to pay the full price up front. Usually payments for prefab housing are phased: a deposit when a contract is signed, another payment when production begins or leaves the facility, and a final payment when the unit is set up on site.
The perceived ease of purchasing the tiny house on Amazon is no doubt appealing, but, Cusato says, “if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.”