Tiny House Living: How to Transition to a Tiny House

Tiny House Living: How to Live in a Tiny House

 

Over the past few years, I’ve watched the tiny house movement take the real estate world by storm. There’s a growing trend to eschew the big house and opt for tiny house living instead.

While I haven’t completely adopted the tiny house mindset, I have been moving towards a more minimalist house approach. I’ve always been someone who despises clutter and the mental messiness it entails, so minimalist and tiny house living have a certain appeal to me.

If you are considering moving into a tiny house, here’s how you can transition from a normal-sized living environment to a tiny house:

Tiny House Living: Research, Research, Research!

Before you purchase a tiny house, make sure to do your research. There are tons of options out there! You could have something as small as a few square feet, or you could opt for something with a few hundred square feet. There are plenty of design options, too.

Additionally, you’ll want to decide how far off the grid you’ll be going. Will your tiny house be 100% self-sufficient? Does it need to be anchored somewhere? Will it be something you drive or tow? These are all questions you need to answer before you take the tiny house living plunge.

Essential Design Features

As you decide the type of tiny house you’d like to live in, don’t forget about non-negotiable design features you must have. Think about the creature comforts you need versus those you want. A clothes dryer seems like a must-have in a normal house but maybe you could opt for drying your clothes outside? That dishwasher will eat valuable space in a tiny house; maybe it’s time to hand-wash your dishes?

Think about how you’ll store your food, clothing, any personal items. Opt for multi-functional pieces whenever possible. Be specific about your organizational needs, too.

When you go to buy your tiny house, you’ll have to decide between building it yourself or purchasing a mass-produced or used option. Make sure to design your tiny house in a way that works for your lifestyle!

Tiny House Living: Cut the Clutter

After you have your new tiny house, you’ll need to carefully examine everything you own. This will help you decide what to bring and what to toss, donate, or recycle. I read an interesting fact while researching this post that says we spend 80% of our time wearing 20% of our clothing. How much space could you save if you only kept that 20% of what’s stuffing your closet and drawers??

As you purge, make sure to only keep what is necessary. Transitioning from a normal-sized home to a tiny house is a big adjustment so make sure you’re setting yourself up for success by reducing the amount of things you’re carrying around.

Adopting Different Hobbies

As you transition into your new tiny house, you may find that some of your old hobbies don’t fit your new lifestyle. Instead of dragging around all kinds of extra stuff, consider finding new hobbies. Think about things you can do outside (bonus points for more exercise!). I love to hike, rock climb, and canyoneer, so I already have a long list of outdoor hobbies. However, I also like to draw in my bullet journal. I don’t think all of those pens and markers I’ve accumulated would be essential if I adopted tiny house living.

If you’re a book lover like I am, you may need to go digital. I’ve always loved the act of turning the page and feeling the book, so digital reading was an adjustment for me. I eventually chose to invest in a Kindle, and I no longer miss all of those books cluttering my home office. 🙂

Tiny House Living: Opt Outside

If you choose to have a tiny house that isn’t mobile, you can spend plenty of time enhancing your yard. Doing so can double or triple your living space! If you have the yard space, you may want to opt for a fire pit, a garden, or even an outdoor kitchen. The more you spend your time outside, the less you’ll feel cramped and cooped up in your new tiny house.

If you opt for a tiny house that can be moved, seek out places that have plenty of outdoor amenities such as parks, nature trails, and outdoor picnic areas. Get out and about and you’re sure to love your tiny house even more.

Keep Your Perspective

Above all, remember that tiny house living is not for everyone. If anything, it isn’t easy to stay on top of clutter, especially if you’ve had lots of possessions in the past. If you’re serious about tiny house living, you can reap many benefits. These include saving a substantial amount of money and seeing more of the world.

I know someone who has a tiny house and she no longer has a mortgage payment. Now, she and her family live debt-free thanks to their tiny house. They also travel a bunch and have amazing stories to share. If I ever opt for tiny house living, I’ll definitely travel even more!

