Q&A: Young Man Seeks Advice on First Home

This past week I got an email from a young man who reads my newspaper column regularly and visits BaileyLineRoad.com. His name is Caleb and he’s  looking for advice about a sane and sensible approach to getting into his own modest house . . .

Q: Can you help me decide what to do about building a house mortgage-free? I didn’t want to bother you, but your website said to feel free.

I’m a carpenter’s apprentice and was raised in the country. I’m getting married soon, and we want to live in the country and  live simply. We don’t want a mortgage or to pay rent forever and never own. I want to build a tiny house, but it’s hard to find reliable information. Some people say I can’t build anything smaller than 800 square feet. Others say minimum size depends on where I plan to build. Different people say you can’t live in an RV full time. They tell me to build a tiny house on wheels, then get a vehicle identification number for an RV. How is it not an RV then?

We don’t own land yet, but have our parents’ land available in organized townships. I don’t know how long we would do live there for. Can I live in a tailer, say 20ft RV tailer? Can a build a house 8x20ish on a trailer bed and park it on my parents’ land and then my own? Does the building code still apply? We would be happy with a trailer and little wood stove, or something a little bigger that I can build, in exchange for freedom. But I want to be able to be on my parents land and then my own. We live in northwestern Ontario in the Nipigon/Thunder Bay area.

Anything you can tell me I’d appreciate, or any resources or titles of people to call. Thank you for your time and assistance. I also read your article every Sunday in our newspaper and like it. Thanks.

  • Caleb P, Thunder Bay, Canada

A: Great to hear from you, Caleb and congratulations on the wise plans you’re creating.

My own oldest son, Robert, is 27 years old now, and he did something like what you’re thinking of doing. He and I built a 16 x 25 foot cabin on a forested corner of our property, and he lives there now with his wife and their daughter born in August 2017. It’s a very nice thing having an extended family situation so close. We see them many times each week. We’re there to help them, and they’re available to help us. It’s great to be around a granddaughter.

The main thing to understand is that building a tiny home on a trailer will mean a very tiny, tiny home. That may be fine for a couple, but things will change when children come along. So here’s what I recommend:

1. Talk to your municipality about the rules around building a second dwelling on the same property (the one owned by your parents). Two houses on one property is sometimes a problem in some townships, but the province has enacted policies to encourage a second dwelling on the same lot. Ask your municipality and see how they feel.

2. How large is your parents’ land? In our case, our property will go to our son when we die, so it’s much more streamlined that he’s built on our land and will stay here forever. We have 90 acres and he’s half a km away, so it might as well be a separate property. Settling in one place, then moving to another is a waste of time and money. If you want to live in the country, do everything you can to start with something you can stick with. Time goes quickly. You’ll be surprised how soon you will be in charge of the property your parents own now.

3. Building very small makes sense to start, but you should build in a way that’s easy to add to. When we built Robert’s place we framed door openings into walls where we knew we’d want to cut an opening for an addition later. Building in phases allows the financial well to refill, so borrowing isn’t a necessity. Your carpentry skills will let you build for much less than the average person, so you’re in very good shape to avoid a mortgage and everything that comes with it.

That’s Robert’s cabin you see here. Want to see a tour of it? Click here to see what it looks like close up. and how we built things.


Posted on February 16th, 2018


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