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completely lost -- where do I start? :)

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  • yinhsing81
    Hi everyone, I m a grad student in St Louis, MO, engaged to be married in June, and in love with the idea of small houses. My fiance thinks they re cute, but
    Message 1 of 8 , Jan 6, 2008
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      Hi everyone,

      I'm a grad student in St Louis, MO, engaged to be married in June, and
      in love with the idea of small houses. My fiance thinks they're cute,
      but wants more hard numbers/facts before he'll be sold on the idea.
      I've been over the tumbleweed and smallhousesociety sites, and so far
      I really like what I see. I do have some questions though and I'm not
      sure where to find the answers (Google has failed me so far, other
      than bringing me here). If anyone can help out, or point me toward a
      good, comprehensive book, that would be awesome :)

      The main things that I don't understand at all (forgive my severe
      ignorance!) are --

      1) how do utilities work? I know you can install solar elements to cut
      down electricity needs, and things like composting toilets or
      community showers are options, but say we wanted to have running
      water, a flushable toilet, hot showers, a gas stove and electricity
      off the grid... how do those hookups work for a tiny/portable house?
      As far as I've seen there aren't little power outlets sticking
      randomly out of the ground :P And does hooking up to the main lines
      affect whether your house is considered a trailer or a house subject
      to property tax? Also, how does sewage work in particular?

      2) is it common to find land for sale that doesn't have a house on it
      in the city? I know how to find houses for sale, but I have no idea
      how to find just land.

      3) I keep seeing everywhere that you have to 'check with the local
      authorities' for zoning policies or tax issues -- who exactly does one
      check with? Also, does anyone know how property tax stuff works if you
      say, had a tiny house (trailer sized) but then a shed for
      storage/laundry/etc?

      I'm sure I'll have more questions, but that's it for now! Any input
      will be very appreciated :)

      -yinhsing81
    • Chris Mears
      Good morning from Atlantic Canada, PEI in particular... I read your email this morning and wanted you to welcome you here if you re new. I think I have some
      Message 2 of 8 , Jan 7, 2008
      • 0 Attachment
        Good morning from Atlantic Canada, PEI in particular... I read your
        email this morning and wanted you to welcome you here if you're new.
        I think I have some thoughts to add in to your email to keep some
        interia in place. I'll insert them, so scroll down. Thanks!

        --- In smallhousesocietyonline@yahoogroups.com, "yinhsing81"
        <esther.lee@...> wrote:
        >
        > Hi everyone,
        >
        > I'm a grad student in St Louis, MO, engaged to be married in June,
        and

        CHRIS>> Congrats, this is a wonderful time.

        > in love with the idea of small houses. My fiance thinks they're
        cute,
        > but wants more hard numbers/facts before he'll be sold on the idea.
        > I've been over the tumbleweed and smallhousesociety sites, and so
        far
        > I really like what I see. I do have some questions though and I'm
        not
        > sure where to find the answers (Google has failed me so far, other
        > than bringing me here). If anyone can help out, or point me toward a
        > good, comprehensive book, that would be awesome :)
        >

        CHRIS>> This concept of small houses really seems to encompass a
        range of ideas, all of them centred around homes with a smaller
        footprint. Really in essence, any shelter could qualify as a small
        home (given the smaller footprint), so when perusing the bookstore
        shelves take a look at some of the cottage plan books and how-to's
        for some guidance, and if nothing else to help showcase some ideas on
        space saving design approaches. One really needs to get in to the
        idea of "no wasted space" and the house becomes something of a 3d
        puzzle.

        > The main things that I don't understand at all (forgive my severe
        > ignorance!) are --
        >
        > 1) how do utilities work? I know you can install solar elements to
        cut
        > down electricity needs, and things like composting toilets or
        > community showers are options, but say we wanted to have running
        > water, a flushable toilet, hot showers, a gas stove and electricity
        > off the grid... how do those hookups work for a tiny/portable house?
        > As far as I've seen there aren't little power outlets sticking
        > randomly out of the ground :P And does hooking up to the main lines
        > affect whether your house is considered a trailer or a house subject
        > to property tax? Also, how does sewage work in particular?

