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Where to start? Tiny homestead, Vermont.

 
Posts: 3
Location: Vermont
building medical herbs solar
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So, We're in the planning stages and would like to pick the brains of people who have done before, before we get too deep in the weeds.

We are located in western VT (Rutland County) and want to make a move to our own place in the next couple years.  
Structures that are winterized that also are not too much house, fit our budget, and come with a reasonable amount of land (2-3+ acres) are hard to come by.

Because of the specificity of what we are looking for, we have been considering building. Looking to do a "tinyish house" or cabin type structure (less than 700 sq/ft).   We do have a fair amount of building experience (general/electrical/solar) between the two of us-- Perhaps because of this, we know it's no small undertaking to get all this going.  We are considering it because we have more time than money at the moment.  

However, permitting and septic/well are a major PIA and expensive. Does anyone here have experience in navigating this successfully?  (From my understanding in this state you basically need septic, as greywater is considered blackwater, and composting toilets do not eliminate the need for a septic system)  Neither of us are engineers, and we know there might be an amount of contracting we would best outsource.
Any subcontractor recommendations (foundation/water/engineering, specifically)?

We have also been considering an on-wheels-tiny option, which has it's own legal issues.  I know around here you can get away with *a lot* if you don't bug the neighbors, but we're also looking to be reasonably in the law and environmentally responsible.

Any experiences with financing a non-traditional structure as a primary residence?  We don't have a huge pile of cash sitting around, so there would be a need for some financing.  But, we are pretty debt averse and looking to keep this number as small as possible.

Successes?  Failures?  Advice?  Good alternates we aren't yet considering?  Helpful online resources?  Any permie neighbors nearby?  

Many thanks in advance.

EB


 
master pollinator
Posts: 11355
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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The guy to contact in Vermont is Ben Falk http://www.wholesystemsdesign.com/who-we-are
 
master pollinator
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Eribeth Ballanfield wrote:So, We're in the planning stages and would like to pick the brains of people who have done before, before we get too deep in the weeds.

We are located in western VT (Rutland County) and want to make a move to our own place in the next couple years.  
Structures that are winterized that also are not too much house, fit our budget, and come with a reasonable amount of land (2-3+ acres) are hard to come by.

Because of the specificity of what we are looking for, we have been considering building. Looking to do a "tinyish house" or cabin type structure (less than 700 sq/ft).   We do have a fair amount of building experience (general/electrical/solar) between the two of us-- Perhaps because of this, we know it's no small undertaking to get all this going.  We are considering it because we have more time than money at the moment.  

However, permitting and septic/well are a major PIA and expensive. Does anyone here have experience in navigating this successfully?  (From my understanding in this state you basically need septic, as greywater is considered blackwater, and composting toilets do not eliminate the need for a septic system)  Neither of us are engineers, and we know there might be an amount of contracting we would best outsource.
Any subcontractor recommendations (foundation/water/engineering, specifically)?

We have also been considering an on-wheels-tiny option, which has it's own legal issues.  I know around here you can get away with *a lot* if you don't bug the neighbors, but we're also looking to be reasonably in the law and environmentally responsible.

Any experiences with financing a non-traditional structure as a primary residence?  We don't have a huge pile of cash sitting around, so there would be a need for some financing.  But, we are pretty debt averse and looking to keep this number as small as possible.

Successes?  Failures?  Advice?  Good alternates we aren't yet considering?  Helpful online resources?  Any permie neighbors nearby?  

Many thanks in advance.

EB





I wish you wanted to move to Maine as I have everything you just described for sale...even the sheep and winter hay in the barn the latter two are free and come with the homestead).

We do not have building codes here, but do have to route the black water, and graey water into an engineered leach field system. It is not that bad, $360 for the design and perculation test, and for $1500 you can put in the leach field and have it okayed, and you are off and running. I heard now contractors are making $7000 on them which is insane considering what they are made of: rock, plastic pipes and hay. Just locate the well 100 feet from the leach field, and do so AFTER the leach field is in, because a well can go anywhere which is not the case with a leach field system.

We currently live in a Tiny House, but it has a permanant foundation and is grandfathered on about everything because it has been here 90 years.

Sorry i cannot help you more, but I do wish you well on your homesteading quest.
 
pollinator
Posts: 254
Location: Vermont, annual average precipitation is 39.87 Inches
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Yeah, the septic situation here in Vermont is tough.  I am a couple hours north of you.  The number that seems to get kicked around for septic systems is $20K,  then you can get started building the bouse.  Not so kind to the budget for sure!  Are you hoping to farm the land for income?  I wonder if you might be able to find some creative loan options taking that approach instead of a traditional construction loan.
 
Eribeth Ballanfield
Posts: 3
Location: Vermont
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One of the things we have been considering is plots with existing structures that may not be habitable in themselves, but have intact water/septic/ and maybe slab/foundation.  Obviously with this option financing is typically non traditional and that needs to be worked around.
It'll also require a different kind of work input (demo etc), and perhaps come with neat hazards like lead/asbestos and pretty much always mold (which is common here in general even in nicer places.)  All that aside, I also see potential for some amount of salvage (but also junk), not necessarily needing to do alot of grading to build, and having most anything we do be "value added."

...Has anyone gone this route and came out thinking it was a reasonable choice in hindsight?  

Any and all thoughts welcome.
EB








 
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Posts: 144
Location: Monticello Florida
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Have you considered a wofati?
 
