April 18, 2019 17 Comments
One of the most common questions that we regularly get from the community is how do I find land for my tiny house?
Sure, the perfectly-staged Instagram photos have me sold, but where on earth can I park a tiny home? Can I park my tiny house in my backyard or do I have to buy land?
While not an easy question to answer due to zoning regulations and building codes varying from city to city and from one county to the next, hopefully the suggestions below offer some insight that you may not have thought of yet!
One thing we noticed back in 2014 when we started our tiny house journey and started searching for land is that most people took a passive approach to finding a parking spot. They limited themselves to just posting Facebook or Craigslist ads and that was it.
These methods can definitely yield results, but we decided to take a more active approach and started hitting the pavement to find land now for our tiny house. When we started this approach, we simply planned on going door-to-door in a particular neighborhood, but after some time, we decided to just focus on properties we could physically park on.
In our area we have a lot of rural land and hilly terrain with houses tucked away from the main road. This will take a good amount of planning and execution, but for us personally, this has worked out better than we could have imagined.
We also put ourselves in our potential landlord’s shoes and thought about what “WE” can bring to the table instead of just what we wanted in the relationship. We then created a high-quality postcard with a picture of us and our house and what we could offer.
In the end we had 5 properties to choose from—one of those we choose to build on and the other we choose to move our tiny house to after construction and live on. We are so happy and fortunate to have found amazing and genuine people to rent from and now we have been in our current spot for over a 4 and 1/2 years and we’re loving every minute of it!
We regularly get leads for parking spots weekly and we happily pass those along now to our Tiny House Trailer customers in need of land for their DIY tiny house builds. We also covered some other methods for finding land on our website here: Find Land for your Tiny House NOW!
Finding land was actually quite a bit tricky for us in Bend, Oregon. Before moving to Bend, we had heard how tiny home friendly Oregon was as a whole. We figured we would just be able to find someone with a decent amount of property and pay a small amount in rent to park on their land. It turns out that is highly frowned upon and illegal in Bend, so we settled with our only legal option, to park at a really nicely forested RV Park.
This would have to be one of the hardest questions to answer because there are so many laws and council regulations about where you can park that differ in different countries and states.
Where I am currently residing in Western Australia, my house is registered as a caravan, which means I need to adhere to the regulations in place for caravans. Without local council approval, I can only reside on a property for a maximum of 60 days over a twelve-month period. Then I need to move on. Make sure you understand the laws and regulations in place in the areas that you wish to live in to ensure you are not doing anything illegal.
Finding land suitable to park on can be tricky. The best advice I was given was to use Airbnb (or similar websites) to find property owners who are already opening their homes and properties to visitors for a rental fee. Look for properties that have some suitable land and write a personal email to the home/land owners introducing yourself and your home. Offer an amount of ‘rent’ you would be willing to pay and explain that you are open to discuss this further. Finally, give them an indication of the amount of time you would hope to stay for.
This is one of the questions I receive the most, so I did a full blog post on our personal land-hunting experience here.
My succinct advice would be to research zoning in your area and then use craigslist or other rental websites to find properties that are already open to renting. We ended up finding our first spot because we wrote an ad in the craigslist landlord section. The landowner invited us out to her property, and it wasn’t going to work out, but she apparently thought we were normal/cool enough to tell her friends about us, and one of them ended up hosting us for a year. Since then, we’ve ended up on a farm, and our landowners know other farm owners who are open to hosting people, so approaching farms can be a good option too!
If you want to purchase land, be prepared to invest a significant amount of money into engineering plans in order to go before a zoning board. Most zoning boards require these plans to even be considered, and the answer could still be no (hence the reason why we didn’t go this route).
We’ve been fortunate enough to have put our tiny house behind a family home, in a private yard. We love the proximity to family (Andy’s mom/Isla’s nana), and the sense of community and extended/generational family living this has provided our young daughter Isla.
Of course, this is not an option everyone has (though we do know plenty of others using this option). Our fallback plan in case of a neighborly complaint, errant building inspector, etc. is to temporarily use an RV park in an emergency. Our home is RVIA certified and registered/insured as an RV Travel Trailer, so this is an option we have.
The best advice we’ve heard from fellow tiny dwellers, is to reach out to Airbnb hosts. By being Airbnb hosts, they’re stating that they are comfortable renting space in their home (or entire home) to people they do not know in exchange for income. Focus on those renting entire homes and that appear in photos to have a bit of land, and that are just outside of town.