Would you ever live in a tiny house? Do you know anyone who does? Share your thoughts below! 

 

Smart Home Updates that Save You Money

Smart Home Updates that Save You Money--Miter Saws and Mary Janes

When it comes to smart  home updates, there are plenty of cool gadgets on the market. But which actually save you money? In this guide, I highlight smart products I’ve installed in my home, rental properties, and/or flips. Here are the best products I’ve found to upgrade your home in a smart way AND save money:

Smart Home Updates: Low-Flow Plumbing Fixtures

Low-flow plumbing fixtures are a double whammy: They save water and save you money. According to Energy Star, installing low-flow fixtures can save you over $140 per year.

I personally like to retrofit old fixtures with low-flow aerators if they don’t need to be replaced. My favorite aerator is the Niagara Conservation N3610CH Tri-Max 3 Flow Rate Dual Thread Needle Spray Aerator (try saying that fast even one time!) which costs less than $6.

When buying a new showerhead, I opt for Waterpik, gravitating between the RSD-133 Rain Head and the ASR-733 Drench Head. Both have superior pressure and hold up well to the abuse my tenants put them through.

For kitchen and bathroom faucets, I tend to stick with Moen for my rentals and flips because they have great customer service and warranty coverage. For flips, it can also include Kohler since that’s a recognized brand that appeals to buyers. The Moen Commerical M-Bition Widespread Faucet is in over 10 of my rentals. I always opt for separate hot & cold water levers as the integrated faucets seem to have more issues with repairs.

Programmable Thermostats

Hands down, the best programmable thermostat I’ve ever found is The Nest. I don’t install these in my rentals because I don’t pay the utilities (and I’d hate to see one of them mysteriously walk off). But I do have these in my own home. We have 2 because we have 2 separate heating systems. I love that I can link the two systems so they “talk” to each other.

Plus, operating The Nest from my smartphone allows me to control the temp even when I’m not home. There have been countless times when we’ve left for a trip and I’m setting the thermostats to the ‘Away’ setting while boarding my plane–it’s so easy!

According to the Real Savings website, Nest users save, on average, 10-12% on heating and 15% on cooling. While annual savings of upwards of $150, the device pays for itself in less than 2 years. If you’re interested in purchasing The Nest, contact your utility company to see if they’re offering rebates. My company was, I bought the device during a Black Friday sale for $199, and I received a $100 rebate in less than a month.

Smart Home Updates: Smart Doorbells

If your safety and security is important, you may want to consider installing a smart doorbell. After I had a few packages stolen from my front porch over the holidays, I opted to install one with a camera. It allows me to see what’s happening, communicate with others, and monitor package deliveries without opening my door.

The best smart doorbell I’ve been able to find is The Ring. The standard, WiFi-capable version is less than $150 or you can upgrade to the pro model for about $100 more. While this device won’t provide energy savings, it can help with staving off porch thieves and provide an alternative to some security system add-ons.

Motion Sensors and Power Timers

Motion sensors simply make sense if you’re trying to cut your electricity bill. Why pay for lights to run when you’re not in the room? Installing a motion sensor switch is a quick DIY project most anyone can figure out.

The key to motion sensor switches is installing the correct version. For older homes that may not have neutral wires, you will have to spend a few more dollars to purchase a switch that doesn’t require the neutral. A great option I’ve installed in my flips is the Lutron Maestro. At less than $25, it will certainly pay for itself many times over. Plus, it’s a selling feature most buyers will notice. For homes with newer wiring or where a neutral is present, a cheaper alternative is the TopGreener line I’ve found on Amazon.

As far as power timers, consider installing these on larger appliances such as hot tubs and attic exhaust fans. You can set the timer to kick on during optimal times (contact your utility provider for specific time ranges). This will save you hundreds of dollars over the life of the appliance.

