Things to Know Before Buying Land For Your Tiny House (Or, Where Can You Put A Tiny House?)

So you’re ready to buy some land to put your tiny house on!  What are some financial and legal factors to consider when searching for tiny house property?


You’ve found beautiful land, but can you put a tiny house on it?

Although many people dream of a completely off-grid tiny house in the middle of nowhere, you’ll still need to find a way to get water and power to your house.  The less distance from the road, the less expensive it’ll be to have power and water lines installed.

For electricity, the cheapest and easiest option is to plug into an existing power source.  Others choose to power their homes with solar power.  Click here to learn more about solar power for tiny houses.

For fresh water and waste water, city water and sewer are one option; pieces of property in less dense locations that don’t have city water and sewer will need to use a well and septic systems.

If the land already has electricity and water hookups, you won’t need to worry about having those put in.  Generally, although not always, it’s less expensive in the end to buy land that already has utilities than buying land without and then paying to have them installed.  Be sure to factor in these costs when looking for land.

Become familiar with the town’s laws for the type of tiny house you want.

Every zone of every town has different laws regarding where you can put different types of tiny houses, so unfortunately there aren’t any exhaustive lists of “where to legally put a tiny house”.

The first place you should look for answers is in the town’s zoning bylaws and building codes.  If the town’s website doesn’t have them, you may have some luck with searching for your town on ecode360.com.  Otherwise, call your town hall to ask about your tiny house project.  Note that there may be different rules in different zones of each town, so find out what zone your property is in (there will often be a zoning map alongside the zoning code on your town’s website) before moving forward.

For permanently-affixed houses, meaning houses on foundations, find out if there is a minimum square footage for residences.

Even if there’s not a minimum square footage,  other factors may affect the size of your house, like the road frontage on the property.  In the zoning and building codes, use the search terms “minimum”, “frontage”, and “square feet” or “sq ft”.  Water and electricity would be connected permanently to a tiny house on a foundation, just like a regular-sized house.

Interested in a tiny house on wheels?

Not all tiny houses are certified, but the turnkey tiny houses on wheels B&B builds are certified by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, or the RVIA, meaning they are built to high safety standards that the government can understand, they can be financed as RVs, and they can be parked anywhere RVs can go, using RV hookups to get water and electricity to the house and wastewater from the house (Click here to read more about RV hookups on tiny houses).  Use the search terms “RV”, “Recreation Vehicle”, “Recreational Vehicle” in your town’s zoning code to see if RVs are allowed in your property’s zone.  Building codes won’t apply to RVs since they are legally considered vehicles rather than buildings.

Here’s more info on how to find out if your town allows tiny houses.


Arcadia Tiny House at Night with pond

After you’ve looked over the zoning and, if applicable, building codes for your specific zone of your town, you may need to ask the town permission to have a tiny house on your property.

Although people have been traditionally living in very small living spaces since the beginning of humanity, in more recent history, tiny houses are a relatively new phenomenon in our modern western world.  Therefore, most towns don’t already have tiny houses written into their zoning or building codes.  If this is the case, don’t be discouraged: it doesn’t mean you can’t do it, it just means you’ll have to introduce the concept to the zoning board.  In this blogger’s experience, zoning boards are made up of passionate people who want to find housing solutions for their towns.  With tiny house TV shows and news stories all but taking over television networks, no doubt at least a couple of the folks on your town’s zoning board will already have an idea of what tiny houses are.  They’ll let you know whether you need a special permit to have a tiny house on your property, and if so, guide you through the process.

Pictured: The Arcadia Tiny House, photographed in its permanent home at Woodlife Ranch by Kyle Finn Dempsey

Why Do Tiny Houses Cost More Per Square Foot?

Tiny Houses Are Smaller, But Cost More Per Square Foot.  Why?

