Do you build in my area?
Small House Solutions is an Austin, TX based Custom Design-Build Firm serving Austin, San Antonio, Houston and their respective suburbs. The best way to determine if our services extend to your area is to contact us directly with your property address or desired build location.
What is the Difference Between a Tiny House on Wheels, Tiny House, Small House, and ADU?
There is a lot of confusion with regards to the usage of these terms, and others. While a nomadic “tiny house” on a hit TV show might be a “house” to some, it’s not considered a “house” to many local municipalities and counties regulators and building officials.
A tiny home that is indeed a legal residence within a city, must be designed and constructed according to the locally adopted version of the International Residential Code (IRC). This is the residential building code standard that building officials throughout the country review for permitting, and inspect to in order to furnish a Certificate of Occupancy.
While a tiny house on wheels may be a great solution for someone willing to live in an RV Park, tiny house (on wheels) community, or rural acreage in the county, it is not legal to have a tiny house travel trailer or RV hooked up to utilities and occupied within city limits. This is true of every city we’ve researched and is outlined in each city’s zoning code.
Tiny House On Wheels: A structure built atop a chassis. 8.5’ max width. 13.5’ max height. Some are registered with the State of Texas as “Travel Trailers” and are given license plates, some are not and are moved occasionally with a “One-Trip Permit” which must be obtained every time the structure is to be moved.
Tiny House: A home between 200 and 500 sqft. The home is built atop a permanent pier-and-beam or slab-on-grade foundation. The home complies with the local adopted version of the International Residential Code (IRC).
Small House: A home between 500 and 1,100 sqft. The home is built atop a permanent pier-and-beam or slab-on-grade foundation. The home complies with the local adopted version of the International Residential Code (IRC).
ADU: Additional Dwelling Unit or Accessory Dwelling Unit. These are secondary structures built on the same plotted property as the primary structure. While every city has different regulations regarding ADU’s, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio are friendly to them. These are also referred to as granny flats, backyard homes, mother in law suites, guest homes, pool houses, and a variety of other terms. Not sure if your property qualifies for an ADU, Guest House, Employee House, or another type of Accessory Structure to fit your needs? We’re ready to help.
How do I know if I can build in my own backyard?
There’s many factors to be considered. Backyard buildings are our passion! Accordingly, we’ve done deep research to satisfy various city’s zoning codes and septic regulations of various counties. We have maintenance close communication with various municipalities’ Development Services Departments and are always on the lookout for revisions to the adopted codes.
Here are some questions we ask ourselves during our feasibility / due-diligence study on a specific lot to consult with our clients on the best path forward:
– What is the purpose of the structure?
– What is to be included in the structure in order to accomplish that purpose?
– Location of the lot (City or County? Which City, Which County?)
– Is there a special zoning overlay or neighborhood planning area for the lot?
– Is there an HOA or any enforceable deed restrictions for the lot?
– Is the existing home on a well or a public water source?
– Is the existing home on a septic system or does it tie-in to the sewer?
– What is the size of the lot?
– What is the size of the existing home?
– How many bathrooms are in the existing home?
– What is the existing Impervious Cover %?
– What is the existing Building Coverage %?
– What is the existing Floor-Area-Ratio (FAR)?
– Are there any locally protected trees or state protected heritage trees on the lot?
– Are there any drainage or utility easements on the lot?
– What are the building setbacks from lot lines?
– Will an exterior visitability route be required on this lot?
– Is an additional parking spot above the code minimum required for an ADU on this lot?
– Is the lot in a floodplain?
– Is the lot in an Erosion Hazards Zone?
– Will the lot require a water service line upgrade under the street?
– Will the lot require an existing water meter upgrade?
– Will an electrical service panel upgrade be necessary?
– Will the ADU house the electric meter(s) and main panel, or will the existing house?
Can I customize my new home?
Small House Solutions specializes in customizing your new home to meet your desires, style, and budget, all the while drafting in accordance with common architectural principles. Our design approach considers topography, sunrise/sunset, view-points, balance, movement and more.
Some of our clients want to take the design lead. We sit back, relax, with an open heart and ears. Our hands to the typing and mouse movements in AutoCad according to the direction provided us by our client.
Some of our clients prefer we use our experience in home design and construction to do what we think to be best or them. We listen to all desires and needs, feeling them deeply, and in-turn draft their dream homes accordingly, reviewing and critiquing our work side by side with our clients while along the design path towards construction.
During our design process, our clients have access to our Design Spec Sheet. It is a shared Google Spreadsheet, living in the cloud. You update it, we see it, we collaborate. You select your colors, provide SKU/Items #’s, reference images, etc… We work it into the drawings, into the renderings, into the build, and finally into your daily real life home.
Are there really options for making my Tiny Home Unique?
Our team loves unique planning and building. We prefer unique all around. There’s enough “blah” out there. Let’s build something unique together. Aesthetically unique. Architecturally unique. We’re all for it!
Our structural engineering partners won’t mind either. They’ve come to enjoy our unique projects. Our entire team is excited about new, unique, alternative ways and styles of living.