This has worked for a few friends of ours, and is the route we’d likely pursue if we had to find another long-term solution. Be prepared to share photos of your home, what you do, what you’re willing to pay/provide in return, and what you need (septic/grey water, garden hose, 50 amp shore power, etc). Make it easy to say yes!
There are so many ways to find land to rent, as long as you’re willing to do some legwork! I can’t speak with authority on finding land to buy, because I haven’t been through that process, and likely won’t buy land for at least a few years.
You can always look for campgrounds and RV parks that are tiny house friendly, but personally, I wanted to park my house somewhere I could get a bit more space and alone time. The best advice I can give anyone looking for a place to park: Talk. To. Everyone.
Send out an email to your co-workers who own land. Search for local tiny house groups (MeetUp.com is a great resource!) and go to a meeting. Check IC.org to see if there is a community in your area that may be willing to work with you. Put up an ad on Craigslist. Check Airbnb listings in the area and message owners who have land.
I’ve even heard about people sending postcards to a number of houses in an area they particularly liked with a kind message, what they were looking for, and their contact info. Talk to your family, your neighbors, your friends, your book club buddies - everyone! You really never know where you might find that perfect, serendipitous connection, so cast your net as wide as you can!
When you are sending an email, putting up a Craigslist ad, or chatting with a potential landlord, there are a few things you want to keep in mind. First, be as clear and detailed as possible! Know what kind of hookups you need, how much rent you are willing to pay, and at least a rough timeline.
Second, be as generous as possible! You are trying to cultivate a good neighborly relationship, and that starts from the very beginning. Someone might be more willing to help you out if they knew you could lend a hand in the garden every so often, or look after their pets for a few days a month.
Third, do your research on zoning in your area. As the tiny home owner, it’s your responsibility to know what the laws are in your city or county. If your area is not particularly tiny house friendly, discretion is key. Your best bet for you and your potential landlord would be a spot that is not within sight of any neighbors or major roadways. If you aren’t bothering any neighbors, it’s unlikely they’ll bother you.
Lastly, do follow up, but don’t be overbearing. Some people need a gentle reminder that you are waiting on an answer, but some people will assume that their lack of response to you is answer enough. If you have a solid lead, but they ask for time to think about it or discuss it with a spouse, give them a week or two, then do a quick check in, giving them an out if they need it. If they don’t give you a definitive answer after the second or third check-in, move along so you can focus your energy on other leads.
Best of luck in finding your own piece of land, tiny house-rs!
When we first started our tiny journey, we were not in the market to purchase land. We were still just getting our bearings in owning a home! We knew we wanted to be somewhere temporary and then eventually transition to owning our own land.
It was also important for us to have easy access to nature since we want to spend more of our time outdoors. We started calling RV parks and campgrounds in areas where we wanted to live, and asking if they accepted tiny homes. Many of these parks didn’t know what tiny houses were, and Tim did a great job of educating them on what they were and how they could present a new stream of income for the park.
He got several of them to change their “no” to a “yes”. Just goes to show how open people are to tiny homes when they have a clear idea of what they are. A year in, we purchased land. We found it on Zillow! It’s an inland peninsula, and we’re calling it Shellmate Island.
Our first step was checking zoning codes. We got VERY friendly with the zoning department people. They’re pretty nice people who want to help, so I highly recommend just calling them up and having a conversation about your intentions.
We asked the building department about the minimum square footage in our county. We explored utilities and what the process would be like to run water, electricity, and septic out to the land. Once we were cleared in these areas, we submitted our blueprints for our future tiny house on a foundation.
We are now in the process of developing this land. The water and electric meters are out on the property, and building reviews are just about completed. It’s been a learning experience. Our suggestion is to just ask questions to the people in these departments and instead of accepting “no” for an answer, find a way to educate them and move them towards a “yes”. Ask them how you can make this possible.
Tiny houses are a much more sustainable future and we found that our county had a hard time arguing against us. The same might be true for you, but you have to ask the right questions.
Yea, this is a tricky question because it’s really a question about "legal land", not just land. We certainly didn't realize that almost all tiny houses weren't technically legal before starting our own project, and it’s another topic that we’ve written about on our blog.
