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College Students Build $35k Tiny House

This is a 345 sq. ft. tiny house built in 2012 by college students Ashley Haugstatter and Michael J. Zella in Endicott, New York.

The two built the house together. It cost them about $35,000.

Please enjoy, learn more, and re-share below. Thank you!

How These College Students Built a $35k Tiny Home!

Psychology major Ashley L. Haugstatter and mechanical engineering major Michael J. Zella, pictured Tuesday, December 4, 2012, built a 400-square-foot home off campus in Endicott during the 2012 summer. Image JONATHAN COHEN

Image © Jonathan Cohen via BU















Video Tour and Interview with Couple


  • Built for $35,000
  • One room
  • Kitchen and bathroom
  • Built over summer 2012

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Our big thanks to Deborah Zella for sharing!

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributing writer for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She is a coffee-loving wannabe homesteader who dreams of becoming self-sufficient in her own tiny home someday. Natalie currently resides in a tiny apartment with her husband, Casey, in Scotland.

{ 31 comments… add one }
  • kevin September 29, 2016, 9:47 am

    I have this sort of set up in my apartment, the only difference is that my bed space is walled off to create a separate sleep space.

  • Johanna Busch September 29, 2016, 1:40 pm

    Would they really pay more than $ 35k rental costs during the college? This is enormous! Sorry for asking, but I´m from Europe and we have different system.

    • oxide September 29, 2016, 2:42 pm

      In America, college is four years. Different cities have different rent. This couple is in the city of Binghamton in New York State. The rent for a studio apartment is about $700/month. So four years of college will cost $33 600 total. However, the couple can continue to live in the house after college… if they can find jobs.

      Also, Binghamton is a very low-cost area. Some existing houses cost less than $50K.

      • Alex September 30, 2016, 7:40 am

        Thanks for the data. And also the house has to be worth something when/if they don’t want it anymore so they can even potentially sell it or rent it out too making it somewhat of an investment instead of just paying rent to the college dorms.

      • lsb January 23, 2017, 3:37 am

        I think the key here is that after the 4 years of college instead of giving 33k to the landlord they have a house they can sell, or rent out. Renting is no investment.

        • Natalie C. McKee Natalie January 23, 2017, 7:11 am

          Yes, exactly. At least you can get something out of it. My husband and I considered living in an RV during our move to Scotland so we could at least sell it and get something back, but there weren’t any year-round set-ups available to us. Same idea.

  • Marcia September 29, 2016, 5:33 pm

    my tour didn’t work :=(

    • Alex September 30, 2016, 7:38 am

      Sorry to hear that Marcia 🙁

      Maybe try coming back with a different browser on your computer and it might work?

    • oxide September 30, 2016, 8:38 am

      The house is on Zillow! Looks like this young couple lived in the house for four years, finished college, and sold the house for $39,900. So they got their money back.

      More pictures of the inside: http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/119-1-2-E-Wendell-St-Endicott-NY-13760/98619243_zpid/

      I love the kitchen and real bathroom. But I would have enclosed the closet space, and maybe opted for a w/d combo with storage overhead. That would eliminate a lot of the clutter.

      • Alex September 30, 2016, 11:45 am

        That’s pretty cool! Thanks for finding and sharing that!

  • krausdogs September 29, 2016, 8:13 pm

    I understand and appreciate the desire to take this path for student housing (parents investing rather than just paying out). It makes sense if you have the financial backing (most college students I know don’t).
    Mostly I’m curious how they managed to get this really small house accepted by city building codes and regulators. Most towns I know don’t allow a permanent dwelling to be less than 700+ sqft (unless it is an accessory dwelling–meaning another larger dwelling is already on the property).
    In short, this could not be built in my town (a university town) on it’s own lot. Still, I applaud then for their creativity.

  • anne September 30, 2016, 5:45 am

    I wonder how they were able to get county permits to build this, when there are people all over U.S. that cant’t even park their THOW’s?

    • Alex September 30, 2016, 7:34 am

      Good question

    • oxide September 30, 2016, 8:30 am

      Google knows all! Looks like this area is somewhat lax. Here is the building code from http://www.binghamton-ny.gov/

      § 265-9. Minimum space requirements. Every dwelling unit shall contain a minimum of 150 square feet of habitable floor space for the first occupant and at least 100 additional square feet of floor space for each additional occupant.

