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Family of 6 Build Under-$20k Tiny Home on 20 Acre Homestead


This family of 6 is such an inspiration! They left their 3,000 square foot home, bought 20 acres of land in Northern Idaho, lived in an RV inside a pole barn for 8 months, and built their DIY tiny house in the barn for under $20,000! Now they have just started building their dream home — doing all of it debt-free.

Their journey shows how hard work and good financial planning can make a world of difference. The home has a large main room with an L-shaped kitchen and living space, as well as a smaller master bedroom, and a larger kids’ room with mountain views. You can take a full tour of their space below, and then watch the following video for a breakdown of costs (including the cost for the land and pole barn).

In total, their tiny house is about 600 square feet, or 100 square feet per person. How many square feet per person do you think is ideal?

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Their DIY Tiny House Build for Under $20K in Northern Idaho

Here’s their Master bedroom with their King-sized bed

Their bathroom has everything but their toilet, which is actually in an adjacent heated utility room.

This is the kids’ room. The oldest daughter has the top bunk, the two boys share the lower bunk, and there is a trundle for the youngest.

View from the kids’ room. Amazing!

Here’s the utility room with a washer and dryer, and their composting toilet.

VIDEO: Family Gives FULL TOUR of TIny Home

VIDEO: TOTAL COST Breakdown and Tour of Our DIY Tiny House

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Our big thanks to James D. for sharing! 🙏

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.

Latest posts by Natalie C. McKee (see all)

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • RONN
    January 29, 2021, 6:10 am

    20K?

    find that hard to believe. the toilet is over 1k by itself……….

    • Natalie C. McKee
      January 29, 2021, 2:18 pm

      They just have a bucket composting system

    • James D.
      January 29, 2021, 2:24 pm

      Well, yes and no, as costs can vary a lot by location and there are several factors that contributed to them achieving their budget goal… Like they started before the sky high material costs kicked in towards the later part of 2020, they didn’t need to buy appliances, they did it all DIY, they were apparently not hit with a lot of additional costs from regulations/bureaucracy and local requirements, and they controlled what they did pay for and chose many lower cost options wherever they could…

      While they give a cost break down in the video to get an idea of what they’re including in the costs they’re counting but as it was DIY, they’re not counting their labor, time, transportation and living expenses, any additional costs like buying more tools, etc. Especially, as they’re also going to be building a larger house later and much of those costs will cover that build as well. But most people just focus only on the cost of the house itself without factoring everything else it took to get it done.

      So others may go by a different estimate, depending on what costs they do count towards the total. But it’s otherwise believable for the choices they made and how they did it for their specific situation…

      There are many things people have achieved that others have thought to be unbelievable or even impossible, but that was really because others had either given up on finding a way or insisted on unrealistic goals or immediate gratification that would not tolerate any delay in achieving their goal…

      Some things just take time, others require being able to think outside the box, and yet others require just making different choices or simply never giving up and overcoming obstacles…

      Like I keep telling people, there are always trade offs and consequences for choices but with enough knowledge you can set realistic expectations to take control and make choices that better suite your goals and have trade offs that are at least ones you can still live with, if not ones you really prefer… So long as people are willing to find a way, it can be done…

  • Marsha Cowan
    January 29, 2021, 8:08 pm

    Wow! What an amazing family! It’s wonderful to see families come together and build their dreams bit by bit and make a way to enjoy each step as they go. I am really impressed by the beauty and liveability of the tiny house. It was a great idea to build a huge barn first, then you are almost settled before you start; just a matter of building creative spaces within the barn. I love it! Best wishes building the “big housse”. Be safe and cut long.

  • Michael
    January 30, 2021, 6:34 am

    Great ideas to avoid a lot of overhead cost which have nothing to do with the living space.
    A simple construction, low cost materials and well thought purchases plus DIY are the key to achieve
    a small living space without breaking the bank and 30 years of mortgage .
    Well done and documented.

  • Vickie
    January 31, 2021, 3:00 am

    Umm.. no one mentions 4 kids in one room. Male and female? What’s the chance they have to build more bedrooms in the near future? Haven’t even discussed 2 boys in one bed..How long will that work?
    Real world, not Walton’s Mountain. Other than that they have a good deal.

