How Building a Tiny House Opened the Door to a Dream

9:17 AM Katy 16 Comments

When I first started looking at lots near the ocean, something became really apparent. Either you had to buy a pre-exisiting house, or you had to buy a big lot in a less-than-desirable location. (Think "marsh views" -- aka "your property backs up to a mosquito-infested swamp most of the year and you have to drive to the beach.")

Either way, this was more money than I could spend. I decided that the dream was to be able to WALK TO THE GOOD BEACH, and secondly, be able to afford it!

So I kept stalking the listings. Then I saw this:

You should have read the listing. It was hilarious. Basically lots of warnings about how it wasn't suitable for rehab (true), and when I called the agent I found out the following information:
#1. The house was sitting on a 50'X47' lot that had been "grandfathered in"
#2. The house could not be rehabbed past $5,000 or the new FEMA regulations would kick in (requiring the house to be lifted off the ground several feet and moved within new setbacks.)
#3. The new setbacks were 20' from the front and 10' on all sides. This meant that any new structure had to fit entirely within a 20'X27' box. That includes the exterior staircase to get from ground level to the front door.

Needless to say, combining all of that info with the condition of the wreckage, this was absolutely a tear-down.

The bank would never have given a regular home loan on this mess, since they were going to send their own appraiser to assess the property, and no insurance agent would cover it either. 

The only person who would be able to use this lot was someone who #1. had enough cash to buy it without the bank, and #2. could build a nice house on a footprint that tiny. It had to be bigger than the 1-bedroom 440 sq ft condos nearby to make it worth the effort.

Let me tell you what -- that poor realtor. Even though I told her it was the only thing on the whole island that I was interested in, she kept trying to get me to look at a duplex that was 80k more.  She could not understand why a single mom with 3 kids was so obsessed with that pile of crap.

If I were a horse in the Kentucky Derby, my name would be Roll Me a Fat One.

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  1. People who think outside the box are much more interesting than those who buy the 80k cookie cutter condos. I would expect nothing less from you.

    And I started back on the twitter because I was watching for the release date of a self pub book and the author wasn't on facebook. Last time I tweeted was Dec 2009, which is about the time I stopped sitting at a desk all day long in front of a computer.

  2. Who doesn't love a challenge!

  3. Katie, I am routing for you all the way. Can't we have a blogger day and help build the house?

  4. What you're doing is so inspiring. I mostly just lurk, but this post was one that spurred me to write. I like how you're chasing your dream and the role model you are to your children because of this.

  5. It's called a dream for a reason! Just instead of if you build it they will come..... it's more like if you buy it.... your dream will come true! Hold on to your dream.... and eat this elephant one bite at a time!
    dee dee

  6. the place represents your spirit (to me). don't tell katy what container she must live within. don't confine and restrict her. i know what it takes to break out of that, and i've experienced the "costs" involved- and am cheering you on all the way from montana. you have done so much to keep from being stifled, and i know how often "everyone else" seems to want the woman who can be stifled....all the more to build that dang place! my money is on Roll Me A Fat One, not for show and not for place- but for win!


  7. So, does the footprint include decks? LOL. I think it's cool however you get it done.

  8. Katy, how did you get to 24 x 27 with that lot size and those setbacks? Have you checked into getting some sort of waiver? Derby horse name = new email address? ;-)


  9. Beth has a great point. Go with a flat roof design and build it to support an observation deck on the roof. Great views and perceived square footage. Another design consideration is however you do the stairs, make sure you can get furniture into and out of the new house.


  10. You are an inspiration to me. I am a single mother with a kid in college. I couldn't count the number of conversations we have had about trying to do something (home or otherwise) with limited money. I get lifted up when I see I am not alone in this. Thank you for your projects and being the example. God bless you and your kids. I pray God will make a way for your beach house.

  11. Another lurker here - I think you are THE most awesome Mom - and I have mad admiration of your skills. Things don't have to make sense to other people - they just have to make sense to you. I know you are going to make your beach house happen and I am taking notes. I also have to tell you that you have made me take a look at my situation in life, and I am about to embark on a big journey to make a better life for me and my daughter. You are an inspiration to many. You keep writing and we will all have your back. :)

  12. I just can't wait to see what you do. Hugs, Marty

  13. Sherry - you're right, and I'm starting to see poetry everywhere now that I read your blog, lol!

    According to conventional wisdom, I should be on antedepressants and food stamps. I refuse to live the life that others force on me.

    I love that - "not for show, not for place, but for win!" - YES!!!

  14. No guts, no glory!

  15. Hello there

    Are you buying this lot....? Grab it and build a tiny home. There are so many fabulous sites on tiny homes. I have 3 containers that I will eventually been turning into a shop and a tiny home for my daughter and I. I LOVE container homes. I was going to do a blogpost on these container homes.

    I am so jealous! If I was there I would help you build. Is there another one available?? Too much fun :-)

    So exciting for you.

    My best, Sheryl

  16. LOL!!! Roll Me A Fat One!!! We need to drink tequila together, lady. When you get that sink cleaned up and installed, let me know. :)


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