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How to Find a Place to Build Your Tiny House

I write publicly about tiny houses, but the most common question I get from my readers isn’t about the design, building techniques, or appliances. Seriously. The most common type of question I receive is about finding land for your tiny house.

As the tiny house movement grows, more and more people are becoming interested in tiny house living, yet finding safe, practical, and affordable land for your tiny house continues to be a big challenge.

That’s why I’m so excited to announce that my new book, Tiny House Parking, is available on Amazon.

How to Find a Place to Build and Live In Your Tiny House

Tiny House Parking by Ethan Waldman

As a Tiny House Talk exclusive, I’d like to share a free excerpt from the book that will help you figure out where to park your tiny house while you’re building it. Scroll down to read it!

Where to Park Your Your Tiny House While You’re Building It

Our next topic is really only applicable if you’re building rather than buying your tiny house on wheels: finding a good place to build your house.

It’s not essential that you find the future home of your tiny house before you build it. If you’re comfortable living in a house that’s in a legal grey area, you may also be comfortable investing time and money into building a house you don’t yet have land for. As Aldo says, there’s always another campsite.

But, whether you’ve got everything planned or you’re just hoping it all works out, one thing you do need to secure as soon as possible is the land you’re going to build your tiny house on. There are a number of options and considerations to bear in mind when it comes to choosing this space.

Options

The options available to you will largely depend on who you know and how much money you have to spend.

If you know someone who owns land, or if you’re buying the land on which you will eventually live, you could of course build your tiny house on that. This is likely to be cheaper than renting a separate space. Just must make sure the land has everything you’ll need (this next section will help you determine those needs) before you go this route.

Sometimes, though, that option isn’t ideal or even possible. Maybe you haven’t found land yet, or maybe it’s too far away from the nearest town (where you’ll get supplies, services, and help) to be convenient while you’re building. I built my house in my parents’ yard, which was much closer to town than the land where I’d eventually park. I never ceased to be amazed by how often I needed to run to the hardware store to get something I was missing and was grateful that it was only a 10-minute drive from my building site. Using someone else’s space can also come with its own perks, like access to tools or expertise while you’re working.

If, for whatever reason, your house’s final destination isn’t ideal for building, start by spreading the word that you’re looking for some land. Large warehouses, storage facilities, and barns are particularly ideal places to build tiny houses. Contact any businesses, farms, and ranches in your area that might have enough space to store a tiny house. You may be able to rent or trade work for a section of their building or land.

This approach worked well for Andrea Tremols and Cedric Baele. They worked for the non-profit Sustainable Warehouse for free, deconstructing old homes in exchange for free lumber and the use of the non-profit’s huge storage warehouse.

Considerations

To find a great place to build your tiny house, it’s not enough to just take any old spot you find. There are some additional considerations you’ll want to keep in mind to make sure the space you settle on is a good fit for you and your tiny house.

Time Frame

When considering your options for parking what will become your tiny house, bear in mind your timescale for building the house. That includes both how long you expect the building process will take and any breaks you’ll need along the way.

I wish I could tell you exactly how long it will take you to build your tiny house, but the answer is different for everyone. The amount of time it takes will depend on how much time you have available to work on the house, your skills and experience, and whether or not you’ll be getting help from friends or contractors.

What I can do is give you a couple of real-world examples. Gabriella and Andrew could have moved into their tiny house after putting in 117.5 hours of work. That’s hardly a month of full-time work. However, not only is Andrew a professional builder, their tiny house wasn’t actually complete at this point. Then there’s me: I thought my house would only take three months to build… and it took thirteen, working mostly part time with one hired (professional) helper!

If you can work full time on building your tiny house and you’re a super pro builder, you may be able to complete the project in as little as two months. If your building skills are closer to average, it will probably take closer to twelve. If you have a full-time job and can only work on your house part time, the construction will likely take one to three years. Whatever your situation, it’s always better to overestimate how much time it will take then underestimate!

Of course, there are plenty of ways to shorten this timeframe. You could figure out how to put in more of your own time. You could also hire someone to do the work for or with you. Another option, if you’re sure you want to build some of the house yourself but you have limited time or funds, is to buy the shell or beginnings of a tiny house and complete it yourself.

The point of all this talk of time frames is this: When choosing a space in which to build your tiny house, make sure it will be available for the entire time that you need it. If you can’t guarantee this, at least make sure your tiny house will be in a portable condition (framing and sheathing completed) by the time you need to move it.

What about breaks? You might not be planning to take any breaks, but if nothing else, climate will both have an impact on when you can and cannot build.

If you live in an area where winters are cold, snowy, and difficult, start building as early in the year as possible. You won’t be guaranteed to finish in time, but you should aim to get as far into the build as you can before the weather turns. I live in Vermont, where working outside becomes difficult in October and nearly impossible in December. That meant I needed to have the exterior of my tiny house built and waterproofed by November, when the first snowfall came. I began in June and only just finished in time.