        CHRIS>> This really depends on where you place the house and your
        demands on it. If you build in the city and are just building a
        smaller home, you will tie in to the existing facilities like
        everyone else. The power company will add an electrical mast to the
        front of your home for electric mains, the water and sewer folks will
        do their thing. The further away from this type of traditional
        facilities supply you are comfortable going the more ingenious you
        will have the opportunity to become.

        There have been some wonderful threads on this site I've read since I
        joined that speak to the providence of main facilities (water,
        electric, etc) for RV's. These folks have a great handle on how to
        generate power, draw water, and dispose of waste without maintaining
        a ground connection. This is another end of the extreme but very
        possible.

        As far as property tax, this is a question that can be easily
        answered by contacting your local municipal government office. I
        have always tried to maintain a strong relationship with ours here in
        Charlottetown and it really helps avoid any surprises during the
        design process. These are the folks that will be determining your
        property tax and will have the best answer on what defines a trailer,
        a house, and so on. Look on your local city website, many of the tax
        books and zoning bylaws should be available as downloaded PDF files.
        Zoning will be a key issue to consider if you are considering
        construction inside the city limits, I would venture that of the many
        things that will impact your decision, zoning bylaws will have the
        greatest resonance. To walk through zoning, start with a copy of
        your local municipal planning and zoning guide, it too should be
        available on your local municipal (city hall) website. Some cities
        and towns have minimum square footage standards for residential
        construction. Some others have strict bylaws about the placement of
        portable homes (mobile homes, rv's, etc).
        >
        > 2) is it common to find land for sale that doesn't have a house on
        it
        > in the city? I know how to find houses for sale, but I have no idea
        > how to find just land.

        Here in PEI, as in the States, our realtors can belong to the MLS
        group. They have a website for their properties (in Canada it's
        http:\\www.mls.ca ) Most folks will use that as a starting place to
        find a house. The same mls.ca website also includes listings for
        vacant land. Here in Charlottetown, most of this is in new
        subdivisions being developed, but it's a start. If you are looking
        for land in subdivisions, keep an eye out for development
        convenances. These are guidelines that will have a tremendous impact
        on what you build (size of building, placement on the lot, choice of
        siding, in some areas, even architectural style). Again, another
        starting place. Another good idea might be to just call a realtor, I
        have a good friend who is a local realtor and he's a wonderful
        resource on these types of questions.

        >
        > 3) I keep seeing everywhere that you have to 'check with the local
        > authorities' for zoning policies or tax issues -- who exactly does
        one
        > check with? Also, does anyone know how property tax stuff works if
        you
        > say, had a tiny house (trailer sized) but then a shed for
        > storage/laundry/etc?

        CHRIS>> Again here, call you city planning office, zoning office.
        If they are exactly who to call, they will for sure know who to
        direct you to.

        >
        > I'm sure I'll have more questions, but that's it for now! Any input
        > will be very appreciated :)
        >
        > -yinhsing81

        I hope some of my rambling helps, feel free to ask more questions -
        it really is the only way to learn. This is a great resource of a
        group. I look forward to hearing how you're project evolves.

        Cheers
        Chris Mears
        Charlottetown, PEI, Canada
      • Dennis Fukai
        ... house (trailer sized) but then a shed for ... Some short answers to some of your Q s 1. The utilities in a small or tiny house work the same as the
        Message 3 of 8 , Jan 7, 2008
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          --- In smallhousesocietyonline@yahoogroups.com, "yinhsing81"
          <esther.lee@...> wrote:
          >

          > 1) how do utilities work?

