Author Topic: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric  (Read 3098 times)

fpjeepy

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Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« on: February 23, 2024, 02:29:56 PM »
Please excuse the word vomit. Skip to the bottom for questions.

I have been living on a boat for 6 years. I am tired of it, but buying a home seems so expensive and it just seems to be getting worse and worse. I don't really want to rent, because I hate moving, and it seems like a waste of money most of the time. That being said, I'm not 100% certain that I am going to be where I am for a long time. I would love to not live in NJ, but it's where my job is and I'm in a very niche business and I don't have a lot of other options. Plus they pay me well and the job isn't difficult and lots of extra perks.

So, I'm thinking I want to buy a piece of property and build a tiny house (399 sqft for Appendix Q regs). That being said I am ignorant of a lot of things surrounding that. But, I want to be within a 20 min drive of my work. I'd rather be in a rural area than a suburb. And I want to have a full basement, much means the ground needs to be at least 10 feet or so able the water table. Also the unfinished basement doesn't count towards square footage for taxes, and it can be finished down the road if needed. Using Google maps, floodmap.net, xhunt, and a few other sites. I have narrowed my search down to two small locations. (rural South Jersey is mostly swamps.) Both are owned by cranberry farms.

So, how do I convince a cranberry farm that they should sell me 1/8 - 1 acre of their land? Chances that they will are 1/1,000,000? So I need all the help I can get. Luckily cranberry farms need to be flooded for harvest, so the parts of their property that are up on a hill are less valuable to them.

Not any point moving forward before I figure out the land issue... But I guess the next question would be how do I find a contractor that would want to help me build? Or is there such a thing as a consultant in this arena? New Jersey follows IRC and Appendix Q for tiny houses, but after that, I don't know to go manufactured home vs modular vs stick build, as they all have their own regs. I would love to do a kit build and do a lot of the work myself. I have framed houses before and done some drywall and plumbing. I know enough to know I'm not a contractor and should hire certain people to do certain jobs for me. But I'm looking for advice as to what is the low-hanging fruit. What can I save money doing myself, and what isn't worth the effort?

Sorry and Thanks



reeshau

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2024, 03:27:26 PM »
It seems a simple Google search covers quite a few of the options you mention:

https://www.google.com/search?q=tiny+house+builder+in+nj&oq=tiny+house+builder+in+nj

Otherwise, do you know, or know of, any current tiny house owners in the area?  If you don't, are there any available through AirBnB or VRBO?  Trying one out not only gives you some dirext experience with examples, but you can chat up the owner and ask questions about how they did it.

fpjeepy

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2024, 03:31:23 PM »
It seems a simple Google search covers quite a few of the options you mention:

https://www.google.com/search?q=tiny+house+builder+in+nj&oq=tiny+house+builder+in+nj

Otherwise, do you know, or know of, any current tiny house owners in the area?  If you don't, are there any available through AirBnB or VRBO?  Trying one out not only gives you some dirext experience with examples, but you can chat up the owner and ask questions about how they did it.

The first few on that list produce park models. Those are regulated as an RV. They are mostly built to RIVA standards and have to be placed in a campground or trailer, but that depends on the municipality that it is in. I'm talking about building on a foundation which is traditional building code.

JupiterGreen

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2024, 04:36:52 PM »
I don't know where you are looking, but there are some inexpensive (under 200k, some even under 100k) already built houses in the southern part of New Jersey. You must already know that, but you said you don't want a mobile house and so I am wondering why you want a permanent tiny house instead just a small house house. You don't want to stay in New Jersey permanently, but if you are going to buy land and build a house on it, what will happen to the tiny home after you leave? It seems to me the issues with buying a small inexpensive house versus building a permanent tiny home are going to give you the same issue in the end: what to do with it. I also get there is a price difference between a tiny home and a home already built, but depending on where you are looking, how much of a price difference are we really talking about after buying land, lumber, digging a basement, and paying a contractor to build it? Not to mention that if you are in New Jersey a house may offer you more physical protection from hurricanes. I also think a house is going to be easier to re-sell than a tiny home. And then there is always renting. I am not trying to poke holes in your plan just wondering what else is at play for you that this is what you want to do.

GilesMM

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2024, 09:16:23 PM »
A lot of builders started offering tiny houses the last few years. Some have even gone full cycle and given up offering them. Start calling around.

fpjeepy

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2024, 09:49:32 AM »
I don't know where you are looking, but there are some inexpensive (under 200k, some even under 100k) already built houses in the southern part of New Jersey. You must already know that, but you said you don't want a mobile house and so I am wondering why you want a permanent tiny house instead just a small house house. You don't want to stay in New Jersey permanently, but if you are going to buy land and build a house on it, what will happen to the tiny home after you leave? It seems to me the issues with buying a small inexpensive house versus building a permanent tiny home are going to give you the same issue in the end: what to do with it. I also get there is a price difference between a tiny home and a home already built, but depending on where you are looking, how much of a price difference are we really talking about after buying land, lumber, digging a basement, and paying a contractor to build it? Not to mention that if you are in New Jersey a house may offer you more physical protection from hurricanes. I also think a house is going to be easier to re-sell than a tiny home. And then there is always renting. I am not trying to poke holes in your plan just wondering what else is at play for you that this is what you want to do.

Well you're poked holes point to my reason for calling myself a deranged eccentric. You are right that there are more practical and easier solutions.

I guess the only thing I would disagree with you on it the difference between a tiny house and a small house. Assuming they are both on a foundation there really is no difference. A typical home in the US today is 2000sqft. In 1960 it was around 1200. Typical family size was 3.33 and 2.5 today. There are a few reasons I want to limit to 399sqft. Most of it is code. If you stay below 400 you can have a loft. With the regular housing code, in order to meet requirements for a loft, it's nearly a second story on the house. You can also have a smaller staircase to the loft and lower ceilings below the loft. And as I stated earlier basements don't really count, so 399sqft + 200sqft loft and 399sqft basement, might be comparable to a 1000sqft home, which is more space per person than the median home in 1960. Smaller homes are cheaper to build, maintain, heat/cool, and pay taxes on.

As far as resale value goes, it will be less than a larger home, but it will still sell like any other piece of real estate. Not like an RV which would have to be sold separately from the land and potentially be a liability. 

And as far as used verses new I could argue either side of that argument. Buying an older home that has depreciated some of the high cost of the initial build is nice, but that will come with more maintenance. But the cost of building a home today is much more because of higher material and labor costs. If there was a 399 sqft house with a basement and a loft on Stormy Hill in Chatsworth, NJ at a price that I could afford. I'd buy it tomorrow. But there is not.

https://goo.gl/maps/ZsWHoRiNkxmrU6pL6




JupiterGreen

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2024, 10:25:51 AM »
I don't know where you are looking, but there are some inexpensive (under 200k, some even under 100k) already built houses in the southern part of New Jersey. You must already know that, but you said you don't want a mobile house and so I am wondering why you want a permanent tiny house instead just a small house house. You don't want to stay in New Jersey permanently, but if you are going to buy land and build a house on it, what will happen to the tiny home after you leave? It seems to me the issues with buying a small inexpensive house versus building a permanent tiny home are going to give you the same issue in the end: what to do with it. I also get there is a price difference between a tiny home and a home already built, but depending on where you are looking, how much of a price difference are we really talking about after buying land, lumber, digging a basement, and paying a contractor to build it? Not to mention that if you are in New Jersey a house may offer you more physical protection from hurricanes. I also think a house is going to be easier to re-sell than a tiny home. And then there is always renting. I am not trying to poke holes in your plan just wondering what else is at play for you that this is what you want to do.

Well you're poked holes point to my reason for calling myself a deranged eccentric. You are right that there are more practical and easier solutions.

I guess the only thing I would disagree with you on it the difference between a tiny house and a small house. Assuming they are both on a foundation there really is no difference. A typical home in the US today is 2000sqft. In 1960 it was around 1200. Typical family size was 3.33 and 2.5 today. There are a few reasons I want to limit to 399sqft. Most of it is code. If you stay below 400 you can have a loft. With the regular housing code, in order to meet requirements for a loft, it's nearly a second story on the house. You can also have a smaller staircase to the loft and lower ceilings below the loft. And as I stated earlier basements don't really count, so 399sqft + 200sqft loft and 399sqft basement, might be comparable to a 1000sqft home, which is more space per person than the median home in 1960. Smaller homes are cheaper to build, maintain, heat/cool, and pay taxes on.

As far as resale value goes, it will be less than a larger home, but it will still sell like any other piece of real estate. Not like an RV which would have to be sold separately from the land and potentially be a liability. 

And as far as used verses new I could argue either side of that argument. Buying an older home that has depreciated some of the high cost of the initial build is nice, but that will come with more maintenance. But the cost of building a home today is much more because of higher material and labor costs. If there was a 399 sqft house with a basement and a loft on Stormy Hill in Chatsworth, NJ at a price that I could afford. I'd buy it tomorrow. But there is not.

https://goo.gl/maps/ZsWHoRiNkxmrU6pL6

This is all super interesting and now that you explained it it does make sense. I guess this is going to be state specific, but I'm keeping the info in my back pocket in case I have an opportunity to build a tiny house. I was looking at the southern point of NJ not Chatsworth. That's a nice location, just about an hour from Philadelphia just under two to NYC but still rural. Very nice. Hopefully the permitting goes okay and you can buy land from a cranberry bog owner. I would just look up the targeted locations at the county assessor website and send all the owners letters asking about buying some of the land. Get estimates from a few builders about the project. If you can't find anyone with NJ experience here you could try Bigger Pockets forum to see if you can find a NJ builder maybe even one experienced with tiny home building or a NJ based investor/ realtor who might be able to help. Keep us updated, I'd love to see the progress of this building project.

fpjeepy

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2024, 09:35:13 PM »
I've never been on the Bigger Pockets forums. I'll check it out. Thanks. What is the likelihood that someone steals my idea and buys the land I want before I can?

Chris Pascale

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2024, 01:44:01 AM »
You've been living very cheaply, so things look (and are) a lot more expensive.

But there's a price for what you're looking for. Want to step out of the house onto land? That costs more. Want to just have water and electric flowing all the time? Same thing.

Hope you find something nice for yourself.

Question: All that water in the bog; will that bring more bugs than you'll be happy with?

sonofsven

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2024, 06:11:11 AM »
I don't know about NJ, but in my location even if a farmer wanted to slice off a piece of land to sell to you to put a house on they couldn't because of zoning restrictions.
It used to be common to find a quarter acre homesite cut out from a big parcel but we can't do that anymore.
I've looked at parcels like that where the old home on a small plot was demolished and even then building a new home on that plot was not allowed.
Also, to me the only tiny homes that make sense are the ones on trailer frames that can be moved. If you're going to pour a foundation, dig out a basement, have a roof, bathroom, kitchen, etc, you're going to have all the same expense categories of a larger build, but each category will be slightly less expensive. You're likely better off trying to build in the 1000 sf range. Anything less is going to severely limit resale.
One strategy I've used (I build houses in semi rural areas) is to look for existing parcels with older mobile homes to purchase. The land usually already has a water meter, electric hook up, and a drainfield. These all cost money. Even if the drainfield needs to be re-done, a repair permit is usually less than a new build permit.
If the mobile home is in good enough shape you can sell it, then you don't have to pay anything to get rid of it.
Good luck.

fpjeepy

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2024, 09:47:40 AM »
You've been living very cheaply, so things look (and are) a lot more expensive.

But there's a price for what you're looking for. Want to step out of the house onto land? That costs more. Want to just have water and electric flowing all the time? Same thing.

Hope you find something nice for yourself.

Question: All that water in the bog; will that bring more bugs than you'll be happy with?


Agreed. And I have learned that cranberry bogs are only flooded for the harvest. Also, in some areas (like NJ) they are flooded in the winter to protect the plants from freezing. That being said, I don't think those times are likely to increase bugs significantly. Actually where I live now is on great bay which is brackish and marshy and bugs are pretty bad. Gnats, mosquitos, and greenheads. Basically impossible to do anything outside around dusk and dawn without a bugsuit on.

