Monday, June 15, 2015

Finding a home for a tiny house

About a month ago, I was contacted by local artist and Woodmoor native/resident Brian Coyne, who had some questions for me about the county's laws regarding tiny houses.  I directed him to the Montgomery County Code for clarification on the legal side of things, but I was curious about the idea of a tiny house.  I had heard of tiny homes before, but I had never seen one in person and I wasn't sure how they worked.   Brian explained to me why he opted to buy a tiny home, and gave me some background on the process.

"Why am I confining myself to a tiny house? This is an experiment in minimalism. In 2007 I bought a 2 bedroom condo in North Bethesda for $299,000. Within a couple of years the value dropped to $215,000. My loan was a 10/30 loan where for ten years I pay interest only and then for 30 years I pay interest and principal. My condo fees were $440 / month and my mortgage was $1,600 plus property taxes. In order to afford all this I had to stay in my job whether I wanted to or not. Year after year I was working a job that had no room for advancement, but it barely paid the bills. What I really wanted to do was to go back to school to get my masters in fine arts. With a masters I could teach high school or college art."

"I realized that I would be better off short-selling the condo and buying a tiny house. One can save up for a tiny house or, even cheaper, build it yourself. You can buy plans from a company called Tumbleweed. I found a company that builds tiny houses and campers: TrekkerTrailers.com. Andrew bennet is the owner. Cool guy. He's making mine and it will be ready in June."

Brian's house being constructed.  Photo courtesy of Brian Coyne.


He found that he could buy a tiny house for an affordable price, and was attracted by the flexibility of a tiny home on wheels.  Also, as a musician, he liked the idea of having his own space to practice without bothering someone on the other side of the wall.  Now, he just has to find a willing property owner to rent space from.

"It's costing me 17K-18K. Gonna have it towed up here. That will cost a few hundred. So basically for the price of a year or two of rent money, I can have my own place and park it in someone's backyard. I could live off the grid if I went solar and rainwater collecting but I'm not there yet. Gonna hook up to someone's house for water and power and pay them something fair each month. I think $200-$225 / month is fair. If I want to sell the tiny house, I can, and I'll probably get most of my money back if I market it well."    

The interior of the home being built.

Brian is offering rent money to a property owner who is willing to rent out yard or driveway space for him to park his house in, as well as other tasks.

"I am offering $250 / month to anyone who can let me park my tiny house in their back or side yard and hook up to their water and electricity. My energy consumption would be very little given the tiny house is only 138 square feet. I am also offering free yard work which includes: 2 lawn cuts per month in summer, 2 lawn rakes per fall, driveway and walk way shoveling each snow storm, and I will take your trash cans in and out weekly."

Think you have space for Brian to park his house on your property?
He would be happy to hear from you!

Because this is a fairly new concept, legislation doesn't appear to have caught up yet.  In some cases, the home could be classified as an RV, though it could also be classified more appropriately as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU).  After all, is there really much difference between living in a ~200 square foot rented space within a home and living in a ~200 square foo tiny house next to the home?  I guess someone could claim that the tiny home adjacent to an existing home is unsightly, but these homes look pretty cool to me.  They are attractive smaller versions of full-size homes with classic architecture and wood exteriors.  They are quite different than a fiberglass and plastic RV.

"Because it's small, the materials are high quality. Nice wood interior. Things are beautiful and elegant inside and out." Brian said of tiny homes like his.


Brian's house will have a wood exterior, seen here under construction.

"Finally, with a tiny house I have the freedom to move whenever I want provided I find a willing host. This is something a mortgaged house did not easily allow for--also, if this experiment doesn't work out, I can sell the tiny house and recoup most of my costs."

If you think you have space for his home, feel free to contact him at 240-671-5948.  Brian has found a homeowner in Rockville who is willing to rent space on their property to him, but they have not drawn up a lease yet, so he is still accepting offers from anyone willing to host him here in Woodmoor or Four Corners.

I think the idea of a tiny house is an interesting one, and I wouldn't be surprised if these became more common given the economic conditions facing many millennials in our neighborhood.  While some people in existing homes may have reservations about this idea, I think tiny homes like these would enhance neighborhood character and provide an eclectic vibe to the community.  I wouldn't mind seeing some tiny homes around the neighborhood, and I think Brian might be onto something here.  To learn more about tiny houses, there is a great blog called Tiny House Talk that details what it's like to live in a tiny house, and why they are becoming more popular as a from of high quality affordable housing.      
  




8 comments:

  1. I'm always very impressed when I hear about people making the move to a tiny house. I personally could not imagine having to declutter in order to fit all my things into the limited storage space in a home like that!

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  2. so where did you finally hook your tiny house up at?

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