Tiny House - Mini-Cabin

26 Replies

There are only a few threads on Tiny houses here on BP like this one. There seems to be huge interest in small dwellings, minimalist living, and just creating small "retreats" in one's own backyard. Houzz.com and Pinterest have hundreds of posts on little homes and "she sheds."

I like BIG homes just fine, but I really like to invest in land too. That led me to other uses of property, including recreational tiny homes. After quite a bit of research I made an off-grid Tiny House / Mini-Cabin of my own, using a 10x12 ft. garden shed. I honestly can't say if the resale or rental of these will make for a good real estate business model. My first cabin is for family use but my next ones will be with a business focus (rentals and owner-financed sales). I just started cabin #2. I also chronicled the whole process of my first tiny house and wrote a short book. It is Free until Monday on AMAZON.com here.

Below are a couple pics of the project: The cost was $3,900 for the finished "cabin on wheels." The land and dirt work was about $16,000, for a total of about 20K. It took about 5 months for the whole process from shed purchase to cabin placement. It was just a fun, spare-time project. We will see if has business potential.

I hope @Joshua Dorkin and @Brandon Turner don't mind my free book promo. If so, I apologize in advance and this post won't last long.  :-)

"Spacious" living room

Kitchen / Dining

Sleeping lofts

My lot looking west

My cabin on the bluff and my boys on "Our private beach."

Great photos and story! And thanks for the free book. I just picked it up. I'm guessing you're planning to use cabin #2 for short-term vacation rentals?

Looks pretty cool .  They rent similar cabins at campgrounds we go to . Companies sell them and drop them on site  already done .

@Douglas Larson   Cool post... thanks for the ebook.  Will have to look into it when I get home.  Keep us posted on how your other tiny homes turn out.  Good luck!

Originally posted by @Matthew Rembish hew Paul:

Looks pretty cool .  They rent similar cabins at campgrounds we go to . Companies sell them and drop them on site  already done .

I would sure like to see a website for those campgrounds! Do you have a web address for them? It's always great to see someone's successful business model already implemented.

Originally posted by @Douglas Larson :
Originally posted by @Matthew Rembish hew Paul:

Looks pretty cool .  They rent similar cabins at campgrounds we go to . Companies sell them and drop them on site  already done .

I would sure like to see a website for those campgrounds! Do you have a web address for them? It's always great to see someone's successful business model already implemented.

The Jellystone campground near hagerstown Md , the jellystone  campground in luray virginia .  Frontier town in ocean city Maryland . 



Look up campground cabin manufacturers

I've seen people marketing tiny houses on AirBNB.  I'd love to see the financials on one. 

I love this idea. It's something I've looked into as well. I stayed in an Airstream on a sprawling Malibu property for like $150/night. I'm sure that provides some solid side income. 

@Matthew Paul Perfect! Thanks for the links! It looks like these cabins are bigger and fully functional, with "on-the-grid" conveniences. Mine will be a little more rustic. I will update the forum when I get to a functional business model.

Originally posted by @John Cimino :

I've seen people marketing tiny houses on AirBNB.  I'd love to see the financials on one. 

 I hadn't thought of AirBNB for a good reference guide on marketing and pricing structure. Thanks for that tip!

This post has been removed.

OK - I'm so glad to read these posts!  I'm going to do just that: buy land and put some tiny houses on them and rent out!  The only questions I have are about local zoning laws for tiny houses, and their recreation use.  

Great Post! Recreational Vacation Properties are a major area of interest for me.  I use AirBNB for advertising and their booking platform.  I have been doing this for a few years at our residence with amazing success, we are close to downtown Seattle.  However, I have some "build ready" (water/sewer/power) land out in the woods here in Washington.  I am working through the details right now of doing a high-end micro campground with either yurts, trailers, sheds, etc... and then building a small public space with all the utilities at it; think showers, sink, BBQ, bathrooms, etc. using our existing utilities.  

I'm really excited for the project and will keep everyone up-to-date.  My family has been running an AirBNB apartment on the same property out there for about 2 years with numbers incredibly close to our Seattle place.

Feel free to shoot me a message if you want to chat more.


Glad you started this thread, @Douglas Larson !  We have been frustrated with trying to find buy and hold properties with the market being so high, so we are looking into other options.   We actually live on and operate a Christmas tree farm just outside Houston and are considering putting a few tiny houses at the back of our property.  I am hopeful that the Christmas tree farm location would be a good selling point.

