Transitioning to the tiny house movement can be an exciting time, especially when coupled with the dream of creating a personal homestead or a tiny house community. Unfortunately, buying land for a tiny home is not as straightforward as it might seem.
There are many critical considerations, risks, and financial investments you need to be aware of. Finding land to build a tiny house is just the first step.
For instance, tiny homeowner Alan purchased a small, rural lot. He had to do significant grading work to create a level spot for his tiny house. Additionally, he had to bring power to his property and build a water storage shed, as his neighborhood didn’t offer water service.
A couple of months and a few thousand dollars later, Alan successfully moved his tiny house on wheels onto the property.
Read on to learn the key considerations for finding and buying land for your tiny home.
Determine Your Needs When Buying Land for a Tiny House
Before you can start the process of finding land for a tiny home, you need to look inward. Good advice for both land hunting and life in general.
Set some time aside and quiz yourself on what you’re looking for in the land you want to purchase. For example, how much of it do you need? Try to get it down to a reasonably precise acreage range.
If you’re not sure how much land you’ll need to build a tiny house, it may be helpful to make a list of everything you expect to have on your land. Of course, look at the size of your tiny home plans.
And don’t forget to think about room for any other things you want. Are you going to have any animals or livestock on your land for a tiny house? Do you have plans for a garden?
Making a list of all considerations can ensure you get enough space for your dream land or homestead to be a reality.
You might even realize that you’re not yet sure what you want your plan to be when it comes to buying land for a tiny house. And that’s okay! It can take some time to figure these things out. But the time to do this is before beginning the search for land.
Having all these things locked down can help to save you time and money later on.
Consider Where You Want To Live Before Buying Land for a Tiny House
Everyone’s familiar with that famous saying: “Location, location, location.” Despite what your wishes may be, you can’t live just anywhere.
For a primer on legal obstacles to be aware of, watch the Living Tiny Legally documentary series.
When finding land for a tiny house, make sure you’re considering the proximity of the land to places you’ll need to get to frequently. How much of a commute can you stomach to work each day? Be honest with yourself, or you’ll regret the decision later on.
Are you dreaming of a trendy area of town? Unfortunately, the high land cost will likely not allow that anyway. These places often have lots of restrictive zoning rules for tiny homes.
The more flexible you’ll let yourself be in terms of location, the more likely you’ll find some land for a tiny house that feels perfect for your future tiny homestead.
I suggest making a list of musts, nice-to-haves and deal breakers. Things like you ‘must’ be within 15 minutes of a grocery store, or ‘it would be nice to have’ an on-site laundromat. Identifying what’s important to you will help when evaluating if an area will make you happy.
Do Your Due Diligence When Figuring out Where to Put a Tiny House
If owning your land for a tiny house is your ultimate dream, try not to fall in love with a particular plot until you explore the practical side of living there. That means visiting the city so you can get the low-down on zoning and building codes.
Some cities welcome tiny homeowners with open arms. Others have restrictive zoning laws and codes that aren’t tiny living-friendly. More than one tiny house homeowner has bought land only to find they can’t live on it.
Part of setting up your homestead includes obtaining permits and infrastructure costs for things like running electricity to your home and piping into the city water and sewage system. In most municipalities, obtaining permits means visiting the building department.
There two big questions you need to answer for every piece of land you consider buying to build a tiny house. How is it zoned, and what building standards are required?
Zoning laws govern how a particular property can be used and what can be built on it. Building codes are regulations on what standards a structure must be built to. These are enacted by state, county, and city governments. If the land you have your eye on isn’t zoned for your tiny structure, you can’t live there—at least not in a tiny home.
There are counties with no zoning or building codes, but basic health and safety regulations will likely still be needed. If you find unrestricted land, then that specific parcel will probably not have any building code requirements. This term has different meanings and applications across the country. For instance, deed and easement restrictions may apply.
Always check with the county to find out what regulations and inspections are required, including sanitation and water.