The same goes for difficult summers. If you live in a climate where it’s not possible to work outside all day, every day in the summer, factor time out into your planning or find an indoor construction site with air conditioning!

This section of the book goes on to help you determine whether the size of the area is going to be suitable for your tiny house, whether the area provides adequate shelter for your building materials and tools, whether the cost of the location is worth it, and more!

Tiny House Parking: How to Find Safe, Practical, and Affordable Land for Your Tiny House is available now on Amazon.

Ethan Waldman is the author of Tiny House Decisions and Tiny House Parking. He lives in a tiny house on wheels in Northern Vermont with his girlfriend.

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Ethan Waldman
Ethan Waldman is the author of Tiny House Decisions and Tiny House Parking. He lives in a tiny house on wheels in Northern Vermont with his girlfriend.
Ethan Waldman

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{ 34 comments… add one }
  • JANICE STRANE September 15, 2015, 5:37 pm

    I AM PARAPLEGIC AND GOING TO BUY AN “ESCAPE CLASSIC”
    AND GET THEM TO DELIVER IT SOMEWHERE NEAR SUWANEE, GA. I WANT TO MOVE INTO A TRAILER PARK OR A RV PARK.
    DO YOU KNOW OF A PLACE? ATLANTA WOULD BE FINE.
    JANICE STRANE

    • judy April 3, 2016, 9:36 pm

      Where did you find the plans and options to build your tiny house?

  • Debbie September 15, 2015, 7:22 pm

    How do I find a builder?

    • Kathleen-Florida October 17, 2015, 11:11 am

      Debbie. To find a builder, go to google.com and type in “tiny house builders” and your state, and then start weeding through the information.

  • krausdogs September 15, 2015, 7:59 pm

    FWIW: Maybe I’m missing something here but getting this in a format that I can actually read in a comfortable manner is eluding me. From Amazon only (if you want to support them), in Kindle format only, I was able to download it (finally) to only one handheld device (or Amazon Cloud?). So I can’t read it on my laptop that I can tell, only on my iPhone or iPad. I can do this though it limits my ability to read it comfortably wherever I am going. (I don’t read books on my phone.)
    This is not a complaint, just information that others may want to know in advance before they spend the 10-15 mins it may take to pay for it and have it available to read. (For this reason I still like small paperback books.)
    If I am missing something here please feel free to inform me how to handle this more easily.

    • Kathleen September 15, 2015, 8:18 pm

      Krausdogs – This was not my experience at all. On the Amazon website I was able to select download to my iCloud, bought it for .99 with one click, and within a minute it was in my Kindle. I can open it on my laptop and on my iPhone.

    • krausdogs September 15, 2015, 8:38 pm

      Thanks. Sounds like saving it to the ‘Cloud’ is the trick rather than downloading it to a specific device. That is not an option that I am all that familiar with. I am also not all that familiar with Kindle only format (perhaps I am not all alone in this regard?)
      Also, if I have already downloaded it to a specific device is there a way now to get it to the cloud (google drive?) so it is available on other computing devices or will I have to repeat the process?
      I do appreciate the help.

      • grw September 15, 2015, 8:59 pm

        Don’t know if this will help – but you can download a Kindle app free and then it will act pretty much like a Kindle on your laptop, etc. I use it on my MacBook and my iPad. My daughter and I share an account on Amazon and she has a Kindle. We can interchange books regardless of the device.

      • Jeff September 15, 2015, 9:51 pm

        Amazon has it’s own cloud service for the ebooks (and music) you purchase from them. (Even if the price is $0.00), so you don’t need to transfer them to Google Drive or any other similar cloud storage.

        All you should have to do is download the Kindle reader for your device–iOs, Android, Windows, etc–then from within the reader, look for the settings or Library. One such setting will be All books. Another will be On Device.
        Amazon has video tutorials that can help as well as fairly decent help files.

  • Susan September 15, 2015, 8:43 pm

    I was thrilled to see this topic being (finally!) addressed. However, according to what I saw on Amazon, I cannot download this, because I have Windows 10. The latter was not listed as a download option. Also, I don’t know about the online stores, but would figure out something, if not for the Windows 10 issue. I would glad pay via PayPal to just have the link sent to my email address.

  • Cooltruth September 15, 2015, 10:04 pm

    You want to find unrestricted land wherever you plan to buy so you won’t run into a situation where they make you move it to build something bigger. Near cities usually doesn’t qualify for the tiny houses. Where I live in Missouri doesn’t have restrictions what size houses have to be. Couple of places in town sell nicely built small yard barns that people have fixed up inside to live in. They bring these to your location so all that’s needed is interior finishing and move in. Maybe other places have similar wood yard barns you could use to finish as desired.

