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Announcing 2018 Tiny House Conference

We are officially launching the 2018 Tiny House Conference website!  I want to invite you to join us in Charlotte, NC to celebrate our 5th Conference!  The Conference will take place on March 17th-18th in south Charlotte for two full days of amazing speakers and connecting with others who are just as passionate about living tiny (or small).

This year I’ve decided to focus the conference on the core things people need to know in order to build and live in a tiny house so we can really dig deep into these topics.  As a result I’m limiting the number of seats to just 100 people so we can have better conversations in a focused format. This means we are definitely going to sell out early.

We have Early Bird special right now that will take $100 off your ticket, but the early bird special ends October 31st!

Find All The Details At
TinyHouseConference.com

Tiny House Stolen!

It’s a nightmare that you’d never want to have happen, but as tiny houses grow, so will the number of them that are stolen.  Watch this video below:

 

Luckily she was able to find the house, but I thought I’d share a few tips to keep your house safe.  There are a few steps to keeping things safe.  Obscurity, Security and Insurance.

Obscurity

Most of the people who have had their tiny houses stolen have one thing in common, they were in plain sight of a road.  Most criminals are crimes of opportunity. This isn’t some Ocean’s 11 heist; they see the house and they grab it.  It’s important to note that obscurity doesn’t equal security, but if someone isn’t able to see it from the road, if it’s existence isn’t known to many, the likelihood of someone stealing it is much lower.

My recommendation is to always have your house hidden from sight.  This causes less issues with neighbors, less issues with the city and less people poking around in general.  Practically speaking, if you house is visible from the road, you’re going to have people who literally stop their car and peer in your windows, not a great thing when you’re stepping out of the shower!

Don’t forget that while your house might not be seen in the summer months, but when the seasons change, all the leaves will drop.  I often suggest budgeting a few hundred dollars for some evergreen shrubs to plant as screens.

Security

Once you have your house hidden from prying eyes, it’s time to make things difficult for someone to waltz in and take your home.  The very sad truth is that if a thief really wants it, they’re going to get it.  All locks and security measures can be canceled out very quickly.  With the advent of battery grinder wheels, I’ve seen even hardened security locks be rendered useless in about 10 seconds.

Lock The Hitch

If a trailer has a hitch lock, it’s that much more difficult for someone to hook it up and go.  I recommend the hitch vault because it surrounds the entire hitch and the pin is difficult to get at.  I used to use a simple hitch pad lock, but one day I needed to get at the hitch and had lost the key.  I grabbed my bolt cutters and, in literally 2 seconds, had it off.

Get It Off The Wheels

This is one of the most effective options in my mind because it represents a huge obstacle for anyone trying to steal the house.  When you get your house in it’s final spot, you need to get it off the wheels anyway to avoid tire shock and tire rot.

What I do is get the house lifted off the ground until I can remove the tires.  I secure it with solid blocks, then I remove all the wheels.  I hide the lug nuts in another location and put the tires in a shed which is also locked.  What this means is if someone wanted to steal my tiny house, they’d have to jack the house up some, break into a shed, find the wheels, carry them over, put them on and then have the correct number and type of lug nuts to fasten them on.  It’s not that likely and if they could, it would take a fair bit of time, which is time they could be caught.

Have A Mean Sounding Dog

Many criminals often steer clear of dogs because they’re unpredictable.  A good sized dog with a mean bark can go a long way to keeping your house and property safe.

Insurance

This is a controversial topic, but I still think its worth mentioning.  I still maintain the stance that even if you are able to get a policy for your tiny house, if you ever had a claim, they’d never honor it.  I’ve written about how little faith I have in insurance companies for tiny houses here.  For standard things like cars, traditional houses, etc. I feel like it is a good practice for people to carry insurance.

If something goes wrong and your home is damaged, has a fire, flood, etc., insurance is how we mitigate risk.  For tiny houses, I feel it’s better to have a wad of cash in the bank, but each person need to make that decision for themselves.

Your Turn!

  • How are you going to protect your house?
  • What tips do you have to share?

Video Tour Of My Tiny House Clothes Closet

A while back I switched to a what effectively is a uniform, I don’t like the connotation that brings, but essentially I wear the same thing everyday.  Each day I reach into my dresser and pull out a gray shirt, a white undershirt, socks and underwear; all of which are standardized.

