Marlboro Township couples builds a 240-square-foot home on wheels.
MARLBORO TWP. “Less house, more home.”
The motto, chalked on a blackboard, greeted visitors to Amy Buckley and Dylan Pierce’s new home. That home being a 240-square-foot house on wheels, the blackboard could fold down from the wall and double as a table.
During the past year, Buckley and Pierce slowly turned a shell of boards and studs into a tiny house with which they plan to travel the country. On Saturday, the couple held an open house for family, friends and neighbors.
“There’s such pride in being able to look around in the house at how much work we’ve done and how much we’ve learned,” Buckley said.
Buckley and Pierce are both 27 years old. She is from New Jersey and works as a nurse. He is a software engineer who grew up in Marlboro Township. They met at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
They still were living in Philly last summer, pondering the next step in their lives, when they decided to move to Ohio, build a tiny house and travel the country.
“Why would we not do this?” Buckley said. “It doesn’t work out for that many people to be able to have mobile jobs.”
They bought the house as a shell on a trailer for $15,000 from Liberation Tiny Homes near Lancaster, Pa., towed it to Pierce’s parents’ house and worked on it nights and weekends.
Buckley and Pierce first put on a roof to protect the house from rain and snow. The gray vinyl and cedar siding, windows, a door and insulation followed. Then they installed the wires and pipes, a propane oven, a toilet and a water heater, and built cabinets.
Buckley had some carpentry experience, but neither of them knew how to run wires or pipes, so they watched online how-to videos and consulted friends in the trades, who checked their work for safety.
The couple added the final touches Saturday: A touchscreen smart mirror in the bathroom and some trim.
“We had originally thought we could get it done in three months,” Buckley said. “That’s hilarious to me now because there was no way.”
The house is 24 feet by 9 ½ feet, but squeezes out a little more room by adding a bedroom loft.
It’s plenty of space for two people and a cat, Buckley said.
On Saturday, she and Pierce held a yard sale to rid themselves of the belongings they can’t take along. They also gave tours of their new home and explained their philosophy.
“I think it’s a really cool idea to minimize our carbon footprint as well as saving money, and for people to see you don’t have to value things over your experiences,” Buckley said.
It’s hard to say how many Americans live in tiny houses. Some are built in factories. Others are do-it-yourself jobs. Some are on permanent foundations, but most are mobile, said Chris Galusha, president of the American Tiny House Association.
Galusha said he deals primarily with two demographics: Individuals who are over 55 and are looking to travel but want to live in something more homey than an RV, and the under-32 crowd that wants to own a home without a big mortgage and be able to move for job opportunities.
Tiny houses are most popular in Colorado, Arizona, California and Florida. The latter state has a large population of retirees and numerous mobile home parks, Galusha said.
Before moving to a town, tiny-house owners should find out which communities are friendly to the trend and what zoning rules apply, a task the association can help with.
Getting a tiny house inspected by a third party, such as the National Organization of Alternative Housing, is another good idea, because cities can be leery of DIY projects that aren’t up to code, Galusha said.
Hitting the road
Buckley and Pierce are still tallying the cost of their project. He estimated the bill would be $40,000 to $50,000. She put the number a bit higher.
“The fact that we’re in our mid-20s and we already own our own house without a mortgage is a really great feeling,” Buckley said.
Pierce’s mother, Leslie Pierce, said she had wondered if they could live in such a small space, but “it’s right up their alley to do this kind of adventure.”
The couple plan to park their tiny house at campgrounds. Buckley and Pierce said they’ll move to a new community about every three months, a pace that will give them time to embrace the local culture and food, and make friends. One of their first stops will be Georgia, where Buckley’s sister lives.
For how long will they be nomads?
“It’s a good question,” Pierce said. “At least two years, and we’ll figure out if we want to make it a lifestyle.’’
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