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3 Tips To Finding Land For A Tiny House

The tiny house movement has made huge strides in the past few years by promoting efficient living spaces and minimalist lifestyles in 400 square feet or less. More homeowners are seeing the benefit in downsizing to lessen environmental impact, save money and eliminate home-related stressors.

Building a small home is generally less complicated than planning and constructing a large home. However, it is more difficult to find appropriately-sized and cost-effective land for micro homes than it is for average-sized homes. Most micro home builders aren’t looking to pay full price for open plots, since tiny homes are more economical to build.

Interested in joining the tiny house movement? Consider these three tips to find appropriate land.

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1. Location, Size and Price

Micro homes can be built anywhere as long as construction follows state building codes. Some states even allow homeowners to build micro homes in their backyards. However, a lot of tiny homeowners don’t have pre-owned properties to use for construction. Use Zillow to find land based on location; just search within a designated city under home type: lots/land.

Search for comparable properties online to determine typical ratios of home square footage to land size.  A home that is 100-400 square feet requires far less property than the average 2,500-square-foot home. Regardless of home size, land sizes vary in price based on location. Typical tiny house proponents stray from city centers, as the land is more expensive and prone to complicated code laws. Further, most tiny homeowners are advocates of eco-friendly lifestyles and therefore prefer more rural locales.

2. Consider Zoning Laws

Tiny home builders may be automatically looking for small plots, but states require a certain amount of land for people to live and build on legally. Review state zoning laws to determine the subdivisions and restrictions in a potential area. Tiny homeowners should examine city documents to understand potential long-term neighborhood development plans prior to purchasing land. Most people don’t want to live next to an interstate or strip mall, and knowing about those types of changes helps weed out bad investments.

3. Find an Experienced Agent

Search for a real estate professional who can aid in a tiny land search. There are agents who specialize in niche markets – tiny homes included. Make sure to check up on an agent’s qualifications before hiring them to ensure they are the best fits for tiny house searches. While these steps won’t guarantee the perfect plot for tiny home construction, they certainly help homeowners get started.

This is a guest post by Jennifer Riner of Zillow

 

The Search For New Land – Part 2

A few weeks ago I posted about how I suddenly had to find new land to put my tiny house, the land that I was going to be on was suddenly sold by the owners I was leasing from, you can read it all in this post.

I wanted to follow up with the next stage and share how things are coming along, plus I got some new photos and spring has sprung here!  I recently met with the local power company and determined where I could get power run to.  At first I had wanted to be much deeper into the lot, but it would have cost thousands of dollars to get the power lines run there.  So I settled for a nice spot where I could have to power run for free.  The company would install up to 200 feet of underground line to my power box for free if I stayed a customer for 1 year and paid their minimum, which was $15 a month.

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The next thing that I went to check on was water connections.  I was afraid that the water line would be at the other end of the property and would have left me having to choose water or power, otherwise I’d have to pay thousands to get one of the extended to where I needed it.   Well I think I might have lucked out because the closest water line is 300 feet from where my house will be, so while I’ll be spending several hours hard labor digging a trench (even with a trencher) I’ll take it over spending thousands any day!

Step one was clearing a path for the power company to dig the trench and then the area I’m going to park my house.  So I had someone with a chain saw come through and cut a path that didn’t have to take out any large trees, but maximized the 200 foot extension deep into the woods.

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Next up is having a temporary power pole service put in.  It will be a 200 amp service (the smallest they’ll put it).  The panel will be mounted on two posts, with a ½” piece of plywood between them.  From there the box and the meter will be installed and then a 20 amp plug has to be installed (I don’t know why, but it’s required to pass code).  Additionally two copper grounding rods will need to be driven into the ground.

The trick here is that this will need to be inspected by the city, but my house isn’t there yet (on purpose), It will be pretty tricky because they might start asking questions.  I’m just going to have to come up with a story of why I need power at that site, then cross my fingers.

Right now I am getting quotes to get the 200 amp service panel put in, if you know anyone around Charlotte, NC that would be good or may be willing to do a barter of some sort (me building them a website/free advertisements/etc), let me know!

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The Elusive Land Search

After reading Ryan’s post I thought I’d share some of the ways we’ve been able to acquire parcels to live on as well as advice from other tiny houser dwellers. Just recently, another friend who owns a tiny house started her search to find a new place to set her home and, as Ryan mentioned, it’s an incredibly stressful process and there are no guarantees.

DSCN27131. Friends & Neighbors: Look to your immediate community as much as possible. We talked to everyone about the tiny house, invited them to work parties and even put the house in the Christmas parade! By the time we started seriously considering a place to put the house, about a year and a half after we started building, we had 3 offers. Word of mouth played a huge role in this. I was talking to a college acquaintance in a cafe one morning and telling her about the project. Low and behold she told her husband who came to see the house, loved it and offered us a place to stay in the heart of downtown Charleston.  City living is hard because you’re most definitely at higher risk of butting heads with town officials, which is stressful in and of itself, but ultimately just chatting with an acquaintance provided us an opportunity we couldn’t refuse.

2. Seasonal Work: There are campgrounds at state as well as national parks that need hosts during the busy months. Sometimes seasonal work can turn in to year-round gigs if the timing is right. Cedric and I have considered this option but no situation has come up that seemed quite right. It can be tricky but if you find the right place, it could be an option.