    • James D.
      January 31, 2021, 3:37 am

      Well, while the Waltons was a television series that was based on the book Spencer’s Mountain by Earl Hamner Jr., the author based the story on his own family… So a lot of that was real, and some people who have commented on this site have reported growing up similarly… So that is real world for some families…

      Besides, as they explained, they’re not done and are building a bigger house…

      They lived in a RV for 8 months before converting part of the barn into this small home, so this is already an upgrade for them, and now they’re working on the big house… They’re on 20 acre property that they’re developing for their family for the long term as a homestead…

      Like many before them, they’re just doing it in stages with the resources they have available and improving their situation as they go without going into debt…

      Another example of an even larger family with over twice as many kids is on youtube, The Kreke Family… Similarly, they are developing their own homestead. Converted a structure into a tiny house for their family, with all the kids in one room, and are eventually going to build a big house once they have the resources to do so without going into debt…

      And there are other examples…

    • e.a.f.
      April 12, 2021, 1:28 pm

      It may come as a surprise, but not that long ago lots of kids shared beds. young children sharing bedrooms, nothing wrong with that. I’m an aging baby boomer and can remember lots of kids sharing beds and bedrooms until they were older. It was a matter of money, of which there wasn’t a lot in a lot of families in the 1950s. Eventually people put the girls in one bedroom, the boys in another, if they had a 3 bedroom home. sometimes the parents bought a two bedroom home and the parents slept in the living room while the sons had one bedroom and the daughters the other.

      If you go back to the pre WW II homes, you’ll notice a lot of small two bedroom homes. Parents in one bedroom and kids in another. People simply could not afford large homes, nor were they being built except for the well to do.

      What we may learn from this family is the children learn to co operate much better than other children, who all have their own bedrooms. These large McMansions which are being built today really don’t appear to do much to improve family life, from what I can see. It leaves the parents with huge mortgages. In major centers in Canada houses start at a million, if you’re lucky. Many people are finding themselves living in small condos with two kids because that is all they can afford.

      What I do see here is a family who is using their money wisely and not having a major impact on the environment.

      When you live off grid having a composting toilet makes sense because in some areas, putting in a septic system can run you up to $30K. yes, once the rules and regs are implemented its expensive.

      There was a time, 50s and 60s when a lot of families built as they could afford it or they purchased a small home and later raised it to add a first floor, for more bedrooms. In Richmond, B.C. Canada, a lot of families bought single story two/three bedroom homes and as the family grew put in a lower floor, while they were still living in it. Now you some times see the company who started that Nichol Brothers on a t.v. series, about moving houses and other types of buildings.

      We were raised in a 3 bedroom bungalow, one bathroom, 1200 sq. ft. the summer home, which was built much later in our lives, was 3000 sq. ft. 3 floors, 3 bathrooms. parental units started making more money.

      If you act as your own contractor you can also save a lot of money. In some cases as much as a couple of hundred thousand.

      Congrats to this family!

      • Natalie C. McKee
        April 13, 2021, 3:29 pm

        Love all of these observations! We have a three bedroom, 1100 square foot home and have no intention of upsizing, honestly. Boys get a room, girl gets a room, we get a room. It’s perfectly enough.

        • Eric
          August 15, 2021, 9:26 pm

          And what works for you doesn’t necessarily work for someone else.

          I, as a baby boomer, never had to share a bedroom, yet others had to. We never put them down, and never thought less of them for it. It was just normal for some people.

          And in New Zealand, many parts of Auckland are reaching million dollar plus prices. Wellington, the capital city, is very nearly exclusively 1 million plus. And Australia’s rapidly closing in on the “magic” figure as well. Covid has a LOT to answer for. Especially as expats are returning home to be safe and are flush with cash so price is not a barrier for them, but I pity the younger generation ever getting a “normal” house and being compelled to either renting for life or tiny house living for life.

  • John Bradley
    August 15, 2021, 11:15 am

    Honestly, a misleading video. 20k isn’t a realistic number. The pole barn is obviously an integral part of your home, and the pole barn was a major expense. The barn serves as a roof and at least 3 of your outside walls.
    With all that space in your barn, I also question your cramped space in bedroom, and your closet. And putting toilet in seperate location seems completely unnecessary as well.
    These are just my opinions. I admire what you’ve done, as I too built myself a 288 sq foot tiny home. To me, it’s a great way to live.

    • ronn
      August 16, 2021, 7:23 am

      John, I completely concur. guess its ALL in the eyes of the beholder……….. but nothing comes from a puff of air.

      reality needs to exist.

    • James D.
      August 16, 2021, 2:37 pm

      Well, what’s realistic always depends on situation, location, resources, timing, and how you choose to go about it for what it will actually cost someone.