I don't know about NJ, but in my location even if a farmer wanted to slice off a piece of land to sell to you to put a house on they couldn't because of zoning restrictions.
It used to be common to find a quarter acre homesite cut out from a big parcel but we can't do that anymore.
I've looked at parcels like that where the old home on a small plot was demolished and even then building a new home on that plot was not allowed.
Also, to me the only tiny homes that make sense are the ones on trailer frames that can be moved. If you're going to pour a foundation, dig out a basement, have a roof, bathroom, kitchen, etc, you're going to have all the same expense categories of a larger build, but each category will be slightly less expensive. You're likely better off trying to build in the 1000 sf range. Anything less is going to severely limit resale.
One strategy I've used (I build houses in semi rural areas) is to look for existing parcels with older mobile homes to purchase. The land usually already has a water meter, electric hook up, and a drainfield. These all cost money. Even if the drainfield needs to be re-done, a repair permit is usually less than a new build permit.
If the mobile home is in good enough shape you can sell it, then you don't have to pay anything to get rid of it.
Good luck.

From what I can tell the properties that I am interested in are Zoned "SA" Special Agriculture. Which allows residential and agricultural use. But it is in the Pine Barrons, which have their own zoning rules. Each housing area has a different allowable home density. This is not my area of expertise, so I will need to find someone that is more knowledgeable than myself. I thought getting the cranberry owner willing to sell to be first was a better use of time than trying to make sure the land is buildable, but maybe I should do it the other way around. I guess I am just pretty doubtful that they would be willing to send me a piece of land.

And yes I acknowledge a Tiny Home is not a good financial decision. But if I was basing my decision on a good financial decision I would be buying a condo in a gentrifying area. But I don't want to live there.

I think prefab/modular/manufactured/DIY holds some sort of access to a lower cost. For example, my coworker is about 3 weeks from getting a CO for a new house he had built. I don't remember the specifics so don't quote me but it was around 2000 sqft and the price he is contracted at is $555k + $55k for the land. (Note: my coworker is independently wealthy. We don't make that kind of money) Platinum Cottages sells a park model RV with the floorplan that I like (Meadowview w/ Loft) for a starting price of $87k. I am sure my coworker didn't get the cheapest offering of all his options, and I'm sure there will be added costs on top of the Park Model price to put that on a foundation etc. But there is a big gap there. I don't think that a 400 sqft tiny house is going to be 60% less than 1000 sqft, but I also think it will be more than 6% less. Also those are only purchase price. I should crunch the numbers and see what would be practical #s for reduction in heating/cooling and taxes would be.

Lastly, I agree your method of buying places with a mobile home is a great tactic, my issue is if I want a basement within 20 mins of my work there are very few options.

Paper Chaser

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2024, 03:41:41 AM »
A typical home in the US today is 2000sqft. In 1960 it was around 1200. Typical family size was 3.33 and 2.5 today. There are a few reasons I want to limit to 399sqft. Most of it is code. If you stay below 400 you can have a loft. With the regular housing code, in order to meet requirements for a loft, it's nearly a second story on the house. You can also have a smaller staircase to the loft and lower ceilings below the loft. And as I stated earlier basements don't really count, so 399sqft + 200sqft loft and 399sqft basement, might be comparable to a 1000sqft home, which is more space per person than the median home in 1960. Smaller homes are cheaper to build, maintain, heat/cool, and pay taxes on.

Building a new house with ~1000 sqft of living space (399 main floor + 399 basement + 200-ish loft) is going to cost more than buying an older home that's 1000-1200sqft. That tradeoff of a new home having less maintenance might be valuable if you were planning on this being your long term location, but that doesn't sound like the case.
I'd just buy an existing, older home and deal with whatever maintenance comes up given your short timeline. You'll also likely have better resale as you've mentioned, which again may not be a big deal if you're going to be there for decades, but it should come into play if that's not part of the plan.

sonofsven

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2024, 06:25:23 AM »
OP, what's the attraction of having a full basement? It will add considerably to the cost of construction due to the high cost of concrete now.
Building a basic shape structure on flat land with a 2' high foundation on a 12" footing with a crawlspace under wood floor joists is the cheapest way to go.

Villanelle

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2024, 11:52:14 AM »
The basement seems silly.  I get that you are trying to eek out 1000sqft from something that can only be permitted up to 399.  But you could probably put in 2 tiny homes for less than adding a basement, given the options that would open up for the kinds of tiny home projects. (Converted shed from Home Depot, etc.)

Have you priced any of this out?  It seems like it would cost about the same as just buying a 1000sqft home. But be more difficult to sell. Becacuse you make it sound like 1000sqft is 1000sqft.  But you are really comparing a permitted 399sf home, with some unpermitted space and really narrow stairs, to a 1000sqft home. Your tiny home might be worth more than a 399sf home without a basement, but it's not going to be worth what a 1000sf home is worth.  Anyone in the market is going to go for the real 1000 sf unless the 399sf+other stuff costs much less.  So what's the upside?

Also, do you need 1000 sqft, or is the driving factor of that resale?

Finally, as someone else mentioned, it's not as easy as getting a cranberry farmer to agree to sell you a small corner of land.  There is likely permitting that makes it difficult, potentially expensive, and possible impossible for them to carve off a bit of land and all it to be used for residential purposes.  And how will you get electricity, sewer, gas, etc. to your new cranberry home?  How much is that going to add to building costs, if you can actually get the land, legally?


fpjeepy

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2024, 01:46:34 PM »
A typical home in the US today is 2000sqft. In 1960 it was around 1200. Typical family size was 3.33 and 2.5 today. There are a few reasons I want to limit to 399sqft. Most of it is code. If you stay below 400 you can have a loft. With the regular housing code, in order to meet requirements for a loft, it's nearly a second story on the house. You can also have a smaller staircase to the loft and lower ceilings below the loft. And as I stated earlier basements don't really count, so 399sqft + 200sqft loft and 399sqft basement, might be comparable to a 1000sqft home, which is more space per person than the median home in 1960. Smaller homes are cheaper to build, maintain, heat/cool, and pay taxes on.

Building a new house with ~1000 sqft of living space (399 main floor + 399 basement + 200-ish loft) is going to cost more than buying an older home that's 1000-1200sqft. That tradeoff of a new home having less maintenance might be valuable if you were planning on this being your long term location, but that doesn't sound like the case.
I'd just buy an existing, older home and deal with whatever maintenance comes up given your short timeline. You'll also likely have better resale as you've mentioned, which again may not be a big deal if you're going to be there for decades, but it should come into play if that's not part of the plan.

You guys are right, but I hate it. And more so, I hate that I hate it.

I don't want to attempt to make MMM Forums a substitute for the therapy I can't afford, but why is this so soul-crushing to me?

I wish I desired normal things, but I don't. Uninteresting feels close to hell. The smart financial thing to do is buy an affordable condo in a typical suburb, drive a Nissan Altima, max out my 401K, and go on a Carnival cruise once a year. Don't worry! I get to paint the rooms in the condo any color I want and pick the Altima color too! And I can eat out Indian food once a month and watch anything on Netflix! That just doesn't feel like living to me.

Everything I get excited about... Designing and building the biggest tiny house, living on a boat, moving to a foreign country, restoring an antique car, building a boat, starting a business etc. They're all bad financial decisions. The more normal option is always easier, cheaper, more lucrative, or has better resale. Seems like the only way I'll be able to do anything fun is if I get rich or piss on my financial future.

I've complained about this before here. I don't mean to bash people who live the life I am criticizing. I genuinely want to know if anyone else feels this way or if I'm just crazy. And if it is the latter, how do I fix it?

[/quote]
The basement seems silly.  I get that you are trying to eek out 1000sqft from something that can only be permitted up to 399.  But you could probably put in 2 tiny homes for less than adding a basement, given the options that would open up for the kinds of tiny home projects. (Converted shed from Home Depot, etc.)

Have you priced any of this out?  It seems like it would cost about the same as just buying a 1000sqft home. But be more difficult to sell. Becacuse you make it sound like 1000sqft is 1000sqft.  But you are really comparing a permitted 399sf home, with some unpermitted space and really narrow stairs, to a 1000sqft home. Your tiny home might be worth more than a 399sf home without a basement, but it's not going to be worth what a 1000sf home is worth.  Anyone in the market is going to go for the real 1000 sf unless the 399sf+other stuff costs much less.  So what's the upside?

Also, do you need 1000 sqft, or is the driving factor of that resale?

Finally, as someone else mentioned, it's not as easy as getting a cranberry farmer to agree to sell you a small corner of land.  There is likely permitting that makes it difficult, potentially expensive, and possible impossible for them to carve off a bit of land and all it to be used for residential purposes.  And how will you get electricity, sewer, gas, etc. to your new cranberry home?  How much is that going to add to building costs, if you can actually get the land, legally?




The idea behind a basement vs a second tiny house is that it is in the same house. If I start a family and have kids. (I don't plan on living in NJ forever, but I don't have a better plan. It could happen) Furnishing the basement with two bedrooms would allow the kids to live in the same house rather than the house next door.

I haven't priced it out. I'd like to get there, but I'm still early in the idea stage.

The driving factor for 400/400/200 is just for more space I guess. I could probably live fine in 400/200 but if it wasn't a ton more money to double my space that sounds exciting.

I am "in the market" and if a real 1000 and a 4/4/2 was available I would pick the 4/4/2...

I agree it wouldn't be easy or cheap to get the Cranberry land maybe not even possible. There is a house back there. Power lines are run. I don't see why a septic tank, above or below ground wouldn't work. If I had to transfer home heating fuel myself that would suck, but I would do it. Probably only once or twice a year. Otherwise wood stove, pellet stove, or electric.

[/quote]
OP, what's the attraction of having a full basement? It will add considerably to the cost of construction due to the high cost of concrete now.
Building a basic shape structure on flat land with a 2' high foundation on a 12" footing with a crawlspace under wood floor joists is the cheapest way to go.

The attraction is more room in the house while still fitting the tiny house regs to have a loft.

I like the above better than the below


One of those I would be happier to call my home.



FINate

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2024, 01:48:24 PM »
Just rent until you're ready to own long-term.

First things first. Renting is not a "waste" of money. Wherever you live, it's a form of consumption. If you have a mortgage most of your monthly payment goes to paying interest. If you pay cash and own outright this means you have a big chunk of net worth tied up in an asset that's not producing -- i.e. whatever your paid-off house would otherwise rent for is the opportunity cost. There may be some difference in rent vs. own, but these usually aren't that large. And then if you consider the high transaction costs of buying and selling real estate, you're almost always better off renting short-term.

And you don't like the work of moving, but you want to build? Try dealing with bureaucrats in permitting, building inspectors that don't show, and contractors that try to get away with shoddy work. Building a house is sooooo much more work and stress than moving. It's not even comparable.

Jon Bon

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #16 on: February 26, 2024, 04:46:57 PM »
Hey I am all for being weird!

Just know that those choices are suboptimal.

FYI my 800 sqft addition the crawl space option was 12,000, full basement was 20,000. We went full. An extra 400 sqft for 800 bucks, that is cheap as hell.

I assume NJ you have to dig pretty deep (32-42 inches?) im too lazy too look it up. You already have the digger and dump truck, an extra day or 2 of digging is not super expensive, nor is an extra 6 courses of block. Its not free, but in construction the marginal cost of making something bigger is always very small (thus why most don't go for tiny houses!)

You do you, being normal is dumb. I just installed a big ass steel beam in my kitchen because that is what I wanted. Its more expensive then LVLs but I am gonna have a badass kitchen when I'm all done. Folks call me crazy, and you are, unless you can pull it off!

« Last Edit: February 27, 2024, 05:07:00 AM by Jon Bon »

Villanelle

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #17 on: February 26, 2024, 06:58:52 PM »
A typical home in the US today is 2000sqft. In 1960 it was around 1200. Typical family size was 3.33 and 2.5 today. There are a few reasons I want to limit to 399sqft. Most of it is code. If you stay below 400 you can have a loft. With the regular housing code, in order to meet requirements for a loft, it's nearly a second story on the house. You can also have a smaller staircase to the loft and lower ceilings below the loft. And as I stated earlier basements don't really count, so 399sqft + 200sqft loft and 399sqft basement, might be comparable to a 1000sqft home, which is more space per person than the median home in 1960. Smaller homes are cheaper to build, maintain, heat/cool, and pay taxes on.

Building a new house with ~1000 sqft of living space (399 main floor + 399 basement + 200-ish loft) is going to cost more than buying an older home that's 1000-1200sqft. That tradeoff of a new home having less maintenance might be valuable if you were planning on this being your long term location, but that doesn't sound like the case.
I'd just buy an existing, older home and deal with whatever maintenance comes up given your short timeline. You'll also likely have better resale as you've mentioned, which again may not be a big deal if you're going to be there for decades, but it should come into play if that's not part of the plan.



