Some people (including myself some days) would call me crazy! I have recently made the big decision not just to go tiny, but to hire a builder for a house that does not yet have a home. It is still not legal to live in a tiny house on wheels in any of the thirteen municipalities on southern Vancouver Island so I have no idea where I will be able to live once my house is complete. However, several municipalities are at least starting to talk about changing bylaws to allow tiny homes. And I am fairly confident that those changes will come within the next 6-12 months … and my dream of my own tiny house just couldn’t wait any longer to begin. I believe that if an idea just won’t let you go – whether it is logical or not – it is meant to be pursued! So, crazy or not, the dream has now passed the first stage of becoming a reality – I have signed a contract for the build and my trailer is on its way.

Deciding whether to build a tiny house on your own or to allow a professional to build is a big deal. I am amazed by the homes that some people have built on their own. However, in spite of the sense of accomplishment that might give, I know myself well enough to know that isn’t for me. In addition to not having the time, I have no experience whatsoever in building anything … and I am pretty sure the use of power tools would cause me to lose at least a finger or two. I also know that when the job was finished, it would be the flaws and mistakes that would stand out to me instead of the things that might have been done reasonably well. So in spite of the added costs ($20,000 – 25,000) – hiring a builder was a no-brainer. That investment will allow me to have a home that looks great, functions well and that will have a longer life and less issues than if I were to try to tackle this project alone. The extra money I spend up front will minimize stress and maximize my enjoyment of my future home.

Some things you might want to consider when choosing a builder are:

  • Making sure that they have experience – preferably a track record with tiny homes.
  • Checking their credentials.
  • Getting references from previous clients.
  • Getting proof of licensing and insurance.
  • That they guarantee their work.
  • That they provide a written quote with costs, materials and timeline.
  • A clear contract that you fully understand.
  • That they understand the special requirements for building a house that is highway-worthy.

I’ll be honest … I did not follow this list when I chose my builder. Jamie had been coming to our Tiny House Meetup group for months. When I found out he was interested in building tiny houses instead of living in them, I approached him about the possibility of doing a build for me. We had coffee meetings and discussed designs several times before any money changed hands. 

Although I looked at his website and read the testimonials, I did not talk to any of his other clients. I had lots of questions and concerns (mostly about the cost of the project) and I’m sure Jamie was far more used to working for wealthier clients who didn’t question how every penny would be spent.

In spite of that, Jamie patiently worked with me in person and via email, he never talked down to me in spite of my lack of knowledge, he offered advice on products and cost-saving measures, he gave me different design options to consider and things to think about and he really made me feel that we were a team on this project. When it was clear that my design wasn’t doable on the budget I had, he came up with two alternate designs at lower costs. Jamie helped me realize that being happy with the finished product was of utmost importance – even if that had meant delaying the build until I had saved more money.

I did end up staying with the original design (with a few compromises) and deciding to proceed with the build. I will just have to use my line of credit to pay off the balance. Although I would have preferred to just use the money I already had, I still expect to be completely debt-free (and with my own home) within the next two years so it will be well worth going back into debt temporarily.

Perhaps most important to me in my decision to move forward with the build and with hiring Jamie were his enthusiasm and willingness to learn. In spite of the fact that he has many years of experience as a contractor, this will be his first tiny house. He is nearly as excited about this project as I am – and that means a lot to me! He has done lots of research and is taking a course on building tiny before he starts my build. He believes that tiny houses can be beautiful inside and out – and as my home will be an example of the tiny houses that he wants to build in the future, I am totally confident that it will be amazing! I can’t wait to see my vision come to life.

I have started a blog so that friends and family who live far away can follow along with my dream of going tiny. If you’re interested, you are welcome to follow the progress at www.inpursuitofhappinest.blogspot.com.  And perhaps I will be invited back to this site to share an update and photos of Happinest when the build is finished a few months from now.

P.S. Here are a couple of additional websites with resources on going tiny:

Tiny House Alliance Canada

Tiny House Listings Canada


Written by Karen Kehler for LiveTiny Canada