Guide: Finding Land For Your Tiny House
Every tiny house blog gives suggestions on how to find land for your tiny house and they’re all dramatically different… why??? Because finding land can depend on so many factors. Some people want to buy, some want to fit within zoning codes, some want mountain views and an acre of land, some need utilities while others are off-the-grid — everyone wants different things from their land.
I'm going to try to offer some suggestions as well as my own meta on the topic. For the most part, I’m focused on people who don’t want to buy land, at least not right away. I’m talking mostly to people who want to find land to rent for their tiny house.
So here are my top recommendations for finding land. First, I’ll give you some general pointers on the topic, then I’ll offer you some concrete methods that have worked for us and for other tiny home dwellers.
Preparing to Find Land
1. What do you want from your land?
This is a no-brainer: think about what your ideal land set-up looks like. In particular, the more you can say “I want to live in X region”, the more direction you'll have. We knew wanted to live in the Santa Cruz Mountains just south of SF Bay, so when we started looking, we could narrow our search down by area.
Do you want to rent your house out for extra money? If so, consider finding someone who's already renting their property out through Airbnb or VRBO. Do you have money and time to invest into the property, maybe to put in a landing pad or some landscaping? Bringing infrastructure improvements will generally make you a more attractive tenant.
Remember, you only have to find one great fit. Targeted searches will save you from wasting tons of time on dead-ends.
2. Consider going off-the-grid
This is a big decision. If you go off-the-grid, that'll add upwards of $15,000 to the cost of your home. It also makes your home more vulnerable to power outages and other sorts of problems. On the other hand, this can expand your options for land big time. Being off-the-grid not only opens up properties that you couldn't access if you need hook-ups, it also means you're probably the only game in town for renting those properties! This (hopefully) means you’ll get great prices, since the land is useless otherwise.
So give it a lot of thought. We originally planned to go off-the-grid, but ended up finding land with hook-ups and changed our minds last minute. Going off-the-grid can make the difference when it comes to finding the right spot.
Top Strategies for Finding Land
1. Consider your own networks:
This is probably the most underrated way to find land. Of course, not everyone has access to a good mailing list, but if you do, it can make finding land a breeze. If you’re affiliated with a large university or any other well-to-do community of open-minded folks, send out requests on your mailing lists asking about land for your tiny house. It will only take you five minutes and might solve your problem in no time.
2. Cold-message people on Airbnb/VRBO:
Another underrated way to find land for your house. In the end, this is how we found our spot. Now, it’s worth noting that this method might get you reprimanded by Airbnb… one person we messaged complained that we shouldn’t be using the service for this purpose.
But, in our minds, that’s crazy. People renting their places on Airbnb are already in the business of using their land to make money. Shouldn’t that be exactly the sort of person who'd want to rent a section of their land to a tiny houser? This is especially true if you’re interested in renting your house out in the future. Offer to give your landlord a cut of the rental profit and you’ll increase the likelihood of a bite.
3. Cold-call ranches, farms, and any other business that might have some spare land:
This option is usually best for people who are off-the-grid. If you can park out on some ranch land without having to worry about utilities, you’ll find lots of ranchers willing to rent to you. Just put together a really nice email introducing yourself and make them a pitch to rent their land. Send that email to as many eligible candidates as you can find.
4. Post bulletins in your region of interest:
We live in Boulder Creek, CA — a small town up in the Santa Cruz Mountains. There are a lot of RVers in this part of the world and they always post bulletins on the local boards when they’re looking for land. In my opinion, most people would rather have a tiny house on their land than an RV. Find your competition and undercut them.
5. Postcards and mailers:
We never had to resort to anything like this, but I know people who have. Basically, you put together a postcard about yourself and go stick it in people’s mailboxes and the like. Not exactly cutting-edge, but it's worked for others we know.
Good luck! If there's anything I’ve left out, please leave them below to help others.