Have you ever wondered how to start a tiny house community? Well, you’re not the only one! Over the years many people have become increasingly dissatisfied with housing prices, as well as the added cost and stress of maintaining a traditional home.
Tiny house living is a popular minimalist alternative to these issues. And the more people that choose to live in them, the more sense it makes to build a community of tiny homeowners! People who share similar lifestyles, and can build and live in a more compatible space than your regular neighborhood.
But how does one go about it? To look into how to start a tiny house community, we’re going to follow the story of Tim Davidson and Sam Cosner, a couple who set out to build their own.
Meet Tim And Sam
Like many people who have joined the tiny house movement, Tim Davidson and Sam Cosner were tired of pouring all of their savings into rent or a lifetime of mortgage payments.
“Sam’s lease was up and I was ready to buy and wanted to invest in something”, Tim explained.
So back in 2017, they made the life-changing decision to get rid of 80% of their belongings, eager to downsize their lifestyle enough to fit into a tiny house. And soon enough they made their dreams come true.
Tiffany The Tiny House
Enter Tiffany, the 270 square foot tiny home that has changed their life for the better. Tiffany is a bungalow on wheels, so the couple has been able to move her from location to location. They purchased the pre-built tiny house for just $72,000, roughly a third of the price of a traditional home in the same area.
They found the house on Craigslist of all places, and Tim almost couldn’t believe his eyes. “It’s a beautiful house and I was looking on Craigslist thinking this has to be a scam or something.”
Tiffany is named after her color, a pretty pale blue called ‘Tiffany Blue.’ They were pleased with their purchase but were realistic about some of the shortcomings of tiny house living. They both agree that “A tiny house won’t last as long as a traditional home,” but are optimistic about Tiffany’s ability to withstand harsh conditions. ‘Tiffany isn’t hurricane-resistant, but she has gone through a severe storm before and survived,” Sam admitted.
A New Lifestyle
But adjusting their lifestyle to fit into this new home required some sacrifice. Sam had to sell the vast majority of her furniture, and both had to let go of beloved items and keepsakes. Altogether the couple agrees that they sold and gave away roughly 80% of their belongings.
‘We moved in with four boxes between us and we’ve not looked back since,’ Sam explained. ‘It was a little difficult at first, but it ended up being very liberating,” she continued. ‘We download most of our books onto Kindles, but we still have the physical copies of a few favorites.”
However, they don’t restrict themselves completely, allowing a little leeway when it comes to new purchases. “If we really want a new item we’ll buy it, but we have a rule where we have to get rid of something already in the house.”
The loving couple quickly adjusted to their new home. Living in a tiny house was a simple and more meaningful lifestyle, living with each other, their cat Oliver, and only the things that they really needed.
They didn’t have to add much to the house either – just a cat litter box and some decorative wooden beams. They soon moved their house to a campground in Tampa Bay, Florida, where they lived happily for a year. And they were comforted by the fact that they could move at any time.
“The idea of her being on wheels gives us so much more flexibility – if jobs change I can just haul her up to a different location,” said Tim.
And this flexibility would come in handy…
A New Journey
Now onto the most intriguing aspect of Tim and Sam’s tiny house story. After three years living and traveling in Tiffany, they decided to settle in Florida where they could afford to buy a prime piece of real estate to settle their tiny home.
That was when they came across a peaceful peninsula in Sarasota, Florida. It offered 1.5 acres of off-grid land and was being sold for only $200,000. The plot of land had been up for sale for two years, just waiting for someone to snap it up. In the meantime, it was being used as a dumpsite for surplus construction materials.
That’s when the innovative couple had an idea. Tim had been looking for a place to settle down, and this seemed perfect. They bought the small island, enamored with its verdant landscape and captivating ocean views.
With only rundown storage buildings left on the island, there wasn’t much to build with. The couple would have to start from scratch, but that didn’t phase them. “It took a lot of work – it was rusty gold – so you take the rust off and you’ve got gold”, Tim said of the first few months clearing up Shellmate Island.
But thankfully the natural aspects of the island made up for the lackluster infrastructure. The location was perfect, with unbeatable views and a swathe of plentiful fruit trees. And it was then that they decided to build a second tiny home on the property, this time from scratch.
Like many tiny house amateurs, Tim found himself overwhelmed by everything he had to learn. The new tiny house had to be constructed from the ground up, and he spent months learning the basics of construction as well as planning codes and regulations to make sure everything was up to scratch.
In the end, they bought an octagonal shell that cost between $30-40,000. By purchasing a unique shell, they could avoid some of the most difficult, risky, and time-consuming aspects of a tiny house build. They then built the inside of the home and designed the layout.
The second house comes in at 320 square feet and is very open and stylish, with many secondhand and recycled materials and furniture to lower overall build prices. The octagon tiny house costs only $30 a month in electricity, and Tim and Sam couldn’t be happier with it. For a glimpse into Sam and Tim’s current tiny house lifestyle, watch this video below.
A Tiny Community?
But they also saw the potential it had to become a community – a community of people who wanted to live the tiny house life with like-minded people. In their eyes, Shellmate Island has the potential to become the first off-grid tiny house community in Florida!
By Tim’s estimations, the 1.5-acre island has enough space for four or five houses all up. ‘We have plenty of room for neighbors to come and join us here,’ he says. ‘The island has lots of fruit trees on it, so there’s scope for us to become self-sufficient.’
Enough fruit trees and space to till the land and plant crops would be the best way to begin a tiny house community, and Tim and Sam are already making plans. They’ve already made plans to arrange short and long-term lets on the island and in their second tiny house. “Right now we’re enjoying it – it’s a cool experiment but it’s definitely not going to stay stagnant,” Tim says about future plans. They are keen to encourage others to join the “tiny house revolution” and join them on Shellmate Island.
They believe that more young people should be aware of the opportunities that tiny house living can present.
‘We’ve been able to spend money that we’d have had to use for mortgages to travel to places like Cuba and South Africa and to invest in our retirement.”
Over the years many people have called the couple “crazy” for abandoning conventional ideas of homeownership. Both Tim and Sam remain steadfast that the tiny house lifestyle was the best decision they could have made. “We’ve struggled all our lives to have this much freedom. I can’t envisage wanting to change our lifestyle ever,” Tim insists.
While we have yet to see if their tiny house community will grow and thrive, Shellmate Island is just one of the many examples of the growing tiny house movement. It’s further proof that there are people out there trying to build tiny house communities together. So if you’re looking for guidance on how to start a tiny house community, we hope that Tim and Sam’s story has given you some inspiration.