The reality is that you have to ask yourself how comfortable you are living in a legal grey area. If you're okay with the thought that you might have to move your home because the land isn't zoned for tiny houses, then finding land isn't too tough. For us, we basically just cold messaged people on Airbnb that seemed like they had extra space. We figured they had already monetized their property and would be interested in making some extra cash.
If legal land is a must (which I completely understand), then I'd recommend many of the municipalities that have updated their zoning for tiny homes (Fresno, San Luis Obispo, etc.) or seeking out a tiny house village. I have no idea how hard it is to secure land in these places, but outside of these spaces you can pretty much assume that if it isn't obviously legal, it isn't.
We looked to our backyard and decided to build right there. We loved our location, we were close to family and had wonderful friendships, we really didn’t want to leave but we knew our lifestyle had to change. Our home, a few hundred meters from a beautiful National Park, a short walk to the river and quick drive to the beach, but we just weren’t taking advantage of what was on our “doorstep”. We lived in a rat race, working long hours, rushing from here to there, kids in long day care—our life was at an uncomfortable pace, we struggled to find the right balance.
We made the decision to build our tiny home exactly where we were. The lifestyle of tiny living really appealed to us, less time cleaning/maintaining a home and more time to do things that make you happy. And really it has delivered, we’re now able to spend so much more quality time together as a family.
Whilst we increased our mortgage building our home, we created a second income as we now rent out our house at the front of the block, this rental income we receive helps to pay down our mortgage over a timeframe we were more comfortable with.
When we knew we wanted to downsize to a tiny house, we started looking for land in upstate New York (the Catskills region) where we could build the house, but as many people know, there are a lot of legal questions about tiny houses—as in, they’re not always legal and while some towns and cities can issue variances, we were apprehensive about going this route.
In the end, we were really fortunate to be able to build our home and keep it on Todd’s mother’s property; she was also gracious enough to let us live with her while we built our home. She lives alone in her house, and we have found that this arrangement is nice for both us and her, because we can share meals, and chores like shoveling snow, taking care of the yard and land, etc. It’s nice that we have our own space and our privacy but are only a short walk away from her as well.
We can’t emphasize enough how fortunate we are and know our living situation is not going to be an option for everyone. Our best advice is research thoroughly and carefully the towns/cities where you’re looking to build before purchasing land!
We are actually in the process of relocating our house as we speak! So stay tuned!
To find the place we are currently living on, we talked to everyone. Friends, of friends, of friends, the grocery bagger, you name it. We eventually found someone who had RV hookups already on the property, and was looking for tenants to act as caretakers, as the land owner did not live in the area. While we love where we are, the land was recently bought by someone else, and we felt it was time to start looking elsewhere.
We plan to talk through the process of relocation, and how we will start looking, in real time on our page. So check us out if this is something you are interested in learning more about.
As a nomadic tiny house RV, we have more parking flexibility than most full-timers. We have learned first-hand that zoning changes are slow, from many advocates trying to push for more legal parking options in their communities. But it is happening.
During our tiny house travels, we stayed in a wide array of locales, from rural to urban, and in backyards, campgrounds or at RV-friendly businesses for overnight stays. We often stay in tiny home communities or form our own temporary “micro-hood” with other tiny dwellers.
We usually find parking through networking. Though found our current spot on Facebook Marketplace via a listing for a room for rent. The pictures showed a large backyard; looked like ample space for our 20’ tiny house on wheels. So, we figured that if someone was renting a room, he or she was likely looking for supplemental income. Then we contacted the landlord to see if he would be open to hosting a tiny house. Good news! He was, and we were able to negotiate an affordable rate.
We recommend creating a flyer about you, your house, your parking needs, and what you are willing to offer. For reduced lot rent, you can offer your labor services, like shoveling snow, pet care, and basic home security. Though, sometimes it’s easier to just pay rent. Finally, check out our resource directory for some of our favorite tiny house parking sites!
September 13, 2019 35 Comments
September 13, 2019 2 Comments
My name is Alan—founder at Dream Big Live Tiny Co! A few years ago, I quit my consulting job to pursue a life full of adventure. After traveling around the world for a year, I sold most of my stuff and moved into an 160-sqft tiny house. Now I spend most of my time showcasing incredible people living with less in pursuit of more freedom, as well as incredible tiny houses around the world!
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