Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

The Search For New Land – Part 3

First you should know this is a continuation of previous post: The Search For Land Part 1 and Part 2. As many of you know it can be tricky to find land and my experience was very similar.  After you’ve read those posts this post will make more sense.

So where I am at today.  The house is nearing the home stretch and I am frantically trying to finish it because the lease on apartment ends next week!  The trick to all of this has been getting a lease on the land.  Then land owner and I struck a deal where I pay $1.00 a month (yes a dollar) and I help him out with some website stuff every now and then.  The land owner also wanted to be sure his liability insurance would cover me being on the property and after them going back and forth for a long while, they had to tweak some things.  The land owner’s insurance went up about $300 and he asked that I pay that amount since it was an incurred cost on my behalf, which was totally fair.  He also asked that I have liability insurance, so I picked up a $2,000,000 policy for $425 a year.  So my insurance total was $725 a year, but my rent was only $12 a year.

Next up is was securing water, power and building a road.  This is where I am now.


This has proven to be the most expensive part of the whole thing.  A lot of people want to collect rain water off their roofs for water, but I crunched the numbers on my tiny house.  A typical tiny house’s roof is 8 feet wide and 20 feet long.  That is 160 square feet; for every inch of rain on a square foot you’ll get .6 gallons of water.   So for my house that is 96 gallons of water per inch of rain, in my area after some googling I found that my area gets about 43 inches of rain per 1511479_762555291518_720276449591449371_oyear.  So the math works out to be that I would get 4,128 gallons of water a year off my roof.  I quickly realized that this wasn’t practical for me because even if I had a 1 gallon per minute shower head, assuming a 15 minute shower, that’s 5,475 a year, which doesn’t include cooking, cleaning, drinking, etc.  The math didn’t add up.

Since I was leasing the land, it didn’t make sense to put in a well (would cost me about $10,000) so I decided to tie in with the city water system.  The water main from the city also happened to be running right along the property line, so it couldn’t be more ideal.  So I went in and filled out the paperwork for the city and they gave me my total bill and I was shocked!  For them to install a meter, I had to pay the city, $2,231!!!  What’s worse was it was the city, so they set the price and you have to go to them.  So I had to pay over $2,200 just for them to install a meter, so they could use it to charge me for the water I used!  Once the meter is in, I still have to get it to my house, because for $2,200 they only bring it to the property line.

Then on top of that they told me it would take 2 months to install; this was a problem because I needed to move in a few weeks (at that time) and I couldn’t apply for the water until I had the lease, which I had only gotten the day before when I applied.  The end result is I’ll be living without water for a few weeks, I plan to get a gym membership and have a water jug service come during this time.



Next up is electricity.  Where I am at, the property is densely wooded so solar isn’t an option as of now, but I am looking into it for the future.  I also talked with the power company and an electrician and to get the power setup on the lot was going to be about $800 plus 9 cents a KW which wasn’t too bad considering how little power I’ll be using.  Solar is something I do want to do, but I figured right now it isn’t possible and then I also wanted to track my power usage in the tiny house for a year or so in order to size my solar panel system in the future correctly.

The process has gone like this:  Contact power company, they came out and said where they could bring in a line.  I contacted an electrician to setup the box.  The box will be inspected.  The power company checks the inspection and connects the service.  A few other random details: Installation is a simple affair, takes an hour or so when they get scheduled.  Inspection in my area is between 24-72 hours barring any complications. The power company now only will do a 200 amp service (which isn’t an issue, actually a plus).  The power company said they’d do the first 200 feet for free if I had service for a year, after 200 feet it gets really really expensive.

Road Access

Roads are something that a lot of people don’t think about.  Also note that these price can vary in different areas and I don’t have anyone I know who has equipment or personal connections, so I’ll be paying for it all.  I have only got quotes at this point, but its looking like it will cost me about $500 for labor/bobcat and then about $300-$500 in materials (geo-textile fabric, gravel, etc.).  I thought about trying my hand with a rental bobcat, which honestly would be a lot of fun to drive, but when I got the price for the rental, deliver, fees, taxes etc. it was going to be about $800 to rent a bobcat in my area.  In my area you can hire a bobcat driver and his rig for about $60 an hour which includes him showing up with his machine, the gas, and him running it.  So it was actually cheaper for me to pay someone to do it, plus they’ll do a better job than I would since I’ve never used a bobcat before.