          > 2) how to find just land.
          >
          > 3) Who exactly does one. How property tax stuff works ....a tiny
          house (trailer sized) but then a shed for
          >

          Some short answers to some of your Q's

          1. The utilities in a small or tiny house work the same as the
          utilities in any house, except there's usually less of them. Most of
          these are standard off the shelf parts so you have to plan for the
          scale of the fixtures in a small space. Some houses do use RV
          appliances, sinks, etc, but generally they are more expensive and IMHO
          not as durable for long term living. Solar or off the grid tech is a
          little more efficient since the demand loads that are imposed by a
          small house are (usually) also reduced

          2. Looking for available land is tricky, but its like looking for a
          missing tooth. Drive through a neighborhood and most houses are
          fairly evenly spaced. Every once in awhile you will see a gap --
          sometimes over grown, sometimes part of the adjacent house. Keeping in
          mind that usually all the lots in a development are about the same
          size, you may have found a vacant lot. You can then go online to
          your local tax assessors website and input the address for the
          adjacent property to find info on the owners for the lot. Write them
          and tell them what you want to do and see if its for sale (you never
          know). You can also find land in the newspaper under the "Lots for
          Sale" section of the real estate section.

          3. The "Local Authority" is the local planning department, not to be
          confused with the building dept. Tho sometimes they are in the same
          offices. The planning dept sets the general rules for size shape and
          setbacks for a house. They also govern how the land can be used. The
          building dept is purely structural, health, and safety. In the US you
          find these office at City Hall or the County offices. Be certain to
          get a print out for the "zoning" for any lot you consider. One real
          jewel if you can find it is to find a lot that allows an "accessory
          dwelling unit" in the zoning descrip. That means you can add a second
          small house later.... All of these offices are public services and
          have a "counter" where they answer Q's and give info including maps
          and info on any piece of property -- tho you have to pay for printing.
          IOW everythg and anythg abt any property is public info and open to
          anyone who wants to see it. Keep that in mind if you run into the
          usual bureaucratic attitude...but be kind, you may need them ltr.

          Taxes are easy for a small house since everythg is based on square
          footage. The smaller the house, the lower the taxes. IOW you could
          have a 500sf beauty worth as much as a 5000sf McMansion and pay tax
          accordgly. Our taxes are less than $500 w/ a homestead exemption her
          in FL.

          You might also find the resource page at: <http://insitebuilders.com>
          useful, I would highly recommend some of the books you will find
          there....

          Good luck

          /Dennis
        • Sherman Johnson
          Hi Yinhsing, Welcome to the SHS forum! I see that Dennis has done a good job of answering your questions. I would add that for questions about
          Message 4 of 8 , Jan 7, 2008
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            Hi Yinhsing,

            Welcome to the SHS forum!

            I see that Dennis has done a good job of answering your questions.

            I would add that for questions about alternative/renewable energy you might
            find some answers at www.realgoods.com. I'm not necessarily saying they are
            the best renewable energy company out there, but they are very good. Their
            prices tend to be on the high side, but considering the support they offer
            not that bad. You may find better prices and/or support elsewhere, but RG
            is a good place to start.

            I'm a bit confused by your questions because you refer to being 'off the
            grid' but then say you are looking for land in the city. While it's
            sometimes _possible_ to use (for example) solar (PV panels) in the city,
            even those that sell the equipment will tell you it just makes a lot more
            sense economically to hook up to the grid. That said, some people go ahead
            and use solar anyway for environmental reasons, and there's certainly noting
            wrong with that. In some areas you can sell any excess electricity back to
            the local utility company which not only makes you a little money but saves
            you from buying batteries (ordinarily any excess goes to charging batteries,
            and once they're full it is used to heat water or is just wasted).

            Many people living off the grid use propane for heating and/or hot water
            and/or cooking. Not exactly green but in many cases the most practical
            option.

            The only (legal) options I'm aware of for sewer (black) water are the public
            sewer system or a septic system. Generally, septic systems aren't allowed
            where public sewer is available (although there are exceptions). In some
            areas (though generally not cities) you can use 'gray' water (everything but
            the toilet) to water the lawn and shrubs. IIRC, many areas of Southern
            California actually encourage this. Composting toilets are an option (we
            use one in our 'guest room' above the garage) but they are expensive and
            require some maintenance. When they work properly there's no smell.

            Anyway, congrats on your engagement! If you have any more questions just
            ask.