You guys are right, but I hate it. And more so, I hate that I hate it.

I don't want to attempt to make MMM Forums a substitute for the therapy I can't afford, but why is this so soul-crushing to me?

I wish I desired normal things, but I don't. Uninteresting feels close to hell. The smart financial thing to do is buy an affordable condo in a typical suburb, drive a Nissan Altima, max out my 401K, and go on a Carnival cruise once a year. Don't worry! I get to paint the rooms in the condo any color I want and pick the Altima color too! And I can eat out Indian food once a month and watch anything on Netflix! That just doesn't feel like living to me.

Everything I get excited about... Designing and building the biggest tiny house, living on a boat, moving to a foreign country, restoring an antique car, building a boat, starting a business etc. They're all bad financial decisions. The more normal option is always easier, cheaper, more lucrative, or has better resale. Seems like the only way I'll be able to do anything fun is if I get rich or piss on my financial future.

I've complained about this before here. I don't mean to bash people who live the life I am criticizing. I genuinely want to know if anyone else feels this way or if I'm just crazy. And if it is the latter, how do I fix it?

The basement seems silly.  I get that you are trying to eek out 1000sqft from something that can only be permitted up to 399.  But you could probably put in 2 tiny homes for less than adding a basement, given the options that would open up for the kinds of tiny home projects. (Converted shed from Home Depot, etc.)

Have you priced any of this out?  It seems like it would cost about the same as just buying a 1000sqft home. But be more difficult to sell. Becacuse you make it sound like 1000sqft is 1000sqft.  But you are really comparing a permitted 399sf home, with some unpermitted space and really narrow stairs, to a 1000sqft home. Your tiny home might be worth more than a 399sf home without a basement, but it's not going to be worth what a 1000sf home is worth.  Anyone in the market is going to go for the real 1000 sf unless the 399sf+other stuff costs much less.  So what's the upside?

Also, do you need 1000 sqft, or is the driving factor of that resale?

Finally, as someone else mentioned, it's not as easy as getting a cranberry farmer to agree to sell you a small corner of land.  There is likely permitting that makes it difficult, potentially expensive, and possible impossible for them to carve off a bit of land and all it to be used for residential purposes.  And how will you get electricity, sewer, gas, etc. to your new cranberry home?  How much is that going to add to building costs, if you can actually get the land, legally?




The idea behind a basement vs a second tiny house is that it is in the same house. If I start a family and have kids. (I don't plan on living in NJ forever, but I don't have a better plan. It could happen) Furnishing the basement with two bedrooms would allow the kids to live in the same house rather than the house next door.

I haven't priced it out. I'd like to get there, but I'm still early in the idea stage.

The driving factor for 400/400/200 is just for more space I guess. I could probably live fine in 400/200 but if it wasn't a ton more money to double my space that sounds exciting.

I am "in the market" and if a real 1000 and a 4/4/2 was available I would pick the 4/4/2...

I agree it wouldn't be easy or cheap to get the Cranberry land maybe not even possible. There is a house back there. Power lines are run. I don't see why a septic tank, above or below ground wouldn't work. If I had to transfer home heating fuel myself that would suck, but I would do it. Probably only once or twice a year. Otherwise wood stove, pellet stove, or electric.

[/quote]
OP, what's the attraction of having a full basement? It will add considerably to the cost of construction due to the high cost of concrete now.
Building a basic shape structure on flat land with a 2' high foundation on a 12" footing with a crawlspace under wood floor joists is the cheapest way to go.

The attraction is more room in the house while still fitting the tiny house regs to have a loft.

I like the above better than the below


One of those I would be happier to call my home.
[/quote]

So live in a 399 sqft tiny home.  Not one with a basement. 

If it is legal, find a cranberry farmer who will rent you some land and let you put a tiny home there as an ADU. 

Also, don't look at this as forever.  It's a temporary solution.  Maybe that means renting a 1000sqft boring home.  (If you want to be less normal, get a roommmate or two!)

On the "MMM therapy" front, it does seem like some of this is contrarianism for the sake of contrarianism.  Like, you don't want to live in a regular home, but not because you dislike real things about regular homes.  Instead, because you don't want to be a guy (or gal) or lives in a regular home.  Maybe it's worth doing some poking around in your brain about why that is.  What does "not being like regular people" mean to you?  Why is it important, to the point that it seems you are willing to do it for the sake of doing it?

Like, the life you described doesn't sound awesome to me, either.  But for specific reasons.  If you don't want those things, why not? And what do you want?  Do you want to live in a tiny home because the enivornmental aspects, combined with the forced minimalism appeal to you?  Great.  Then make it a goal.  if it doesn't make sense for now, until you know you are settled for a while, then table it, but make it the goal.  If you want to live in a tiny home because you like what it makes you and says about you, and you like not being a "regular" person, then there's probably more digging you can do about your deeper motivations.  And then how to best service those motivations.  Because spending twice as much on living costs just to live in a tiny--but not actually tiny because basement and loft--home on a cranberry farm doesn't seem like it serves any really need other than contrarianism.  And that's no more an enlightened way to live than doing what everybody else does, because they all do it.  Either way, you are letting the opinions of the masses drive your choices; it's just whether they push you toward or away from something. 

Don't let the desire to be interesting, or to not be uninteresting, guide your choices.  If you step back, does that really seem like smart criteria?  Or like a fantastic way to live your life?  I guess I think it's really telling that you said that being uninteresting is hell.  Not that living in the burbs is hell or going on cruises is hell.  Why is being interesting so important?  That's a very external motivator?  If no one was looking, what house would you live in, and why? 
« Last Edit: February 27, 2024, 10:47:05 AM by Villanelle »

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #18 on: February 27, 2024, 04:01:46 AM »
Where you live doesn't need to define you. You can still be an interesting person that does interesting things whether you live in a normal house or not.

fpjeepy

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #19 on: February 27, 2024, 03:38:42 PM »
Hey I am all for being weird!

Just know that those choices are suboptimal.

FYI my 800 sqft addition the crawl space option was 12,000, full basement was 20,000. We went full. An extra 400 sqft for 800 bucks, that is cheap as hell.

I assume NJ you have to dig pretty deep (32-42 inches?) im too lazy too look it up. You already have the digger and dump truck, an extra day or 2 of digging is not super expensive, nor is an extra 6 courses of block. Its not free, but in construction the marginal cost of making something bigger is always very small (thus why most don't go for tiny houses!)

You do you, being normal is dumb. I just installed a big ass steel beam in my kitchen because that is what I wanted. Its more expensive then LVLs but I am gonna have a badass kitchen when I'm all done. Folks call me crazy, and you are, unless you can pull it off!

Agreed. Thanks for the support. If I do build it will be with a basement as long as I can dig down enough for it. I don't really want to raise the level of the land around the house. That sounds expensive.

So live in a 399 sqft tiny home.  Not one with a basement. 

If it is legal, find a cranberry farmer who will rent you some land and let you put a tiny home there as an ADU. 

Also, don't look at this as forever.  It's a temporary solution.  Maybe that means renting a 1000sqft boring home.  (If you want to be less normal, get a roommmate or two!)

On the "MMM therapy" front, it does seem like some of this is contrarianism for the sake of contrarianism.  Like, you don't want to live in a regular home, but not because you dislike real things about regular homes.  Instead, because you don't want to be a guy (or gal) or lives in a regular home.  Maybe it's worth doing some poking around in your brain about why that is.  What does "not being like regular people" mean to you?  Why is it important, to the point that it seems you are willing to do it for the sake of doing it?

Like, the life you described doesn't sound awesome to me, either.  But for specific reasons.  If you don't want those things, why not? And what do you want?  Do you want to live in a tiny home because the enivornmental aspects, combined with the forced minimalism appeal to you?  Great.  Then make it a goal.  if it doesn't make sense for now, until you know you are settled for a while, then table it, but make it the goal.  If you want to live in a tiny home because you like what it makes you and says about you, and you like not being a "regular" person, then there's probably more digging you can do about your deeper motivations.  And then how to best service those motivations.  Because spending twice as much on living costs just to live in a tiny--but not actually tiny because basement and loft--home on a cranberry farm doesn't seem like it serves any really need other than contrarianism.  And that's no more an enlightened way to live than doing what everybody else does, because they all do it.  Either way, you are letting the opinions of the masses drive your choices; it's just whether they push you toward or away from something. 

Don't let the desire to be interesting, or to not be uninteresting, guide your choices.  If you step back, does that really seem like smart criteria?  Or like a fantastic way to live your life?  I guess I think it's really telling that you said that being uninteresting is hell.  Not that living in the burbs is hell or going on cruises is hell.  Why is being interesting so important?  That's a very external motivator?  If no one was looking, what house would you live in, and why? 


I do like the idea of forced minimalism. And I do like a smaller cost to build, smaller heating/cooling expenses, and smaller taxes will allow me to save more. I don't think I'm full FIRE like a lot of people on here. I just don't want to be a slave to debt. I want to be able to help people or run my own business that employs people, but I don't think I will retire early in the sense of stopping working, but maybe that will change as I get older.

To your point, I do care about what people think about me more than I should. Or at least more than I would like to. For example, I hope people say about me "He may not be wealthy, but he effectively utilizes his resources."

I think everyone is wired to like a little bit of weird. For example, no one likes to listen to a metronome and they probably wouldn't like it if I overlaid 10 songs on top of each other. One has too much order and the other has too much chaos. We like the fine line that skirts the two. Even a song we don't know the first time we might not love it. It's too unfamiliar, but after a couple of listens we love it, and after a thousand we are sick of it. All to say, I think I might be wired to love the weird a little more than the average Joe. Which sometimes I don't mind, but sometimes it is frustrating when it costs more. At least that is what I think. I don't want to ask a question here, just so I can provide my own answer.

Maybe I will take your advice and try to word things differently. I like to hunt, fish, and build boats. I'd like to have a small homestead or at least a garden. So I guess I don't like condos, suburbs, cruises, big houses, nice cars, or Netflix because they don't offer me any of the things I like.

Lastly, I think how I identify might be part of the puzzle. I guess partly I don't like the idea of condos because guys who identify as hardcore hunters don't live in condos. So my insecurity will tell me that if I live in a condo and call myself a hardcore hunter, then I'm a poser. Or if I identify as a fisherman, but spend more time on Netflix, then I'm a Netflixer, not a fisherman. Or I'm a part-timer, weekend warrior.

Just rent until you're ready to own long-term.

First things first. Renting is not a "waste" of money. Wherever you live, it's a form of consumption. If you have a mortgage most of your monthly payment goes to paying interest. If you pay cash and own outright this means you have a big chunk of net worth tied up in an asset that's not producing -- i.e. whatever your paid-off house would otherwise rent for is the opportunity cost. There may be some difference in rent vs. own, but these usually aren't that large. And then if you consider the high transaction costs of buying and selling real estate, you're almost always better off renting short-term.

And you don't like the work of moving, but you want to build? Try dealing with bureaucrats in permitting, building inspectors that don't show, and contractors that try to get away with shoddy work. Building a house is sooooo much more work and stress than moving. It's not even comparable.

I think you are right, but a lot of lazy or ignorant people don't want to deal with this nuance. They like black and white. Buying is always good, renting is always bad. That being said sometimes I get influenced more that I would like by these people... Cheapest place I can find within 30 mins of my work is $1600 for a 1 bed 1 bath apartment. I can rent a room, but my girlfriend would prefer we have our own place. For that price, I think I would prefer to stay on my boat.

And yes it is temporary. I took a call with a recruiter yesterday. One of the few options for me that I would consider. 20-40% pay bump and moving to South Carolina.

Villanelle

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #20 on: February 27, 2024, 03:50:40 PM »
Hey I am all for being weird!

Just know that those choices are suboptimal.

FYI my 800 sqft addition the crawl space option was 12,000, full basement was 20,000. We went full. An extra 400 sqft for 800 bucks, that is cheap as hell.

I assume NJ you have to dig pretty deep (32-42 inches?) im too lazy too look it up. You already have the digger and dump truck, an extra day or 2 of digging is not super expensive, nor is an extra 6 courses of block. Its not free, but in construction the marginal cost of making something bigger is always very small (thus why most don't go for tiny houses!)

You do you, being normal is dumb. I just installed a big ass steel beam in my kitchen because that is what I wanted. Its more expensive then LVLs but I am gonna have a badass kitchen when I'm all done. Folks call me crazy, and you are, unless you can pull it off!

