Artist Makes Legal Tiny Home In Spur, TX

A while back we broke a story about the first town in the US (Spur, Texas) to decree that tiny houses be legal. So we are delighted to share news that Conor Mccann, an artist, has made residence in Spur with his tiny house. Conor has done an amazing job of documenting his tiny house journey and has created an incredible resource for anyone considering making Spur their tiny house home. With his permission, we are sharing some highlights of his process. For all the details, please visit his site: www.TheWorkhouse.com.

Conor's tiny house on his purchased lots in Spur, TX

Conor’s tiny house on his purchased lots in Spur, TX

WHY TINY?

Conor was at a crossroads in his life when he chose to create a debt-free lifestyle “while at the same time own a home with some land that would give me the financial freedom to pursue my creative endeavors”. While doing research on areas to create his tiny house dream, he came across an article about Spur. Though he had never considered moving to Texas, “the fact that this little city was willing to legally embrace alternative dwellings gave me hope that maybe this could work. After looking into the town online, cruising Google street view and calling a few people in the area, I knew that it would be a good fit. So sight unseen I decided to go for it.”

FIRST STEPS:

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 12.06.28 PMThe first order of business was to secure a piece of land on which Conor could legally park his tiny house. He contacted Sherry Hill, the Dickens county tax assessor, to inquire about bidding on county-owned lots in Spur. Conor shares that Sherry was very helpful and that she sent him pertinent information from which he was able to find three adjoining lots on the edge of town that looked promising. “The process was simple. I just had to fill out a form with my bid amounts, mail it back and wait a few weeks to hear if it was accepted or not. When Sherry wrote to tell me that the bids were accepted, I immediately sent her a check, rejoiced and started planning a house.”

DESIGN/BUILD PROCESS:

Conor really fell in love with Dee Williams’ design aesthetics and set about creating something similar. He designed a 7′ x 12′ floor plan and shares that, “This exercise helped focus the intention for the house, what exactly I would need and what would get in the way. I have zero building experience, so there were a few things that never occurred to me to incorporate into this exercise, like the width of the walls (about four to six inches) and the height of the loft. With a space this small, every inch really does matter.”

He considered building it himself “But I know myself well enough to know that would end badly, which led me to start looking for builders.” He also knew that he wanted to get insurance for it and decided to go with an RVIA certified builder. In the end he went with Tennessee Tiny Homes.

IN THE MEANTIME…

While he waited for his tiny house to be built, Conor bought a used cargo van thinking that he would pick up his tiny and drive it from TN to TX. “With all my belongings packed up, I set out for Texas. I stayed at the RV park during the dead of winter in an uninsulated van, but this whole thing isn’t really about the van, so all I’ll say is that I don’t recommend it. It did prep me for living in a small space though.”

Conor's meter

Conor’s meter

During this time, he received the deeds to his lots and was able to get an address from city hall. He also secured a cell phone plan (he went with AT&T for coverage reasons though apparently Verizon works there as well). The next step was to set up the installation for an electrical pole on the property for the 30amp service for the tiny house. This installation was very quick and easy. “The next step was to pick a power provider at Power To Choose. There were many providers, but I chose Beyond Power because they offered a 100% renewable energy plan. All in all, a very easy process and everyone was super into the house, even though it hadn’t arrived yet.”

INSURANCE:

Conor contacted RV America Insurance to insure his tiny house on a trailer to which they said, “no problem” and sent an application. The next day it was approved and covered through Brown & Brown of Kentucky. “They were able to cover the full cost of the house, some personal property, perils (fire, lightning, windstorm, hurricane, hail, explosion, etc.,) bodily injury, some medical payments and a little if my property were to damage someone else’s. They couldn’t cover flood, earthquake, vandalism or nuclear damage. Whether or not they’d pay a claim is still to be seen, but I figured best to have than to have not. They also couldn’t cover transportation of the house, which gave me a small ulcer.”

FOUNDATION/PLUMBING:

Spur has a stipulation that tiny houses on wheels have their wheels and axles removed and placed onto a foundation. Part of this is for safety reasons (they can have high winds there). The other reason is that they are trying to grow their community and are hoping that people will come and stay a little while rather than see it as a stop over. This seems very fair. When someone eventually wants to move their tiny house, they can reinstall their axles and wheels and be on their merry way.

The foundation requirements are very reasonable. Two local gentlemen helped Conor with the foundation and plumbing jobs. A concrete truck came in from about an hour away and made fast work of the small job. “On each of the four corners of the house, while the concrete was still wet, we installed “L” shaped metal rods that curved down under the slab. The hurricane straps would later bolt onto them.”