I didn’t start out doing this for this reason, but since starting a lot of articles came out about how people are switching to simplified wardrobes.  Notably some people who are constantly in the spotlight and you’d think would be concerned about being seen in the same thing.  Below are Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama, and Steve Jobs.

simplified

The main reason why people opt for a simplified wardrobe is because it’s one less decision they have to make.  There is a well known phenomena called Decision Fatigue

Decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making.

It may seem silly that people don’t pick out their clothes, but when you have to make a lot of big decisions in a day, each decision you make, reduces your ability to make good choices.  Also if you’re worried about the clothes you are wearing it can distract you.

All this is to say, figure out what your wardrobe needs to do for you.  Here is the video of my wardrobe.

 

 

Your Turn!

  • What’s does your wardrobe say about your choices?
  • How have you minimized your clothes?

Contracts Are Your Friend When Having A Tiny House Built

More and more people are turning to builders of tiny homes to build their house.  When I first started the tiny house movement everyone was building their own tiny house, but that isn’t the case today.  Over the years I’ve found several really great builders, but I’ve also found a lot of really terrible builders.  My only advice is that buyer beware is the best advice I can give.

contracts are common sense

I felt the need to write this post today because there is clearly a need for people to understand how to protect yourself during this process.  I’ve seen countless examples of people not using common sense when it comes to hiring a builder and so here I am making this P.S.A.

When you hire a builder you need to make sure you have the following:

  1. Signed contract
  2. Build and payment timeline
  3. Detailed set of plans
  4. Process for changes
  5. Plan for when things go wrong
  6. Vetted references

builder contracts

Before I get into what each of these things are, I feel the need to justify the need for these things, not because they require justification, but because people seem to think they’re not needed.  It honestly blows my mind when I hear a horror story of a builder and I always ask, “do you have a contract?” 95% of the time the answer is “no”.

A contract does the following:

  • Gets people on the same page
  • Reduces disagreements
  • Highlights future problems before they happen
  • Can help ward off bad builders
  • Gives you a leg to stand on in court if need be

If you’re entering into any agreement in life that’s more than $1,000 you should have something signed. The bigger the price tag, the more time you need to spend on the contract.  When I am considering whether to put together a document, I ask myself this: “Am I willing to lose or walk away from this money?”  If the answer is no, I draw up a contract.

I need to put a bit of tough love on all of you here, because most people I’ve run into think contracts aren’t necessary.  You need a contract and several other documents when hiring a professional to build your house.  If you don’t, I have a really hard time feeling sorry for you when it all goes bad.  Being a responsible adult means taking common sense steps like drawing up a contract on things like this.

So let’s get into what is involved with each of these things:

 

You need a signed contract:

Before you give over one dollar, you need to have a contract signed.  Why?  Because a contract is simply a tool to make sure everyone is on the same page.  People shy away from contracts because they sound complicated, they could be expensive, they are so formal or too “corporate.”

This is the exact opposite of how you should feel.  I love contracts, seriously!  I know it’s a little weird, but I really do.

The way I like to think about contracts is, they’re a tool that lets me understand the other person.  That’s it!  In life I’ve found that most disagreements happen when I do something when the other person expected something else.  If we can both agree on what we expect, most disagreements won’t happen.

So we use a contract to carefully outline what we want, what we expect, how we are going to go about it, and what the plan is. What I’ve found is we outline these things, sit down with the person and we suddenly find out we were thinking different things.  That’s great because we can align our thinking and fix it now.

A contract is best to be drawn up by a lawyer, but really any good builder should have a template handy.  You can get free templates online and customize to your needs.  Be wary of anyone who seems hesitant to work with you on a contract.  Bad and dishonest builders shy away from contracts. Quality builders love contracts because a contract lets them understand their customer and prevent disagreements.

You should have a detailed timeline:

contract timelines

In addition to the contract, you need a timeline.  A timeline outlines who does what and when.  You should outline when each phase of the build is to be completed.  Break down the build into milestones: Design finalized, construction starts, walls erected, roof completed, siding/windows/doors, interior finishes, etc.  For each of these things have a due date and tie those due dates to payments.

Along with a build schedule I would recommend insisting on a formal update every 2 weeks. Write this into the contract, along with what defines an “update”.  It can be a simple email with photos, but honestly I’d do it in person or do a virtual check in where they Skype or Face Time you and walk around the in progress house.  You want to see your house – actually lay eyes on it, don’t take their word for it!

