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 (sorry, this site has been taken down).
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.”
The 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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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!!