Before I begin I’d like to thank EVERYONE who has reached out to me via Facebook, on my blog, and by phone since my interview aired on WTAE Pittsburgh. Your support and questions are amazing! Having a community like this helps me to move forward even when things seem most impossible.
One of the most difficult tasks we face as Tiny Housers is finding a place to land (literally). Anyone who has tried to find a legal resting place for their Tiny Home knows this to be true. As I mentioned in my interview, each borough in my area has different rules about housing. These rules dictate everything from whether mobile homes are allowed, minimum dwelling square footage, and even how far back on the lot a house must be. It is an arduous task trying to navigate each borough’s individual website, making call after call to find little to no answers.
It is also another set of questions entirely to determine what kind of land you want… Do you want an acre? More? Less? Where will you put a lawn mower? Do you want a lot of trees or something that’s more bare? Do you want a completely flat plot or something high up on a hill? Do you need to be close to highways? Which highways? What’s traffic like on your morning commute? Do you need to be close to a laundromat? Grocery store? Taco Bell? What utilities are already on the land? Where are they? Will you have to pay to put in a well? A septic tank? Gas lines? Where will the electric meter go? Is there access to public sewer? Do you prefer to buy land with an existing house so you can live in it while you build your Tiny House? Do you prefer to buy land with nothing on it so you can map out your own destiny?
Are you exhausted? I am.
My answers will vary from everyone else’s, but for me there are a few things that matter. I need to be within a 30-minute drive from work. I know myself – I am always late – and can’t go any farther out than that. For this reason, proximity to a highway or direct route is imperative. I don’t need to be close to a laundromat or grocery store necessarily; I plan to install a combination washer/dryer in my THOW and I work near several grocery stores. I do prefer to be near a Taco Bell. (Again: your priorities are not my priorities.) I am flexible on the size plot I want, though I’d like to keep it under 2 acres. I will get a shed for outdoor equipment like a lawn mower as well as my camping equipment.
For cost reasons I also prefer to find a piece of land with utilities already on it. This has proven to be onerous. Most vacant plots of land have access to utilities at the street, but I don’t want to be right on the curb. I’d prefer to be back quite a bit. This means that if I buy land like this I will have to pay thousands of dollars to give myself access to water, sewer, gas, and electricity. This goes up even more if I have to dig a well or put in a septic system. (Sound fun to you? Me too.)
With costs racking up in my head, I decided to change my approach and look for land with a mobile or modular home already on it. This would hopefully give me the land I desired without having to pay to install all of the utilities. Once I started finding plots that fit my specifications, I started researching the boroughs online to see if they had square footage or mobile home ordinances. From there, I called the real estate contacts to see if I could view the properties.
I began this researching this new process a couple of weeks ago and so far I’ve found one property that really fits my bill. It is a modular home on a third of an acre and the utilities are available. It has a gravel driveway that will need some TLC, but at least it exists. It has an existing shed in salvageable condition and the property backs onto 100 acres of forest. It is at the top of a hill overlooking the valley; I can see the Ohio River and a forest sprawling out in front of me. I can only imagine how beautiful it will be in the spring and fall. The modular home isn’t on a foundation; instead it sits on cinder blocks. This will make it easier to demolish.
And demolish it I must, for it is in absolutely horrendous condition. There are holes in every single wall. Every piece of wire and every electrical outlet has been torn out. The roof has been leaking for years. The carpets are trashed. Some cat- or raccoon-sized animal has made the bathroom its bathroom. Windows are broken. Cabinets have been ripped out. Trash is everywhere.
But it may very well be perfect. I can reuse the wood from the deck. I can reuse some of the wood siding to cover my THOW or re-cover the shed. Though the shed is filled with trash, it will be a sufficient home for my outdoor storage once clean. I may even be able to save some of the kitchen cabinets. I met both of the neighbors and they seem thrilled that someone may want to tear the property down and start new. They are fine with my building a Tiny House on Wheels and putting it there. Best of all, the borough allows houses of any size and mobile homes.
Did I mention it’s 5 minutes from Taco Bell?
I haven’t bought it yet – there are still a few things to check on. But this Tiny Dreamer may have found her (Never)Land!