Tiny House … on Wheels – Why we did it and love it.

Real Estate Appraiser with Ashcroft & Associates

It all started years ago with the idea of renting an RV for a camping trip.

Once we looked into the cost of renting, Dave started comparing the cost to rent verses own an RV.  I gave him plenty of reasons as to why this was a bad idea… okay, I can only remember two at the moment.  One:  I’m too young to own an RV and Two:  it won’t fit in our driveway (and I’m far too frugal to rent RV storage) Sure enough, he was lucky to find a small Toyota RV (that fit in our driveway, darnit) for less than what we figured a rental would be for the week.  Our plan was to sell the RV after our trip and recoup most of our purchase price.  That was in 2005. We still have the RV.  We’ve named the RV (the Rocinante) .  We love the RV.  The RV was the catalyst that snowballed our fate into buying a tiny house.  Let me explain….

The RV has taken us on adventures through at least five states and Canada.  It has renewed our pleasure for the outdoors (as we can comfortably be indoors when it gets too cold, wet, buggy, etc….).  Apparently I’m not too young to enjoy an RV. 

And with the comfort of the RV came the land…

Being an appraiser with MLS access is like working at the mall and being a fashion fiend… There’s too much access to seek out things you might admire and eventually buy.  We started seeking out a bit of land to call our own… You know… since we had an RV, and the RV needed a destination…  Snow. Ball.

Our casual property seeking turned serious when we found ‘the perfect property’.  In 2009 we purchased a bit of land.

The snowball effect didn’t end there.  Due to gas prices and a lot of the commute being quite windy (driving the Rocinante is like a trying to push a garage door through wind), Dave thought it would be a good idea to upgrade his vehicle to a more substantial SUV (I’m going to note here that his regular commuter vehicle is a scooter, so for all you eco-readers, we really do try to minimize our carbon footprint).

Now that we could leave the Rocinante at the property during summer months and commute back and forth at a much more leisurely and economical pace, we started to frequent the land more often.   Our thoughts of making this a semi-permanent home in our later years started to come to light.  And so I looked into building on the property.  To get a building permit, we would have to add septic and a well.  When asking neighbors about their wells, I found I could expect to spend $20,000 to $70,000* to get down to the water table.  I balked (frugal, remember?).  We are certainly not ready to make this more than a recreational property at this point in time and we need to be ready to sell it if necessary (you know… in case the banks fail … oops, been there).

Here enters the Tiny House on wheels.  Having wheels permanently attached (as the houses are literally built onto a flatbed trailer) is very important.  This makes the house a recreational vehicle rather than a house with a permanent foundation that requires permits.  It also makes it portable.  If we decide to sell the property, we can keep the house if we wish. 

We were enamored with the tiny houses we found (thanks Craigslist!).  One of the first and most popular of the tiny house (on wheels) companies that we found was Tumbleweed.  I’m the first to admit, they are not cheap, however, they tend to run around the same price as a new high end travel trailer or fifth wheel (or even quite old ones if you’re an AirStream enthusiast). 

After some search-time, we were lucky to find a pre-built Tiny House (on wheels) in the region that was a bargain.  We nabbed it.  We stored it until the winter roads thawed and then towed it with Dave’s new-to-him SUV (see how the snowball effect keeps popping up?). 

Now that the Tiny House (now dubbed The Bird House thanks to that awesome Portlandia episode) is its new resting spot, we have started to add and subtract some of the original features to make it off-the-grid.  So far, we’ve added gutters and a rain barrel which is hooked up to the existing water line so that we can take showers and wash dishes, etc. thanks to a solar water pump and we’ve replaced the existing toilet with a humanure toilet (I know, I know... But everybody poops, and it’s nice to do it in the comfort of four walls rather than in a pit or over a log or whatever… but I digress).  The kitchen has a propane gas stove and refridgerator.

Future plans include adding solar or wind power for electricity; however we are currently conservatively running power through a generator as needed. 

Surprisingly (or not), I had a heckuva time finding an auto insurance carrier that would cover the Bird House.  Almost every carrier I spoke with said it could probably be underwritten through Foremost, however, Progressive (finally) came through with the least expensive option (after talking with several representatives).

 I am pretty sure that our 19x8 foot plus loft (approximately 8x8?) Bird House would drive us mad if we lived there full time (as we have three dogs and a cat).  However, it adds to the paradise that is summer in the middle of nowhere .  And who knows, if the banks really do fail next time around, that might be our escape. 

Of course, I’ll post photos of the future bird curtains and bird stencil and other embellishments that come our way for your amusement. 

Here are some helpful links: 

Tiny Houses by Tumbleweed (on wheels and foundation)

Tiny House Blog is an excellent resource for people interested in tiny house living.  Ironically, there is a Progressive Insurance banner on this page ~

If you start searching, you will find many Tiny House (on foundation) sites, but this is one of our favorites

This an entertaining look into the experiences of building a tiny house in the woods from another ‘Dave’.