Agreed. Thanks for the support. If I do build it will be with a basement as long as I can dig down enough for it. I don't really want to raise the level of the land around the house. That sounds expensive.

So live in a 399 sqft tiny home.  Not one with a basement. 

If it is legal, find a cranberry farmer who will rent you some land and let you put a tiny home there as an ADU. 

Also, don't look at this as forever.  It's a temporary solution.  Maybe that means renting a 1000sqft boring home.  (If you want to be less normal, get a roommmate or two!)

On the "MMM therapy" front, it does seem like some of this is contrarianism for the sake of contrarianism.  Like, you don't want to live in a regular home, but not because you dislike real things about regular homes.  Instead, because you don't want to be a guy (or gal) or lives in a regular home.  Maybe it's worth doing some poking around in your brain about why that is.  What does "not being like regular people" mean to you?  Why is it important, to the point that it seems you are willing to do it for the sake of doing it?

Like, the life you described doesn't sound awesome to me, either.  But for specific reasons.  If you don't want those things, why not? And what do you want?  Do you want to live in a tiny home because the enivornmental aspects, combined with the forced minimalism appeal to you?  Great.  Then make it a goal.  if it doesn't make sense for now, until you know you are settled for a while, then table it, but make it the goal.  If you want to live in a tiny home because you like what it makes you and says about you, and you like not being a "regular" person, then there's probably more digging you can do about your deeper motivations.  And then how to best service those motivations.  Because spending twice as much on living costs just to live in a tiny--but not actually tiny because basement and loft--home on a cranberry farm doesn't seem like it serves any really need other than contrarianism.  And that's no more an enlightened way to live than doing what everybody else does, because they all do it.  Either way, you are letting the opinions of the masses drive your choices; it's just whether they push you toward or away from something. 

Don't let the desire to be interesting, or to not be uninteresting, guide your choices.  If you step back, does that really seem like smart criteria?  Or like a fantastic way to live your life?  I guess I think it's really telling that you said that being uninteresting is hell.  Not that living in the burbs is hell or going on cruises is hell.  Why is being interesting so important?  That's a very external motivator?  If no one was looking, what house would you live in, and why? 


I do like the idea of forced minimalism. And I do like a smaller cost to build, smaller heating/cooling expenses, and smaller taxes will allow me to save more. I don't think I'm full FIRE like a lot of people on here. I just don't want to be a slave to debt. I want to be able to help people or run my own business that employs people, but I don't think I will retire early in the sense of stopping working, but maybe that will change as I get older.

To your point, I do care about what people think about me more than I should. Or at least more than I would like to. For example, I hope people say about me "He may not be wealthy, but he effectively utilizes his resources."

I think everyone is wired to like a little bit of weird. For example, no one likes to listen to a metronome and they probably wouldn't like it if I overlaid 10 songs on top of each other. One has too much order and the other has too much chaos. We like the fine line that skirts the two. Even a song we don't know the first time we might not love it. It's too unfamiliar, but after a couple of listens we love it, and after a thousand we are sick of it. All to say, I think I might be wired to love the weird a little more than the average Joe. Which sometimes I don't mind, but sometimes it is frustrating when it costs more. At least that is what I think. I don't want to ask a question here, just so I can provide my own answer.

Maybe I will take your advice and try to word things differently. I like to hunt, fish, and build boats. I'd like to have a small homestead or at least a garden. So I guess I don't like condos, suburbs, cruises, big houses, nice cars, or Netflix because they don't offer me any of the things I like.

Lastly, I think how I identify might be part of the puzzle. I guess partly I don't like the idea of condos because guys who identify as hardcore hunters don't live in condos. So my insecurity will tell me that if I live in a condo and call myself a hardcore hunter, then I'm a poser. Or if I identify as a fisherman, but spend more time on Netflix, then I'm a Netflixer, not a fisherman. Or I'm a part-timer, weekend warrior.

Just rent until you're ready to own long-term.

First things first. Renting is not a "waste" of money. Wherever you live, it's a form of consumption. If you have a mortgage most of your monthly payment goes to paying interest. If you pay cash and own outright this means you have a big chunk of net worth tied up in an asset that's not producing -- i.e. whatever your paid-off house would otherwise rent for is the opportunity cost. There may be some difference in rent vs. own, but these usually aren't that large. And then if you consider the high transaction costs of buying and selling real estate, you're almost always better off renting short-term.

And you don't like the work of moving, but you want to build? Try dealing with bureaucrats in permitting, building inspectors that don't show, and contractors that try to get away with shoddy work. Building a house is sooooo much more work and stress than moving. It's not even comparable.

I think you are right, but a lot of lazy or ignorant people don't want to deal with this nuance. They like black and white. Buying is always good, renting is always bad. That being said sometimes I get influenced more that I would like by these people... Cheapest place I can find within 30 mins of my work is $1600 for a 1 bed 1 bath apartment. I can rent a room, but my girlfriend would prefer we have our own place. For that price, I think I would prefer to stay on my boat.

And yes it is temporary. I took a call with a recruiter yesterday. One of the few options for me that I would consider. 20-40% pay bump and moving to South Carolina.

If you liked the forced minimalism and that, plus cost savings, are driving factors, ditch the basement.  If you end up with 1000sf (including loft and basement) you aren't saving any money, and you don't have a small space forcing minimalism.  You just have a 1000sf house masqurading as a tiny home, pluse bragging rights to say you live in a tiny home. 

You mention the lower cost to build as a attraction.  But adding a basement negates that.  What you propose is likely more expensive than renting (or even buying) a regular 1000sf home.  So it seems the things you say are the attractions are maybe about who you want to be (or who you want to be seen to be), but they aren't actually driving this.  If you want a cheap house, find a place to put an actual (and cheap) tiny home, or rent a conventional home.  If you want to be an interesting guy who makes unconventional housing choices and that, in and of itself, is the motivator, then consider why you are basing your life on how it appears to others, rather than choosing things base on actual elements of living and Being.  It's okay to like things other people like and do things other people do.  Or not like them and not do them. They key is making the decisions based on how you actually feel, not the appearances on either side.

It seems like you don't actually want a tiny home.  You want 1000sf, but you don't want to be someone who wants 1000sf, so you are trying to find a way to have it, while still being able to claim you don't. 

And if you are a hunter who lives in a condo, then yes, you are a hunter that lives in a condo, meaning hunters can live in condos.  It seems like you are creating you own no-true-Scotsman fallacy and applying it to yourself.  No true hunter.

Just be what you are.  Try to catch yourself when you are worrying about the perception or the conventional wisdom or what other people think.  It's okay to think a Maxima is kind nice, or to go on a Carnival cruise if friends are going and it sounds fun to join them.  That doesn't suddenly make you boring.  And refusing those things doesn't suddenly make you interesting. 

~~~

Have you considered van life or living in a converted bus of some sort?  If you want a cheap house that might be the way to go, especially if you can boondock much of the time.  And yes, people will think it's very unconventional and Interesting.  The latter shouldn't matter, but I suspect it does to you, so this might be worth considering.  You get all the style points you crave, plus a small, inexpensive home and forced minimalism which are the actual elements that you say matter.  And when you are ready to move, you can either take it with you, or sell it. 
« Last Edit: February 27, 2024, 03:53:39 PM by Villanelle »

fpjeepy

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #21 on: February 27, 2024, 04:21:56 PM »

If you liked the forced minimalism and that, plus cost savings, are driving factors, ditch the basement.  If you end up with 1000sf (including loft and basement) you aren't saving any money, and you don't have a small space forcing minimalism.  You just have a 1000sf house masqurading as a tiny home, pluse bragging rights to say you live in a tiny home. 

You mention the lower cost to build as a attraction.  But adding a basement negates that.  What you propose is likely more expensive than renting (or even buying) a regular 1000sf home.  So it seems the things you say are the attractions are maybe about who you want to be (or who you want to be seen to be), but they aren't actually driving this.  If you want a cheap house, find a place to put an actual (and cheap) tiny home, or rent a conventional home.  If you want to be an interesting guy who makes unconventional housing choices and that, in and of itself, is the motivator, then consider why you are basing your life on how it appears to others, rather than choosing things base on actual elements of living and Being.  It's okay to like things other people like and do things other people do.  Or not like them and not do them. They key is making the decisions based on how you actually feel, not the appearances on either side.

It seems like you don't actually want a tiny home.  You want 1000sf, but you don't want to be someone who wants 1000sf, so you are trying to find a way to have it, while still being able to claim you don't. 

And if you are a hunter who lives in a condo, then yes, you are a hunter that lives in a condo, meaning hunters can live in condos.  It seems like you are creating you own no-true-Scotsman fallacy and applying it to yourself.  No true hunter.

Just be what you are.  Try to catch yourself when you are worrying about the perception or the conventional wisdom or what other people think.  It's okay to think a Maxima is kind nice, or to go on a Carnival cruise if friends are going and it sounds fun to join them.  That doesn't suddenly make you boring.  And refusing those things doesn't suddenly make you interesting. 

~~~

Have you considered van life or living in a converted bus of some sort?  If you want a cheap house that might be the way to go, especially if you can boondock much of the time.  And yes, people will think it's very unconventional and Interesting.  The latter shouldn't matter, but I suspect it does to you, so this might be worth considering.  You get all the style points you crave, plus a small, inexpensive home and forced minimalism which are the actual elements that you say matter.  And when you are ready to move, you can either take it with you, or sell it.

I'll push back on the first part of this. Taxes are related to square footage, and an unfinished basement doesn't count towards that. Also, heating and cooling a 400ft home with a basement will be cheaper than a 1000ft home on one level. So, a basement is more expensive, but without doing the math for this specific location we can't say which is cheaper. A coworker in Chatsworth pays $800/month in taxes. It doesn't take long to pay back an extra $8k on the foundation at that price. And if they were to net out as equal I would pick the 400ft home because I like the look. I'm not an architect, but I have preferences for what I find attractive.

As to the idea of the van. I already bought one. I started fixing it up. I don't have a great place to work on it and I have trouble finding the time. I planned to stay on the boat in the summer and in the van during the winter. I'm not sure how long the girlfriend will go for that if we get married. Either way, I should either finish the van and start using it or sell it and recoup some money, because right now it's a very bad investment that wears on me every day.

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #22 on: February 28, 2024, 01:52:19 AM »
My advice would be to continue living on your boat and delay making any big (or tiny...snirt) house decisions in the near future.  It sounds like your life is sort of in flux right now with potentially relocating,  an SO/future DW who will be living with you who may not share your tiny house vision, as well as possible kids. Wait until are sure about which if your many dreams you want to pursue long term before doing things that are costly, are difficult to undo if they don't pan out, and may require an even more expensive outlay of money to undo.

If living on the boat a bit longer doesn't....er....float your boat any longer then opt for a small rental. If you and GF live together and split costs it's not too bad. It's not forever and it isn't going to make you less interesting (or appear less interesting to other - and really who the F cares anyways?!) and gives you time to figure things out. As well as work on your self-image and desire to be seen in a certain way by others. Once you can let that it crap go your life will be much better and you can be you not some self-stylized version of how you want to be perceived by others. The box you live in, the vehicle you drive, what you wear, etc doesn't define you or make you interesting. What you do makes you interesting...at least to some people. And stop with the stereotyping! The "normies" living in the burbs and driving their fuel efficient sedans may live the most exciting and interesting lives of all.

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #23 on: February 28, 2024, 03:22:40 AM »
Cheaper taxes/heating bills etc won't really matter if you don't intend to live in it long term. You'll be taking all the upfront cost and see very little of the long term benefits.

If you can't find the time to work on the van, how will you find time to build a house?

What does your girlfriend/possible future spouse want?

What are your medium term goals? I know a guy who lives in surbubia 6 months a year and the other 6 living wild in the Appalachian mountains. Renting had the big big benefit of being temporary, which, if you are someone who likes to chase interesting ideas and opportunities, can be a good thing.

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #24 on: February 28, 2024, 03:41:50 AM »
Cheapest place I can find within 30 mins of my work is $1600 for a 1 bed 1 bath apartment.... For that price, I think I would prefer to stay on my boat.

Have you run some numbers through a mortgage calculator recently? If $1600/mo is too much to rent a 1/1, what monthly costs were you expecting from a 1/1 tiny house? At current rates, $1600/mo gets you around $240k house with 20% down. I'd be pretty surprised if you could buy land in NJ and build the house you're talking about for that amount. And then you have to pay to maintain the home/property on top of that too.