Can I add a garage?
You bet! Doesn’t matter how many cars you have or whether you prefer a carport or a garage — we can customize your garage just like your home.
How big can you go?
We have no limit in what home size we are willing to build. Our niche is small homes, treading where other builders refuse to go! However, our managing partners have collectively spent 60+ years in standard size single family construction, luxury custom home architectural design, and 4+ story multi-family construction.
Our Tiny House on Wheels can go up to 8.5′ wide and 13.5′ tall; Park models to 399 sqft; and ADU’s from 200 sqft to 1,100 sqft. If you want your home to be > 1,100 sqft, we would love to work with you too. We don’t discriminate against non-tiny, non-small, pro-big-home people.
How do you heat and cool a tiny house?
Natural and artificial ventilation in small houses work in conjunction with each other to achieve maximum efficiency for your space. We typically install a ductless HVAC system in our homes. These are known as mini-splits and come wall mounted or as ceiling “cassettes”. These provide cooling, heat, and ventilation. The collective mini-split system is divided into “zones”. Each room and its inhabitant can have control of the temperature from their remote control or phone app. These are very energy efficient. They are also great for tiny homes because we are more easily able to vault ceilings, maximize the internal conditioned volume of the structure, and utilize vertical space as desired.
Natural considerations include what areas of your property are shaded, and what direction you receive the most sunlight or wind from etc… We will draw on our experience, as well as the latest technologies to ensure that you and your family are comfortable all-year-round.
How long does it take to build a Small House Solutions Home?
Build time depends on the total square footage of your home and what type of dwelling you desire. ADUs, for example, will take 4-6 months on average, once the permits have been approved.
Here is a breakdown of a conceptual 1,100 sqft ADU in Austin, TX:
Architectural Design: 6 Weeks
Geo-Tech and Structural Engineering: 4 Weeks
Permitting: 6 Weeks
Build: 5 Months
A Tiny House on Wheels aka “THOW” or Park Model will normally take 14-16 weeks.
Do your plans comply with local zoning regulations?
Yes. While there isn’t a standardized formula that dictates what you can and can’t build, the management and staff of Small House Solutions take zoning regulations very seriously. Each design project starts with an in-depth feasibility study. On the heels of that study, we consult with the local development services departments regarding our clients specific goals for the property. You can count on us to research and follow state, local, and environmental regulations to have your plans approved efficiently.
Do studio homes follow any residential codes?
Yes, all dwellings that we build, whether studio homes or mansions, will meet or exceed the requirements of the locally adopted version of the International Residential Code (IRC) applicable to each specific construction site.
What about building permits?
We have an in-house team that applies for building permits, distributes any application reviewers comments regarding the application or adjoined documents, manages timely correction of documents and relays responses and correction back to the reviewer, and ultimately pulls the permits.
We apply for the building permit with a Permit File which consists of the design plans formed by our in-house team, and a network of other design professionals including Civil Engineers, Structural Engineers, and Registered Sanitarians (Septic Engineers).
Is there any way I can get a rough estimate of the house I’m trying to build?
You can contact us directly by phone, the “contact us” link, or social media. Provide us with as much detail as possible regarding your property and what you are wanting to build. We will do our best to provide you a rough estimate range.
Keep in mind, when it comes to tiny and small homes, much of the costs of construction consists of engineering, permitting, land improvement, and utilities connections. Without you providing info about your property, or a potential property you are searching for, it will be difficult to provide you an estimate.
When we provide a cost estimate range, the price points we provide you include architectural design, geo-tech engineering, structural engineering, permit application, permits, inspections, and completed build.
Is financing available for tiny homes?
Yes. However, it seems that the big mortgage buying banks are less inclined to purchase mortgages from smaller banks if the homes are less than 600 sqft. Bring this up to lenders as you’re shopping for a good construction loan product.
A construction loan lender will want the following:
Application of borrower/buyer
Borrowers/buyers financial docs, tax returns, etc…
Application of builder/contractor
Architectural plans for appraisal
Cost/Budget Sheet and Draw Schedule
An executed contract between borrower and builder
On a construction loan, a lender will typically fund 80-90% of the total appraised value of land + construction costs. Construction Costs include “soft costs” such as engineering, geo-tech engineering report, structural engineer, permit application, etc… And “hard costs” such as a septic system, foundation pour, framing…
If you own land outright, the appraised value of the land may cover the 10-20% of the total appraised value of the land + construction costs you need to put down. In this instance, you would not need to provide any money down to the lender.
Each lender is different regarding when they are willing to fund you or the builder. Some lenders will cut a check or wire funds immediately upon closing to get the engineering and permitting process started. Others wanted the engineering done prior to closing. Some lenders require the foundation form boards set or the foundation poured before they will release funds.
Be sure to ask the tough questions to your lender regarding these points to find the right loan product and bank or credit union for you to work with.
Do you provide financing?
On a construction loan, a lender typically lends 85% of the total appraised value of the house (based on plans) + development + land.