Sunset Magazine article on an Eastern Oregon tiny house

*Also a tangent but relevant fact… permits to build a mid-size home in Multnomah County runs about $30,000.  Ouch.


Here are oodles of other blogs regarding Tiny Houses from other 'Rainers'.  If some of the blogs are a bit redundant, at least the comments are always interesting:































Comments (14)

Kristi DeFazio
RE/MAX Advantage - Colorado Springs, CO
Colorado Springs Rea lEstate 719-459-5468

I love the tiny house! I would love to see more pictures of the inside. Looks really cool!

Jul 25, 2011 05:06 PM
Jason Sardi
Auto & Home & Life Insurance throughout North Carolina - Charlotte, NC
Your Agent for Life

Sara - Normally, I'd buy your hubbie a can of snuff as a house warming gift and make fun of the decision until the day I die.  Frankly though, there is some enviable freedom in those woods you are exploring.  That, I dig. 


Jul 25, 2011 05:09 PM
John Michailidis
Real Property Management of Sarasota & Manatee - Sarasota, FL
Real Property Management of Sarasota & M

I find the house, and the concept to be extremely cool! ;-)

Jul 25, 2011 05:15 PM
Sara Goodwin
Ashcroft & Associates - Portland, OR
Portland, Oregon Appraiser

Kristi - Thanks!  I have way too many pictures.  I should probably set up a link myself, but for starters you can find photos of it before we purchased The Bird House here.

Ah, Jason... Snuff would be perfect... we would actually have room for something so small and we could put the can to good use.  It's amazing how you learn to utilize every container in confined living quarters.

Hey John - Thanks for the kudos.  I've read a lot of blog comments on other sites that think the idea is pretty insane (mainly due to price per square foot).

Jul 25, 2011 05:25 PM
Vickie Nagy
Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate - Palm Springs, CA
Vickie Jean the Palm Springs Condo Queen

Sara, this was certainly an enlightening post for me! What a novel concept to have a portable house. Enjoy!

Jul 25, 2011 05:26 PM
Captain Wayne - Rowlett Real Estate School
Rowlett Real Estate School - Panama City, FL
Rowlett Real Estate School / Owner and Instructor

Sara, I think I need to trade my house for a house I know I can afford.

Jul 26, 2011 01:05 AM
Sara Goodwin
Ashcroft & Associates - Portland, OR
Portland, Oregon Appraiser

Thanks, Vickie ~  It's been a lot of fun and a learning experience all around.

Hello Captain.  It's nice to have an alternative, most definitely!

Jul 27, 2011 01:07 PM
Richard D. Ferris
AmcAppraisalsinc.com - Clermont, FL
Florida State Certified (FHA) Appraiser

Hey Sara!!  I have been following the tiny house movement for the last 6 months and I am so intruigued with it!  I actually have been considering plans for one in the future - but so far, my wife is opting for a condo over a tiny home!   But I keep dreaming!

Aug 15, 2011 03:22 AM
Sara Goodwin
Ashcroft & Associates - Portland, OR
Portland, Oregon Appraiser

Hey Richard - You may want to keep an eye out for tiny house building workshops in your area.  We have quite a few in the Pacific NW.  If I had an ounce of building skills, I'd be tempted to attend one.  The one we bought was built through such a workshop.

Aug 15, 2011 02:30 PM
Ginger Foust
Certified Staging Professional - Oakhurst, CA
Home Stager Oakhurst CA, Dream Interior Redesign & Staging

What a cute little house on wheels Sara.  We did the same for a guest house on our property due to our county not being about to make up their minds about a building permit and the process.  Our guest house is now deemed a recreational vehicle, complete with license and a VIN.  The county doesn't "like" it but they cannot tell us to do differently!! 

Oct 10, 2011 05:00 AM
Sara Goodwin
Ashcroft & Associates - Portland, OR
Portland, Oregon Appraiser

That's great, Ginger ~

I like alternative ideas when it comes to skirting silly rigid bureaucracy ;-)

Oct 13, 2011 05:49 PM
Margaret Oscilia
Creative Concepts-Home Staging and Contracting, Salem Oregon - Salem, OR
Home Stager, Salem Oregon

What a great adventure!  Especially since you were able to find one inexpensively!  I've seen them before but never known anyone who actually bought one -- very fun!

Jan 02, 2012 01:45 AM
Sara Goodwin
Ashcroft & Associates - Portland, OR
Portland, Oregon Appraiser

Thanks, Margaret - It's really been a lot of fun to have something semi-permanent on the land so we can visit year round ~  I look forward to getting back out there and setting up the new critter cam (our old one seems to have lost it's critter-snapping mojo).

Jan 16, 2012 04:09 PM
Sara Goodwin
Ashcroft & Associates - Portland, OR
Portland, Oregon Appraiser

Portland now has a Tiny House caravan hotel for those interested in visiting and trying out small-space living:  http://www.opb.org/news/blog/ecotrope/country-first-tiny-house-hotel-opens-in-portland/

Jul 30, 2013 06:27 AM