Play around with some numbers here and see what your comfortable housing budget might actually get you:

https://www.zillow.com/mortgage-calculator/
« Last Edit: February 28, 2024, 06:56:56 AM by Paper Chaser »

Villanelle

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #25 on: February 28, 2024, 11:31:20 AM »
Cheaper taxes/heating bills etc won't really matter if you don't intend to live in it long term. You'll be taking all the upfront cost and see very little of the long term benefits.

If you can't find the time to work on the van, how will you find time to build a house?

What does your girlfriend/possible future spouse want?

What are your medium term goals? I know a guy who lives in surbubia 6 months a year and the other 6 living wild in the Appalachian mountains. Renting had the big big benefit of being temporary, which, if you are someone who likes to chase interesting ideas and opportunities, can be a good thing.

Great questions.  Add to them the costs of rezoning a section of a cranberry farm, pulling permits, running electric and plumbing (and other service)

Also, when you build this Franken-house that is a tiny home, but isn't, what will the resale value be?  Because I don't imagine there's much of a market for it. 

It's all very complicated, and for very unclear reasons beyond not wanting a conventional life.  Real eccentrics are eccentric because they are, not because they try to be. 

partgypsy

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #26 on: February 28, 2024, 11:48:15 AM »
I don't know a lil house on a bog farm sounds cute. But one with a basement and a loft, with the usual amenities sounds like, Martha Stewart expensive. I would do something like that if I lucked into a piece of land and it was like a forever or at least long term home situation. I think you want the esthetic and build quality of something with a large price tag, but the price of a double wide, and that ain't happening. Of course the pic of the customized tiny home looks nicer than the double wide. You are not being eccentric in your tastes but expensive. If you truly want to not have it as a long term goal, maybe you can find a bog farm owner that is interested in that kind of property, and you build it for free in exchange for living there for free for 5 years. The big owner gets a house for cost of materials, you learn how to build a house, and discounted housing for 5 years to save for the forever home. 

ChpBstrd

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #27 on: February 28, 2024, 12:47:15 PM »
You have a very extremely specific vision of how your housing must work. As a result of all the parameters you've applied, you've narrowed your acceptable solution set to the point where there are no options.

But I suspect you'll end up spending more money chasing these specifics than it would cost to just buy a small fixxer upper and adapt it to your specific desires. 

If your main concerns are keeping costs (purchase, taxes, energy use) low and efficiency high, there are probably better options than buying a $70k "tiny house", putting it on a $125k lot, installing a $20k septic line, hooking up electricity at $10k, etc... Why not plow the same money into remodeling an existing ~1,000 sf house to make it extremely energy efficient with cellulose in the attic, foam injected into the walls, a nice HVAC, or $20k worth of solar panels that could offset all your energy usage? As an added bonus, you'll be set if you decide to build a family, take in a roommate for extra cash, etc. And you don't have to take out a construction loan at 8%+ if you can DIY the work. An extra bedroom is a lot more useful than a loft or basement anyway because you don't have to contend with ladders or the typical basement water intrusion issues.

In terms of energy efficiency, heating and AC are only about a third of a typical home energy bill. The rest is consumed by the same appliances you'd have in a tiny home: water heater, fridge, consumer electronics, laundry, and cooking. So at most you might be saving 20% by living in 399sf versus 1,000sf.

Probably less than that because of the cube-square rule. This rule describes the increasing ratio of interior space to exterior wall perimeter as a building gets larger. For example, the length of perimeter wall to build a 1,024sf square house is 32x32x32x32=128ft, and the ratio of interior floor space to wall length is 1024/128=8. That is, for every foot of exterior wall you build or heat/cool, you get 8sf of interior. A 400sf square house has 20x20x20x20=80ft of exterior wall perimeter, and a much worse area/perimeter ratio of 400/80=5. A bigger house can be expected to cost more to build, heat, and cool, but less to build, heat, and cool per unit of space.

Here are some ideas. No idea if they're near your work:

Here's a $175k 3/1 house in rural south NJ with original craftsman wood trim! Just needs some septic tank work.

Here's a rural foreclosure and fixer upper with 928sf for an estimated $139k.

But you might most like this rural cabin near a marina for $169k.


fpjeepy

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #28 on: February 28, 2024, 12:48:34 PM »
If you can't find the time to work on the van, how will you find time to build a house?
Great question. Part of the problem with the van is not having a place to work on it. Part is other projects getting in the way. Part of it is trying to maintain a long-distance relationship.
What does your girlfriend/possible future spouse want?
She likes the idea of a homestead and isn't opposed the forced minimalism.

I don't know a lil house on a bog farm sounds cute. But one with a basement and a loft, with the usual amenities sounds like, Martha Stewart expensive. I would do something like that if I lucked into a piece of land and it was like a forever or at least long term home situation. I think you want the esthetic and build quality of something with a large price tag, but the price of a double wide, and that ain't happening.   

What I am looking for is more expensive than a double wide, but it would also be cheaper than a larger home. I'd rather have small and nice looking than large and not nice. I might be in the minority, but I'm allowed to have an opinion on it.

fpjeepy

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #29 on: February 28, 2024, 01:46:42 PM »
You have a very extremely specific vision of how your housing must work. As a result of all the parameters you've applied, you've narrowed your acceptable solution set to the point where there are no options.

Yes

But I suspect you'll end up spending more money chasing these specifics than it would cost to just buy a small fixxer upper and adapt it to your specific desires. 

If your main concerns are keeping costs (purchase, taxes, energy use) low and efficiency high, there are probably better options than buying a $70k "tiny house", putting it on a $125k lot, installing a $20k septic line, hooking up electricity at $10k, etc... Why not plow the same money into remodeling an existing ~1,000 sf house to make it extremely energy efficient with cellulose in the attic, foam injected into the walls, a nice HVAC, or $20k worth of solar panels that could offset all your energy usage? As an added bonus, you'll be set if you decide to build a family, take in a roommate for extra cash, etc. And you don't have to take out a construction loan at 8%+ if you can DIY the work. An extra bedroom is a lot more useful than a loft or basement anyway because you don't have to contend with ladders or the typical basement water intrusion issues.
Why? Because I prefer the look. And I find it more exciting to design and build something of my own creation rather than fixing up something else. Not saying my way is better but that is my preference.

In terms of energy efficiency, heating and AC are only about a third of a typical home energy bill. The rest is consumed by the same appliances you'd have in a tiny home: water heater, fridge, consumer electronics, laundry, and cooking. So at most you might be saving 20% by living in 399sf versus 1,000sf.
20% is 20%
Probably less than that because of the cube-square rule. This rule describes the increasing ratio of interior space to exterior wall perimeter as a building gets larger. For example, the length of perimeter wall to build a 1,024sf square house is 32x32x32x32=128ft, and the ratio of interior floor space to wall length is 1024/128=8. That is, for every foot of exterior wall you build or heat/cool, you get 8sf of interior. A 400sf square house has 20x20x20x20=80ft of exterior wall perimeter, and a much worse area/perimeter ratio of 400/80=5. A bigger house can be expected to cost more to build, heat, and cool, but less to build, heat, and cool per unit of space.


Most single-story homes will be around the same height. Let's assume that to make math easier. < 400 sqft can have lower ceilings, but it's a pretty small amount so we will ignore it.

32x32ft home with 13ft ceilings and a flat roof:
32x32x13= 13,312 cubic feet --- 4*(32x13)+32x32= 2688 sqft of surface area.

20x20ft home with 13ft ceilings and a flat roof:
20x20x13= 5,200 cubic feet --- 4*(20x13)+20x20= 1440 sqft of surface area

It will take 2688/1440 = 1.867 or 87.6% more energy to heat 1024 sqft over 400 sqft.

This is way oversimplified, but smaller homes are easier to heat.

Here are some ideas. No idea if they're near your work:

Here's a $175k 3/1 house in rural south NJ with original craftsman wood trim! Just needs some septic tank work.

Here's a rural foreclosure and fixer upper with 928sf for an estimated $139k.

But you might most like this rural cabin near a marina for $169k.

The first one is 45 mins, the second one is 1:10, last one is 15 mins. I have looked at the last one. It is one of the best options that has come up in the last two years.

What do you guys consider a max drive to work? I would like to keep it under 30 mins. I work long 10-12 hour days and adding an hour and a half to my day feels like it would consume all of my available time. I would wake up, go to work, go home and go to bed.

Villanelle

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #30 on: February 28, 2024, 02:12:19 PM »
You have a very extremely specific vision of how your housing must work. As a result of all the parameters you've applied, you've narrowed your acceptable solution set to the point where there are no options.

Yes

But I suspect you'll end up spending more money chasing these specifics than it would cost to just buy a small fixxer upper and adapt it to your specific desires. 

If your main concerns are keeping costs (purchase, taxes, energy use) low and efficiency high, there are probably better options than buying a $70k "tiny house", putting it on a $125k lot, installing a $20k septic line, hooking up electricity at $10k, etc... Why not plow the same money into remodeling an existing ~1,000 sf house to make it extremely energy efficient with cellulose in the attic, foam injected into the walls, a nice HVAC, or $20k worth of solar panels that could offset all your energy usage? As an added bonus, you'll be set if you decide to build a family, take in a roommate for extra cash, etc. And you don't have to take out a construction loan at 8%+ if you can DIY the work. An extra bedroom is a lot more useful than a loft or basement anyway because you don't have to contend with ladders or the typical basement water intrusion issues.
Why? Because I prefer the look. And I find it more exciting to design and build something of my own creation rather than fixing up something else. Not saying my way is better but that is my preference.

In terms of energy efficiency, heating and AC are only about a third of a typical home energy bill. The rest is consumed by the same appliances you'd have in a tiny home: water heater, fridge, consumer electronics, laundry, and cooking. So at most you might be saving 20% by living in 399sf versus 1,000sf.
20% is 20%
Probably less than that because of the cube-square rule. This rule describes the increasing ratio of interior space to exterior wall perimeter as a building gets larger. For example, the length of perimeter wall to build a 1,024sf square house is 32x32x32x32=128ft, and the ratio of interior floor space to wall length is 1024/128=8. That is, for every foot of exterior wall you build or heat/cool, you get 8sf of interior. A 400sf square house has 20x20x20x20=80ft of exterior wall perimeter, and a much worse area/perimeter ratio of 400/80=5. A bigger house can be expected to cost more to build, heat, and cool, but less to build, heat, and cool per unit of space.


Most single-story homes will be around the same height. Let's assume that to make math easier. < 400 sqft can have lower ceilings, but it's a pretty small amount so we will ignore it.

32x32ft home with 13ft ceilings and a flat roof:
32x32x13= 13,312 cubic feet --- 4*(32x13)+32x32= 2688 sqft of surface area.

20x20ft home with 13ft ceilings and a flat roof:
20x20x13= 5,200 cubic feet --- 4*(20x13)+20x20= 1440 sqft of surface area

It will take 2688/1440 = 1.867 or 87.6% more energy to heat 1024 sqft over 400 sqft.

This is way oversimplified, but smaller homes are easier to heat.

Here are some ideas. No idea if they're near your work:

Here's a $175k 3/1 house in rural south NJ with original craftsman wood trim! Just needs some septic tank work.

Here's a rural foreclosure and fixer upper with 928sf for an estimated $139k.

But you might most like this rural cabin near a marina for $169k.

The first one is 45 mins, the second one is 1:10, last one is 15 mins. I have looked at the last one. It is one of the best options that has come up in the last two years.

What do you guys consider a max drive to work? I would like to keep it under 30 mins. I work long 10-12 hour days and adding an hour and a half to my day feels like it would consume all of my available time. I would wake up, go to work, go home and go to bed.

You work 12 hours days, plus commute.

Just more info supporting the fact that you don't have the bandwidth to build this tiny-not-tiny house.

To answer your question, to me if it is a daily commute, 30 minutes is about the max, and less is better.

FINate

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #31 on: February 28, 2024, 02:31:46 PM »
Maybe I will take your advice and try to word things differently. I like to hunt, fish, and build boats. I'd like to have a small homestead or at least a garden. So I guess I don't like condos, suburbs, cruises, big houses, nice cars, or Netflix because they don't offer me any of the things I like.

Lastly, I think how I identify might be part of the puzzle. I guess partly I don't like the idea of condos because guys who identify as hardcore hunters don't live in condos. So my insecurity will tell me that if I live in a condo and call myself a hardcore hunter, then I'm a poser. Or if I identify as a fisherman, but spend more time on Netflix, then I'm a Netflixer, not a fisherman. Or I'm a part-timer, weekend warrior.