“After a few days, once the concrete was dry enough to hold weight, we moved the house onto the slab. The little structure was then jacked up and had the wheels/axels removed (the wheels I store in my van, the axels are behind the house holding up a wood pile). Two rows of concrete blocks were then cut and placed around the perimeter of the house. It was then lowered back down and the hurricane straps tied around the frame to the metal rods.”

In terms of the plumbing ground work, a tractor dug trenches on both sides of the house to the street for the water and sewer lines. The local hardware store just a few blocks away had all of the materials they needed. Conor was very happy with the job that they did.

“Once that was done, the nice folks from the city connected the house to a water meter and finished the connection to the sewer. After they left, I took my first real shower in months, and realized that a 2′ x 2′ shower is plenty big enough. The water had a funny taste, so I ordered a testing kit, only to find that all was well within the EPA standards. For drinking and cooking water, I have two three-gallon jugs that I fill up at the supermarket once a week.”

Steps towards the foundation installation

Steps toward the foundation installation

INTERNET:

If you are anything like us, one of the first considerations when looking for a place to live is internet speed. Since we work from home, decent connection speed is mandatory. Fortunately, Spur actually has pretty decent internet! Conor used Cap Rock to install his fiber internet line as well as phone line. He shares, “The fiber speed of 10mb down / 1mb up feels just as fast, if not faster, than the internet speeds I’ve had in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. I was kind of taken aback. These guys are really on top of their game, and it feels good to support them.”

COSTS:

Here is a detailed break down on how much this has all cost Conor:

    • $3,500 – Three vacant lots
    • $24,702.46 – Tiny house
    • $2,092.50 – Delivery of house
    • $953 – House insurance for a year
    • $746 – Electrical pole parts & labor
    • $600.40 – Concrete for slab
    • $2,600 – Foundation/plumbing parts & labor
    • $110 – Water/sewer/trash start service fee
    • $225 – Water & sewer connection fee
    • $150 – Internet & phone connection fee
    • $225 – Power connection fee
    • $4,775.25 – Used cargo van to tow house & camping
    • $777 – Tow hitch parts & labor
    • $1,050 – RV Park for three months
    • $4,763.65 – Misc expenses

For A Grand Total Of $47,270.26

Conor shares, “I did go over budget, like a lot. I hadn’t realized how much until I made this. But, the bulk of the cost is behind me and the cost of living here really is inexpensive. The other day I received my property tax estimate which was $50.40. Now that is pre-house, but I can’t imagine it going up much. So, my yearly rent is about fifty bucks. Compared to living in a city like New York, where the cost of living for a year can easily reach what I paid for this whole setup, I don’t feel like crying as much.”

Monthly Utility Costs:

    • $15.95 – Electricity
    • $80 – Water/Sewer/Trash (The minimum fee)
    • $120 – Internet & phone
    • $10.66 – Propane
    • $4.20 – Property Tax

For A Rough Monthly Utility Total Of $230.81

Conor shared that he can save $50 per month by lowering to a slower internet speed. Also, for internet a $30/month landline is required, which was fine with him because it’s less expensive than a cell phone and now he doesn’t need to have a cell glued to him.

REFLECTIONS:

Some more shots of Conor's home

The interior of Conor’s home

Conor shares, “I’ve been in the house for about two months now and can honestly say that I love everything about it. I feel like I’m in a home as opposed to a trailer or something. The size works perfectly for just me, although when there’s more than one person, it can get a bit claustrophobic. I do find myself stepping away from the computer to go outside more often, and having these nice big lots makes the whole thing feel super-spacious.” Next for Conor is going to be building a fire pit which he is very excited about.

He adds, “The funny water taste has gone away somewhat, I think mostly due to the fact that water hasn’t flowed to this block in a very long time. I still get my drinking/cooking water from the grocery store, Lawrence Brothers. The rest of the time, I walk there in five minutes to pick up some fresh non-organic produce. They are super nice and asked if there was anything I’d like them to carry, so I gave them a list of things like tofu and Bob’s Red Mill products. We’ll see if that pans out. Otherwise, I’ve been ordering in bulk from Amazon and using the van for storage. Amazon Prime 2-day service is a bit more like 5-day here, but that’s ok because it really is a slower pace of life, and I like that.”

Interior shots of Conor's completed tiny house

Interior shots of Conor’s completed tiny house

REFLECTIONS ON SPUR:

Conor has really taken to the town of Spur. He appreciates the quiet, safe, and slow moving rhythm of this small town. Locals have been very welcoming and enthusiastic about his tiny house and vision. He even received a house warming gift: a nice little cactus!

Thank you Conor for going through the effort to document your process in such detail. It’s a great resource for anyone interested in the Spur area as a place to legally park their tiny house. We wish you the very very best!!