      B: In every dwelling unit of two or more rooms, every room occupied for sleeping shall:
      B1: For one occupant, contain a minimum of 70 square feet of floor space. B2: For two or more occupants, contain a minimum of 50 square feet of floor space per occupant.
      F: No attic shall be used as habitable space unless it meets with the applicable provisions of the New York State Fire Prevention and Building Code.
      G: In this section, each occupant 15 years of age and older shall be counted and calculated as one person; children under 15 shall be 1/2 a person; and infants up to one year shall not be counted.

      I included all this information because it says something about the mindset of the local Binghamton government. They are saying: “If you’re single or a couple, great. Build tiny, as you long as you have a first-floor bed. But we’re *not* going to allow two parents and two toddlers in a THOW with two sleeping lofts like they show on TV. It’s too dangerous.”

      I can’t say I disagree.

  • Bigfoot September 30, 2016, 7:17 pm

    First, Bravo to these 2 young folks for taking this approach, very smart! No money thrown down the rabbit hole for rent, inexpensive overhead, & a tangible product that will hold it’s value.
    Second, it’s a shame that more cities & counties don’t acknowledge the want & need for small site built houses. THOW are one thing, but having these ridiculous size requirements for new houses (to keep tax roles high, appease the banks & large homebuilders) really irks me. If they would set up multiple areas zoned exclusively for small houses their entire city/county would probably experience a boom in business activities as well as an increase in their tax collections. It would be a win for homeowners & the government. Too bad we have so many short sighted self serving people in public office.

  • ZACHARY MOHRMANN October 1, 2016, 9:11 am

    I think they did a fantastic job, and just goes to show you that it doesn’t cost a fortune to build a house of 345 sq. ft. either on wheels or with out… And remember they are not pro’s so I’m sure that it took them longer to build with only the 2 of them, then it would a builder with a team…!

  • kevin October 7, 2016, 1:16 pm

    Oh I want to, I just want to get it all nice and clean so it looks nice when I post. 🙂

  • jm November 19, 2016, 2:55 pm

    Most college graduates have to leave their beloved college town to find a decent paying job. Unless they want to work as waiters and waitresses’. But, if they can recoup their housing cost then it’s a big plus.

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie November 21, 2016, 10:34 am

      I bet they probably can since it’s on land, but who knows these days! — Tiny House Talk Team

  • Susanne November 19, 2016, 3:10 pm

    Pure genius!

  • gs November 19, 2016, 6:15 pm

    Did the 35,000 include the cost of the land?

  • Marsha Cowan January 21, 2017, 8:03 pm

    Wow! Pretty amazing! It is lovely! I love the loft bed idea, but where is his desk? Lol! Great job!

  • tegmapat March 9, 2017, 3:12 pm

    Do you think the difference in allowing this tiny home in comparison to others is that this home is permanent…. not on wheels, but on a foundation? I think that does make a difference as most towns would look at it as a house, not a trailer. Many townships don’t want tiny trailers filling up their communities, unfortunately, whereas a small home is acceptable. I think this couple was very wise in investing in something like this. For one thing, since it’s a house on a foundation, it should appreciate in value like any other home, whereas trailers depreciate. Great job, guys! The only think I would change, & you might also yet, is to put railing around the bedroom, for a more attractive look, and also to put doors on the clothing closet. Again, that would give the home more appeal, especially if & when it comes time to sell. Otherwise, it’s fantastic! I’d live in it!

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee March 10, 2017, 6:47 am

      Yes I think that townships are much more accepting of foundation homes. I think that tiny house enthusiasts should try, where possible, to get municipalities to allow smaller footprints. The reason THOWs came in to being, for the most part, was because the zoning laws prohibit homes under a certain square footage (usually 400 sq. ft., but sometimes 1,000!). But if we could divide land into smaller parcels and allow tiny foundation homes on them, it could allow permanence that towns want, while still allowing people to build more affordably.

  • Sarah March 9, 2017, 9:34 pm

    I am so impressed that they could even DO this while in college! What a cool thing to do and I love it. The desk could certainly go under the loft bed even with the clothes there. It would be fun, like the setup Ikea sells with the bed above and the desk underneath. Kudos to this couple!

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