Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Finding Land For A Tiny House

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for tiny houses is finding land to put your tiny house, it can be tough to find land that will be well suited for it.  I wrote a very detailed post that outlines all the things you need to consider when setting up your land for a tiny house, read it here.

In more rural locations this may not be as hard as land is pretty available and cheap; not to mention building codes and enforcement are often a bit laxer.  However, most people live in cities, like myself, and land is tricky to come by.

In my city, Charlotte, there is very few empty lots that aren’t in a planned neighborhood that is governed by a HOA.  Land can be very expensive and the remaining lots often are not being used for very good reasons.

In general I think it’s best to find a place where there is a house there already, then piggyback off their utilities.  This can be a really easy option if you’re in a place that doesn’t have HOAs.  In Charlotte, most of the housing is about 20 years old or less, so Home Owner Associations are pretty much everywhere here in my city.  It’s just a matter of meeting the right people who might consider allowing you to live in your tiny house in their back yard.

  1. Ryan, I’d also recommend a website called UnitedCountry.com as a place to look for land. It’s geared specifically towards farm land, undeveloped properties, lots, rural areas, things of that nature. You can search on by a bunch of parameters, whether it’s that you want land near water, by mountains, with housing on it, without, rural, suburban, by state, etc.

    Before I was bit by the tiny house bug and had tiny house dreams, I was using United Country to scout out land for where I wanted to eventually move. I wanted anywhere from 5-10 acres in a more rural area with a traditional house on it. Now I’m looking for property that would be more amenable to hosting a tiny house, but still offer utilities to hook up to.

    I just figured it might be another resource tiny house enthusiasts might be able to use.


  2. Great advise. Thanks.

  3. Rural America around villages and small towns is progressively aging as youngsters leave for college and city lights, rarely to return. We oldsters have large debt-free acreage surrounding now empty-nest family homes. We are in generally good health, but would appreciate three additions to our lives: younger companionship (capable of occasionally helping us with wood splitting or other heavy-lifting chores), a tiny bit of “rent” (let’s call it instead tax-free “expense sharing”), and a considerate neighbor who can keep an eye on things when we travel occasionally to see our kids. We share the typical interests of many tiny housers — organic gardens, a few chickens, friendly dog companions, living close to the land (read, composting toilets, small woodstoves, outdoor showers, sunny clothes lines) — with a mellowness and acceptance that comes with age. We generally know the local planning authorities (often long time friends), any sticky regulations and workarounds (after 50 years experience), and the invisible places off the road behind the trees where a tiny house “trailer” would not be noticeable. It’s a good life that we would love to pass on to the next generation — and some of us simply pass the land on to our younger neighbors since our own children have no interest in returning from their own urban success.

    • William, genius advice! My wife and I plan to build a tiny home starting first thing in the spring and are a little stressed about assuring a slice of land to live on without having to buy right away. Like the other commenter, I hope we can find someone like you!

    • I always wish I could have had a few good acres owned out right. The big thing for me is renting land is fine, but I can’t do some of the bigger projects I’d like to do. Land is too expensive for younger folk and without owning it, it’s hard to picture making a life on something that isn’t a sure thing.

      • “Good” land in smaller amounts (for tiny house/trailer, gardens, chickens/goats, onsite gray water reuse, etc) is relatively easy and cheap to find in unoccupied rural areas. The problem is that towns/villages/public services may be quite distant, and it is easy to be lonely (a loyal dog is a must!). That said, the air is clean, manmade noise non-existent (save overhead aircraft), and time becomes timeless. It is a wonderful experience for those who prefer a quiet inward focused life (e.g. authors, software developers, artists, researchers) off the grid. Satellite internet connection and postal/FedEx service are the only necessary links to the outside world, save for an inexpensive reliable small motor vehicle. The unspoken hurdle when most people say land is not “affordable” is that they want land to be semi-urban for easy access to shopping/services/public transport (which increases demand and thus price). I would recommended doing an internet search for small rural properties in areas with suitable weather, generally near water, in less populated areas of the US and Canada. For a number of reasons, Canada may be preferred. Good luck in finding your “special place”.

    • William I would love to do something like that! Is that an actual offer?