    • Eaufraiche September 16, 2015, 4:59 am

      Where are you, cool truth? Did you buy a storage barn or build tiny?

      • Cooltruth September 16, 2015, 5:36 am

        West of Ava MO, little community called Goodhope. Springfield or Branson are both about 50 miles from where I’m living. Ava is 11 miles from the end of my driveway to the intersection of 5 and 76 highways in Ava. There is some nice wood buildings that would make excellent tiny houses. I’ve got my eyes on one in particular with a white metal roof. There was a small cabin already on the place when I bought it which I moved into. A neighbor bought one of these little wood barns and fixed it up to live in. Campers are also OK to live in out here. Happy that I found somewhere without any restrictions as to what you have to live in. Takes some doing to find places that haven’t been ‘restricted’ for bigger houses than desired only. Avoid buying where there’s a HOA as these regulate way too much what people can live in as well as other stuff.

        • Linda September 16, 2015, 5:18 pm

          I too live in Missouri and I have found there are so many shell homes to choose from. All you need is the place to park it and design the inside any way you want it. Some shells come with the plumbing and electric all notched out for install. You can get these homes rent to own and pay off in as little as 3 years. I wish I had a place to park one. You could rent a piece of property somewhere with no problem. You can live in campers out here too.

        • Debbie September 17, 2015, 12:51 am

          I live in St. Louis. We should get together and start a TH community. Buy a piece of property next to a lake and invite TH owners to move there.

  • Shirley September 15, 2015, 10:37 pm

    I cannot get the download from Amazon to my nook! I do not know how, and have tried several times.

    • Liz September 19, 2015, 11:28 pm

      Since the book is sold on Amazon, my best guess would be that this particular e-book is only supported by Kindle — Amazon’s preferred format. Nook and Kindle books do not play well together. To purchase Kindle books from Amazon, I have to download and read them using my Chromebook. Sorry to give you the bad news.

  • Billy c September 15, 2015, 10:54 pm

    Most states to put a trailer on land you need to own 5 acres that being said that’s some states. best bet is to check with building codes with each county and state

  • Estela September 15, 2015, 11:43 pm

    Are there any parking spaces available in San Jose, Santa Cruz or Monterey area?

  • Dana Denny September 16, 2015, 12:43 am

    I am actively looking for a peaceful quiet parking place near Portland. I found a woman who wants to charge $400/month. There is no parking pad and a sub-standard road to the spot covered in brush and it is not level. I got 3 bids to prepare the area for parking. I love the area but am afraid she will not accept the 2k it will take to create a safe place to put my Tiny Home. It is really hard to find anything in or around Portland. Any ideas or suggestions???

    • Payton September 19, 2015, 10:53 pm

      I want to find a good size of land also by a lake or beach and was hoping that I can get a lot of people that can go in on it, and then we can all get together and build what we want. so if any one out there finds something please post it, and I will also do the same. I am disabled, or I would build my own.

  • jacqueline September 18, 2015, 8:38 am

    I just bought a Tiny House (190 sq feet) that’s being built for me in Virginia. I have a good friend who is willing to rent a portion of her 3 acre property for me to park on. Zoning wise it’ll be okay, since i’ll be (technically) sleeping in the main house at night- so not “really” living in it.
    What I was unabe to find, despite hours on the internet, was any info about actually parking and “putting to bed” my TH. I finally found a local company, through the mobile home community who will park it, level it, chock the wheels, tie it down, etc. He’s also willing to come to the property and help us figure out the best spot. He suggested 3-4″ of gravel for the pad.
    I wish there were more info about how to prepare the final parking space. Yes, the discussion about finding the space is important, but i was disappointed that i couldn’t find more about preparing the final spot. maybe i just missed it. . .?
    i suppose if i had been building it myself, i’d have known this, but i (like many others) can’t build myself. having someone else build was great, but those final details still need to be taken care of

  • Linda September 18, 2015, 6:22 pm

    That sounds like a great idea Debbie!

  • Jon Rokke September 21, 2015, 9:47 pm

    link for 99 cent book does NOT work. When link is followed book is $2.99 and has been that way since 20th of September. should go through the 22nd shouldn’t it?
    Let me know.

    • Alex September 21, 2015, 11:22 pm

      Sorry Jon the price went up to $2.99 already (forgot what day it happened) but it’s still a great value not just because the information inside but also because it’s going up to $7.99 soon.

  • Dana Denny September 25, 2015, 4:19 pm

    Well, the host was not willing to put in the necessary road and pad was difficult to deal with. I found 7.5 acres 25 miles SE of Portland. Zoned for Agriculture and Forestry. Lots of hoops to jump through. After a lot of research I am finding this all political. It is looking like Laws need to be adjusted to allow for Tiny Homes. Speaking to a woman in the Planning Dept. for Clackamas County, I was told that Tiny Homes are considered another fad like Yurts and Straw Bale homes. Until enough people come together and lobby the State, County, and or City officials and ask for changes, nothing will be changed. I am quite frustrated and ask for other ideas on how to surcumvent these rules and regulations. There seem to be a lot on tiny home builders, where are the purchasers parking?

