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The First Resident at Escape Tampa Bay Tiny House Village


This is Tim. He is the first resident at the new Escape Tampa Bay Tiny House Village and this is our email-exchange-interview with him.

If you’re curious as to what it’s like moving into and living in a newly developed Florida tiny house community, well, this is your lucky day because Tim is giving us a sneak peek into his new life. Enjoy!

Don’t miss other super-awesome interviews and stories like this – join our FREE Tiny House Newsletter for more!

Tim’s Life In A Tiny House At Escape Tampa Bay

Tims Tiny House in Escape Tampa Bay Village 001

Image by Escape

So you are the first person to move into a tiny house at the Escape Tiny House Village in Thonotosassa, Florida?

Correct, I’m the first resident of ESCAPE Tampa Bay Village. I got my key on Friday, 6/12, and began moving in that weekend.

Things have been fantastic so far. I have been downsizing since 2018, and have been preparing to move into some sort of tiny dwelling for over a year now, so it was a relatively easy move into my tiny home. Build quality of the unit is great, the insulation + windows have done a fantastic job keeping the heat and humidity out of my unit, especially since our daily “feels like” temperature has been well over 100 degrees over the past few days. A/C unit and fan work very well keeping the interior cool and comfortable.

The community has a beautiful ambiance, like being at a really nice RV campground. I love that each unit has its’ own tiny driveway, deck, and landscaping.

The location itself, while not immediately close to anything but a Winn Dixie and a Subway, sits 20-30 minutes from most everything one would typically need. Immediate access to I-75 and five minutes from I-4 make it easy to get anywhere else when needed.

Escape Tampa Bay Tiny House Village 001

© Escape

Which unit/model did you end up going with? I’m sure it was a difficult choice because there are so many nice tiny homes to choose from!

I ended up going with Unit 8, the One XL Tall model. Yes it was difficult to pick, I could’ve made any unit work but I was seriously considering 3, 4, 8, 9, and 10.

I ended up going with unit 8 for a few reasons.

  • It has solar installed, so given that I get direct sun pretty much all day means my electric bill should be very low.
  • The front of my unit faces north, meaning little direct sun will come in through my north-facing windows most of the year. Right now I do have all of my blinds down to block as much sun as possible, but I will open up my big window and door window to let in natural light.
  • It had enough space for me to fit my bike rack and two bikes without taking up much floor room. I know from the angle of the picture it looks like it interferes with the stairwell, but you can easily get up and down the stairs without running into the bikes.
  • The lot sits on higher ground. Heavy rains should drain easily away from my unit.
  • Bedroom on 2nd floor gives space on 1st floor for an awesome built-in bookshelf/entertainment center/living room area.
  • It was, surprisingly, in the middle of the pack regarding the unit price. Also, lot rent was on the lower side.
  • The floor plan! I have separate areas for living room/office, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and storage/work out combo space. All in 388 square feet, when including the 2nd floor.

Unit 9 is just like mine but has additional upgrades (white cabinets, tile shower, bigger window in living room). Units 4 and 10 are similar in that they have a 2nd floor bedroom and built-in entertainment center and have a really nice semi-private deck off the sliding door. Unit 3 sits in the shade all day long – while it doesn’t have solar, it also never gets direct sunlight, which will help keep it cool.

Tims Tiny House in Escape Tampa Bay Village 002

© Tim

What do you like the most about it so far? And just curious, what was your previous living situation like before, just to contrast?

Benefits

  1. Takes less than 15 minutes to clean my entire house!
  2. Since I have very limited space, everything I do have has a specific purpose (or two+) AND has a specific place it resides. Easy to remember where everything is too.
  3. You appreciate what you do have more, since I’ve been downsizing/going ‘minimalist’ for the past two years everything I currently own likely survived multiple rounds of ’stuff purging’.