Travis Johnson
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Eribeth Ballanfield wrote:One of the things we have been considering is plots with existing structures that may not be habitable in themselves, but have intact water/septic/ and maybe slab/foundation.  Obviously with this option financing is typically non traditional and that needs to be worked around.
It'll also require a different kind of work input (demo etc), and perhaps come with neat hazards like lead/asbestos and pretty much always mold (which is common here in general even in nicer places.)  All that aside, I also see potential for some amount of salvage (but also junk), not necessarily needing to do alot of grading to build, and having most anything we do be "value added."

...Has anyone gone this route and came out thinking it was a reasonable choice in hindsight?  

Any and all thoughts welcome.
EB



We have done what you suggested, move into a vacant home.

A lot of it is vision, and being willing to work. A lot of people cannot "see" the final product, so they pass it by, or they lack the skills to rebuild a home, but it is too bad because "new and shiny" costs a lot of money.

We were pleasantly surprised because before moving into this 90 year old Tiny House that had been vacant for 11 years, we estimated that it would cost us $16,000 to move into, that being just making it functioning, but in the end we moved into it for $1700. (There is no missing zero there, one thousand, and seven hundred dollars). That included fully insulating, and totally rewiring the home. I do admit that the inside is still very, very rough though. For us, we wanted a place that was warm, dry, and functioning, and we would improve upon the aesthetics as we went.

We did have an issue with the septic system, one huge fear that I had before moving in. But it was a rubber boot that frost action had pushed off the cast iron sewer pipe to the new(ish) plastic pipe that went into the septic tank. It was no big deal to fix, and was grandfathered so no permits were required to fix it.

We are in a different situation because we own multiple houses (including one on the NH/VT border), so we got a lot of grief from people thinking we were downright stupid to move into an older, vacant home. We were told so many times to "just tear that house down and put in a doublewide". We have lived here a year and two days now, and do not regret it. I have spent $1700 on far worse things...








 
Posts: 75
Location: Nara, Japan
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Long story, short: We tried to do similar and gave up before buying land. 

I grew up in the Champlain Islands and my parents still live there. I wanted to have my first birthing experience in my home state, so after seven years abroad, I returned home; with my husband (Japanese citizen). Since having my first kid in Vermont was set in stone, we thought we would try to make our life there. 

Ultimately, many factors drove us back to the warm embrace of Japan, but I will try to stick to those that will apply to you.

First, this: 

Eribeth Ballanfield wrote:  Any experiences with financing a non-traditional structure as a primary residence?  We don't have a huge pile of cash sitting around, so there would be a need for some financing.  But, we are pretty debt averse and looking to keep this number as small as possible.   



Financing and not wanting debt were the biggest contributing factors to our giving up. 
Credit scores are bull shit and all the banks(that we talked to) cared about. So I had been out of the US for seven years, so no credit activity for seven years. My perfect credit score all the years before that meant nothing. We were told, even with my "rich" parents cosigning, that we had to build our credit score for at least a year before we could be considered for a loan. So get your free, yearly credit report and start building your score if you are looking for a loan. 

A credit union I wouldn't recommend: NEFCU 
They are kind of posh...I'll leave it at that.

A credit union I would recommend: VESCU
They were the most willing to work with us, gave us advice about raising our credit score and what they needed to approve us. They give nontraditional loans.

Also, this. 

Eribeth Ballanfield wrote:  Structures that are winterized that also are not too much house, fit our budget, and come with a reasonable amount of land (2-3+ acres) are hard to come by.

  

Anything we found on the market that fit our, looking back, unrealistic expectations, was way out of our price range. Anything in our price range was too far in the boonies or needed major repairs. Since we were more interested in land (we wanted at least ten acres) than house, I used Landwatch as my primary searching tool. Smaller lots are listed on there also. You can fiddle with the search options and only return results with buildings. There were many lots when we were looking that had septic already and no building. 

Eribeth Ballanfield wrote:
Any subcontractor recommendations (foundation/water/engineering, specifically)?

  


Not sure if they work in your area, but two recommendations from the islands:
DC EnergyThey do solar and general electric. My husband worked for them for a time. They do top notch work and take care of and respect their customers. 

Palmer constructionThey did foundation work on my parent's house and septic repairs, and my parents would recommend them. Haven't worked with them personally. 

Eribeth Ballanfield wrote:
We have also been considering an on-wheels-tiny option, which has it's own legal issues.  I know around here you can get away with *a lot* if you don't bug the neighbors, but we're also looking to be reasonably in the law and environmentally responsible.

  

Yeah, it only takes one person to start a fuss, and if it's illegal, you're done. 

North Hero, where my parents are, is ridiculously strict. I've heard of town official following trucks with sheds on them to make sure the owner has a permit for their shed and payed the fees.

Alburgh, the town next door, however is a free for all, do what you want, nobody cares.

Front Porch Forum is pretty popular in Vermont as a town email newsletter type thing. You can sign up with the address of the property you are looking to buy and read the back logs to find what people complain about.

If you searched north hero's you would find such gems as "who is the person inconsiderate enough to mow their lawn so that the grass blows onto the road and not clean it up?!" and "How dare a nonprofit supporting the arts buy a barn and restore it into an art gallery and event space next to us! It will be too loud and too much more traffic!"

Anyway, I was able to have a very positive birthing experience (highly recommend UVM and the midwife team there), and now we are living happily in Japan again. Vermont just wasn't for us. Hope you find what you are looking for!

Happy to answer other questions you might have!

 
If you have a bad day in October, have a slice of banana cream pie. And this tiny ad:
Dave Burton's Boot Adventures at Wheaton Labs and Basecamp
https://permies.com/t/119676/permaculture-projects/Dave-Burton-Boot-Adventures-Wheaton
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