Marcia’s Caboose on HGTV

Admirers of Marcia’s Soo Line Caboose, which was featured in 2011 on the Tiny House Blog, will be able to get more of their caboose fix at the end of the month. Marcia’s tiny house, built in 1909, will be featured on HGTV’s show “You Live in What?” on Sunday, March 31, 2013 at 9 p.m. EDT. Each episode features several unusual homes and HGTV contacted me and the Tiny House Blog to film and feature Marcia’s unusual abode.


“It was an awesome experience,” Marcia said about the two days of filming of her home. She mentioned that the filming was a bit of a challenge since her caboose is only eight feet wide. The 337 square foot caboose sits on a 30 foot train track on Marcia’s 5 acre parcel in Northeast Pennsylvania and cost her $6,000 when she purchased it in 1976.

“Thank you for posting my caboose on the Tiny House Blog,” she said. “I received so many positive responses from your site which, in turn, set things in motion for HGTV. Thank you and keep up the good work. I love the the tiny house movement that seems to be gaining monumental support.”


By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]

Mortgage Free Tiny Home Story

Kirsten from recently updated a video that I wanted everyone to see. The video is about Johnny Sanphillippo who lives in Hawaii and how on a small salary and over time he built himself a very comfortable small home to live in.

I like the way Johnny went about doing this. First buying the land and paying cash for it and than gradually over the next 10 years building a wonderful little home for himself.

I think that we can learn a lot through his story and it follows along with many of our ideals as tiny house enthusiast. Please tell me your thoughts in the comment section below.

You can also view my previous post on Johnny here.

Building a Tiny Off-Grid Cabin in New Mexico

By Kevin Stevens

A few years ago we purchased some vacant land in northern New Mexico. We chose that area based on a number of factors. Some of those included wide-open space, abundant sunshine, affordability and artistic history (Georgia O’Keeffe lived down the road a bit). Our long term goal is to retire there and pursue a simple artistic life. One of the main reasons we chose that piece of property is its remoteness to other neighbors and the lack of congestion that comes from urban living. Urban living has a lot of advantages like electricity, water, and corner coffee shops. We plan to work around some of these conveniences using “off-grid” practices. I have enjoyed camping since I was toddler. The slower pace of life in an environment more closely linked with nature has always been a draw. Our cabin provides all of this with far more elbow room than a tent. Add in windows, a wood stove and a comfy bed and what could be better?

Site Location and Solar Power

Our parcel of land is a bit under 42 acres and nearly all the land around us is uninhabited grazing land. In fact, the people we bought our land from still graze horses and cattle on their square mile that surrounds us. I have spent enjoyable nights there listening to the baying of cattle and cry of a lonely coyote. Our decision to go “off-grid” was simple: the nearest utility pole to our cabin is nearly a mile away. We could have paid thousands of dollars to run power poles and lines to “connect” but then those “lines” would disturb our pristine views and require a monthly payment. For a fraction of that cost, we simply installed a basic PV (Photovoltaic) system. Our cabin is small at a bit under 200 sq. feet and has modest energy needs. Continue reading

Locating Your Micro Home

Guest Post by Walt Barrett

We need to tackle this land, and location problem head on because next to raising the money for the building materials it seems to be the most difficult problem based upon the feedback that I am getting. There are two separate paths to choose from here, and then some sub paths. Are you working, or are you retired? If you are working and fully intend to stay in your current area you have a different path to follow as opposed to a retired person. You have to locate within a reasonable distance from your work. You also have to meet the codes. The land that you like has to be affordable. The property taxes have to be reasonable, and you have to meet the minimum housing standard size for a residence. I believe that it is imperative in the long run to follow the rules of the town, or county right to the letter, believe me, do not try to get cute with the building officials because it is going to come back and bite you really hard in the long run. The building officials can make you move, or even tear down a building for flagrant violations to the building codes.

Let’s take the retired people first. Most retired people have the option to relocate unless they are penniless. Let’s assume you are not penniless but have limited funds. You could move to one of the states, or to a place like Costa Rica that does not place so many restrictions on home size. Maine for instance, has many unorganized areas the are only interested in having a proper septic system, and will even accept composting toilets as long as the waste is properly disposed of. Whether you take this route, or not depends upon things like leaving the rest of the family behind, and the lack of the family support system etc. I’m sure you follow my drift. Admittedly though, most retired folks have the easiest path when it comes to retiring in a micro home. One more thing for the old timers like me. You can always go on, and purchase a medium size older camping trailer for as low as $1000.00 and refurbish it. I see them all the time when filming in the Everglades. They move from camp ground to camp ground. I’m thinking about it seriously myself.

Next we have the working people that are stuck in one place for a given number of years due to employment considerations. This can be a problem because finding a place where you can get a permit to build could be over one hundred miles away. The commute can be dangerous, and expensive.