Glad you asked! In larger houses, the lower cost per square foot is because large homes have a lot of empty space, which brings the average cost per square foot down.  The most expensive areas of a home are the bathroom and kitchen: the rooms with appliances and special fixtures.  Just like big houses, tiny houses still have at least one toilet, one shower or tub, one fridge, one stove or cooktop, and one kitchen sink, so you still have to pay for those appliances.   (If your tiny house is 1/3 the size of a big house, the cost may not be 1/3 because you’re not paying for 1/3 of a toilet– you still need a whole toilet!)  In tiny houses, everything is efficiently packed into a smaller footprint, eliminating the empty floor space– the cheapest part of a big house.

In addition, tiny house designers and builders have very special skills, and there is much less room for error in constructing a tiny house than in constructing a big house.  Because there is less tolerance for error in tiny houses, due to their small size as well as strict  building standards ensuring they are safe to travel on the road, more care has to be put into their design and construction.

B&B Micro Manufacturing’s move-in ready tiny houses on wheels are built to the high standards of Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), who inspect every step of our build process in surprise visits.  Each turnkey tiny house we build is RVIA-certified.  (Tiny house shells cannot be RVIA certified because DIY builders aren’t inspected by the RVIA).

What do tiny houses have that larger houses don’t have?

Many tiny houses have built-in furniture which is not included in the cost of an empty larger house.  Additionally, some tiny houses use specialty appliances that were designed for boats or RVs, like small stoves, which, although they are smaller cost more than regular-size appliances because they are not sold in the mass quantities regular-size ones are.  

What’s the cost of having a custom designed tiny house built versus a pre-designed tiny house?

Due to economies of scale, any tiny house that is custom-designed will, of course, cost more than a tiny house that is made in a production line with the same model of other tiny houses.  B&B has quite a few floor plans to choose from for every lifestyle, and each floor plan is customizable for the individual’s needs.

Does it cost more or less overall to build a tiny house versus a big house?

Still, the total cost of building a new-construction tiny houses is, of course, much lower than the cost of having a new big house built.

Likewise, it costs much less over time to pay bills for a tiny house.  Heating and cooling a tiny house is more energy-efficient by nature of the space being small.  In addition, B&B manufactures all their houses to be extremely energy efficient, whether on- or off-grid, reducing the overall cost of bills over time.

Still have questions about our tiny houses?  We’d love to help!  Contact us at info@bbtinyhouses.com.

How Do I Get Power & Water To My Tiny House? All About Tiny House Hookups

Hooking up a tiny house to power, fresh water, and waste water is easy– just plug and play!

Tiny House RV Hookups- Power and WaterFrom left: the tiny house power source, an extension cord with an adapter to fit into any three-pronged outlet; the water hose inlet; and covered outdoor outlets for all your chili-pepper-string-light needs.  Not pictured: grey and black water outlets, under the house. 

Fresh Water

First, you’ll need a source for fresh water in your tiny house.  You can source water from a town water line, a well, or any other potable water source.

Tiny houses that stay in one location can hook up to water through an RV hookup, which includes an underground water source with a pedestal that feeds water into the sinks and other faucets as they are used.

If there are water tanks in your tiny house, they can be filled with potable water via a hose, whether the hose is permanently attached to a stationary house (in freezing temperatures, wrap heat tape along the hose), or, if you’re traveling with your house, intermittently.  You can also have a water truck come and fill up your water tank, although that’s a more expensive solution.

Waste Water

How will you get rid of your waste water?

Depending on what your town allows, you may separate your grey water from your black water if you can use your grey water, or you may put all waste water into black water.  Grey water may be used in irrigating gardens (again, as long as your town allows it) and you use eco-friendly soap products.  More on greywater use is here.

Either way, your waste water will need to go somewhere!  B&B Micro Manufacturing can build in grey and black water tanks to your tiny house, or you can permanently tie-in your tiny house to a septic or sewer system.

Power

The simplest, cheapest power source for your tiny house is running an extension cord a building that already has power.  Many people who live in their tiny houses full-time park their houses beside or behind the house of a friend, relative or landlord.  Others may lease or purchase a property that already has a power source.  If you need to have new power lines run to your property, check in with your town. Learn more about connecting undeveloped land to power and water sources here.