            Sherman



            ----- Original Message -----
            From: yinhsing81
            To: smallhousesocietyonline@yahoogroups.com
            Sent: Monday, January 07, 2008 12:08 AM
            Subject: [shs-talk] completely lost -- where do I start? :)


            Hi everyone,

            I'm a grad student in St Louis, MO, engaged to be married in June, and
            in love with the idea of small houses. My fiance thinks they're cute,
            but wants more hard numbers/facts before he'll be sold on the idea.
            I've been over the tumbleweed and smallhousesociety sites, and so far
            I really like what I see. I do have some questions though and I'm not
            sure where to find the answers (Google has failed me so far, other
            than bringing me here). If anyone can help out, or point me toward a
            good, comprehensive book, that would be awesome :)

            The main things that I don't understand at all (forgive my severe
            ignorance!) are --

            1) how do utilities work? I know you can install solar elements to cut
            down electricity needs, and things like composting toilets or
            community showers are options, but say we wanted to have running
            water, a flushable toilet, hot showers, a gas stove and electricity
            off the grid... how do those hookups work for a tiny/portable house?
            As far as I've seen there aren't little power outlets sticking
            randomly out of the ground :P And does hooking up to the main lines
            affect whether your house is considered a trailer or a house subject
            to property tax? Also, how does sewage work in particular?

            2) is it common to find land for sale that doesn't have a house on it
            in the city? I know how to find houses for sale, but I have no idea
            how to find just land.

            3) I keep seeing everywhere that you have to 'check with the local
            authorities' for zoning policies or tax issues -- who exactly does one
            check with? Also, does anyone know how property tax stuff works if you
            say, had a tiny house (trailer sized) but then a shed for
            storage/laundry/etc?

            I'm sure I'll have more questions, but that's it for now! Any input
            will be very appreciated :)

            -yinhsing81
          • Sherman Johnson
            Hi Chris, I didn t see your reply until after I wrote to yinhsing or I would have said, I see both Dennis and Chris have done a good job answering your
            Message 5 of 8 , Jan 7, 2008
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              Hi Chris,

              I didn't see your reply until after I wrote to yinhsing or I would have
              said, I see both Dennis and Chris have done a good job answering your
              questions..."!

              On a side note, I have a coworker at Metro (the D.C. subway system) that was
              very interested in buying on PEI, and spent quite a bit of time researching
              his options. I think in the end he and his wife decided it might be a bit
              too far to travel on a regualr basis, but it sure sounded nice to me!

              Sherman

              ----- Original Message -----
              From: Chris Mears
              To: smallhousesocietyonline@yahoogroups.com
              Sent: Monday, January 07, 2008 6:09 AM
              Subject: [shs-talk] Re: completely lost -- where do I start? :)


              Good morning from Atlantic Canada, PEI in particular... I read your
              email this morning and wanted you to welcome you here if you're new.
              I think I have some thoughts to add in to your email to keep some
              interia in place. I'll insert them, so scroll down. Thanks!

              --- In smallhousesocietyonline@yahoogroups.com, "yinhsing81"
              <esther.lee@...> wrote:
              >
              > Hi everyone,
              >
              > I'm a grad student in St Louis, MO, engaged to be married in June,
              and

              CHRIS>> Congrats, this is a wonderful time.

              > in love with the idea of small houses. My fiance thinks they're
              cute,
              > but wants more hard numbers/facts before he'll be sold on the idea.
              > I've been over the tumbleweed and smallhousesociety sites, and so
              far
              > I really like what I see. I do have some questions though and I'm
              not
              > sure where to find the answers (Google has failed me so far, other
              > than bringing me here). If anyone can help out, or point me toward a
              > good, comprehensive book, that would be awesome :)
              >

              CHRIS>> This concept of small houses really seems to encompass a
              range of ideas, all of them centred around homes with a smaller
              footprint. Really in essence, any shelter could qualify as a small
              home (given the smaller footprint), so when perusing the bookstore
              shelves take a look at some of the cottage plan books and how-to's
              for some guidance, and if nothing else to help showcase some ideas on
              space saving design approaches. One really needs to get in to the
              idea of "no wasted space" and the house becomes something of a 3d
              puzzle.