For updates I’d stipulate in the contract:

  • Summary of work completed since last update (100 words or so)
  • 5 photos included with each updated, showing work that was completed
  • Summary of any delays and actions to fix it
  • Summary of work to be done by next update
  • Any items that need to be discussed or addressed

An important note here is you need to compare the work done to the timeline you’ve setup. Compare the last set of updates “work to be done” with the subsequent updates list of “work completed.” The update list should match. If it doesn’t, the builder should have a plan to catch up and explanation.  You should build in some time for setbacks. Be reasonable because delays happen, but set expectations for how much of a delay is too much.

You need a detailed set of plans:

house plansA set of professionally generated plans are an investment to achieve a successful build.  Plans are an effective way to communicate exactly what you want.

Plans will typically cost $1,000 or more, but it’s something that you shouldn’t skimp on.  You want the plans to include specific dimensions, electrical, plumbing, and other utilities.  The other very important aspect to plans is the materials list.  You literally need to spec out every material in the house along with any mechanical or appliances.

Why so much detail in the material list?  Because it will help the builder price correctly and remove any questions when it comes to what needs to go into the house.   Really shady builders will often swap materials for cheaper versions and pocket the difference.

You need a process for changes:

changes will happen in buildingThis is typically a good signal of a quality builder, they rely heavily on rigid processes and insist on “change orders”.  In your contract you need to specifically state that any changes not signed off BEFOREHAND are not allowed and you aren’t responsible for paying for them.

A change order is simple document that states that you were planing on doing one thing, but for whatever reason something needs to be changed.  It should outline what the change is very specifically and needs to include the change of charges.  Even if there are no additional charges, it needs to specifically state that the cost is $0.00 in the document.

 

Things to require change orders are:

  • Changes to materials, parts or appliances
  • Agreements on delays
  • Changes in build, layout, design, colors or other elements
  • Any additions
  • Any changes to final billable costs or credits
  • Anything that wasn’t planned for

Have a plan for when things go wrong or disagreements happen:

Building a tiny house is a complex and things will go wrong.  It most likely won’t be a big deal, but it will happen.  Both sides need to be reasonable and considerate, but you also need to know when to draw the line.  The best piece of advice I can give here is that things are best resolved through productive conversations and understanding.

Be clear about what is bothering you, calmly state what you thought was going to happen, what did happen and propose possible solutions.  When you talk about issues, make sure you stop talking and listen when they’re speaking and ask for the same respect.  Do your best to keep your emotions in check.

Before you even start building, while you’re putting together your contract, sit down with the builder and say “I want to figure out a good way for us to resolve issues if they ever come up and want to work together on solutions together.”  If you have a specific conversation about this it can prevent a lot of heartache later on.

Often contracts will have a mediation process, where a third party hears both sides and determines what the fair thing to do is.  I’d suggest having the following:

  • Define a process that can help the situation early on
  • Define a mediation process
  • Define the location or jurisdiction for any legal proceedings if it needs to go to court
  • Define who pays for what in mediation and legal fees

Vet every builder with multiple references

First off, if a builder has never built a tiny house, run away as fast as you can.  Even if they were a builder of normal homes, that’s not good enough.  Why would you take the chance?

Any builder you engage you need to talk to multiple references.  In those interviews I’d strongly suggest you going to meet them in person and ask ahead of time to see the house they had built.  Most homeowners are proud of their house and love to show it off.  It will give you a chance to see the quality of the builder’s work and give you a chance to see real world examples which can be useful in your own build.

If a builder even blinks when you ask for references you should walk away.  If they aren’t quick to provide several references, you need to run away.  Seriously.  Why would any good builder not be willing to have you talk to previous customers?  Quality builders love references because their work will shine through.

A really important note: if there is anything at all, that seems not right about any of the references choose another builder. If your gut says something is off, don’t use that builder.  I’d rather be wrong than sorry.

Good builders love contracts, timelines, and references because it improves the outcome and shows their quality work.  Bad or sketchy builders will shy away from these types of things.

Your Turn!

  • What tips do you have?
  • What lessons have you learned from working with builders?

New Design Guide: Planning Your Tiny House

Over the years I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks to designing tiny houses – things that can make a house feel like home, common mistakes to avoid and making the build process smooth sailing.

I’ve finally put together all this wisdom into a single guide to help you figure out exactly what you need in your home, how to place the elements and not forget critical things.  I’ve written this guide to help you design the perfect tiny house or small home.

tiny house desing and layout

Design your perfect tiny house with this in-depth planning guide. This step by step guide shows you how to determine your needs, develop a successful design and refine it to perfection. Included is our floor plan kit which has windows, doors, appliances, furniture and much more for you arrange into your dream home.

Check out the details at our store, click here

 

 

 

 

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