Sometimes, however, you can get lucky by doing relentless searches for property. For example, In 1981 our son Dave found a job first in New Hampshire, and started off by renting a small apartment there. Eventually after a great deal of searching he found a small cabin on a lake within a couple of miles from his job. It was dirt cheap. He can easily walk to work, and is very happy there. The savings allow him to have a like new car and a like new Harley. None of us every buy brand new vehicles. It’s a huge waste of money. If you keep looking hard enough you can find a reasonable place because things are always changing. People retire, or they die, or are forced to move away. I have seen this a great deal in Florida. There are lots of old retired people, and unfortunately, many of them die, or are forced to move in with their children, or a retirement home every day. There are many small homes for sale, and every day the Good Will stores have loads of practically new furniture and household goods coming in. A lot of the furniture is in practically new condition. Many smart people with money patronize these stores, believe me! So that’s a good way to furnish your micro home. There are no set rules for changing your life, or life style. It’s whatever works for you.

I have found many great pieces of land by using You can lock in a description of what you are looking to purchase in a given area, and they will email you weekly with properties for sale that will fit the description right down to the price desired. So basically, as I see it. The biggest obstacle to owning a smaller home, preferably in the country, is for many of us, finding decent employment. By the way, my advice to anyone that lives in the north east that is not super rich is to get the hell out while you still can. There is no future here, especially in Rhode Island.

There is another route to explore no matter where you live. The micro apartment route can actually put extra money in your pocket. Although it involves working closely with the building and zoning officials to get started, It is a good route to follow if you do not mind living in an urban area. I have been considering it myself as an investment. I’m speaking of the micro apartment concept. Our area is loaded with abandoned homes and many of them are already multi-family which means no rezoning is required. If you are considering this method you first must have a discussion with the building and zoning people to be sure not to buy a home that is not eligible for micro apartments. Here’s a thought. You may already own a home that is now too large for you now so why not investigate converting it to micro apartments. The one thing I strongly advise is you look into the section 8 housing requirements first because if your apartments are eligible for section 8 the government will guarantee that your rent is paid and also that any damages caused by the tenant are covered too.

Well I don’t know what else I can say right now on the subject, but I’m sure someone will read this and offer some additional ideas. I certainly hope so.

Thanks for reading

Tiny Parcels for Tiny Houses

One of my readers Drue by name had an interesting suggested for another alternative for a place to put a tiny house. It is not without it’s own problems and you must be careful but I think his suggestions are worth looking into. I’ll turn it over to Drue now and please comment below as to your thoughts and suggestions on this matter.

As I’ve read this over the past couple of years, a theme keeps arising of problems finding places where the codes allow tiny houses.  I couldn’t find any past posts of tiny parcels (e.g. camping lots, recreational lots, mobile lots, etc.) where one might build a tiny house.

I’ve purchased cheap land in Utah, Colorado, Missouri, and Oklahoma.  I live in Texas and am looking here as well.  I can’t afford a huge ranch and never will.  I’m really not doing this for me, but more as an investment for the kids in the future.

The biggest acreage is in Colorado at 5 acres and the smallest is about 25′ x 140′.  All are rural, and the least expensive parcel was $215 with the most expensive being $2500.  Two of them are in lake areas.  One of those has a Property Owner’s Association (POA), which is both good and bad.  Taxes range from $6 a year to $40.

Thus far I’ve put nothing on them, but each has varied requirements as to what is allowed by codes.  I think we’ll get a cabin on one of them, and we have a small trailer we can use on any.  All are marginal in terms of self-sustainability due to size and climate considerations.

I’ve made sure that all will allow permanent and semi-permanent use of RV’s and cabins.

What I look for are recreational/camping lots with no liens and taxes paid up.  A Warranty Deed is the minimum requirement, and it has to be able to qualify for title insurance.  A Quit Claim Deed is nearly worthless.  The land also must have guaranteed access along a road or easement.

I hate to even tell you this, because most of what these folks sell is junk parcels. But some are good, cheap land as well.  Just buyer beware.


There are probably about a dozen others just like it.

Some of them do a contract for deed and charge high interest rates for low or no money down deals.  Usually the consumer isn’t getting a great deal, and they don’t even get any kind of deed/equity until it is all paid off.  So miss a payment after forking over $20K or so?  You lose everything.

Everybody says bail from the stock market and buy gold because cash won’t be worth much.

But the ones selling the gold are taking….hmmm…cash that they say will eventually be worthless?  They might be right, but at the end of the day, you can’t eat gold, and you can’t easily chunk off a piece to spend…usually have to convert it back to those worthless dollars.

But land?  Now that we’re at the bottom of the market and will likely not move further downward, maybe a good investment.  But I don’t buy land simply because of the investment any more than I buy my car just as an investment.  The return isn’t so good on that, except that it is a tool that provides the ability to get me where I need to go cheaply and conserve my resources.

Thus I drive a 35mpg used Kia, that I bought for $3000 cash, not a ’10 Corvette convertible that I’ll pay on forever (even if it will be worth a fortune someday, which I doubt because I don’t see fossil fuel lasting forever).

I buy land to live on and invest in so that I’ll always have a place to go (or for my family to go) and produce basic subsistence needs.

Those are the kinds of investments I want to make.

These cheap plots may never be worth a ton of money (and I don’t care), but in the harshest of times are good insurance, and in the best of times teach us how to live more inexpensively and less wasteful.

All told, the man who has the most meager – but debt free – living is the one who is most rich and free.

Below is a parcel Drue found on craigslist in Texas and gives you an idea of what can be found. Is this an alternative place to park your tiny houses? Please comment below and let me know what you think.