Solar powering tiny houses is another option, albeit the most expensive one.  Off-grid solar power systems for tiny houses, including solar panels and batteries, cost anywhere between $3,500 and $10,000, depending on your power needs.  If you’re choosing solar power for your tiny house, we will help you choose the most energy-efficient appliances for your power system.  You can read more about your solar options and our tiny house solar energy partner, AltEStore, here.

The TL;DR* for tiny house water and power is that tiny houses work just like RVs, and they can be quite simple and easy to plug in.

Have questions about your tiny house power and water?  Ready to buy your tiny house?  Contact us!

  • Where will your tiny house be located? Will it be used for travel or set in one location?
  • Will your tiny house be used as a year-round residence or as a vacation home? How many people will use it? Anything else we should know?
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*For all you newcomers to the internet (where have you been?), TL;DR means “Too Long; Didn’t Read”, or “In Summary” if you’re being polite.

What kinds of toilets are used in tiny houses?

toilet tiny homes new england

Tiny House Toilet Options

B&B Micro Manufacturing’s tiny houses have multiple options for their toilets.  Depending on whether you’ll be traveling with your tiny house and where your tiny house will be located, we’ll help you decide on the best option for your tiny house toilet.

All of our tiny houses have RV hookups, so waste can be pumped out by a truck or go directly into a sewer or septic system.  If you’ll be travelling with your tiny house and won’t always be hooked up to a sewer or septic, we can put in a blackwater (wastewater) tank to hold on to the waste until the tank can be drained.

Here’s a chart to help you get started deciding which tiny house toilet is right for your situation:

Toilet Type Suggested Brand Utilities Used Hookups Required How It Works
Regular Flush Toilet Any Water Only Permanent hookup to fresh water & septic or sewer Uses water to flush waste into sewer or septic system
Macerating Toilet Saniflo Water & Power Fresh & black water tanks and/or RV hookups Grinds waste into liquid emulsion to be pumped out
Dry Flush or Casette Toilet Laveo Power Only Power & Regular Trash Pickup Like a Diaper Genie, it packages the waste with each “flush” to be thrown out in the trash.
Composting Toilet Separett Power for Fan Power & Humanure Compost System on your property Remove the waste from the toilet and deposit into a compost system on your property.
Incinerating Toilet Incinolet Power Only Uses a lot of power- not recommended for Solar Uses power to burn waste. Remove ash once a month and dump outside or throw away.
Read on for videos of how each toilet system works, explained in detail by people with delightful accents.

Regular Flush Toilets

These are the type of toilets you see in pretty much every traditional, permanently-affixed house.  If you’re not planning to move your tiny house once it’s in place, and you’ll be tying your tiny house directly into a sewer or septic system, this is your best bet.


What is a Macerating Toilet and How Does It Work?

The first option is a “macerating toilet”, which breaks up waste and toilet paper into a fine slurry that is then stored in a black water tank and finally expelled into the sewer or septic tank.  The flush mechanism is powered by electricity.  The user experience is the most similar to a regular flush toilet: press the button, water comes into the chamber and flushes the waste away.

Our Stony Ledge Tiny House, for sale now, has a macerating toilet.

View a flushing demonstration at 4:54.


What is a Dry-Flush Toilet and How Does It Work?

Another toilet option is the Dry-Flush Toilet.  The bowl is lined with foil which, when “flushed”, wraps around the waste in a sealed packet, similar to a diaper genie.  The packaged waste can then be thrown out in any trash can just like diapers.  The flushing mechanism is powered by electricity.

Our Brodie Mobile Office, for sale now, has a dry-flush toilet because the office is designed to move around without always needing to be hooked up to a septic or sewer system.

Dry Flush Toilet

Watch the video below for a demonstration of the Laveo Dry-Flush Toilet:


How does a Compost Toilet Work?

Cold Spring Tiny HouseFor those who are prepared to have Humanure human waste composting system on their property (check in with your town hall to make sure this is allowed), we offer composting toilets, and for the truly primitive campers, we can build in a toilet seat only, to use for the Bucket System.


How Do Incinerating Toilets Work?

Incinerating toilets are great for off-grid tiny houses with power but no access to sewer or septic, whose owners aren’t ready to start a Humanure compost system.  It incinerates the waste and turns it into ash, which can then be thrown away.