I love to fish and hunt, which is one of the reasons I moved to Idaho. There are a ton of "hardcore" hunters here. Hardcore hunters are all about... hunting! Everything they do is around the hunt, and preparing for it all year. If living in a condo means they can save time and money to allow for more hunting, then that's what they do. It's not at about how they're perceived.

Many of the folks on this forum are eccentric, which just means being unconventional and slightly strange. You have to be to FIRE. I retired at age 38, which is very unusual. But the MMM brand of eccentric is usually less obvious: quietly saving and investing under the radar until one day you're the weird early retiree that very few people understand.

I'm not going to argue with you about your life decisions. And of course, you don't need my permission to live your life. But since you're here and you asked, I'll say that from my perspective it looks like you're tying yourself in knots trying to justify expensive hobbies. Sometimes the conventional approach is the most normal because it's the most sensible. Like living in a condo near work instead of commuting 1-1.5hrs/day from a money pit of a custom built tiny home with basement and little resale value. You do you, just don't expect folks here to be excited about spending yourself into a hole to fit a certain image. Because conceptually, what you're doing isn't really any different than buying McMansions and fancy cars to keep up with the Joneses.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2024, 02:41:46 PM by FINate »

fpjeepy

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #32 on: February 28, 2024, 03:23:54 PM »
I love to fish and hunt, which is one of the reasons I moved to Idaho. There are a ton of "hardcore" hunters here. Hardcore hunters are all about... hunting! Everything they do is around the hunt, and preparing for it all year. If living in a condo means they can save time and money to allow for more hunting, then that's what they do. It's not at about how they're perceived.

Many of the folks on this forum are eccentric, which just means being unconventional and slightly strange. You have to be to FIRE. I retired at age 38, which is very unusual. But the MMM brand of eccentric is usually less obvious: quietly saving and investing under the radar until one day you're the weird early retiree that very few people understand.

I'm not going to argue with you about your life decisions. And of course, you don't need my permission to live your life. But since you're here and you asked, I'll say that from my perspective it looks like you're tying yourself in knots trying to justify expensive hobbies. Sometimes the conventional approach is the most normal because it's the most sensible. Like living in a condo near work instead of commuting 1-1.5hrs/day from a money pit of a custom built tiny home with basement and little resale value. You do you, just don't expect folks here to be excited about spending yourself into a hole to fit a certain image. Because conceptually, what you're doing isn't really any different than buying McMansions and fancy cars to keep up with the Joneses.

Thank you. I appreciate the constructive criticism. I came to MMM Forums, not McMansion Spendy Spend forums.

I'll suck it up and keep living on the boat/van until the Mrs. won't take it anymore. Maybe by then, I'll be out of NJ.

aloevera1

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #33 on: February 28, 2024, 03:44:21 PM »
Personally, I wouldn't want to live on a bog. I wouldn't even want to live close to the bogs. In addition to bugs, bogs smell. Unless you love that specific smell of stale water, I would probably at least try it out. Also, your insurance premiums might be affected, construction costs might be higher, etc. I don't think this approach has any financial merit (in fact, probably going to be more expensive than other housing options).

Others already covered the psychological side of it pretty comprehensively. Doing something just for appearances has its own pitfalls. You don't like other small quarters lifestyle (e.g. the van or the boat) so you might hate this tiny house too. However, it has much less appeal to potential buyers so you might have to offer a steep discount or struggle with selling.

Also, imagine your perception of self will change and maybe you'll want to identify with "people who live in historic houses". Then what?

I am exaggerating a bit.

I actually understand the identity part here. I really did not want to identify with "suburban dwellers". Yet, it was something that made sense so I went for it despite a lot of surface level protest. Turns out, I actually loved it. It's going to be many years before I consider living in an apartment again.

Our perceptions are just that - internal narratives that are not fully substantiated by anything. They might not even reflect the actual, true you and your actual wants and desires.

Challenge the narrative you tell yourself and look at what you actually want from life.

fpjeepy

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #34 on: February 28, 2024, 03:57:38 PM »
Personally, I wouldn't want to live on a bog. I wouldn't even want to live close to the bogs. In addition to bugs, bogs smell. Unless you love that specific smell of stale water, I would probably at least try it out. Also, your insurance premiums might be affected, construction costs might be higher, etc. I don't think this approach has any financial merit (in fact, probably going to be more expensive than other housing options).

Others already covered the psychological side of it pretty comprehensively. Doing something just for appearances has its own pitfalls. You don't like other small quarters lifestyle (e.g. the van or the boat) so you might hate this tiny house too. However, it has much less appeal to potential buyers so you might have to offer a steep discount or struggle with selling.

Also, imagine your perception of self will change and maybe you'll want to identify with "people who live in historic houses". Then what?

I am exaggerating a bit.

I actually understand the identity part here. I really did not want to identify with "suburban dwellers". Yet, it was something that made sense so I went for it despite a lot of surface level protest. Turns out, I actually loved it. It's going to be many years before I consider living in an apartment again.

Our perceptions are just that - internal narratives that are not fully substantiated by anything. They might not even reflect the actual, true you and your actual wants and desires.

Challenge the narrative you tell yourself and look at what you actually want from life.

The bogs are only flooded during harvest and the winter.

The area I am looking at is owned by the Cranberry farm, but it is more in the woods up a hill. The reason I picked it is because it is high enough up the water table that it can have a basement. I have lived in small spaces my whole life. I don't mind it. I have been on a boat for 6 years. My living space is about 9ftx22ft. I would like a 400ft tiny house so I can enjoy double the amount of space!! And a basement to work on some small projects out of the rain would be light years better than the dock with a headlamp work I do now.

I will more on the psychological parts. If nothing else it seems a little clearer now.


sonofsven

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #35 on: February 28, 2024, 04:49:50 PM »
One thing about living out in the country is you usually have a bit of space. A small house and a big pole barn is the way to go if you don't have kids. One level living in the house as it's cheaper to build. A pole barn with a slab floor is the cheapest outbuilding you can build. You could put windows in the corner and frame up walls and heat and install plumbing and make a little apartment in the pole barn if you wanted to. 400 sf of living and 1200 sf of shop. Something like this would have really good resale prospects, at least in my area.
I know a number of folks in the country who built the shop first, with a bathroom and limited kitchen, and moved in with a wife and young kids, even, then built their house slowly over the next few years and had very little to no debt when they were done.
A tiny house on wheels makes some sense, as you can sell it off. But the depreciation from new must be huge. It's a real limited market because there are very few places you can legally park them.  Maybe for a weekend retreat but for full time there are so many negatives, like little storage, loft bedrooms with low headroom, poor transition to outdoor space.
I like small homes, but anything under about 800 sf is too small for me. That's 20x40, or 20x20 on two levels. 1000 sf, really. Of course a lot depends on the layout, number of bedrooms, covered porches, and ceiling height as to how the home works, or feels. I built a 1000 sf two bedroom, small bedrooms and two small baths, one en suite, small laundry room with W/D, cabinets and a water heater (hybrid of course) and a back door that lead to a stand alone two car garage, the rest was open living/dining/kitchen, with nine foot ceilings, mini-split for heat, and a big full width covered front porch. It seemed bigger than what it was (but it was still harder to sell). It was one level and really attractive.
I scour the RE listings for miles around me and in even cheaper places in the country and I sometimes see projects like what you are talking about. Tiny places that are no more than sheds, really. Actually not even enough space to make a decent storage shed as you can't really park equipment in it. They tend  to languish for a long time as buyers just don't see the appeal. If they are on exceptional pieces of land it's different, but the attraction is the land and the structure is really "free".
A home in the country can be a place to relax, unwind, and escape from stress, even if you don't live there full time. Something that is so small you have to be militantly minimalist because you have hardly any storage seems like so much work it might limit your enjoyment of the place.
Plus, you might love it so much you want to invite your friends or family out to stay the weekend. They could set up a tent, but having a little space indoors is nice.
I wonder if you've been living in a boat so long it's warped your sense of what is possible, or enjoyable, in a house? (No offense).

spartana

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #36 on: February 28, 2024, 11:49:33 PM »
Maybe I will take your advice and try to word things differently. I like to hunt, fish, and build boats. I'd like to have a small homestead or at least a garden. So I guess I don't like condos, suburbs, cruises, big houses, nice cars, or Netflix because they don't offer me any of the things I like.

Lastly, I think how I identify might be part of the puzzle. I guess partly I don't like the idea of condos because guys who identify as hardcore hunters don't live in condos. So my insecurity will tell me that if I live in a condo and call myself a hardcore hunter, then I'm a poser. Or if I identify as a fisherman, but spend more time on Netflix, then I'm a Netflixer, not a fisherman. Or I'm a part-timer, weekend warrior.

I love to fish and hunt, which is one of the reasons I moved to Idaho. There are a ton of "hardcore" hunters here. Hardcore hunters are all about... hunting! Everything they do is around the hunt, and preparing for it all year. If living in a condo means they can save time and money to allow for more hunting, then that's what they do. It's not at about how they're perceived.

Many of the folks on this forum are eccentric, which just means being unconventional and slightly strange. You have to be to FIRE. I retired at age 38, which is very unusual. But the MMM brand of eccentric is usually less obvious: quietly saving and investing under the radar until one day you're the weird early retiree that very few people understand.

I'm not going to argue with you about your life decisions. And of course, you don't need my permission to live your life. But since you're here and you asked, I'll say that from my perspective it looks like you're tying yourself in knots trying to justify expensive hobbies. Sometimes the conventional approach is the most normal because it's the most sensible. Like living in a condo near work instead of commuting 1-1.5hrs/day from a money pit of a custom built tiny home with basement and little resale value. You do you, just don't expect folks here to be excited about spending yourself into a hole to fit a certain image. Because conceptually, what you're doing isn't really any different than buying McMansions and fancy cars to keep up with the Joneses.
Weird early retiree here! Like you, and other weirdos, my eccentricities were pretty hidden after I FIREd and even while on the path to FI. My various living situations came about due to life style, relationships, family, desire to save money, or job factors and were not always  my ideal choice. In each case they suited my purposes at that time and  allowed me greater opportunities to spend what free time I had doing things I loved.

So that tiny apt or the small sail boat or even smaller older tract home in the burbs and the sensible used sedan may allowed you to save more money, and more importantly to save more time, to actually DO the things you love instead of just identifying with them by what type of structure you live in. Especially if that structure requires dealing with long commutes and a lot of toil to build and maintain.

Don't get me wrong OP. I think your dream of a tiny stick built house on a small piece of rural land is attainable and could be an awesome choice for you.  However, with all the other stuff going on in your life -  future spouse, future kids,  long distance relationship, long work day and long commute, and the difficulties of finding free time to find and build a place (and engage in your hobbies) just isn't a realistic housing choice at this stage of your life. Especially if you plan to move to a different location. I've lived in some unconvential ways myself and in a large variety of states, and sometimes conventional ways allow you to do more with your life then unconventional ways. I FIREd as a younger single childless women living alone in a small (under 1000sf) older suburban tract home. Not my dream place but it allowed me to live the life I wanted at that time. While people who didn't know me likely assumed I was something I wasn't (and likely a boring Altima driving cruise hopping netflicker lol) it didn't matter. That's not who or what I am but I sure wasn't going to let strangers stereotyping beliefs define my personal living situation.

« Last Edit: February 29, 2024, 01:04:53 AM by spartana »

Paper Chaser

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #37 on: February 29, 2024, 03:34:51 AM »
In terms of energy efficiency, heating and AC are only about a third of a typical home energy bill. The rest is consumed by the same appliances you'd have in a tiny home: water heater, fridge, consumer electronics, laundry, and cooking. So at most you might be saving 20% by living in 399sf versus 1,000sf.
Probably less than that because of the cube-square rule. This rule describes the increasing ratio of interior space to exterior wall perimeter as a building gets larger. For example, the length of perimeter wall to build a 1,024sf square house is 32x32x32x32=128ft, and the ratio of interior floor space to wall length is 1024/128=8. That is, for every foot of exterior wall you build or heat/cool, you get 8sf of interior. A 400sf square house has 20x20x20x20=80ft of exterior wall perimeter, and a much worse area/perimeter ratio of 400/80=5. A bigger house can be expected to cost more to build, heat, and cool, but less to build, heat, and cool per unit of space.


Most single-story homes will be around the same height. Let's assume that to make math easier. < 400 sqft can have lower ceilings, but it's a pretty small amount so we will ignore it.