Smart Home Updates: Sprinkler Controllers

If you have an outdoor sprinkler system, you need to have a smart sprinkler controller installed. Not only will this device save you money, it may also be able to alert you of pricey leaks in the system. My rental properties are in the South, so every house has a smart sprinkler controller installed.

Tenants are responsible for their own water bills, so it’s in their best interest to utilize the system I’ve provided. In the event I sell one of the properties, the sprinkler system is always a hit with buyers.

Smart sprinkler controllers come in a variety of price ranges depending upon their functionality. The best yet most expensive option I’ve found is the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller at $200. A more budget-friendly option is the RainMachine Hd-12 Smart WiFi Irrigation Controller for less than $60.

Smart Ceiling Fans

I once flipped a house that had a neon, Pepto Bismal-colored ceiling fan in one of the bedrooms. It also had the same pukey, pink color on the window trim, baseboard, and closets but that’s for another post. 🙂

When shopping for Pepto’s replacement, I fell down the rabbit hole of smart ceiling fans. It’s amazing what’s available these days, including extra-large fans, fans that connect to your phone, and even ones that connect to Alexa, Apple Homekit, etc. My advice is to purchase the largest fan that will fit in the room without being a safety hazard.

Additionally, consider a WiFi-capable fan for mobile control. If you have an older fan, you can update it simply by installing a smart switch such as those made my Haiku Fans. Just make sure what you’re spending on the fan and switches will be recouped in lower bills (about $50/year is average).

 

Do you have any smart updates in your home? What has saved you the most money?

 

**This post contains affiliate links but, as always, I only showcase products that I’ve personally tried, have liked, and feel comfortable recommending!**

 

7 Tips for Buying Your First Home

7 Tips for Buying Your First Home--Miter Saws and Mary JanesPurchasing your first home can seem daunting but it is one of the best financial moves you can make if you do it correctly. I’ve been able to amass a sizeable nest egg, quit my full-time job, and travel the world due to my flipping and rental projects. If I hadn’t made the leap to homeownership, I’d definitely not be where I am today.

Read on to learn 7 of the most important tips for buying your first home.

Location is King

While many things have changed in the real estate industry, this adage remains: Location, location, location. Ensure you’ve done your research before choosing your target location as the wrong neighborhood can definitely have a negative affect on your financial bottom line. This is especially true when purchasing your first home. I recommend at least 4 visits to the area before even setting foot inside a house to view. These 4 visits should include:

  • Weeknight visit
  • Weekday visit
  • Weekend daytime visit
  • Weekend nighttime visit

Pay attention to what you’re seeing and hearing with each specific visit. Is it quiet? Do you see neighbors out & about? Would you feel safe walking alone in the area? Ask yourself the hard questions and don’t sugarcoat what you’re experiencing. Make sure to speak to at least a few of the neighbors as well.

Use a Realtor

If you’re about to purchase your first home, this is a no-brainer. Using a licensed, knowledgeable real estate agent is FREE to you as a buyer. That’s right; your agent’s commission is paid by the seller! There may be a transaction fee that most every brokerage charges to buyers and sellers but I’ve found that it’s pretty easy to at least reduce that sum with a bit of friendly negotiation when you begin working with your Realtor. Expect to pay no more than $500, if anything.

More than finding you the house of your dreams, your Realtor is an invaluable source for neighborhood and market data. Seek out someone who has worked in the area you’re searching in, and make sure they give you a list of addresses of their recently closed homes that verify their claim. Remember the job of the Realtor also entails structuring your offer so it has the best chance of being accepted by the seller. In most markets today, gone are the days of lowball offers. In my local market, most homes have intense bidding wars and end up selling for over the original asking price. Don’t shortchange yourself by going it alone–rely on the expertise of your Realtor to ensure that house does in fact become your dream home.