    • jacqueline September 25, 2015, 4:48 pm

      Dana – i totally feel your pain. here’s where those “in the movement” may be shooting ourselves in the foot.

      I have a THOW being built for me and soon to be shipped to me in NJ. I’m parking on a friend’s 3 acre property. The town is NOT zoned for TH. You are allowed to park an RV on your property for as long as you want. You’re just not allowed to live in it. so, i am going to “recreate” (my THOW is a certified RV) in it all day and sleep in the main house by night.

      I know there are alot of people finding ways around the zoning laws. While it solves the short term problem, it prevents a larger ground-swell of people from rising up and protesting.

      think about it – if there were NO WAY around zoning laws, and no one could have a TH of any kind – and if everyone who wanted one rose up and insisted that zoning laws be changed to accommodate these harmless, efficient, unoffensive structures, we’d have had better laws by now. IMHO.

  • Dana Denny September 25, 2015, 7:39 pm

    Thanks Jacqueline. I don’t have a friend with acreage. I know that a lot of people need to work together to get changes made. Right now I am paying way too much rent. Just want my freedom to live off grid. Politics is in the way. Argh

    • Billy c September 27, 2015, 2:09 am

      The issue is or problem is you need to decide where you wish to live then call the county of that area and ask I have a tiny house or rv how ever you wish to call and you want to park it or attach it to the land with drainage and all the other extras like we’ll and all the above how much land do I need to own to put my home there the county will tell you that you need to own so many ft or acres then you go from but most counties in most states it’s fine to have this on your land but you need to own at least 5 acres other wise you will need to park at a mobile home park or else where that charges you rental fees that can go up each year

      • jacqueline September 27, 2015, 7:04 am

        In NJ it’s hard to find 5 acres of land that’s available and affordable. i would have loved to buy a large enough piece of land of my own and live there.
        HOWEVER – i am retired and disabled. one of the driving forces for me to go tiny was affordability. living small and simple also eases my physical strain.
        for people who are able to start from scratch, buy and prepare property on their own – go for it.
        but there is a growing contingency of people who want to live simple, inexpensively, and without too much fuss. if we have a government that is supposed to represent our voices, maybe it’s time for us to use them differently and for them to hear us differently, and for current zoning laws to change to reflect the current needs of the people that live there.
        just sayin. . .

        • Billy c September 27, 2015, 2:42 pm

          I can tell you why most counties require you to own so much land to put trl on its on the hopes that those respect it the land and or property that it doesn’t or you don’t turn into the 2 bad words trailer trash unlike a lot of trailer parks have become over the years

        • Dana September 29, 2015, 11:12 am

          You are so right Jacqueline. Ultimately laws need to be changed. In the mean time, I continue to search for a kind person willing to share their property. I too want to simple existence with low stress that a Tiny Home can provide and affordably. I think we all continue to communicate and search for ways to make change as a group. The power is with lots of people.

  • Bohemian Gal October 12, 2015, 3:55 pm

    For all Tiny House actualists!
    Those of you who are ready to begin building your Tiny house, I could possibly offer you my double lot garden in Detroit. Close by you have grocery stores, coffee shops with wi-fi, funky artists and well-resourced libraries, as well as many wonderful free activities (like the Detroit Institute for the Arts on a Friday night) and loads of inspiration.
    I would be willing to share many of my powertools (with a deposit) with those serious about re-defining their lives into more simplicity and cooperation. COOPERATION is key. In my mind, the Tiny House movement is not just about saving the Earth nor only about giving ourselves more time, in my humble opinion it is also CULTURAL shift with one of the goals being reflecting on how we interact and being open to learning and growing from the reflections we receive. It is about working TOGETHER rather than in competition with one another. It is about caring for other people’s things, etc. as good or better than our own. It is about sharing and being accountable.
    If this interests you and you are ready to build or even need a place to park and live, lets talk! I have had a fenced garden with lots of trees for privacy and I also have a large home which might come in handy as communal cooking space and/or conferences, get-togethers. My goal is to combine tiny house living with some larger communal spaces in the lovely bigger home that can also house people to come learn, observe, etc. Non-violent communication and sociocracy as well as artistic expression are key to me. in order to come you must be willing to pitch in (give and take) and work on first project which will be a very city-friendly composting toilet so we don’t get any negative feedback from the Historic neighborhood.
    Write to me and let me know about yourself, what you envision, what you are willing to give and lets have a discussion. some monetary contribution will also be required/some work exchange in lieu is possible.
    in Peace–Bohemian Gal (bhumble at yandex dot com)

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