32x32ft home with 13ft ceilings and a flat roof:
32x32x13= 13,312 cubic feet --- 4*(32x13)+32x32= 2688 sqft of surface area.

20x20ft home with 13ft ceilings and a flat roof:
20x20x13= 5,200 cubic feet --- 4*(20x13)+20x20= 1440 sqft of surface area

It will take 2688/1440 = 1.867 or 87.6% more energy to heat 1024 sqft over 400 sqft.

This is way oversimplified, but smaller homes are easier to heat.

You don't heat and cool surface area, you heat volume. Most small, older homes aren't going to have 13ft ceilings like the tiny home with loft and basement that you're suggesting.

Older single story home:
32 x 32 x 8ft ceilings is a box with volume of 8,192 cubic ft, a footprint of 1,024 sqft and 1,024 sqft of wall area.

Proposed tiny home:
(20 X 20 X8 basement) + (20 X 20 X13 living space + loft) = 8400 cubic ft of volume in your proposed "Tiny" house with a footprint of 400sqft and 1,040 sqft of wall area above grade. If you want it to be efficient, you'll need insulation between the basement cement and the dirt, which adds another 640 sqft of wall area and 400sqft of floor to insulate or lose heat out of.

So, the tiny house you envision has a smaller footprint, but more volume to heat/cool and more wall area to lose heat out of without the basement, and more than double the surface area if you're including the basement.
« Last Edit: February 29, 2024, 05:50:55 AM by Paper Chaser »

Paper Chaser

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #38 on: February 29, 2024, 04:08:03 AM »
It's fine if you want to do this house. I too appreciate a well built, nicely designed home over a cheap, boring box. And life would be incredibly boring if everybody always chose the most financially optimal path. But I think you're doing some mental gymnastics to try to justify it. How long would you have to live in this place for the lower annual tax bill or (potentially) lower monthly utilities to make up the cost difference in upfront price compared to an existing small home? It seems like you're trying to justify spending (probably tens of thousands) more up front to have slightly lower running costs each month, and then questionable resale down the road. So, I don't think there's any financial justification for this. Maybe if you'd be spending a few decades there, but that's not likely from the sound of it.

Mustachianism isn't about being financially optimized robots that live in boring boxes and never have fun. It's about identifying what is truly important to you as an individual, and then optimizing other aspects of your life to augment what is important to you. We've got people here that live on boats, homesteads, dense urban condos, and typical suburban homes. They're all (hopefully) doing it as part of living their best lives.

fpjeepy

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #39 on: February 29, 2024, 06:59:01 AM »

You don't heat and cool surface area, you heat volume. Most small, older homes aren't going to have 13ft ceilings like the tiny home with loft and basement that you're suggesting.
You might use a heater to heat the air in a house which fills the volume of a house, but heat transfer happens through the walls, roof and foundation. Heat transfers from hot to cold. Once the volume reaches a temperature it will stay at that temperature forever with no energy added unless heat transfers through the walls. Heat transfer rate is proportional to temperature difference. Since dirt below the surface is much more constant (warmer during the winter and cooler during the summer) less heat is lost through a foundation than is lost through walls. Additionally, there is no convection around a foundation. The dirt doesn't move like air can. Foam insulation is also pretty standard and inexpensive.

Most older homes don't have a flat roof 8ft above the floor you stand on. I simplified the calculation by not calculating the surface area of a peaked roof, as well as the added complications that an attic which is usually not kept at the same temperature as the living portion of the house can provide additional insulation, but this can vary a lot depending on design.

Older single story home:
32 x 32 x 8ft ceilings is a box with volume of 8,192 cubic ft, a footprint of 1,024 sqft and 1,024 sqft of wall area.

Proposed tiny home:
(20 X 20 X8 basement) + (20 X 20 X13 living space + loft) = 8400 cubic ft of volume in your proposed "Tiny" house with a footprint of 400sqft and 1,040 sqft of wall area above grade. If you want it to be efficient, you'll need insulation between the basement cement and the dirt, which adds another 640 sqft of wall area and 400sqft of floor to insulate or lose heat out of.

So, the tiny house you envision has a smaller footprint, but more volume to heat/cool and more wall area to lose heat out of without the basement, and more than double the surface area if you're including the basement.

Your calculation doesn't include the roof. The surface that the majority of heat loss will take place through. (1024sf for the small home 400sf for the tiny home.)

If you don't believe me go ask the physics forums.
32x32ft home above grade Vs 20x20ft home with one floor above grade and one below. Ask them which would cost more to heat and air condition.
« Last Edit: February 29, 2024, 07:01:50 AM by fpjeepy »

Paper Chaser

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #40 on: February 29, 2024, 08:04:06 AM »
I'm just saying that you're kind of putting your finger on the scales a little bit too by not considering the basement of the tiny house in your estimates, and also assuming the older home would be 1.5 stories tall above grade like your planned tiny house would be. Things get a lot closer if you add the basement and reduce the height of the hypothetical older home to a single story.

Thermal mass of the concrete in the basement can help if it's well insulated, and it can work against you if it's uninsulated or inadequately insulated.

A properly insulated and air sealed roof or attic doesn't lose that much heat, and isn't very difficult to do in conventional homes post build. I do agree that smaller will be better if all else is equal, but you're proposed house basically trades 600 sqft less roof, for  40 more sqft of wall above grade, and 1040 sqft of wall/floor below grade. I don't think the difference will be as great as you claim.

And really, is the focus on driving monthly or yearly expenses down to a minimum worth the higher up front cost when your timeline is as short as you say it is?

ChpBstrd

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #41 on: February 29, 2024, 09:30:12 AM »
While I agree the 1,024sf house will cost more to heat and cool than a 399sf house, we are (a) only talking about 20% of the home's total energy cost, and (b) are only talking about an 87% increase in surface area to lose/gain heat per @fpjeepy 's calculation including the roof.

So in an all-things-being-equal world of equally insulated square houses with flat roofs leaking energy at constant rates, one might save 0.2*0.87= 17.4% of their energy bill by reducing their home's size 60%. Certainly if you don't need the space, there's no need to pay a 17.4% higher energy bill for it, but how much money are we really talking about here, and can the difference be made up for with energy efficiency improvements or solar panels?

For context, I live in a drafty 1300sf house built in 1940 arranged in an inefficient letter "H" shape that essentially maximizes surface area. In 2021, the year before I had solar panels installed, I spent $1,890 on electricity plus natural gas. 20% of this number would be about $378 spent on heating and cooling, but my heat pump was dying at the time so let's be generous and say 25%, which would be $473. We can reduce this number 27% to model what a similarly inefficient 1,024sf house would cost to heat and cool, so 473*0.73= $345.

We could further reduce this number by downsizing from 1,024sf to 400sf which would reduce our wall+ceiling weather-exposed surface area from ((32*4*10)+1024)=2,304sf to ((20*4*10)+400)=1,200sf if we assume 10' ceilings in each house. This is a 48% reduction in wall+ceiling surface area, so we can presumably reduce our expected electric bill by ($345*0.48=) $165.31 per year.

That's the expected utilities difference between living in 1024sf and 400sf - a whole $165.31 per year. A difference somewhere in this range is what's keeping you from buying an existing home and moving on.

And all things are probably not equal. Some 1024sf houses will be poorly built, with lots of air leaks to work on, single pane windows, and minimal options to add insulation. Some will have lots of attic space to blow a foot and a half of cellulose for an inexpensive R value of 56, which no lofted tiny house with fiberglass or foam between the rafters can match. Some existing homes will have already-insulated walls, others will have easily-insulatable walls, and still others will be uneconomical to insulate the walls. Presumably the tiny house has 4" insulation in the walls and maybe 6" in the ceiling for an R value of about 13-19 and that number cannot be easily improved upon. So basically an existing 1024sf house may be built inefficiently and/or it may offer options to be made more efficient than a tiny home with lofted ceiling. A house with an attic offers more opportunity to over-insulate than a tiny home with sealed up rafters.

If you like the idea of designing and building, consider doing a gut-job remod on a highly discounted house. You can obtain your desired look, feel, and efficiency this way, and the end product has the feel of a new house. Often you can live in it while you work.

Another option to address spending $165 per year more than necessary on utilities is to install solar panels. A system that could cover most of the electric bill for a 1024sf home could cost about $16k, and pays for itself in about 6 years (I took such a deal in 2022). After this investment, you're spending much less on energy than the tiny house without solar panels would require. So this is another way of looking at it: The price of optimal energy efficiency is about $16k - an amount you might be able to negotiate off the price of a 1024sf house, or an amount that might represent a routine new construction budget overrun. In my house, I found it is cheaper to add another couple of solar panels than it is to tear out my walls and insulate them. The cost of generation is now far below the cost of most efficiency improvements.

I wouldn't call energy efficiency a major factor between the 1024sf and 400sf options. It's relatively small change in the big picture. Insurance and property taxes will be bigger differences than energy. And of course the cost of commuting a longer distance to work should absolutely be avoided. Given the choice between a suboptimal house close to work and an optimal house with a significant commute, I would choose the suboptimal house and fix it to my liking to the extent possible. An extra one mile driven 260 days a year at a total cost of $0.70 per mile adds up to $182 - which is more than the tiny house saves in energy. That's the cost of living a half mile farther from work!

fpjeepy

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #42 on: February 29, 2024, 09:31:45 AM »
I'm just saying that you're kind of putting your finger on the scales a little bit too by not considering the basement of the tiny house in your estimates, and also assuming the older home would be 1.5 stories tall above grade like your planned tiny house would be. Things get a lot closer if you add the basement and reduce the height of the hypothetical older home to a single story.

Thermal mass of the concrete in the basement can help if it's well insulated, and it can work against you if it's uninsulated or inadequately insulated.

A properly insulated and air sealed roof or attic doesn't lose that much heat, and isn't very difficult to do in conventional homes post build. I do agree that smaller will be better if all else is equal, but you're proposed house basically trades 600 sqft less roof, for  40 more sqft of wall above grade, and 1040 sqft of wall/floor below grade. I don't think the difference will be as great as you claim.

And really, is the focus on driving monthly or yearly expenses down to a minimum worth the higher up front cost when your timeline is as short as you say it is?

Not including the basement was a thumb on the scale. Not intentionally I was just being lazy, and didn't want to try to calculate it.

The Tiny house would not be 1.5 stories. The I was assuming the height to the peak of the roof would be around 13ft. I think I picked that because it's the most that can travel over the road. Not a factor in this example but that's where my brain was. A typical 1 story could have the same peak height. The IRC App Q allows for 6'4" below the loft + 4" loft thickness + 3'0" headroom on the middle 5ft of the loft. So it could have a flat roof at 9'8" Or a sloped roof with 8ft walls and an 11ft peak minimum. This is very similar to a stick-built single-story home. A manufactured home would probably be a little less because they are kept short for traveling over roads. But they are also more rectangular which has more wall area and therefore less energy efficient.

Thermal mass doesn't affect heat transfer over long periods of time. If it is well insulated it will be better than if it is not, this will be true for large and small thermal mass.

Show me some evidence that says that heat is lost through walls and not roofs. 

Yes. All of this is a bad idea if it costs a lot more upfront and the timeline is short. But it is for that reason only. Not because the tiny home is not more efficient than the small home.


fpjeepy

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #43 on: February 29, 2024, 10:00:58 AM »
While I agree the 1,024sf house will cost more to heat and cool than a 399sf house, we are (a) only talking about 20% of the home's total energy cost, and (b) are only talking about an 87% increase in surface area to lose/gain heat per @fpjeepy 's calculation including the roof.

So in an all-things-being-equal world of equally insulated square houses with flat roofs leaking energy at constant rates, one might save 0.2*0.87= 17.4% of their energy bill by reducing their home's size 60%. Certainly if you don't need the space, there's no need to pay a 17.4% higher energy bill for it, but how much money are we really talking about here, and can the difference be made up for with energy efficiency improvements or solar panels?

For context, I live in a drafty 1300sf house built in 1940 arranged in an inefficient letter "H" shape that essentially maximizes surface area. In 2021, the year before I had solar panels installed, I spent $1,890 on electricity plus natural gas. 20% of this number would be about $378 spent on heating and cooling, but my heat pump was dying at the time so let's be generous and say 25%, which would be $473. We can reduce this number 27% to model what a similarly inefficient 1,024sf house would cost to heat and cool, so 473*0.73= $345.