Things I like the most –

  1. Having my own space again (see ‘previous living situation’ below for more info)
  2. RV-size living with residential, full-size amenities (a REAL toilet AND shower, full-size fridge, microwave, and range/oven, in-unit washer and dryer, a living room, stuff like that)
  3. Instant hot water
  4. Solar power

Previous living situation –

In 2014 I purchased a traditional 3 bed/2 bath/2 car garage for $138,000 (when housing prices were somewhat reasonable) in a decent little neighborhood in Seffner. The house had a new roof, new hot water heater, and new fence. However, in the four years I owned it, I fixed/upgraded just about everything – painted every room (twice), new A/C unit, new flooring, new windows, complete renovations of both bathrooms, new pool equipment and pool liner, upgraded garage flooring, redid landscaping, and many other things… only thing I didn’t upgrade was the kitchen. I grew so tired of putting so much money into the house (somewhere between $40-50k in renovations over the four years I owned it). I also had my “dream” cars – an older Jeep Wrangler, and a newer Chevy Camaro. Thanks to those two cars I met some incredible people and did some activities I never had done before (off-roading in the Wrangler, drag race at a track in the Camaro, etc…), but… they were absolute mechanical nightmares and money pits.

2018 was a breaking point for me. All of my free time, and a lot of my money, were both going towards the house and the vehicles, which was rather upsetting. Plus, I also lost both of my grandfathers in 2018 about six weeks apart, which made me realize that I was spending my life focused on the wrong things – stuff instead of people and relationships. So, sold both vehicles and got one that has been a perfect fit for me, and put the house on the market. Within a week I had multiple offers, and ended up selling the house for $201,000. As ecstatic as I was getting over $200k for my house, it also signaled to me the ridiculousness of home values. It got me thinking that there has to be affordable alternatives to housing, so I began my research into better options. I knew I wanted to go small, as I was fully embracing the minimalism lifestyle, so I moved into a 1/1 apartment close to family. It was a nice place, but apartment living does not suit me what-so-ever. So in late 2019 when my lease was up, I did not renew and moved in with my parents to save up some money and be in a position to jump on something when the moment was right.

The original plan I had settled on was to buy a truck and an Airstream travel trailer and live in it full-time while working my remote job and traveling around the US. I’d still LOVE to do this some day, but a few reasons why I ultimately did not go this route –

  1. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down almost all campgrounds across the United States. The most recent numbers show just over a million people live full-time in RVs. Most of them did not have a place to go as campgrounds shut down all over the US. I did not want to be in a future situation where I’d literally have nowhere to safely settle down if and when we have the next pandemic.
  2. To mitigate issue #1, I looked into perhaps building a small house with an RV-sized garage here in Florida. But, the cost for decent land in the areas I was looking in were expensive, possible zoning issues, and the cost for building what I wanted. Combine the cost for land, cost for construction of the new house, cost for a truck, and cost of an Airstream spec’d out how I would want it and I’m sitting somewhere between $400-500k in DEBT. I’m sorry, but that is an absolute absurd amount of debt and I would never even consider taking on that amount.
  3. Some 46 million or so Americans lost their jobs during this pandemic. Even in my industry (Talent Acquisition software) we took a hit, so I didn’t want to be tied up with massive amounts of debt if I were to lose my job.

I happened upon a news article about ESCAPE Tampa Bay Village and how it had just opened up. I looked it up, saw how well-constructed these tiny homes were built, and reached out to schedule a tour. Fell in love with the property, seriously considered half of the available units, applied and was quickly approved for financing, and got the paperwork squared away. The timing happened to align perfectly with some time off from work so I could just focus on moving in and getting settled. And now, here we are!

Tims Tiny House in Escape Tampa Bay Village 004

Image by Tim

(A week later) How are things going? Are you working from home these days, by the way?

Things are still going great. Looks like a couple of other units have sold, so just waiting to get some neighbors!

Yes, I work from home. I’ve actually been a remote employee for over four years now.

I just built a portable standing desk, with inspiration from Tiny Shiny Home. It’s a tripod, with a mount, mounted to a 12” x 24” shelf. Picture attached of my setup. I can work solely off my laptop, hook it up to my TV as a 2nd monitor, or use a wireless keyboard & mouse to use the TV as the primary monitor. It gives me a ton of flexibility, I’m rather excited to have a standing desk again!

