“I want a tiny house, but I can’t buy or build one until I know where to put it!”
Over the past decade thousands of people have explained this to me, all of them exasperated, many of them thinking the government, or “the system”, is out to prevent them from their dreams.
But what most don’t know is that the answer is almost always the opposite: you won’t find a location to place your tiny home until you begin building it.
Let me explain why.
Tiny homes on wheels exit in a grey area of most zoning code, so you yourself also must be okay existing in the grey zone. Is it unfair? Maybe. But anyone who wants to be a part of a movement to change structural inequities should be okay with some level uncertainty.
If you’d rather wait until all is perfectly approved or legal, then you’ll no longer be helping to create the new models but rather buying into the mainstream and regulated ones, and most of you wanting to build tiny are frustrated with regulations in the first place! Unfortunately, you can’t have it both ways: 100% security AND trying out an unconventional way of living. So, which will it be?
Now that we’ve established the risk involved, how do you go about finding a place for your tiny home on wheels? Expand each section below to learn more.
TIP 1: START BUILDING FIRST
Or, if you’re going to buy, at least know which home you are going to buy and be close to getting a contract in place. It takes at least six months to build a tiny home on wheels if you’re building it yourself (and usually much longer). Most reputable tiny house builders also have a wait time of several months. Therefore, you can likely start your build or purchase process without yet knowing where you are going to park it. Why am I so sure of this? Because out of the hundreds of people I have helped find parking for their tiny homes on wheels, it is a handful who had a place secured to park it before they began building or shopping for a builder. Why must you start before you have a place lined up? Rather than thinking only about your security, think about the person who is going to offer you their land for your home. You come to them saying you need a place to park your tiny home and you are willing to offer them X amount of money. So, they ask you, “Can I see a photo of this home?” (after all, they will be looking at it out their window every day). And you answer “Well, I haven’t started building it yet, but don’t worry I’ll be ready in 3 months!” And they ask you “Oh, how many tiny homes have you built in the past?” Unless you’re a professional builder who has turned out multiple tiny homes in three months, why should this person put any trust or faith in you to fulfill your end of the bargain? It’s MUCH easier to get someone to enter a rental contract with you when you already have photos of your home’s progress or a contract to buy a home.
TIP 2: BE WILLING TO EDUCATE
Many people tell me they put an ad on Craigslist looking for parking, but you have to put yourself in the shoes of the general public. Up until the last few years, tiny homes on wheels were not something most people knew much about. Not many conventional homeowners go on Craigslist to look for someone who might want to live in their backyard. If you want to be creating the new housing models, you must be willing to educate people on the benefit to them of allowing a tiny home on their property. Not only are they not aware of what is required, they also might be putting themselves in jeopardy of getting a zoning violation. It’s your job to educate them on the zoning and assure them that you take full responsibility to move your house if there is a zoning violation.
TIP 3: BE PROACTIVE & TALK
Talk about your project before you even begin. Because of the grey area that tiny homes on wheels fall under, many people are reluctant to talk publicly about their project, but I encourage you to do so. There are equally as many people obsessed with tiny homes as you are, but who can’t have or live in one for any number of reasons. They are your target audience. I know many people who found places to park their tiny homes simply because they were talking about it at a party or event and someone who loved tiny homes offered them a place to park their home.
TIP 4: EMPLOY OLD SCHOOL TECHNIQUES
As a student activist in the 90s, I spent many evenings wheat-pasting the city’s light posts with event announcements. There is a reason this is still a strategy for getting out the word about events…it works! Now, you don’t need to get out the glue to make wheat paste (I don’t want to see your flyer up five years from now); however, do print out physical postcards or flyers and leave them at businesses in the neighborhoods you want to live or pin them up to light posts. Please note that leaving anything in someone’s mailbox is a federal offense, so don’t be dropping them in any mailboxes!
TIP 5: USE ONLINE RESOURCES
Get on the neighborhood fora or listserves: Nextdoor, Facebook neighborhood groups, google groups and any other neighborhood information exchange are great places to post about your search for a parking spot.
But what if you’re open to moving anywhere? There are numerous groups online and websites where you can learn about parking spots around the country. Some links are here:
TIP: 6: GET INVOLVED!
Get involved in local groups and meetups around tiny homes, affordable housing, vanlife or mobile living. Through building trust in a community, you will be surprised at the number of opportunities that come your way.
MORE TIPS & ASSISTANCE
Over the past decade I've helped thousands of people around the country understand zoning and find places for their tiny homes through workshops and consultations. If you'd like personalized assistance, please contact me.
I look forward to helping you find a home for your moveable tiny house!