We could further reduce this number by downsizing from 1,024sf to 400sf which would reduce our wall+ceiling weather-exposed surface area from ((32*4*10)+1024)=2,304sf to ((20*4*10)+400)=1,200sf if we assume 10' ceilings in each house. This is a 48% reduction in wall+ceiling surface area, so we can presumably reduce our expected electric bill by ($345*0.48=) $165.31 per year.

That's the expected utilities difference between living in 1024sf and 400sf - a whole $165.31 per year. A difference somewhere in this range is what's keeping you from buying an existing home and moving on.

And all things are probably not equal. Some 1024sf houses will be poorly built, with lots of air leaks to work on, single pane windows, and minimal options to add insulation. Some will have lots of attic space to blow a foot and a half of cellulose for an inexpensive R value of 56, which no lofted tiny house with fiberglass or foam between the rafters can match. Some existing homes will have already-insulated walls, others will have easily-insulatable walls, and still others will be uneconomical to insulate the walls. Presumably the tiny house has 4" insulation in the walls and maybe 6" in the ceiling for an R value of about 13-19 and that number cannot be easily improved upon. So basically an existing 1024sf house may be built inefficiently and/or it may offer options to be made more efficient than a tiny home with lofted ceiling. A house with an attic offers more opportunity to over-insulate than a tiny home with sealed up rafters.

If you like the idea of designing and building, consider doing a gut-job remod on a highly discounted house. You can obtain your desired look, feel, and efficiency this way, and the end product has the feel of a new house. Often you can live in it while you work.

Another option to address spending $165 per year more than necessary on utilities is to install solar panels. A system that could cover most of the electric bill for a 1024sf home could cost about $16k, and pays for itself in about 6 years (I took such a deal in 2022). After this investment, you're spending much less on energy than the tiny house without solar panels would require. So this is another way of looking at it: The price of optimal energy efficiency is about $16k - an amount you might be able to negotiate off the price of a 1024sf house, or an amount that might represent a routine new construction budget overrun. In my house, I found it is cheaper to add another couple of solar panels than it is to tear out my walls and insulate them. The cost of generation is now far below the cost of most efficiency improvements.

I wouldn't call energy efficiency a major factor between the 1024sf and 400sf options. It's relatively small change in the big picture. Insurance and property taxes will be bigger differences than energy. And of course, the cost of commuting a longer distance to work should absolutely be avoided. Given the choice between a suboptimal house close to work and an optimal house with a significant commute, I would choose the suboptimal house and fix it to my liking to the extent possible. An extra one mile driven 260 days a year at a total cost of $0.70 per mile adds up to $182 - which is more than the tiny house saves in energy. That's the cost of living a half mile farther from work!

https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/why-energy-efficiency-upgrades

I get $450 a year from that. Not hugely different than your number so your point is valid. More savings would have to come from the purchase price, taxes, insurance, and downstream benefits of forced minimalism.

The Cranberry Farm property would allow me to be closer to work than most other options, but not closer than my current situation... which is I walk to work from my boat to the other side of the marina.

As an aside, I did a little back-of-the-napkin math for $/mile for my mustache car use. $7000 for Ford Focus with 50,000 on it. I average around 42 in the winter 46 in the summer (Used $4/ gal). Change my own oil / 10,000 for $25. Do most of my out maintenance/repairs myself or with a $40/hour friend. Tires hopefully twice before I kill it (based on it making it to 250,000). So I got $7000 + $500 oil change + $19,000 gas + $800 tires + $3100 ($500/year extra) Around  $30,400 or $0.15/mile. I think that is a little wishful, but I think I should be able to keep it under $0.30.

 

fpjeepy

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #44 on: February 29, 2024, 10:11:49 AM »
https://www.the-sun.com/money/10524149/homeowners-offered-free-money-build-tiny-home-new-plan/

Buy a single family and add an ADU. Live in the ADU and rent the single family.

Gotta figure out what 10 towns. Very unlikely anything near me.

Paper Chaser

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #45 on: February 29, 2024, 10:22:35 AM »
Show me some evidence that says that heat is lost through walls and not roofs.

No argument from me about heat loss through a roof. I'm just saying that a properly air sealed and insulated roof (R40+ for Climate range 4/5) is pretty efficient, so the actual cost difference between a 1000sqft roof and a 400sqft roof ends up being pretty minimal. Especially if you're then adding more wall at R19-ish to get the roof size down to 400 sqft.


Yes. All of this is a bad idea if it costs a lot more upfront and the timeline is short. But it is for that reason only. Not because the tiny home is not more efficient than the small home.

We are in agreement here as well. Smaller will be more efficient than larger. I'm not sure the difference between your proposed 1000sqft tiny house and a more typical 1000 sqft existing home will be as much as you're anticipating, but I'm not suggesting that there would be no difference at all.
And we also agree that it's not financially optimal. So the question becomes is it important enough to you to pay more, and delay FI a proportionate amount? What kind of things are important to you, and why? How you spend your time and money should reflect who you are and what you value. If a sub-optimal home (or car, or hobby, or whatever) is worth the price (in terms of opportunity cost, delayed FI, etc) to you, then go for it. The goal here is to help you determine what those costs might actually be, and to prompt you to question if that price is indeed worth it to you or not.

« Last Edit: February 29, 2024, 10:43:06 AM by Paper Chaser »

spartana

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #46 on: February 29, 2024, 10:44:25 AM »
https://www.the-sun.com/money/10524149/homeowners-offered-free-money-build-tiny-home-new-plan/

Buy a single family and add an ADU. Live in the ADU and rent the single family.

Gotta figure out what 10 towns. Very unlikely anything near me.
I was going to suggest that but it sounded like you prefer a more remote location with a bit of space between you and your "neighbor". Here in Calif there is a $40k ADU credit allowance to pay for plans etc but it can't be used to build an ADU. There's also tax incentives to provide housing for lower income people and this vs like that. So for those already owning homes and wanting to have rental income it can be a sweet deal.

Before I recently sold and moved I lived in a urban-ish/suburban-ish area that has become ADU hell (sorry @Log). Most of the older small 1950s original houses like mine were on larger lots of around 8000 SF and each home was allowed to build 2 ADUs - a smaller Jr ADU less than 800 SF and a 2 bedroom 2 bath one under 1200 SF. Plus many of the older houses were torn down and replaced by giant 2 story behemoths that stretched lot to lot and used for room rentals or airbnb room rentals. So it became very crowded. Probably not the place of your dreams if you want rural.

Personally, if I could walk to my job from my boat I'd stay there until I needed to move. Or if tired of that rent a shared apt or room since you're in a long distance relationship and don't plan to live together until martried it makes the most sense.
« Last Edit: February 29, 2024, 10:51:23 AM by spartana »

Log

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #47 on: February 29, 2024, 11:03:39 AM »
https://www.the-sun.com/money/10524149/homeowners-offered-free-money-build-tiny-home-new-plan/

Buy a single family and add an ADU. Live in the ADU and rent the single family.

Gotta figure out what 10 towns. Very unlikely anything near me.
I was going to suggest that but it sounded like you prefer a more remote location with a bit of space between you and your "neighbor". Here in Calif there is a $40k ADU credit allowance to pay for plans etc but it can't be used to build an ADU. There's also tax incentives to provide housing for lower income people and this vs like that. So for those already owning homes and wanting to have rental income it can be a sweet deal.

Before I recently sold and moved I lived in a urban-ish/suburban-ish area that has become ADU hell (sorry @Log). Most of the older small 1950s original houses like mine were on larger lots of around 8000 SF and each home was allowed to build 2 ADUs - a smaller Jr ADU less than 800 SF and a 2 bedroom 2 bath one under 1200 SF. Plus many of the older houses were torn down and replaced by giant 2 story behemoths that stretched lot to lot and used for room rentals or airbnb room rentals. So it became very crowded. Probably not the place of your dreams if you want rural.

Personally, if I could walk to my job from my boat I'd stay there until I needed to move. Or if tired of that rent a shared apt or room since you're in a long distance relationship and don't plan to live together until martried it makes the most sense.

Haha no offense taken. I understand packing a lot more residents into a car-dependent place causes problems. I think in the emergency situation California got itself into, the costs are worth the benefits. Hopefully the places that have less acute housing shortages have time to plan smarter growth around better transportation systems. (Example: I am excited about Portlandís future).

Now Iíll step out - rural living and R values and thermal mass are not my zones of interest ✌🏻

Best of luck coming to a satisfactory decision, jeepy!

fpjeepy

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #48 on: February 29, 2024, 11:05:42 AM »
I was going to suggest that but it sounded like you prefer a more remote location with a bit of space between you and your "neighbor". Here in Calif there is a $40k ADU credit allowance to pay for plans etc but it can't be used to build an ADU. There's also tax incentives to provide housing for lower income people and this vs like that. So for those already owning homes and wanting to have rental income it can be a sweet deal.

Before I recently sold and moved I lived in a urban-ish/suburban-ish area that has become ADU hell (sorry @Log). Most of the older small 1950s original houses like mine were on larger lots of around 8000 SF and each home was allowed to build 2 ADUs - a smaller Jr ADU less than 800 SF and a 2 bedroom 2 bath one under 1200 SF. Plus many of the older houses were torn down and replaced by giant 2 story behemoths that stretched lot to lot and used for room rentals or airbnb room rentals. So it became very crowded. Probably not the place of your dreams if you want rural.

Personally, if I could walk to my job from my boat I'd stay there until I needed to move. Or if tired of that rent a shared apt or room since you're in a long distance relationship and don't plan to live together until martried it makes the most sense.
I don't mind neighbors or even a few neighbors. But the suburban desert of 5000 cookie-cutter homes and nothing else gives me the creeps. I just like a mix of things, I don't necessarily care what they are. A grocery store, food stand, farm, community garden, nature walk, boat launch, gym, maker space, archery range, bar, restaurant, or any other business.

Unless something changes I'm planning to do another summer on the boat.



fpjeepy

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Re: Help Me... A Deranged Eccentric
« Reply #49 on: February 29, 2024, 11:15:34 AM »
One thing about living out in the country is you usually have a bit of space. A small house and a big pole barn is the way to go if you don't have kids. One level living in the house as it's cheaper to build. A pole barn with a slab floor is the cheapest outbuilding you can build. You could put windows in the corner and frame up walls and heat and install plumbing and make a little apartment in the pole barn if you wanted to. 400 sf of living and 1200 sf of shop. Something like this would have really good resale prospects, at least in my area.
I know a number of folks in the country who built the shop first, with a bathroom and limited kitchen, and moved in with a wife and young kids, even, then built their house slowly over the next few years and had very little to no debt when they were done.
A tiny house on wheels makes some sense, as you can sell it off. But the depreciation from new must be huge. It's a real limited market because there are very few places you can legally park them.  Maybe for a weekend retreat but for full time there are so many negatives, like little storage, loft bedrooms with low headroom, poor transition to outdoor space.
I like small homes, but anything under about 800 sf is too small for me. That's 20x40, or 20x20 on two levels. 1000 sf, really. Of course a lot depends on the layout, number of bedrooms, covered porches, and ceiling height as to how the home works, or feels. I built a 1000 sf two bedroom, small bedrooms and two small baths, one en suite, small laundry room with W/D, cabinets and a water heater (hybrid of course) and a back door that lead to a stand alone two car garage, the rest was open living/dining/kitchen, with nine foot ceilings, mini-split for heat, and a big full width covered front porch. It seemed bigger than what it was (but it was still harder to sell). It was one level and really attractive.
I scour the RE listings for miles around me and in even cheaper places in the country and I sometimes see projects like what you are talking about. Tiny places that are no more than sheds, really. Actually not even enough space to make a decent storage shed as you can't really park equipment in it. They tend  to languish for a long time as buyers just don't see the appeal. If they are on exceptional pieces of land it's different, but the attraction is the land and the structure is really "free".
A home in the country can be a place to relax, unwind, and escape from stress, even if you don't live there full time. Something that is so small you have to be militantly minimalist because you have hardly any storage seems like so much work it might limit your enjoyment of the place.
Plus, you might love it so much you want to invite your friends or family out to stay the weekend. They could set up a tent, but having a little space indoors is nice.
I wonder if you've been living in a boat so long it's warped your sense of what is possible, or enjoyable, in a house? (No offense).

I would love to have a small house and a big pole barn. Having a place to work on projects would be good for my soul.

I know the garagedominium / barndominium have a little bit of a following, but I think I like the idea of keeping the buildings separate.

NJ taxes pole barns so I think a "portable" shed on some trap rock would be a better deal in the long run.