Tims Tiny House in Escape Tampa Bay Village 003

Image by Tim

Final thoughts from Tim on why he chooses living in his new tiny home…

Ultimately, living small for me boils down to the following three things:

  1. Living simply – I don’t have much room to store stuff in my tiny home, so the things I do own all serve a purpose. Everything I own means something to me and I’m not burdened by clutter.
  2. Living purposefully – It takes mere minutes to clean my entire house. I do not have to worry about tending to the landscaping. I’m not spending time worrying about material objects. Outside of work, I’m actually able to dedicate my free time to family, friends, and riding my bikes. My time is spent on people and experiences, not on things.
  3. Living well within my means – My tiny home cost under $100k. I also don’t have to spend money furnishing thousands of square feet of space, cooling thousands of square feet of space (especially here in Florida, where it’s not only the heat but the humidity that keeps the A/C running constantly), nor spend money on lawn equipment. Having a lower portion of my income dedicated to housing costs opens up other avenues for my financial well-being.

Want to be Tim’s neighbor?

Check for available tiny houses in his community right here!

Learn more

Our big thanks to Tim for sharing!🙏

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Alex

Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Avatar Norma C Fess
    July 6, 2020, 8:58 am

    Enjoyed your experience, and I will soon be the first in my tiny home village in West Columbia, SC. Really looking forward to it.

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee
      July 9, 2020, 12:48 pm

      Oh that’s awesome, Norma. Would love to see your place! Send pictures to [email protected].

  • Avatar Deborah Dixon
    July 6, 2020, 4:42 pm

    Big Question..how stable will it be in a hurricane?
    I was born and raised outside of Tampa (Valrico) and hurricanes are quite serious…
    Is it tied down with cables?

    • Avatar Tim
      July 6, 2020, 7:48 pm

      Hi Deborah,

      All of the units here have multiple large corkscrew-shaped stakes entrenched in the ground. Each one connects cables to the unit to keep it secure in high winds. Should a hurricane directly hit our area, I have plans to leave and stay with family in a concrete block house, but I feel confident that my tiny home would still be standing upright.

    • Avatar Adam
      July 6, 2020, 8:46 pm

      Hi Deborah, since you are a local, can you please show me what are the best Tampa suburb to raise a family?

      Thank you
      Adam

    • Avatar James D.
      July 6, 2020, 9:55 pm

      Yes, they state in their FAQ that quote “units are strapped down. Unit #6 has the extensive hurricane strapping required by law and it also is built like a house.” end quote… So everything should meet or exceed code…

      While you can check out an older article, “Tiny House on Wheels Survives Hurricane Irma’s 100 MPH Winds in Miami” posted on September 15, 2017… The article reports on three of the Escape Home units located in three separate AirBNB locations in Miami, Orlando, and Homestead… For an example of how they seem to typically fair…

  • July 6, 2020, 6:07 pm

    Wow! What a nice place and not too far from where I live. Definitely keeping this in mind for the hopefully not too distant future. 🙂

  • Avatar Allan Afable
    July 6, 2020, 6:13 pm

    Man! This sounds Amazing! I have been lookin to relocate from Ca. I have family in Tampa, to be in a tiny home community is what i want to do! Be near family but also be on my own, please can i get some information bout Escape Tampa Village thank you. See you soon!

  • July 6, 2020, 6:49 pm

    I’ve been looking at the Escape homes and I’m seriously considering one for my area, especially now with the One XL being wider and taller. It seems to make a big difference. Congrats on your new home. It looks beautiful and it was great hearing from someone who actually owns and lives in one. I love your standing desk and it is next on my to-do list.