              > The main things that I don't understand at all (forgive my severe
              > ignorance!) are --
              >
              > 1) how do utilities work? I know you can install solar elements to
              cut
              > down electricity needs, and things like composting toilets or
              > community showers are options, but say we wanted to have running
              > water, a flushable toilet, hot showers, a gas stove and electricity
              > off the grid... how do those hookups work for a tiny/portable house?
              > As far as I've seen there aren't little power outlets sticking
              > randomly out of the ground :P And does hooking up to the main lines
              > affect whether your house is considered a trailer or a house subject
              > to property tax? Also, how does sewage work in particular?

              CHRIS>> This really depends on where you place the house and your
              demands on it. If you build in the city and are just building a
              smaller home, you will tie in to the existing facilities like
              everyone else. The power company will add an electrical mast to the
              front of your home for electric mains, the water and sewer folks will
              do their thing. The further away from this type of traditional
              facilities supply you are comfortable going the more ingenious you
              will have the opportunity to become.

              There have been some wonderful threads on this site I've read since I
              joined that speak to the providence of main facilities (water,
              electric, etc) for RV's. These folks have a great handle on how to
              generate power, draw water, and dispose of waste without maintaining
              a ground connection. This is another end of the extreme but very
              possible.

              As far as property tax, this is a question that can be easily
              answered by contacting your local municipal government office. I
              have always tried to maintain a strong relationship with ours here in
              Charlottetown and it really helps avoid any surprises during the
              design process. These are the folks that will be determining your
              property tax and will have the best answer on what defines a trailer,
              a house, and so on. Look on your local city website, many of the tax
              books and zoning bylaws should be available as downloaded PDF files.
              Zoning will be a key issue to consider if you are considering
              construction inside the city limits, I would venture that of the many
              things that will impact your decision, zoning bylaws will have the
              greatest resonance. To walk through zoning, start with a copy of
              your local municipal planning and zoning guide, it too should be
              available on your local municipal (city hall) website. Some cities
              and towns have minimum square footage standards for residential
              construction. Some others have strict bylaws about the placement of
              portable homes (mobile homes, rv's, etc).
              >
              > 2) is it common to find land for sale that doesn't have a house on
              it
              > in the city? I know how to find houses for sale, but I have no idea
              > how to find just land.

              Here in PEI, as in the States, our realtors can belong to the MLS
              group. They have a website for their properties (in Canada it's
              http:\\www.mls.ca ) Most folks will use that as a starting place to
              find a house. The same mls.ca website also includes listings for
              vacant land. Here in Charlottetown, most of this is in new
              subdivisions being developed, but it's a start. If you are looking
              for land in subdivisions, keep an eye out for development
              convenances. These are guidelines that will have a tremendous impact
              on what you build (size of building, placement on the lot, choice of
              siding, in some areas, even architectural style). Again, another
              starting place. Another good idea might be to just call a realtor, I
              have a good friend who is a local realtor and he's a wonderful
              resource on these types of questions.

              >
              > 3) I keep seeing everywhere that you have to 'check with the local
              > authorities' for zoning policies or tax issues -- who exactly does
              one
              > check with? Also, does anyone know how property tax stuff works if
              you
              > say, had a tiny house (trailer sized) but then a shed for
              > storage/laundry/etc?

              CHRIS>> Again here, call you city planning office, zoning office.
              If they are exactly who to call, they will for sure know who to
              direct you to.

              >
              > I'm sure I'll have more questions, but that's it for now! Any input
              > will be very appreciated :)
              >
              > -yinhsing81

              I hope some of my rambling helps, feel free to ask more questions -
              it really is the only way to learn. This is a great resource of a
              group. I look forward to hearing how you're project evolves.

              Cheers
              Chris Mears
              Charlottetown, PEI, Canada
            • Chris Mears
              ... have ... that was ... researching ... a bit ... Good morning Sherman, thanks for the kind words. Funny the 6 degrees again here eh? I have a coworker at
              Message 6 of 8 , Jan 8, 2008
              • 0 Attachment
                --- In smallhousesocietyonline@yahoogroups.com, "Sherman Johnson"
                <mrnatural1@...> wrote:
                >
                > Hi Chris,
                >
                > I didn't see your reply until after I wrote to yinhsing or I would
                have
                > said, I see both Dennis and Chris have done a good job answering your
                > questions..."!
                >
                > On a side note, I have a coworker at Metro (the D.C. subway system)
                that was
                > very interested in buying on PEI, and spent quite a bit of time
                researching
                > his options. I think in the end he and his wife decided it might be
                a bit
                > too far to travel on a regualr basis, but it sure sounded nice to me!