When Tiny Lots formed, a tiny house community in north Texas, the owners checked with the county to learn what rules and restrictions applied to their rural property. The only requirement was an additional septic system.
Owners, Brett and Mindy West, complied and also took it upon themselves to install tie-downs for each house, as a safety precaution from the regular high-winds.
Cast a Broad Net When Looking for Land to Buy for a Tiny House
Available land and undeveloped lots are not abundant everywhere in the country and can be hard to find. Driving around and looking for “For Sale” signs is not an efficient way to go about your search.
Good news: there are more online land sales sites than ever before so you can find the right land for your tiny house.
These allow you to search by location, property type (farm, recreational, etc.), and special features. Additionally, you can look for lots with no zoning, like on Land is Home. For more in-depth information about a piece of land, be sure to contact the realtor and local jurisdiction, city, county, or both.
Search for land here:
- Land is Home
- Land and Farm
- Lands of America
- LandFlip and LotFlip
- Rural Vacant Land
- Farm & Ranch
Budget Carefully: Development Costs Can Add Up Quickly
If you are looking to purchase an undeveloped or raw piece of land for a tiny house, you will need to consider what improvements may be desired and required. Firstly, you’ll need to know if there is power and water access.
No available power means you need to create your own or pay to bring it to your property. Costs will vary depending on location. The further you are from utility connections, the pricier it will be to connect your property. In some areas, if you are close enough, the price may be close to free.
The same goes for water. If city water isn’t available, you will need to truck it in, like Alan does, or drill a well, which can cost anywhere from $1,500 to as much as $10,000, plus permitting fees.
In most cases, to hook up local water and power will cost $10,000-$30,000. The most affordable route is to find undeveloped land that already has utility connections.
Weigh the costs of all options to make the best decision when buying land for a tiny house.
Looking to save money on building your tiny home? Check out these 5 tiny house kits for under $5,000!
It’s also important to keep in mind the upfront costs and required maintenance for off-grid power options, like wind turbines and solar power generators.
Don’t forget sewage! A new septic system can cost upwards of $5,000. The good news is smaller houses require smaller systems, translating to cost savings.
Another popular tiny house option is a composting toilet. The byproduct can be further broken down into a humanure system. To learn the ins and outs of how to properly execute this kind of composting, read the Humanure Handbook.
For household water and urine management, you can create a greywater filtration system. Be aware: your municipality or county may not allow this kind of water and waste management. Check your local regulations to know for sure.
Most importantly, don’t forget to consider how you will move your tiny house onto the property—an access road or a driveway is a necessity. For example, Alan had to clear and grade his lot before he could move onto it.
The total cost of any land purchase, depending on where it is and the local regulations, could include property surveys, soil and water tests, fees, permits, engineering services, utility hookups, tree removal, etc.
Be sure to investigate what expenses will be required to develop your land to prepare it for your tiny house. My advice: add a couple of thousand dollar cushion to your budget for any unexpected problems or fees.
Ready to Find Your Perfect Plot of Land for a Tiny House?
These are several things to think about when considering buying land for your tiny house.
First, remember to leave no stone unturned when looking for available land. Second, research the area’s zoning laws, building requirements, and necessary expenses. Third, consider a tiny home community, if developing land on your own feels overwhelming—a big perk: no zoning research required.
Always make sure you take your time and don’t rush into anything that isn’t right for you.
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Joseph Martial says
This is a great article, thank you for this. It will service as a guideline to those future homeowners who has still no idea on what to do.
This is such great info- verifying the zoning laws is sooo important! My husband and I were recently in the process of buying land in Utah for a tiny home, and thankfully we checked the the zoning laws before we bought the land because we found out it was not for residential building. We had a land surveyor in Draper check out another piece of land for us and do boundary survey. We ended up buying the land and are waiting until summer to start building our tiny house on it!
Holy cow… I guess ‘going tiny’ is a bit more than I can handle. 🙁