    • Avatar Tim
      July 7, 2020, 3:42 pm

      Thank you! I love the One XL Tall floorplan – having the bedroom on the 2nd floor opens up the space to have a living room below. The built-in bookshelves in the living room are incredible. It’s definitely my favorite space in the house. And yeah, find yourself a good quality tripod, that exact mount, and get creative with the desk part. I picked up a 12″ x 24″ shelf from Home Depot for $7, but long-term I plan on making a custom desktop, just for the fun of it. The desk is so versatile. I’ve found I work in four different places through the day, two of which I’m using the standing desk. Once it cools down outside, I’ll have a fifth place to work from.

  • Avatar Melonee Early
    July 6, 2020, 8:56 pm

    I would love more information about these homes

  • Avatar How much
    July 6, 2020, 9:03 pm

    What is the price for the homes?

  • Avatar shoshona
    July 7, 2020, 6:12 pm

    Cute houses but some serious negatives. Tampa is in the paper today as poster child for the coming real estate price collapse. First, you don’t own your lot are SOL if the lease ends or the land gets sold, since these cant easily be moved. Lot rents are high. Insurance is going to be high to unavailable. the units are no doubt very expensive since when you go to the website and you cant easily find the prices . I would recommend just renting one of these and let this fad run its course to not be caught without a chair once the music stops.

    • Avatar James D.
      July 8, 2020, 8:15 pm

      This particular Community/Village is new but these homes and homes like them have been around for over a decade now and can actually be traced back nearly a century to their earliest starts long before they became popular in the media… So well past the point of being a fad, these are now trends and will stick around for the foreseeable future…

      While they vary in sizes and some are easier to transport than others, the Vista models are especially easy to move and companies like UNTUCKit even used one as a mobile store to tour the country, mostly along the east coast, back around 2016…

      The builder is based in Rice Lake, WI and have shipped even their largest models to multiple states around the country. While this community is in Florida… So moving them isn’t really a issue and you can insure Tiny houses relatively easily. It’s financing them, getting loans, etc. that’s hard but there are growing options for that as well and it’s becoming easier…

      The volatility of the housing market is one of the reasons to consider a moveable home but it remains to be seen what will happen and how these options will be effected…

  • Avatar Lana
    July 7, 2020, 6:17 pm

    Congrats Tim, Very happy & a bit jealous for you! I’m purging my storage unit, I’ve had over 7 yrs & spent $4k+ & only keeping famiy pics & a few holiday items. All tht $ could hv gone into TH that I’ve been wanting. Love ’em! Hope to wk from home also. Any advice or Co. suggestions? I’m 69, retired Exec.Asst/Med transcriptionist. I’m in PA, my daughter & 21 yo grdson want me in TX, so HOT! (As u know.) I know too, lived there 40+yrs. Love these mtns but unhappy w/medical & miss family & family is #1. Wishing you many Blessings & Enjoyment in your new TH & Life.

    • Avatar Tim
      July 12, 2020, 11:38 am

      Thanks Lana! Good luck purging the storage unit, that’ll make such a difference when that stuff is gone (and that money is back in your pocket!). My family was a big factor in staying in the Tampa area, so as hot as Texas gets, being with family would be worth it! When you look to go tiny, pay attention to how the unit is insulated, the quality of the windows and door(s), and how it’s built. I’m incredibly happy with the insulation and the double-pane windows in my unit. It really stays cool, and the humidity low, even as it feels like you’re melting as soon as you step outside.

  • Avatar Susan
    July 14, 2020, 10:03 am

    All these homes are wonderful! It’s nice to see more and more small/tiny home communities popping up around the US. I hope to see one in a more moderate climate, near one of my kids. I’m always looking. Keep up the good work. Less is more!

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee
      July 14, 2020, 1:05 pm

      Hi Susan where are your kids? Here’s our current list of communities >>> https://tinyhousetalk.com/category/communities/

      • Avatar Susan
        July 14, 2020, 8:35 pm

        Wow! Thanks for the information. I didn’t realize there are so many communities. I’m saving this post for the future. The possibilities are endless. By the time I’m ready, in about 4 to 5 years, I’ll have even more choices…

  • Avatar Elizabeth Larey
    July 17, 2020, 9:37 pm

    I wish we could have seen the inside. They are cool because they are all different

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