Organize Your Finances First

Before you narrow down your preferred location or contact a Realtor, make sure you’re financially ready to purchase your first home. Seek out mortgage brokers who are familiar with people in your situation (whatever that may be). Don’t just meet with one broker–interview at least a handful to make sure you’re fully educated regarding your options. You should have already saved up a decent downpayment, cleared up any lingering credit issues, and set a strict budget for what you can afford.

If you aren’t ready to buy, consider finding a broker who offers free credit counseling if that’s your area of need. For no fee to you, these professionals will give you advice to tailor your debt payoff and savings efforts so your credit report will be in tip-top shape when it comes time to buy. When you are ready, the pre-approval letter is your buyer’s gold. Most Realtors won’t even meet with you before you have this in place, so take the time and make the effort to secure your pre-approval.

Above all, remember the amount you’ve been pre-approved for isn’t necessarily what you can afford. Do your budget, work the numbers, and re-work until you have a solid number. Don’t be swayed with fancy financial formulas when it comes time to decide what to spend. Know your number in advance, be strict with your Realtor about what you can afford, and be thankful you won’t end up with a mortgage that eats up all of your money.

Do Not Empty Your Bank Account

Inevitably, there will be unforeseen expenses when you purchase your first home. There isn’t a landlord or property management company to field your repair requests, so that work–and those dollars–will now be your responsibility. Set yourself up for homeownership success by keeping enough in your savings account to ride out whatever roofing, plumbing, or electrical storm may come your way.

Utilities, maintenance, property taxes, and insurance are all after-sale expenses that virtually never cease. Work these into your budget so you’re well-prepared. Also, don’t forget about random, one-off expenses such as moving into your new home, any new furniture you made need, and even the cost of re-stocking the fridge.

Know the Rules

Considering a condo or apartment in an established community? Looking at a home in a neighborhood that has an association? Pay particular attention to the HOA rules, regulations, and fees. Some HOAs have strict rules regarding pets, common area usage, and rental rules. If you’re thinking of turning your first home into an eventual rental property, make sure there isn’t an HOA rule that would impede your plan. Finally, take a hard look at the association’s financials.

If you do choose to purchase your first home in a place where there is an HOA, make sure there is plenty of money in the reserves and that the overall finances of the association are sound. Otherwise, you may end up being on the hook for some very expensive assessments down the line. Remember, in a shared community, everyone pays for certain expenses. From a new pool to a new roof, safeguard your finances by ensuring the HOA is on top of theirs.

Keep Sight of What’s Important

Before you start to look at houses, make a list of realistic expectations. No house will have 100% of what you’re looking for unless you build a custom home. Shooting for achieving at least 85% of your desired features is a great benchmark. And while you’re out there, keep in mind what really matters. That ugly paint color in the bathroom? It can be changed for less than $50. Those formica countertops? They are easy to replace, too. However, the lack of a fourth bedroom or a second bathroom isn’t so easy to change. A disaster of a floor plan can mean big bucks to renovate.

Before you’re out there viewing homes, know what you’d be willing to trade and/or sacrifice. If you are adamant about your commute time, don’t go too far out for the bigger house. But if you’re set on living in the mountains, consider living in a ski condo if the cost of a single family home is out of your reach. Additionally, don’t forget to consider contingencies. When buying your first home, it is imperative you have a home inspection. But perhaps you waive the sewer cam portion of the inspection list. Or maybe you forgo asking for a home warranty to make your offer more competitive. Work with your Realtor to craft an offer that makes sense given the house, the market, and the competition.

Get Ready to Move

Good houses at good prices tend to sell quickly, especially when the seller is realistic and ready to glide through the process. While I’m not advocating a rash decision, I do believe in moving quickly when you find The One. Think more like 1-2 days to decide to make an offer versus 1-2 weeks. As I mentioned above, in my local market, houses sell within hours so be prepared to write an offer almost immediately if your market is the same. This is why it’s crucial to have your pre-approval, neighborhood research Realtor, mortgage broker, and list of must-haves in place before looking at houses.

What advice would you give to someone looking to buy their first home?