Even as a young child, Cherilynne Hill felt a kinship with the simple things in life. Summers were spent visiting her grandparents in Canadice, New York, where she was first introduced to small life.
Her grandfather and stepfather had converted an old school bus into a skoolie,and Hill cherishes memories of playing and sleeping in it.
Now, some 40 years later, Hill says living in tiny houses “makes me feel rested and relaxed. The absence of chaos and clutter allows me to enjoy the space I have and need.”
Her first tiny house vacation as an adult was in a tiny treehouse in Puerto Rico in 2014, and since then Hill has vacationed in a variety of tiny accommodations. Airbnb reports that it has more than 5,000 single-family home listings in the US as of October 2023.
“I wanted to see how ‘simple’ I could get, and the treehouse in Culebra, Puerto Rico, was very simple,” she said. “It had a bed, a small kitchenette, and a shower that was half outside. I loved it!
“I could have afforded to live in an apartment or nice apartment, but I wanted something else.”
Hill says she started watching “Tiny House Nation” when it was on TV several years ago, and it piqued her interest in the tiny lifestyle. “I loved seeing other people experience tiny living and seeing how creative they could be with a small space.”
In early 2021, Hill was working in Raleigh, North Carolina, living in a 2,300 square foot townhouse. Ready for a change and feeling the urge to downsize and simplify her life, she stayed at one development of detached houses close AshevilleNorth Carolina, with an eye toward moving there.
Courtesy of Cherilynne Hill
Hill’s grandfather and stepfather (pictured) converted an old school bus into a skoolie that she used to play and sleep in as a child.
“I really just wanted a simpler, more peaceful, less complicated lifestyle,” says Hill. “I was tired of focusing on ‘getting more stuff.'”
Buying in the development she had lived in didn’t work out, but Hill later found her dream home at Simple Life small house community in Flat Rock, about 25 miles south of Asheville. She bought a 1 year old 400 square foot 2 bedroom 1 ½ bath home for $123,000 in Spring 2021.
Transitioning from her large townhouse to a space less than 20% the size was not easy. But as she began packing, Hill recalls “holding each item in my hands, staring at it and asking myself, ‘Am I really will and need this?’ Getting rid of so much stuff was liberating!”
(Full disclosure: Like many homeowners, Hill rents a small storage unit for items she couldn’t let go of.)
Hill, who is a cardiac sonographer, found a job in nearby Hendersonville. Driving on country roads overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains to get to work reinforced her belief that she had made the right decision.
Hill lived at Franny’s Farm outside of Asheville years ago. It is home to a number of detached house rentals.
Small doses of R&R
Over the past nine years, Hill has vacationed in several other small or tiny lodgings, including North Carolina, Hawaii and Portugal.
In 2018, Hill vacationed in a small cabin northwest of Asheville that brought back fond childhood memories.
“The cabin was furnished with a bed and not much else,” she said. “There were bees and goats and dogs running around. The farm, the smells and the simplicity took me back to my grandfather’s school.”
Hill says the vacation kick-started her decision to start living more simply and intentionally.
During Covid 2020, Hill considered starting a glamping business. As part of her research, she lived in a small home in North Carolina made from a 192 square meter shipping container with a lovely front porch and many comforts of home, such as a queen size bed, flat screen TV, Wi -Fi, a mini kitchen and a good bathroom.
Hill rented a small house in Mills River, North Carolina, for his birthday in 2021.
Small houses usually range from 100 to 400 square meters, however Quick loans considers homes up to 500 square meters as “small”.
The two most common types of tiny homes are those on wheels/trailers (also called trailers and often under 200 square feet) and park model single homes, which are larger than trailers, transported to a destination and placed on foundations. It is this type that Hill bought.
According to Rocket Mortgage, the average cost of a tiny home ordered directly from a builder typically ranges from $30,000 to $60,000. However, costs can vary significantly by builder and region. A buyer may also have to pay for:
• Trailer with wheels to transport the house.
• Installation of septic system and energy source.
• Land to put the house on.
A small park-style home (like the one Hill bought through the small housing development) delivered to a community lot and with utilities already connected can vary significantly in price. The total cost depends on location, upgrades to the house, and whether the builder adds extras like porches or additional bedrooms.
For example, new one-bedroom homes in Hill’s development starting in November 2023 start at around $160,000.This price does not include the land – homeowners pay property taxes on the house and monthly payments to “lease” the land. One way to potentially save money is to buy a resale rather than a new house, which is what Hill did.
Additional expenses for buying in a development include not only the monthly fees for leasing the land but also for amenities and some utilities. These fees can be as high as several hundred dollars a month.
A rainbow arches over Hill and her small home in North Carolina. The tiny house lifestyle cuts down on clutter – and gardening.
First hand advice
The hardest aspect of living in her tiny house, Hill says, is not being able to entertain and host dinner parties.
Her house style, at 400 square feet, typically has one bedroom and one bathroom. But her model has two bedrooms and an extra bathroom, meaning the living room, dining room and kitchen are smaller than most 400-square-foot homes.
Since Hill bought the house, she has gotten married, so there are now two adults and a dog in her household. “For the first Christmas in a long time, I didn’t have a full-sized tree, and it was difficult,” says Hill.
At the end of 2022, he and his wife moved to Florida for a job opportunity and are renting out the tiny house, but they eagerly look forward to returning to it in 2024.
A big advantage of small living is the cleaning, says Hill. The house is easier and faster to keep up with, giving her more time for other activities.
And the list of things Hill loves about her new lifestyle is long, including:
• Pay less for most utilities.
• Do little or no gardening.
• Living with like-minded people who thrive in a small space with fewer possessions.
• Having the safety of her gated and tight-knit community.
• Participate in a variety of social events and community facilities.
The Hill’s community includes an outdoor pool, dog park, fire pit and small fitness center. Her favorite community activities include a Friendsgiving gathering at Thanksgiving, Pride Week events, and the community garden that distributes produce to residents.
Hill added a shed to her small property, which will eventually become a jewelry-making space and possibly guest rooms. The street number of her home has been blacked out to protect her privacy.
A 2020 investigation found that 56% of respondents would be willing to live in a tiny home. Hill believes that moving to small is easier than most people think. “Downizing and simplifying can go a long way to improving the overall quality of life.”
Hill’s top piece of advice for someone considering a small home purchase?
Before doing anything else, she says, “first vacation in several small or tiny places, whether it’s for a weekend, week or month. It’s important to experience a tiny home firsthand before you make the leap to purchase.”
If vacationing in a tiny home makes you feel uncomfortable, cramped, or unsatisfied, she points out, you’re probably not ready to make the transition to full-time tiny house living.
But if you like cottage vacations, she suggests before you buy a list of what really means the most to you, including material possessions, experiences and people.
If, like Hill, the sense of peace and quiet at the end of the day outweighs the need for a king-size bed and a large master closet, then full-time tiny living may be for you.
Shelly Shepard began touring Hill’s Flat Rock community in late 2021, looking for “an escape hatch” that would eventually allow for early retirement. She bought a resale tiny house there that she has been renting out and dreams of selling her “regular” house in Charlotte to live the tiny life. She says she still has a ways to go to “slowly take away” her life.
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