26 Responses to Artist Makes Legal Tiny Home In Spur, TX

  1. mick June 1, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

    Bravo Connor! Hope you enjoy it for years to come.

  2. Ian June 1, 2015 at 1:41 pm #

    Fantastic, congrats. Tiny housing really is the future, everything is becoming smaller and more efficient… and now its coming to housing. Nice one and goodluck.. hopefully other tiny house neighbours will appear in due course (am assuming you’re one of the first).

    • Lovelace Lee lll June 20, 2015 at 8:57 am #

      I’m inspired Connor. You rock!

  3. Roger Pilon June 1, 2015 at 2:32 pm #

    This is the achilles heel of many articles about tiny houses: keeping track of numbers! For once, Conor was able to share these precious $$$ helping people to be able to take a better decision regarding tiny houses!

    Very well documented article!

    Roger Pilon, Editor
    The Planet Fixer Digest

  4. Billy June 1, 2015 at 4:14 pm #

    Congrats Connor,
    Very nice article,hope you keep enjoying the experience.
    I also find being in a small dwelling that much less time is spent indoors,makes it a bit claustrophobic with inclement weather.
    Enjoy your new home and may you be an inspiration for many more.
    Billy

  5. Susie June 1, 2015 at 11:45 pm #

    Congradulations Conner…Your tiny house is looks really great..and so hspoy youve reached your dream !! I am looking for a lot also..and Spur sounds lovely….for me however the tiny house represents freedom..including freedom to move…so I dont want to remove my wheels and axles( Im a woman and 62..I doubt I could do this) and I dont want to have to buy..utilities ..taxes…Insurance..etc..I want freedom from these..also I pay 600 a year house Insurance for a house 5 times this size..so why should the tiny house insurance run so high ($ 953.00 a year) my rv insurance is only $450.00 a year and that includes travel…but anyway..Im so happy for you..please keep us updated with how things are moving along for you and your sweet tiny house…thanks. Susie

  6. Shannon June 2, 2015 at 8:05 pm #

    I admire your bravery and honesty Connor!! Thank you for sharing your tiny house journey 🙂
    Mine is yet a dream but reading story helps to keep my dream vivid.
    Shannon

  7. D. Lowery June 3, 2015 at 7:01 am #

    Are there any other communities like this closer to Austin or the Texas Hill Country? Spent a year in San Marcos going to school. Would like to know if any of the other towns/cities around that area are doing the same thing or if you could purchase land/lots outside of town and place your house there without running into the same zoning issues of “not in my back yard”?

    • Conor Mccann June 11, 2015 at 11:56 am #

      These guys have a nice database of potential places to put small houses http://tinyhousecommunity.com/places.htm You could also call some of the city halls in the small towns you are interested in to see if they’d allow for something like this. I bet a majority probably would.

  8. Joe3 June 3, 2015 at 7:38 am #

    Nice story Gabriella, and I wish Conner well in Spur …

    Now my WOW, just WOW moment,

    I would have a hard time with spending 24,702.46 for that sized TH,
    and another couple thousand to move it.

    I’m happy for you, following your dreams is what is important in life,
    much better than trying to make money ….
    And I appreciate you sharing your expenses, it helps everyone in
    the TH Community see what the actual costs can be.

    I would love to see an update in a year and hear how things are
    living in Spur?

  9. Linda June 10, 2015 at 7:24 am #

    Very inspiring, Conner.

    I live in the area and have been hearing about your experience.

    Continued good luck.

  10. john deleon June 10, 2015 at 7:47 am #

    I used to stay across the street from him at my mothers. It was interesting watching all his sctions and preperations through the windows. I havent seen anyone live down where he lives in years. It was kind of weird to know a neighbor is there but also exciting to know someones actually there

  11. Ray June 10, 2015 at 8:01 am #

    I’m from Spur, TX and I couldn’t be more thrilled that Conner chose our tiny community to start such a liberating journey. I’ll have to drive by the next time I visit home. Best of luck on your exciting, new lifestyle!

  12. Conor Mccann June 11, 2015 at 11:51 am #

    Thank you everyone for all the well wishes! I very much appreciate it 🙂

  13. Angie June 11, 2015 at 8:36 pm #

    so glad to read all about this Connor! I had the pleasure of issuing Connor a TX driver license. What a great experience and great story. Very interesting and love when people can step out of their comfort zone. Love small town living. Enjoy Texas.

  14. Ophelia June 13, 2015 at 3:33 pm #

    Wait until you experience small town living the end of September when Annual Homecoming comes around. I don’t think there is another place that does it like Spur!