                Good morning Sherman, thanks for the kind words. Funny the 6 degrees
                again here eh? "I have a coworker at Metro..." man that's wild - I
                have been a draftsman/designer working here on the Island for over a
                decade now, but I have some background and a lot of study into
                transportation engineering.

                The Island is really nice. I'm sorry to hear that for your friend the
                distance was too great. This province isn't my native home, but I
                haven't ever regretted the choice to make a home here.

                As for small houses, the province seems ripe to accept this
                philosophy. There are some really charming older, very small, homes
                already here that prove the idea is not a new one...and of late some
                wonderful renovations of existing small homes here in Charlottetown
                have done wonders to prove the theory. I have one loft condo and one
                tiny century home renovation underway myself right now.

                Cheers, I'm starting to ramble - so I'll cut it short here.

                Chris
                Charlottetown, PEI
              • b0ttleman
                yinhsing81, I have just one or two things to add to the other good input on this thread. You re doing something unconventional, so it s going to be natural to
                Message 7 of 8 , Jan 8, 2008
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                  yinhsing81,

                  I have just one or two things to add to the other good input on this
                  thread.

                  You're doing something unconventional, so it's going to be natural to
                  be confused and to lack guidance. You're going to have to work
                  through a lot of these issues yourself, because (at least in your
                  area) there may not be a lot of precedents. Some people will not
                  understand what you're trying to do.

                  Therefore, as you start, it might help to be clear about what you ARE
                  trying to do. Is it your goal to live a simpler kind of life -- a
                  lifestyle that happens to be symbolized by a tiny house? Or are you
                  driven to build the perfect space for yourself?

                  I make this distinction because there are a lot of ways to live simply
                  (or economically, or environmentally, or whatever your goal is) -- and
                  building a house is a lot of work (though it has its quota of
                  satisfaction). It might not be necessary to build to meet your goals.

                  It might be helpful, before you invest in the whole process of
                  designing and building, to experiment with the concept a bit. You
                  could live in an RV (or a manhattan apartment) or the smallest house
                  you can find for rent, without risking a whole lot. See how the
                  romantic idea you have meshes with reality.

                  After a few experiments, you'll have a better idea of what your dream
                  place really needs.

                  Just my $0.02. Good luck!

                  bottleman
                  http://bottleworld.net/?cat=20



                  --- In smallhousesocietyonline@yahoogroups.com, "yinhsing81"
                  <esther.lee@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > Hi everyone,
                  >
                  > I'm a grad student in St Louis, MO, engaged to be married in June, and
                  > in love with the idea of small houses. My fiance thinks they're cute,
                  > but wants more hard numbers/facts before he'll be sold on the idea.
                  > I've been over the tumbleweed and smallhousesociety sites, and so far
                  > I really like what I see. I do have some questions though and I'm not
                  > sure where to find the answers (Google has failed me so far, other
                  > than bringing me here). If anyone can help out, or point me toward a
                  > good, comprehensive book, that would be awesome :)
                  >
                  > The main things that I don't understand at all (forgive my severe
                  > ignorance!) are --
                  >
                  > 1) how do utilities work? I know you can install solar elements to cut
                  > down electricity needs, and things like composting toilets or
                  > community showers are options, but say we wanted to have running
                  > water, a flushable toilet, hot showers, a gas stove and electricity
                  > off the grid... how do those hookups work for a tiny/portable house?
                  > As far as I've seen there aren't little power outlets sticking
                  > randomly out of the ground :P And does hooking up to the main lines
                  > affect whether your house is considered a trailer or a house subject
                  > to property tax? Also, how does sewage work in particular?
                  >
                  > 2) is it common to find land for sale that doesn't have a house on it
                  > in the city? I know how to find houses for sale, but I have no idea
                  > how to find just land.
                  >
                  > 3) I keep seeing everywhere that you have to 'check with the local
                  > authorities' for zoning policies or tax issues -- who exactly does one
                  > check with? Also, does anyone know how property tax stuff works if you
                  > say, had a tiny house (trailer sized) but then a shed for
                  > storage/laundry/etc?
                  >
                  > I'm sure I'll have more questions, but that's it for now! Any input
                  > will be very appreciated :)
                  >
                  > -yinhsing81
                  >
                • Sherman Johnson
                  Excellent advice from bottleman! If this forum had stickies this post would be one. ... From: b0ttleman To: smallhousesocietyonline@yahoogroups.com Sent:
                  Message 8 of 8 , Jan 11, 2008
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                    Excellent advice from bottleman!

