To be honest, my ideal preference would have been to buy a tiny house “shell” with the major construction work done and to finish the interior. A tiny house shell usually has all of the insulation, roofing, windows, structural support, loft, basic electrical and basic plumbing set up. Tiny house builders sell these, and so do people who began a tiny house build and could no longer complete them.
Finishing a tiny house shell felt much more manageable than building one from the ground up. As an amateur, I didn’t know if I trusted myself to build a whole house was that was safe, warm, up to code, and wouldn’t fall apart. The estimated time that it takes for someone inexperienced to build a tiny house on evenings and weekends is 2 years. Considering Alex has his hands full of evenings and weekends projects already (I’m looking at you, aquaponics.), we decided that the time investment was too much. It would take about 6 months to finish the interior of a tiny house, and I feel more confident about my interior design and basic DIY abilities than I do my ability to put on a roof that doesn’t leak. Or break. We could probably build a tiny house for $15,000, but during those two years, we would end up spending almost $20,000 on rent. That fact alone took building a tiny house off the table for me.
At this point, Alex and I were dating, but not engaged. Alex loved the idea of tiny houses and actually looked into building his own several years ago, but I was the one currently wanting to live in a tiny house.
So in March of 2014, I began pursuing tiny house shells. I hoped to buy one by June. A partially finished tiny house was advertised about two hours away from us, and I must have contacted the person about 20 times over 6 months trying to buy it! She never got back to me. Sometimes I look at the pictures and wish I would have gotten the opportunity to buy this house.
I had hoped to buy something by June, but everything fell through. We live in the Midwest, and tiny houses are just not popular around here. At that point, I didn’t feel comfortable buying one without seeing it first, and the nearest tiny house was 12 hours away.
Alex and I got engaged in August, and the Lord led us to see that we should get married soon. We set the wedding date for November, and finding a place to live became a priority. While living in our parents’ basement was a feasible option, neither of us felt like we should do that long term. I also began working a second job, and with winter coming, even finishing a tiny house shell seemed difficult. We switched our search to fully finished tiny houses that we could get by November.
I searched tinyhouselistings.com daily. I began to contact any tiny house for sale we found that was in our price range. We had a strict budget of $25,000, and many tiny houses were $10-20k over that amount. I started to wonder if we would ever find a tiny house that we could afford. The number one, non negotiable item on our wish list was that our house must have dormers in the loft. Many tiny houses have tiny lofts, and I could not see Alex and I sleeping like that. I began to get pretty stressed out about finding a house until this gem popped up.
It was just over our price range, but it was perfect! We knew we wanted to pursue it. I loved the interior, the exterior, the size, the giant loft… Loved it. The woman who built it was an amateur, but a carpenter. She built the tiny house for herself, but then decided that it was too small for her. I called her immediately. She said the house was available, and I set out to work through the logistics.
Sending my life savings through a wire transfer to a random lady in California made me nervous. I hadn’t considered how to navigate safely buying and shipping a tiny house across the country. I asked her for two references, and she gave me the numbers for her boss (a construction worker) and for a man who helped her build the house. I chatted with each of them basically to confirm that yes, the house was build, for sale, and as far as they knew, built well. I also wrote a contract and asked her to sign it. She gave me her Facebook page and her YouTube channel to make everything feel authentic.
Everything checked out, so we set up shipping. I posted the job on http://www.uship.com. Drivers make bids on loads. I hoped to get the shipping for $2500, but I got a bid for $1800! This was a great deal. A week later, the tiny house arrived! When the tiny house arrived, we loved it! It was exactly what we expected.