3. Government Auctions: There is a lot of land out there and the governmentDSCN3518 holds auctions where you can buy it for dirt cheap. Some of this land is seized for tax reasons while some is surplus land and other properties are environmentally degraded, needing extensive bio remediation. If you go this route, be sure to do an extensive search on toxic waste sites through the EPA’s website. If you have a desire and willingness to revitalize such land, it can be an incredibley cheap way to acquire property. Govsales.gov

4. Exchange: We lived in Charleston for several months free on some friends’ property in exchange for being a presence.  They were remodeling a house and it was helpful to have people next door who could be present in case of any issues. It was a win-win for both parties and there are folks out there who will pay you or set your tiny house for free to watch their properties and/or manage their rental properties. We’ve met other tiny housers who offered to help neighbors with their animals, exchange home repair, computer repair, landscaping and many other skills in order to use land.

DSCN34805. Start a cooperative housing project: I list this as a long term goal. It is a lot of work, in a city or rural setting, but ultimately the work can pay off. This is definitely a goal that Cedric and I hope to accomplish. We want to help create a space that allows folks to live how they want. Whether it be a tiny house, a yurt, a cob house or a vardo. We are slowly learning the rules and regulations of creating such spaces. It’s different in every state but it’s worth it to us to try and find a home where our future and choices aren’t dictated by a landowner and where we can offer other tiny housers an opportunity to co-own their own space.

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The Search For New Land – Part 1

So a while back I had posted about some land that I was planning on living on in my tiny house.  I am sad to report that spot isn’t going to work out well because the owners have since decided to sell the property.

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So this meant I have to finish up building and then move on, which left me in a tough spot.  I had quite a few sleepless nights over the whole thing while I searched frantically for land to get my house on.  I pursued some properties to purchase, but they didn’t work out for various reasons.  I looked for farm land to rent, but people aren’t keen on this.  I tried for trailer parks to setup up shop in, but they wouldn’t let me in even if I got designated as a park model, RV or mobile home.   My search lead me father and farther out of the city to the point where I was considering the next state over!

This is the story of tiny houses that isn’t told.  It’s not a glamorous one, it frustrating, its stressful and it will keep you up at night.

The fact is that getting tiny houses to work in a big city like Charlotte is tough, while I could easily move to the country, I’d leave behind friends, family and good paying jobs.   So I decided to tough it out here in Charlotte for many reasons.  Luckily I have found some land to live on, but now I need to get all the utilities setup without raising any eyebrows.

On my to do list is the following

  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Cable internet
  • Trash service

So in the next few weeks I am going to be chronicling my journey in getting these things setup.  So stay tuned!

So now some photos of the property that my house will be on, it is quite big for being in the city and I can’t wait for the spring because there isn’t much green after the winter!

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Taking Tiny Houses To The Next Level

There has been some discussion on our site about Tiny Houses whether or not Tiny House have “arrived”.  I personally think we are there or close enough, but certainly we will keep on growing.  It got me thinking, if there were a few things that I’d like to see in the coming years, what would they be?  Here are the top five things I think would take Tiny Houses to the next level.

1. Tiny House Lending

I think this is pretty self-explanatory; Tiny Houses face many barriers to getting capital to build their Tiny House.  While I am generally against having debt, Tiny Houses often are about the cost of rent for 3 years if you build it yourself, but most don’t have the money all at once.  I’d love to see a 3 and 5 year mortgage option for Tiny Houses.  I wrote more on this here

2. Tiny House insurance Co-Op

I firmly believe that there is a need for a nonprofit insurance company, that doesn’t have shareholders.  The idea that profits should be generated above paying staff and direct costs to the provider is something I take issue with.  So let’s have a nonprofit cooperative insurance group that specifically ties into the tiny house community.  I think much of the success of this will hinge on getting enough people involved and the establishment of plain language building code.  More here

3. Accessible Tiny House Building Code

What if building codes were written in plain English?  What if building codes made special provisions for Tiny Houses?  I have struggled with this one; do we want to bring in a formal building code?  It is a tough call.  I think in order to establish safety standards and open a dialogue with municipalities this is something that will inevitably come, so it might be better if we write the code instead of someone else calling the shots for us.

4. Tiny House Land & Communities

I would that getting land might be one of the largest barriers to Tiny Houses, to put it simply, land is really expensive unless you want to live in rural areas.  I’d love to see some land open up that is near a city and is opened up to Tiny House folks for a small yearly fee.  I have kicked around the idea of purchasing land and opening it to those who want to bring their Tiny House.  I’d charge a reasonable fee; I just need to figure out how to arrange it legally so I can protect myself from liability and squatters.

5. Tiny House Convergence

I would love to see a mass gathering of Tiny Houses and Tiny House people.  I often refer to our community of Tiny Houses people and I think an event like this would bring our close knit community even closer, generate a lot of discussion and make strides in progressing the Tiny House cause.  I would love to see it held where we could make a big splash media wise; just imagine a swarm of Tiny Houses converging on the National Mall in Washington DC one weekend!  The trouble is that we are spread out over a good distance so everyone would have to travel a good distance.

Your Turn!

What things do think need to happen next for Tiny Houses?

 

 

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