Sequencing of things

Another big thing I’ve run into was how things had to go down.  I couldn’t start anything until I had my lease, which took much longer than anticipated, but I got a formal lease and it worked out.  Once I had that I could put in for the power and water.  I wanted to have all those things done before I ever put in the road, because they are both underground lines, so I would have to dig up my road to install them.  I also wanted to have the water and power installed and inspected, then give myself at least a few weeks so that if an inspector was curious about what was going on and decided to swing by later on, he/she wouldn’t see anything because I built in a cooling off period.  At that point I’d install the road and then move the house out there.  The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray as they say.  I’m going to try to do this the best I can still, but its going to have to happen in a shorter time.

Total Costs

I think this should be a real wake up call for a lot of people who think that the cost of a tiny house stops at the tiny house.  Some lots will have these things already which is something you should try to get.  These are my real world numbers and while they will vary for you in your area and if you have connections that will save you money that will help, but at the end of the day you’ll have to deal with the city and the power company and they hold a monopoly, setting the prices that you can’t get around.

Insurance: $725 a year
Rent: $12 a year
Electricity connection: $800
Water connection: $2,231
Road: $1,000
Total: $4,768

  1. Wow. I hope this will help convince people that when landlords ask for more than a dollar for rent, there’s a reason.

    I think time constraints added to some of your outlay, also.

    I’ll go back and read your other articles on this, as you’ve probably already addressed my concerns for you :-) but I am wondering, with all these improvements to property you don’t own, how long will you have to stay there before you’re “even” on what you would have normally paid on rent? Jeez, and we were feeling bad because we couldn’t provide a washer/dryer utility shed for our TH tenant :-) (Hey, put in your own road! Sure, no problem.) Wish we’d known you were looking :-).

    • I figure I’d be spending $800 a month in rent otherwise, so after about 6 months I figure I’m ahead of the game.

    • I’m interested in building a tiny home and would be looking for a place to park it. Where are you located? And do you still have a parking place available?

  2. there is a land company called Ozark lands that has property for sale and they hold the paper on it.I have been dealing with them for years. I don’t receive any money from them for telling about their company I just like the people there. they have good interest rates also. there are few if any building codes for Missouri lands, so far as I know they might be worth checking out, tell them Hunter sent you. good luck for all land hunters.

    • Ozarks lands- will have to check them out. We are in the beginning stages. We are looking for a spot at Lake of the Ozarks. We want to build a family campground of sorts over the years to come. A tiny house (the main living space) then 2 medium sized yurts for when my daughter gets older and chooses to have kiddos. The issue we have been running into so far is no power or water to the lot. If there is power and water then it is in a very populated subdivision type. Plus Lake of the Ozarks has gotten VERY strict on their building codes-esp for sewer lines.

  3. Ryan,I feel your pain but I have lucked out in finding a place that has spring water that I can tap into. Also my boyfriend has solar panels. I also have a generator if I need it but currently I don’t need it only very rarely.
    I live up here in the cold north. Upstate NY. We had a very bitter winter. I finished the exterior of the tiny house in the fall and moved to the land trust in Nov. we have lived through the cold very bitter winter with no running water. We have access to spring water on the land but did not have time to plumb it or put in a new spring box before winter. So we hand hauled all our water in by hand or on a sled in the winter. I eventually joined a gym to take showers. We still don’t have running water but are working on it. I hope to have water at least by the end of summer. Because our community is an established one it was easy for us to move onto the Land Trust but we’ve been roughing it. The solar power has been great though and the peace and quiet out in the middle of nowhere has been serene. I think the Land Trust is open to having more tiny houses. They have 432 acres and there are some places that might have access to electric and running water hookup. I will share my contact info if any of your readers might want to consider living here.

    • Wow, Margaret, good for you. The gym showers are becoming a widespread idea, but it sounds like you also got tremendous work-outs hauling water. Our spring is downhill from the house :-( What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, as they say. I hope you are proud of yourself for all your efforts, and your ability to adapt to your situation. Glad to see someone not whining about the lack of a washer/dryer combo or sauna. Best wishes to you two.

    • We’re New Yorkers with a sincere interest in designing the tiny house of our dreams. Where in NYS are you? Would love to learn more about that Land Trust! You can write to me privately via my username at gmail.

      Otherwise, it sounds like you’ll be in good shape by the end of summer (here’s hoping you have time to really enjoy the glorious season). Very exciting!

    • Margaret,

      Reverse osmosis and UV sanitation on the spring? As a Env. Sci. student I would be concerned about pH and Agriculture/GMO contamination. Rainwater is safer, unless you live in the city.

      • I’m not worried about the quality of our spring water. Though we filter it anyway with a charcoal filter you could use with pond water. But the other people here drink in right from their tap and they seam healthy. Also we are on the top of a hill and back up to a state forest and people at the bottom of the hill are certified organic farmers. That’s gotta count for something. No GMO’s or fertilizers here.