    • Wish I could find someone like you close to me!

  4. William,

    Great observation. I hope I find someone like you when I’m ready to build and situate.

  5. The issue with parking a tiny house in someone’s backyard in an urban area is zoning. For instance, I was hoping to build and park a tiny house in Ypsilanti, Michigan, but the neighborhood where I’m hoping to do that is zoned for single family dwellings, only. I’m not sure if having another building on the land would constitute another “family” dwelling. There also restrictions on length of time for an RV to be actively used on someone’s property.

    If anyone has any ideas on how to work around such issues, I’m all ears.

    • Many communities are concerned about affordable housing that makes possible multi-generational or extended families living together to the demonstrable psychosocial and economic benefit of all. Indeed here in California it is state law that each municipality develop a plan for affordable housing, even in affluent towns with larger homes. The best solutions are “granny houses”, small residences placed behind the main house where grandma can live, and increasingly where family youngsters carrying high college debt can live and share family duties. Grandma makes a great babysitter as well!

      This form of in-fill building is extremely cost-efficient in terms of leveraging existing public transportation and bicycle use, and most noticeably strengthening community roots and interaction. This is why it became stated public policy and law. Other states may have similar legislation for similar positive social reasons. I would encourage investigating this approach in other locales, at the municipal/county level as well as state.

      Tiny houses — especially on trailer flatbeds (classified as motor vehicle) or a limited footprint (clustered 10′ X 12′ “sheds” exempt from building permits in California) — are inexpensive to put in place, and if/when needed, easy and inexpensive to remove without any imprint left on the land. All life is limited (observed as a physician involved in geriatrics) and most housing should be small, close-by, and easily created/removed modules that can flexibly comport with changes in need and use, ephemeral structures that serve us well but then pass away (think, loyal dog).

      I would suggest discussing with town/city councils (or planning departments) the notion of these tiny limited-lifetime near-zero-impact housing units placed as in-fill structures throughout the town behind larger (empty-nest?) homes to improve the accessibility of housing stock and augment community life with a diversity in size and variety of residences. Point out that permission can be time-limited (10 years?) and/or use-limited (residential), and when life changes, so easily can the housing stock.

      The argument for tiny houses is comparable to the argument for bicycles and motor scooters — tiny impact that just disappears when the need no longer exists, leaving no mark on the land, no abandoned streets, no dollars for impact remediation, all in the pattern of low-carbon sustainable living (and lower town budgets). Tiny housers vote in elections for tiny impacts and tiny budgets, a good direction for struggling towns, but that is a separate discussion.

      Bottom line: if there are zoning issues, approach town/city councils with the compassionate-need argument of “granny flats” that support multi-generational child rearing (and granny care), improved neighborhood “watch”, less vehicle traffic (granny doesn’t drive much), with minimal environmental impact.

      After all, most council members are middle-aged and beyond, and most would like to stay in the community and age in place after they retire. Allowing in-fill low-impact tiny housing serves everyone’s needs — including their own and their kids.

  6. William, I want to be your friend. Thank you for your wisdom and advice. Some of us are older but still hardy and able to help out. It’s called community-strange that we seem to have forgotten what that was. In my older neighborhood growing up, older folks would often tap into the energy and flexibilty to retrieve things like keys when someone was locked out, or help raking leaves and shovelling snow. There was a warmth and inter-connectedness among multigenertional neighbors.
    I want to be you when I grow up

  7. William- would you please be my friend? I could learn a lot from you!

    • Where are you geographically located now? What are your constraints on making a move? What would be your top priority in finding/building/locating a tiny house?

      • I live in North MS and want to move a tiny house more toward Olive Branch MS or Collierville, TN, which is near Memphis.
        Just need a place to move and some time to get a tiny house ordered. Would have to wait until summer to move, since I work full time, but could check out places on the weekends.

        • I live in southaven and I believe it would be a great idea I’m trying to talk my wife into it

          • Eric-
            I need to be close to U of Memphis for college purposes, but would love to rent some land in Memphis. Not sure about codes, etc. in that area, but would be interested to be part of a tiny house discussion group that meets once a month or something!

  8. I live in New York any help you can suggest??

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