                    If this forum had 'stickies' this post would be one.

                    ----- Original Message -----
                    From: b0ttleman
                    To: smallhousesocietyonline@yahoogroups.com
                    Sent: Tuesday, January 08, 2008 7:36 PM
                    Subject: [shs-talk] Re: completely lost -- where do I start? :)


                    yinhsing81,

                    I have just one or two things to add to the other good input on this
                    thread.

                    You're doing something unconventional, so it's going to be natural to
                    be confused and to lack guidance. You're going to have to work
                    through a lot of these issues yourself, because (at least in your
                    area) there may not be a lot of precedents. Some people will not
                    understand what you're trying to do.

                    Therefore, as you start, it might help to be clear about what you ARE
                    trying to do. Is it your goal to live a simpler kind of life -- a
                    lifestyle that happens to be symbolized by a tiny house? Or are you
                    driven to build the perfect space for yourself?

                    I make this distinction because there are a lot of ways to live simply
                    (or economically, or environmentally, or whatever your goal is) -- and
                    building a house is a lot of work (though it has its quota of
                    satisfaction). It might not be necessary to build to meet your goals.

                    It might be helpful, before you invest in the whole process of
                    designing and building, to experiment with the concept a bit. You
                    could live in an RV (or a manhattan apartment) or the smallest house
                    you can find for rent, without risking a whole lot. See how the
                    romantic idea you have meshes with reality.

                    After a few experiments, you'll have a better idea of what your dream
                    place really needs.

                    Just my $0.02. Good luck!

                    bottleman
                    http://bottleworld.net/?cat=20

                    --- In smallhousesocietyonline@yahoogroups.com, "yinhsing81"
                    <esther.lee@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > Hi everyone,
                    >
                    > I'm a grad student in St Louis, MO, engaged to be married in June, and
                    > in love with the idea of small houses. My fiance thinks they're cute,
                    > but wants more hard numbers/facts before he'll be sold on the idea.
                    > I've been over the tumbleweed and smallhousesociety sites, and so far
                    > I really like what I see. I do have some questions though and I'm not
                    > sure where to find the answers (Google has failed me so far, other
                    > than bringing me here). If anyone can help out, or point me toward a
                    > good, comprehensive book, that would be awesome :)
                    >
                    > The main things that I don't understand at all (forgive my severe
                    > ignorance!) are --
                    >
                    > 1) how do utilities work? I know you can install solar elements to cut
                    > down electricity needs, and things like composting toilets or
                    > community showers are options, but say we wanted to have running
                    > water, a flushable toilet, hot showers, a gas stove and electricity
                    > off the grid... how do those hookups work for a tiny/portable house?
                    > As far as I've seen there aren't little power outlets sticking
                    > randomly out of the ground :P And does hooking up to the main lines
                    > affect whether your house is considered a trailer or a house subject
                    > to property tax? Also, how does sewage work in particular?
                    >
                    > 2) is it common to find land for sale that doesn't have a house on it
                    > in the city? I know how to find houses for sale, but I have no idea
                    > how to find just land.
                    >
                    > 3) I keep seeing everywhere that you have to 'check with the local
                    > authorities' for zoning policies or tax issues -- who exactly does one
                    > check with? Also, does anyone know how property tax stuff works if you
                    > say, had a tiny house (trailer sized) but then a shed for
                    > storage/laundry/etc?
                    >
                    > I'm sure I'll have more questions, but that's it for now! Any input
                    > will be very appreciated :)
                    >
                    > -yinhsing81
                    >
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