    • Good evening. I’m from Rochester, NY. What part of upstate? I’m in the beginning stages of the process. Financing is one of my biggest hurdles. Thanks in advance for any information.

      Pamela Hanna

    • Hi Margaret,

      I am very interested in your Land Trust location as I am in upstate NY and considering tiny house living.

      Best wishes and wondering how you’ve faired during this brutally cold winter of 2015. Hopefully your days of lugging water and gym showers were short lived!

      Thank you!


  4. Have you explored water delivery to supplement the rainwater collection? Friends of mine in the Texas Hill Country get it delivered for $50/1000gallons. They, too, were faced with a $10K plus well fee and din’t have the capital up front to do it. You would need to buy a cistern, but that’s an asset you could sell when/if you move to a new place.


    • I tried that but couldn’t find a company like it. The only thing I found was pool water which wasn’t potable. What are those businesses even called? What would I google?

      • In Pennsylvania they are called: in home water deliveries service. Just check out the label on bottled spring water jugs next time your in the grocery store and see if any are bottled local; then you can google them. In Pa. they deliver evey 2 weeks or once a month. I think the more often delivered the cheaper the rate.

  5. What do you mean by “he/she wouldn’t see anything because I built in a cooling off period.”? Don’t you have a building permit?

  6. Insightful and helpful, as always. I’m going through this now with some land in Tennessee that I made an offer on today. It has electricity on the site, so the big issue for me is water and septic system. You can’t get a building permit without a septic system in place in Tennessee. The state doesn’t recognize alternatives such as incinerating or composting toilets. If your house has running water, it needs to drain into a septic tank or sewer system. So if anyone asks, that’s a shed I’ll be building, at least until I figure out where the septic tank will go.

  7. Very helpful information to think about, thank you. It’s not what one wants to hear, but so helpful going in. Living in apartments and duplexes, it’s not something I had entirely thought about.

  8. Thanks for the helpful posts! I was just wondering how long your landlord let you sign the lease for? I’m sure its different for everyone but I’m curious what some are comfortable with signing. P.s very beautiful property!!!

  9. I was curious as to what extent the insurance covered. Is that a rental policy? Any issues with the tiny house. We built a large 24×24 that could not be insured until we had a heat source beyond the pellet stove. We ended up with a mini-split. Still no septic, well, or road (32′ rv for now). On the other hand, building a 8×16′ mini this summer which will be sustainable off-grid up to septic. Yes, very convoluted.

  10. Hey guys, looking for a lot to rent to own, to build a 12×24 tiny house on it in and around the nc mountians. Can anyone help me out.

  11. Margaret would you be able to share that info? I am just starting to look at possible land in NY or CT. Thanks!

    • We live at “The Common Place Land Cooperative” it is listed on the intentional communities website in NY. It is near Cortland NY. We are always looking for new members here. We are the only people with a tiny house on wheels. It would be best to visit in the summer or the spring. Right now the snow is very deep. The intentional community website has Alison Frost as the contact person. If you want to contact me that is fine and we can show you around if you want to come and visit. Hope you get this email maggieartist1@yahoo.com

      • Thanks! Should have looked further down to answer my own question.


  12. Thanks for sharing your story, it’s been tricky to find the details on what’s required to get a tiny home up and running. Two questions:

    1) When you got water from the city, did that include sewage?

    2) Were you able to get Internet/Cable to the tiny home?

  13. I am SO excited to have found this website! Thank you!

    I am in the research stage of making this move. I love your land! I very much appreciate all the details that you have laid out regarding the reality of what goes into the process. I am just a little confused. Why do you have to be stealthy about people not knowing you are going to live there? Is it a building code issue because you are in city limits? Or something else?

    I am looking to buy land to but a retrofitted trailer (of some sort or another) on for my family to live. I was under the impression that as long as it qualified as an RV (camper/trailer/ect) that you didn’t have to deal with code issues. Isn’t it possible just to say you are parking your RV on the land for intermittent use? Your RV would just look a lot like a house :)

    I am in PA and my concern with water is how to keep it from freezing. I thought about a water delivery of some sort but then would you have to have a coil-heated supply line to the house (kind of like the heated water bowls for dogs) or any other ways to keep from freezing in the winter.

    Also, for anyone who has already made this move, can you get mail delivery to your mini? Or do you have to use a PO box?

    Any advice/tips/tricks/references on how to make my dream a reality would be greatly appreciated from y’all.

  14. Sorry, but one more question.

    Did anyone else just retrofit an existing structure which just happens to be on wheels already, to use as your home instead of starting from scratch?

    Pros or cons either way?

    Thanks in advance!

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