How great does it sound to just pack up your stuff and hit the road? What if you could bring along your house with you? What if said house actually looked like a house on the inside instead of an RV? Sounds pretty great right?
Well that’s exactly what a tiny house can do for you. And for just 6 monthly payments of…wait, I’m not a tiny house realtor. Nevermind. So if you don’t know, my wife and I are travelers because of her job. She is a travel nurse, which means that she fills temporary positions in hospitals while they work to permanently hire nurses. Most assignments last only 3 months, so we move around a lot. We already have condensed everything we travel with down to a load that will fit in our Ford Escape. Because of all of that, the idea of a tiny house did and still does continue to intrigue me. Let me tell you about how I lost multiple nights sleep over tiny houses.
First, what is a tiny house? Good question. A tiny house is a house typical built on a flatbed trailer. They are usually under 13.5 feet tall for standard highway underpass clearance. They vary in length from 12 feet up to 30 feet, the average being around 22 feet. Tiny houses are built on the inside and outside to look and function like a regular home, just contended. Every inch of space on the inside is optimized. Stairs might double as a closet or dining table. Couches might fold up for more room or fold out for an additional bed. Everything has more than one function. The appeal of tiny houses is the ability to up and move whenever you want to while traveling with the comforts of home. They use the design language of traditional homes in varying styles. They are also a work-around for many people to put a house on a plot of land without meeting the square-foot minimum for houses many cities and states have. Lastly tiny houses are cute AF.
So last year my wife and I decided to actively pursue getting a tiny house. The biggest draw is that for each travel assignment, my wife gets the option to take the housing provided by her company, or she can take a stipend and we would find our own housing. So we would be able to take the stipend and put it toward the tiny house. Once the house was paid off, we could continue to live in it and pocket the living stipend.
However from the get-go, we had a few road-blocks in our way.
- We don’t have a truck. We would need at least a 3/4 ton and most likely a 1 ton truck to tow our tiny house. It would be doable but it would be an added expense.
- We’ve never done any sort of RV camping or stayed at an RV park. Tiny houses are similar to travel trailers in that they are towed by a vehicle, usually parked at an RV park, and require at least a working knowledge of electrical and plumbing systems to operate.
- I’m not sure if I could risk the possibility of not having decent wifi.
Nevertheless, none of those factors deterred us, so we continued to investigate tiny house living. Our initial plan was to take our next assignment in Texas to be close to family. We would live with family or friends for the 3 months (or a bit longer) and I would spend all of my time building the tiny house myself with my father-in-law who built my wife’s childhood home himself. I knew it would be a huge commitment, but I had seen and read about others successfully building their own tiny house without any prior knowledge.
So I threw myself headfirst into tiny house planning. I bought a few books on tiny house construction. We went to Ikea to price cabinetry and furnishings. I bought grid paper and began to draw up scale plans of different layout options. I watched Youtube videos of the tiny house building process and tours of finished tiny houses. (Those last two were the main culprit for me staying up for more than 24 hours.) I considered signing up for a tiny house conference. We started to visit RV dealers just to get into spaces that would be similar to tiny houses. I searched online for the closest tiny house model we could actually get into. I threw away all of my grid paper but below are some of the sketches from my journal.
Then finally we got our chance, a Home & Garden show was coming through Anaheim, CA, about a 2 hour drive from where we were living at the time. To top it all off, the tiny house on display was a a model from Escape Tiny Homes called the Vista. You can see it here. This model is incredible. When we got there the builder himself was there and we got to talk to him about our options, still planning on going the DIY route. That’s when he changed our lives forever.
He asked us if we knew about RVIA certification. We had the same same answer you probably have: no. He told us that RVIA certification is what all RV’s get and that Escape Tiny Homes and a few other tiny house manufacturers are the only companies in the country with RVIA certified tony houses. This becomes a problem because all RV parks have the right to refuse any RV’s they want for appearance or age or type, etc. Since tiny houses are still relatively new, RV parks would be a lot less likely to allow a homemade tiny house to use their facilities. Having the RVIA certification would eliminate a huge road block for us with parking at RV parks.
As we left that day we decided to pivot to getting a professionally built tiny house. Once we found a builder, we started the process of getting a quote and starting the building. The next problem we ran into was that we needed a loan to pay for the tiny house. The builders needed a down payment of 25% to even build the trailer. The builders wouldn’t give us a VIN number until it was completed, and the lender would give us a loan without a VIN number. We realized that other than buying a RVIA certified tiny house with cash, we didn’t have any options for getting a tiny house.
So we pivoted once more to getting an RV. It would serve the same purpose. We would get the freedom of bringing our house with us, we could pocket the living stipend once it was paid off, and we would have the added benefit of having a traditional RV allowing us to stay at RV parks without problems. We settled on a class A motorhome. With a motorhome we could keep our Ford Escape and tow it behind us. I found a nice couple in Texas who had their used 2014 RV for sale and we started the process of getting financing. We went to three different banks in one day trying to get a loan. We finally settled on Wells Fargo and after 2 hours we had applied for an RV loan.
The final nail in our tiny house dreams coffin came a week or two later when we heard back from the bank. It turns out it’s really hard to get an RV loan if you don’t already have a home. We also apparently have too much outstanding credit, even though our credit scores are in the “very good” range.
So we tucked our tails between our legs and ran back home to our apartment, shelving our tiny tiny house hopes for a later date. Looking back, this was one of my obsessions that was terminated because of abrupt, outside influences instead of me just loosing interest. It’s unique in that aspect.
Anyways, who knows, maybe by this time next year I’ll be typing from the couch in my tiny house. All of this tiny house talk has really got me interested again. 😁