Like @John Cimino , I am really interested in the financials.  There is an event center on the other side of town that has 3 tiny houses & 1 small house on its property which they operate as a bed & breakfast.  There is also a tea room and coffee shop, so breakfast at one of those locations is included.  They have a very nice setup, though the area of town they are in is really a junky area.  Pics are here:  http://www.silversycamore.com/bed-breakfast/  .  They charge $155/night.  I don't know how to find out how many nights per month they are booked.  Their bookings are through a bed & breakfast site, and I did some playing around entering different dates, and all 4 cabins were available for every night I chose, so maybe the occupancy rates are not that good.  Every other rental I looked at that was a small, cottage-type property seemed to rent for about $100/night...some less than that.

Our property would need about $30K in prep (road, septic, water, and land clearing). Here is a pic of my spreadsheet. This assumes $30K for each house (in addition to the 1 time $30K prep) and $100/night rent, and 7 nights per month rented. We would pay cash, then refinance each house. Total ROI isn't really a relevant number, since the houses would be on our property, and it's very unlikely we'd sell them.

Lots to think about.  Would the market even bear 4 houses at 7 nights/month each?  Could we get more than $100/night?  Would it even be appealing to people to come out here and stay?  If the nightly rentals aren't making the numbers, would a long-term renter pay $700/month to live there?

@Johannes Ariens , would you be willing to share what you expect your costs to be and your projected ROI?

@Leigh Ann Smith

Very clever idea and it looks like you are very thorough in your analysis and projections! I wish I had more advice on how this might work out! I have let friends and extended family stay at my mini-cabin but haven't fleshed-out the rental business model yet. I'm just too busy with other things at the moment! Will your municipality allow for nightly rentals? Will you manage the bookings, check-ins and cleaning or source that out?

I also really like the Christmas Tree farm component! You must start another thread in the success stories forum and tell BP Nation about that venture! There are a lot of us that would love to know about making better use of vacant land. 

Please keep us posted on your adventures!

Thx for starting this thread @Douglas Larson . Just bought your ebook too. 

One model I've seen work, which may be in part because of their location, is the Tiny House Hotel https://tinyhousehotel.com. They have a great occupancy rate from what I can tell. 

I look forward to hearing of you all's successes & starting my own similar adventure in a year.

I just completed my first tiny house project Douglas Larson. I took 180 sq feet in a SFR and made an apartment (fully permitted). My project is done and I'm getting very positive response on the concept. People like that they can legally earn some extra income and the whole thing came out really cute. I also did a land split and kept a small building lot where I will do some permanent tiny house construction - two units if I can afford it.

Let's see if this works. Here is a before and after slide show I made of the project overall. I couldn't make a compressed folder load - sorry. The area on the right end of the house is the new tiny apartment. (separate entry on side) The tiny part are pics 9-14. BTW: the tiny bathroom sink? Walmart.com! That sofa is the bed for the tiny apartment - the recliner piece lifts up to hold blankets and pillows and under the seat area is a trundle bed that lifts up to fill in the "L" to make a queen size sleep surface - very comfy - not like a traditional sleeper sofa. I felt it was important to show people how to use the space since it is so small. Lots of compliments on it...

Looks good @Teri S. a definite improvement. It makes me wonder how much the success of any "tiny house" rental is dependent on location. Especially as this is an attached unit. 

But also, in your case, you are creating a sort of ADU community in and of itself once you finish the other units. Check this out: (Sabin Green-A community of 2 ADUs & 2 Modest Homes)


I've put a lot of thought into these ideas as well. I live in 280 sf and have for 4 years. Doesnt bother me one bit. My bills are non existant. Lol.

My setup is a camper, and there are definately some down sides, but I could easily design a 200- 500 sf tiny home to be everything I need and more. Honestly if i could rearange my 280 sf to not waste the space I have, it would be great by me. 

Of corse, I'm 29 and single, so your mileage may vary :)

I think about low income people, those (like I was) who are starting a business and need to eliminate most expenses, poor or homeless, and people who just dont need much room. There are a ton of reasons people would be interested. 

@Cameron Price the reasons you list are the ones closer to my philosophy as well. There are a number of reasons why people would need affordable housing and living tiny may be a requirement to acheive that affordability. There a huge bubble of baby boomers about to retire who haven't saved much - and social security only goes so far... they aren't raising families so don't need tons of space. That's just one demographic. BTW: we set our youngest son up in an older motorhome at our local dragstrip when he was in college. He was the "night watchman" for the facility in exchange for free water and electricity. It was a great set-up for a poor student. 

@Candis Robinson that link you provided is a very cool concept - I like the shared common area & guest house. I plan to use "infill" as part of my strategy for adding ADUs to existing properties. I may or may not subdivide any more lots - it is rather expensive and doesn't necessarily scale (fees are the same for a cheap small lot as for an expensive large lot). But adding ADUs in backyards, etc. is definitely something I would do again. 

@Teri S.

Nice job on the "tiny" apartment! When I lived on Maui I had a few homes that functioned as multi-family because I created some small "ohana" units to bring in some rent. Whatever helps cover the mortgage!!!

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