Considerations for a (Tiny) House: THOW vs Foundation vs Apartment (part 1)

Considerations for a (Tiny) House: THOW vs Foundation vs Apartment (part 1)

So far during this journey, my husband and I have had a few opportunities to share our mistakes and journey into minimalism and small house or tiny house living.We have been helped by so many, so it is our honor and duty to help others – and we love it!

Here are some thoughts that I have put together. We live in Pima County, Arizona. We are not in the city of Tucson. So, some of the legal/ zoning discussion will be location specific, but the ideas behind them should inspire research to make sure your dream can become a reality. Trust me, it is no fun to come home from vacation to a complaint from a neighbor. It is also no fun to work to bring your home into county compliance lest you be forced to move.

Tiny House On Wheels (THOW):

This is what everyone thinks of when they think of a tiny house. These cute, quirky homes offer movability, a wide variety of price points, and can be custom built to suit your needs.

 

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Some things to consider:In Pima County, Arizona, these can only be parked in RV Parks or on land zoned for mobile homes. In Pima County, this can mean a less desirable neighborhood in Tucson or in a more rural area. If you are buying a lot to park the THOW, you can look forward to Impact Fees (roughly $5,000), installing a water meter ($3,000), bringing in power (our cost was about $5,000) and installing a septic system ($7,000). These are rough estimates because every lot is different. Make sure when you buy the lot that you can get water and only need a conventional septic system. For a more elaborate system, the cost can skyrocket. Until our septic system was installed, we borrowed a truck and trailer and used a blue boy to dump our gray and black water tanks. This would have needed to be done every couple of days had we actually used the toilet and shower regularly. Dumping gray water on the ground can result in a hefty fine!

In Pima County, Arizona, these can only be parked in RV Parks or on land zoned for mobile homes. In Pima County, this can mean a less desirable neighborhood in Tucson or in a more rural area. If you are buying a lot to park the THOW, you can look forward to Impact Fees (roughly $5,000), installing a water meter ($3,000), bringing in power (our cost was about $5,000) and installing a septic system ($7,000). These are rough estimates because every lot is different. Make sure when you buy the lot that you can get water and only need a conventional septic system. For a more elaborate system, the cost can skyrocket. Until our system was installed, we borrowed a truck and trailer and used a blue boy to dump our gray and black water tanks. This would have needed to be done every couple of days had we actually used the toilet and shower regularly. Dumping gray water on the ground can result in a hefty fine!

If your lot isn’t zoned for a mobile home, you can use this type of home, but have to remove the wheels and permanently affix the house to the lot. There goes the flexibility of being able to move the house!

A few other things I hadn’t thought about before living in an RV: I never thought about having to dump tanks or set up jacks. If you are an RV-enthusiast, these are given, but I hadn’t thought about them prior to setting our trailer up. Because we are in an RV, I also didn’t think much about the fact that heavy wind or the dog being rowdy can move the trailer. While that might change some in a heavier THOW, I still wouldn’t want to be in one in a strong thunderstorm!

If you want to park the THOW in an RV Park, some parks have issues with home-built trailers. If you want to live in someone’s back yard, I urge you to proceed with caution. We lived in our friend’s backyard for about four months. They are wonderful people and we are so grateful for their help. However, we were there illegally and could have needed to move at any time. If this is your plan, I strongly suggest having a plan B and maybe even a plan C. I also suggest having a written agreement if this is going to last for more than a few months just to make sure you understand the rules of camping in your friend’s backyard. You do not want to lose their friendship over this.

Finally, there is a financial aspect to a THOW. Like an RV, these homes can potentially give you a take deduction (see your tax advisor) but are subject to depreciation and from what I have seen, do not hold their value well. I have seen them listed used online for significantly less than the cost to build the unit or buy them brand new. I have also noticed that many people only live in them for a short period of time (a couple of years). This was a key reason we built a home on a foundation that is larger than a true “tiny house” (we have approx 750-800 square feet). We wanted a house that we could live in for several years and would accommodate guests or children, should we choose to have them.

Many of the above considerations were really negative (sorry). So, why would you want to move into a THOW? I would gladly move into a THOW if I found a place I loved and meets my needs where I could legally park it. I think a THOW is also a great solution if you might be needing to move a few times in the next few years since they provide a stable home with the ability to change where the home sits. I don’t think having a couple of kids is a problem in a THOW. You just have to be realistic and honest with your needs. I have definitely seen families on TV who are trying to squeeze their family of five plus into less than two hundred square feet. Having lived in a combined 350 square feet (152 for the trailer and 192 for the shed) with my husband and our two dogs, I personally know I couldn’t do it. In order to make my marriage work, Chris and I need two separate areas (one for him to watch football and one for me to watch anything else). He also tends to stay up later than I do, so the separate space allows my personality the beauty sleep it needs.

Hopefully, I’ve given you some things to think about if you are wanting to embark upon a tiny house journey. In my next post, I will discuss some considerations of building a house with a foundation. Until then, please leave a comment with your questions!

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