Real Life Advice: Buying Land and a Tiny Home to Put On It

published Sep 20, 2016
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(Image credit: Abe Martinez)

Do you dream of one day buying a bit of land, plunking down a stylish trailer and living a slower-paced, nature-filled, “tiny home” lifestyle? Or perhaps you’re just curious how anyone goes about getting that kind of life? Either way, you’ll want to check out this advice from Kirsten Dickerson, who lives on 25 acres that includes a 1955 Spartan Mansion (350 square feet) and a 1967 Overlander Airstream (180 square feet). She’s a pro now, but she and her husband had never owned land or trailers before this…

When did you buy this home?

We bought our 1955 Spartan 3 years ago and moved into it 2 years ago. It took us about a year to restore it completely. We also bought our land 3 years ago, and found the Spartan a few months later.

(Image credit: Abe Martinez)

How did you find this home/land/trailers?

We found our Spartan on the Austin Craigslist! There were for for sale from the same family, and we picked the one with the biggest windows!

“We have never owned land or a trailer. We had no idea what we were doing. We call our property ‘Green Acres’ for a good reason.”

What was your initial response to this place (love at first sight? has potential but problems?, etc.)

As soon as we found the property we knew it was the one. We had been searching for land within 30 minutes east of Austin. This was a very special piece of land with lush forests, rolling hills, and green pastures…as well as a pond that needs to be restored. Its was definitely love at first sight after searching for months.

We then searched for vintage trailers and fell in love with the Spartan when it was listed on Craigslist. We immediately purchased it. Then we found the best guy in town to help us restore it. It was a labor of love for all involved.

(Image credit: Abe Martinez)

Tell us about any hurdles you had to overcome in the buying process.

(Image credit: Lindsay Ribe)

We have never owned land or a trailer. We had not idea what we were doing. We call our property “Green Acres” for a good reason. We are total city folks figuring it all out as we go. We have had to remove a large amount of trees that died from a drought 5 years ago. That has probably been our biggest expense and challenge. But the property is so beautiful now.

Owning land means there is always going to be a project or challenge, so we have learned a great deal of patience. Living in a trailer has also been a radical lifestyle change. We sold 80% of our belongings to downsize to tiny house living. But we are surrounded by decor that is meaningful and tells a good story. We love that, but it was quite a journey to get to this point.

(Image credit: Abe Martinez)

What’s something you wish you had known about the process of buying a home/land or something you would do differently if you could go back in time?

Early on we had so many dreams for our land, and we had no idea how long everything would take. Such a constant lesson in patience. We also have never been so affected by the weather. I love living “in the woods,” but it has also made us more vulnerable and aware of weather and the seasons. This has really been a learning experience for us, but ultimately not one we regret. We have learned to live more slowly, more thoughtfully, more intentionally. I’m grateful for that.

“Definitely look for a trailer that has lots of windows and light.”

What advice would you share with someone going through the land/trailer buying process?

Definitely look for a trailer that has lots of windows and light. I love having views of the trees from all angles. My home doesn’t feel so small because of this. Also be aware that the flooring can be one of the most expensive components to repair in a vintage trailer. Really know the condition before you buy. We had to completely gut and restore our Spartan back to its original design. It was worth it, but it took much more time than we expected.

(Image credit: Abe Martinez)

What changes have you made since moving in?

We unplug more often and we spend so much time outdoors.

Is this your forever home?

No, we will probably build a permanent tiny house/cabin in a few years and then offer that Spartan for rental/retreat in addition to the 2 yurts on our property. We’ll live in a different part of the property for the communal retreat area. We are content for now, but are starting to research prefab tiny home options.

(Image credit: Lindsay Ribe)

→ Get more real estate advice: How To Buy a Dreamy Historic Home