Be careful what you wish for… on Craigslist.

14 Mar

We’re helping several families build  small  ISBU (shipping container) based cabins in rural areas. These cabins are being used for everything from “Vacation Retreats” (hunting, fishing, hiking, etc…) and Guest Houses to  rural  24/7 “Tiny House Living”.

Some readers are forwarding this little house to me thinking that there might be a lot of value here for a little more than $17k:


Let’s take a look at this, shall we?

First, it’s 12 feet wide. Try getting that on a trailer to haul across the country. It could prove expensive to move it farther than across the county in the dark…

And, it’s not a “whole” house. It needs to be completed. It’s just a shell.

Okay, but still, it’s $17k, right? But is it a good deal?

How big is it? 400 square feet?

Um… nope. The math doesn’t work.

First, the most glaring pothole is that the claimed square footage is about DOUBLE the real square footage.  This cottage is 192ft² on the main floor with a low-ceiling “sleeping loft” (which you cannot legally count) plus an open porch.

TinyShellNOW do the math, again…

That’s over $90 a square foot, before you get it to a trailer to move it.

It’s going to cost you a few bucks a mile to move it, if you strong-arm your Uncle Ed and his Semi, or rent a big farm truck and flatbed trailer. Don’t forget “oversize” permits.

And then, once you have it moved, you still have to figure in completion costs. You’re easily going to be in $125 – $130 a square foot territory in no time.

For that kind of money, you can do better.

Not convinced? Let’s look a bit deeper;

It’s important to regain that lost square footage if you’re going to live in this house for any extended period of time.

If you’re leaning this direction, here’s some observations;

Enclose that covered porch.

It wouldn’t be terribly difficult to do this and you’d gain living space/”sunspace”.  Remember that it has to be “conditioned space” to count. So, use a mini-split AC/heat unit (like the Fujitsu) and now it actually qualifies as “living space”.

Now, you’re up to 288ft².

It’s time to address that”loft”.  The loft (as depicted) isn’t really 96ft². It can’t possibly be.

Here is why:

First, we’re thinking the property tax assessor did the measurements. 😉

Half stories (inside the roof) are NEVER measured from the outside of the ground level. These spaces are only measured for their –>interior<– space.

It gets more complicated, due to that roof pitch.  Only space that has greater than 5ft headroom can be counted in the floor area and a minimum of half the counted floor area must have at least 7ft head room.  So, if the ceiling only rises to 8ft at the ridge, then only the areas with a 6ft or greater ceiling height can be counted. It looks like that house has no ceiling even as high as 7ft.

To be counted in the habitable floor area, the space being discussed (the loft) would need a standard (approved) stairway to gain access to it.

Did you know that ladders, ship’s ladders, Jefferson stairs, narrow spirals, bookcases you can climb, while perfectly appropriate to put in a house, cannot be used to allow you to calculate additional square footage?

The rules are very specific. If there is no standard staircase installed to allow access to a space,  it CANNOT be counted in the habitable square footage floor area. Period.

It should also be noted that the people selling this “Little House” shell are not only counting the space outdoors (unenclosed on the porch) and the loft where the ceiling was less than five feet above the floor, they were also counting the area inside the ceiling between the rafters that is unusable (the narrow areas where the roof pitch reaches the floor) , as habitable living space.

This is deceptive, bordering on dishonest.

You can build one heck of a small ISBU cabin for that kind of money and get usable, livable space pretty easily. And if you do it right, you]ll have money left over for Photovoltaic panels and groceries.

RR Avatar

5 Responses to “Be careful what you wish for… on Craigslist.”

  1. Quercus Lobata March 14, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

    That tiny home is nothing more then a dressed up shed. Reminds me of these, but just more expensive.

    • Renaissance Ronin March 14, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

      I find it interesting that there are contractors out there now building these small buildings (which in my opinion are just upscale sheds) and getting more money for them by using the term “Tiny House” instead of “shed” or “storage building”.

      With the manner of description and definition, this is “just a nice shed”. You could do better for less. I think those who lean this direction don’t want to do the heavy lifting.

      • texarcana2002 March 14, 2014 at 10:06 pm #

        Those contractors are crooks, pure and simple.

        But, thanks to the corruption infesting our government, “truth in advertising” has been shredded up and flushed down the toilet, right with our rights and our constitution.

  2. texarcana2002 March 14, 2014 at 9:52 pm #

    This is why I lurves y’all, man: you peel back the shiny wrapping, and show us the manure beneath.

    Thank you for what you do.

  3. Rick Cabral (@rcabral1340) March 14, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

    …and quite frankly, at least in this part of the country (PA) you could probably buy a “Shed/Garage” from an Amish craftsman for a lot less and then insulate and heat it, if you are looking for smaller living spaces.

Comments are closed.