Tiny House Legalities: Building alone, or with a loan.

Tiny house legalities is a whirlwind of exhaustion.

I’ve had a lengthy delay with progress on the 3D model, having to (happily) help a family with a website project. After jumping back in, I feel I’m closing in on the final draft of the build. The next big step is to get the model drafted as blueprints by an architect, but at this point I’ve been wrapped up in the giant maze of tiny house legalities.

At the recommendation of my broker (who has been serving as a tremendously helpful foundation for this project) I was able to speak to a builder about the tiny house construction. My broker recommended this builder based on a very particular condition I wanted: to build the house myself – at least as much as I could safely do. Knowing that other tiny house owners built their own homes struck a chord with me and was a really appealing aspect of the tiny house movement. I feel excitement as I build each and every detail into the 3D model, looking forward to when I am able to do the real thing.

The same week, my broker and I finally found a lender that seemed the right fit for this project.

I was sent documents on what was required for a Construction-to-Perm Loan and was mildly disappointed to see that a Certified General Contractor would need to attached to the project and have the control of the money disbursements. This makes sense of course, but I had very little knowledge at this point as to what the lender would require from the General Contractor as far as involvement and I was cautious not to ask the wrong questions from the lender. I knew with my intentions to build the house I would have to be supervised under the GC and that they would be at risk if I or someone else did something wrong in the build.

When I explained this intention to the builder on our first call, he seemed to be very willing to allow this condition, and was excited to see the progress on the model. Unfortunately, after our first conversation he seemed to stop responding to my communications. After spending a few weeks attempting to call & email, I ultimately felt more anxious about the reasons for the lack of response rather than the lack of response itself. Was he ignoring me because my tiny house idea was one that was not achievable? Unprofitable? Illegal? Did he change his mind, afraid of my inexperience as a builder? ( which is something I woefully admit…)

Since it was my first attempt in communicating with a builder, the rejection hit me really hard.

But it was obviously time to move on. My father suggested I call my cousin, a general contractor who works and lives in Gainesville, Florida, to see if he could offer advice or recommend builders he knew of in Orlando. Right away he set me on a straight path: correcting my misconceptions about how I would normally be involved with the building process and what my budget should entail for the builder. It was disappointing to hear, but not unexpected. The unfortunate, but understandably necessary boundaries bank lenders set for construction loans, and loans in general, would hinder my desire of building my tiny house cheaply and with non-certified builders. (AKA friends and family wanting to help) On the flip-side, my cousin was really enthusiastic about the design and lamented not being able to build due to his company being too far north. He offered to set me up with an architect he used and serve as a consultant for the builders contract.

Bad news aside, this one, simple phone call reinvigorated my tiny house passion in one stride.

Knowing once again that people in the home building industry were confirming that my tiny house idea wasn’t a crackpot idea felt reassuring. There are still so many ‘unknowns’ ahead with tiny house legalities — all of these baby steps forward could suddenly disappear with one big step back. But I can’t move forward if I just stand still.

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