      So only thing misleading would be the assumption that what they did has to be what others can replicate exactly as they did it but that’s not how it works. Since, everyone’s situation can be very different, costs are highly dependent on location, effected by timing and how the market and resource availability changes over time, and how people choose to go about it for what costs they choose to include to get it done.

      Thus there will always be variables that will effect the costs that can be very different from one situation to the next, but options like finding a property with existing structures you can re-use or convert is one of the many options people can choose to seek depending on availability in the market that’s in their area.

      There’s just always trade offs and while re-using or converting can be much cheaper than building new it’s not always or there may be other reasons building new may be what’s preferable for a given situation. Regardless, for this family, it worked out with the property they bought and the cost they state is just what it cost them… Nothing more and nothing less…

      Much of their choices are just based on both their short term needs and long term plans, which they did explain in the video to better understand why they made the choices they did… Like the fact they are going to be building a larger main house and have other plans for the rest of the property, which the barn will play a role…

  • Bryan O'Connor
    August 17, 2021, 10:54 pm

    Just looking at the video and the pictures there’s ALOT of wasted space in that house. do the couple REALLY need a King size bed? and for the price of the washer AND Dryer they could have gotten an All in one that washes and dries for just a couple bucks more, they could have also gotten a tankless on demand water heater for the same price as the huge water heater they have. Why not go down to queen and use that extra 2 feet and the 5 feet from the washer/dryer to move the walls in and use that space to build a smaller 7×7 bedroom for the boys, since they are younger they don’t need a big room and by the time they are ready to need a bigger bedroom one of the girls will out of the house and the 2nd will be close to it, they can switch rooms and the 2 boys can have the bigger room and the girl left at home can have the small room all to herself. I don’t wanna nit pick but there’s ALOT of wasted space in that house. I also read seberal comments that they are building a bigger house? why build a bigger house? just add on to that one, it would be a WHOLE LOT Cheaper.

    • James D.
      August 18, 2021, 4:27 pm

      Adding to the existing structure isn’t necessarily going to be cheaper, conversions can be more expensive than building new and depends what they want to end up with but you have a lot more freedom to design it the way you want it when it’s built new versus often having to compromise to deal with a conversion…

      Besides, it’s about meeting their needs, not what someone else thinks should be done… Understand, everything has trade offs and nothing is perfect for everyone. People are just too diverse, we can all have very different needs, preferences, be in different situations, etc.

      While this family has plans that go beyond just their living arrangement and towards their long term goals and how they want to maximize the usage of the property. So anything you may think is ideal can be someone else’s worst possible choice and vice versa…

      Every option has it’s own pros and cons, with usually a long list of reasons to choose one or another that will often depend more on the specific situation, application, and what the priorities are… Pretty much everything you listed falls under this…

      Like a Combo Washer/Dryer may be nice for saving on space but its small load capacity and very long run times can make it far less than ideal for a large family that may need to handle a lot of laundry… Reasons to choose a tank vs tankless is a far longer discussion but it too has reasons why the tankless won’t always be chosen… Again, there are always trade offs…

      So while you may choose to do it different, they have to do what’s in their best interest for themselves because these choices will effect their life, their quality of living, and what they will ultimately get out of the property or won’t…

  • Richard
    August 18, 2021, 8:37 pm

    Pole barn they put it in was more then 20k the whole build would include we’re it’s in

    • James D.
      August 20, 2021, 6:24 pm

      I wouldn’t assume that because that isn’t the case when you purchase a property with existing structures. For one thing, they could have been built a long time ago when they were much cheaper, and for another, you only pay whatever the present property value is and not what it cost to built it or how much has ever been invested into it… Older structures do also depreciate if they aren’t maintained… While examples like foreclosures, are among the ways properties can be acquired below their original value…

      Besides, not everyone has to use a kit or commercial builder to build a pole barn and those that do it other ways can often knock the cost down quite a bit. There’s just usually a trade off with time versus money and different areas can have different resources available that can significantly change the material and labor costs…

      Like some people have used telephone poles instead of getting poles from the lumber yard at much lower cost. They just had to put more time and work into adjusting them because they aren’t all the same size, etc. but it’s an example of how not everyone pays the same amount to do their structure…

    • Natalie C. McKee
      August 23, 2021, 4:03 am

      It’s been a while since I watched the video, but I think the pole barn itself cost $70K.

  • Jody
    September 18, 2021, 5:35 pm

    Great job guys! I really liked your explanation and breakdown of everything.
    Depending on how you live and what you like will make a difference in the cost. Such as using reclaimed items, not buying everything brand new, sticking to a budget and making it work etc…

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