  15. Chris July 2, 2015 at 6:25 am #

    Thank you for sharing Connor! I am so intrigued with tiny living and Spur and this is so inspiring. Happy journeys and thank yu again for sharing your story!

  16. Kevin Dickson August 4, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

    Now that the IRC minimum size for a house is 70 sq. ft., this can start happening in any city in the US. Many cities still have a minimum size requirement in their zoning code, however.

    City Councils with common sense should start changing those requirements also to 70sq. ft. or whatever they think is prudent.

    NOW….. what happens when someone gets a ratty free used mobile home (pretty common actually) and installs it in Spur just like Connor did?

    I don’t think the neighbors will be very happy, and bickering may ensue. Still, I think the mobile home guy should have the right to build also.

    • /bob August 22, 2015 at 5:54 pm #

      To be clear, the IRC doesn’t deal with house size minimums. It only provides recommended guidelines for primary/largest room size such as family room or living rooms, as well as secondary room sizes such as kitchens and bathrooms and bedrooms, etc. The previous minimum primary room size was recommended to be 120 sq ft. Kitchens were recommended to be 70 sq ft (I think). I also have been keeping up with a code writer and committee member from Colorado who was pushing the committee to reduce the primary room size to 70 sq ft. I haven’t kept up recently and have not heard or read if these changes were adopted (very good if they are). Most communities simply adopt the IRC and IBC as their ordinance rather than use them as guidelines to write their own ordinance. I’ve read both of those as well as the ordinances in my local community looking for ways to allow a tiny house here. The only possible variance is with this change in the IRC and being very convincing with the local building inspectors to consider the main floor of a tiny house as one room. Even though most larger tiny house “great rooms” can be around 70 sq ft, their kitchens are not close to the IRC for minimum size. So considering the “great room” and kitchen together as one room should satisfy that requirement. Putting a pull out bed in the “great room” would satisfy the requirement for space for a bedroom (required for a certificate of occupancy to be issued). Nothing says you can’t simply decide to sleep in the loft instead. Just like there is nothing that says I can’t sleep in my walk-in closet if I want. 🙂

      Or, better yet if possible, place your tiny house in a community that allows it outright. Like Spur or Walsenburg.

  17. Laura August 22, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

    I am amazed at IRC reducing to 70 sq ft. Thanks for the update. I recently corresponded with one of the code writers and He was all for it, but it hadn’t passed yet. Let’s hope local eco-friendly communities will follow but, for the above Austinite/hill-country blogger above, don’t count on it soon, despite austin vibe being pro-environment, the code enforcers and housing controls are tight and NOT always eco nor tiny house friendly. Anyone know if they’ve loosened?

    Second, a question for the Texas people who have actually built tiny houses? How do you handle ventilation issues and interior air quality? This question is from a severe allergy sufferer and one concerned with mold in insulation, especially prevalent in tight tiny house construction in these hot, humid Texas conditions. Gabriella, please let the bloggers answer. While you and your husband obviously have a wealth of knowledge, I would like to hear from anyone that has actually dealt with this in constructing a tiny house. Thanks.

  18. Laura August 22, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

    Gabriella, I take back my comment from previous post. Would love your input also seeing as how the worst issues with interior moisture can also be found in cold climates. Can you also comment if you saw my previous blog question? (I.e. how to handle moisture problems in a tiny house). Thank you.

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella August 25, 2015 at 11:41 am #

      Hi Laura. I would look into an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) for the Texas climate. Good luck!

  19. Bill H. November 6, 2015 at 11:34 am #

    A tip of the hat to Conor. Great idea. I built a small houseboat that is larger than his tiny house that I haven’t been able to sell (Dr’s order) as a boat. Reading this made me realize all you have to do is pull the boat out of the water and you have a tiny house! Asking price for the boat is much less than people have been paying for the tiny houses of similar size. Boat is advertised in Mother Earth News classifieds.

  20. William J. Donnellon August 31, 2016 at 9:28 am #

    How true, the philosophy my deceased wife taught me, “Being wealthy, isn’t having many things, but is having few WANTS.”

  21. Alice McCann August 31, 2016 at 3:21 pm #

    Would like more info about the thought behind the project. Also how can I help my husband, Mike McCann unleash his artistic potential…so any thought/by the way congrats on your ability to down size!!! My husband needs to read and study any thing you suggest. Well enough for now…Requesting prayer for me as I am an artist who greatly appreciates the practical.

  22. Alice McCann August 31, 2016 at 3:27 pm #

    Now I see you love dogs! My husband along with a lot of the McCanns has a passion for dogs. I’m his wife. I know this and reason why I feel in love with this man. Any HOW how do you make the transition from a total dog{animal} lover in 24 easy lessons. I will appreciate any advice given. Thank you for the pics of West Texas.

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