Guest houses, ADU’s (Accessory Dwelling Units), Granny Flats, Short term rental homes, Tiny and Smaller homes, Studios and Offices. With our Kit Homes, Landmark Home and Land Company helps you design and build one for your specific building site anywhere in the country.
Steve Tuma: Yes, and that’s the key element. We can help you control the cost, understand what you are building, and work with you to get the house you want.
Interviewer: Hey, everyone. Thanks for joining us for Episode 44 of the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show. With me as he usually is because I drag him in here and make him talk is the President and Founder of Landmark Home and Land Company, a company which has been helping people build their new homes where they want exactly as they want across the nation and worldwide since 1993, and that is my friend, Steve Tuma. Steve, how are you, buddy?
Steve Tuma: I’m doing great. I was just thinking of that introduction, build their homes. We are going to talk about smaller homes today. So these are additional homes, guesthouses.
Interviewer: Yeah, smaller homes, tiny homes. There is so much talk about that. On our last episode, we spoke specifically about California building and building the ADUs, those – this is the accessory dwelling unit is what we mostly talked about. But I thought it might not be a bad idea and it sounds like you’re up to it, if we broaden the subject and talk about like tiny homes and guesthouses and …
Steve Tuma: Studios.
Interviewer: … or studios.
Steve Tuma: Studios, workshops.
Interviewer: And what some people call as you explained to me the last episode, granny flats. So I would like to talk more about that. So shall we do that?
Steve Tuma: Yeah. It’s a pretty interesting situation. What’s happening is a lot of people are building like a guest house on their land. The zoning will typically allow that in different parts of the country. So there are different purposes whether it’s to move the parents in so that they can have their own home but still be separate. Sometimes it’s kids coming back. Sometimes it’s a separate home office, an art studio, like I mentioned, different woodworking shop, car restoration areas. So there’s a difference if it’s an outbuilding like storage or like a workshop compared to if it’s living space. But we are getting a lot more people that are inquiring about these especially with the tiny home movement after the economic crash. People are like, “How do I live affordably?” And sometimes living affordably means a couple of generations move into one house, maybe it’s on one piece of land with two separate structures. Depending on zoning, it could be different on are they actually separate structures or do they have a connecting wall? See, some places would not allow a separate house on the same piece of land. Others will allow kind of a separate area as long as it doesn’t have a secondary kitchen. So the main thrust of this I think is how do you get another living space into a piece of land whether it’s – if it’s a rental situation, short-term rental, for families, for home office, or whatever it may be.
Interviewer: Well, I’m fascinated by this whole idea of tiny homes but it seems to be kind of not so much vague but there seems to be such a variety, a lot of different ideas as to just what a tiny home is. So you’re the guy to talk to. Can you give us like a definitive overview of what exactly a tiny home is?
Steve Tuma: Well, that’s the interesting thing. I don’t know that there’s an industry-wide sharp definition of it. I think tiny homes initially when this little situation came up is like little 200, 3000-square-foot homes and what people were doing is getting around zoning restrictions buy building a little house on a trailer and getting it licensed as a trailer, therefore the building codes didn’t really apply. Well, pretty soon, people got smart too and said, “Hey, how is this little home connected to water and sewer and what’s going on with all these people in one lot?” And neighborhoods kind of went up in arms. So the evolution works out of how do we take care of the overall situation of get people living spaces? So I think the tiny home of a couple hundred square foot home using every single square inch in different ways, it has evolved to what I would say is more of a smaller home, something under a thousand square feet because I’ve read some interesting situations in tiny homes and a lot of people are intrigued of what they can do in 200 square feet. But I don’t know what their position is two years later, a husband and wife and a dog and two kids in 200 square feet.
I talked to one person that built it and they said, “Yeah, it’s pretty cool. The only problem was we cooked a garlic dinner.”
Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah. I never thought about that.
Steve Tuma: And they are like, “The place was so small, everything smelled like garlic for a week. It got in my clothes.” So sometimes there are these neat ideas and then there’s like, “OK, how do we kind of fine tune it?” And then there’s a reality of space. So everything is a little smaller but there’s certain space that I think people become accustomed to. So the idea of a smaller home, say under a thousand square feet, sometimes there are restrictions for zoning or restrictions in the lot size or whatever it may be as to how big or small this guesthouse can be. So that’s – to answer your question, ten years ago when a tiny home was a couple hundred square feet on a flatbed trailer. Now, I think it has evolved because of zoning and reasonableness and what makes sense. There’s also a situation where building homes is what I equate to purchasing milk. If you buy a gallon for $4, a half gallon is $3.50, but 12 ounces is $1.99. There is a point where if you’re putting – we will use a bathroom as example, if you’re putting a toilet sink and a tub, shower unit, that’s going to cost a set price whether you are putting it in 300 square feet or 1000 square feet.
Steve Tuma: So sometimes what people are realizing is although it might be cool to try and cram everything in 200 square feet, the cost of making of making it 800 square feet probably really isn’t that different.
Steve Tuma: So that I think is what’s happening.
Interviewer: I still get the visual of the garlic dinner.
Steve Tuma: Right.
Interviewer: I knew an old guy who was a friend of my uncle’s who had a single wide trailer and he smoked. Oh my God!
Steve Tuma: Well, it’s a similar situation and it’s just small space. I thought the idea when they first came out was pretty interesting, “Hey, use your living room as a dining room, as a workshop, as this and this and that.” And it was a neat concept. But I don’t know the longevity of it. And there are also just communities that don’t allow it.
Steve Tuma: They want to make sure that there’s certain land use and this kind of affects the quality of the neighborhood and the values in the neighborhood and just the overall feel of it.
Interviewer: As you know, I have always been fascinated by alternative types of building and things like that. You and I had a great discussion once about these people who take these storage units and make them into houses and it ends up costing more if they built the house. And I was just wanting to know what tiny homes are. Is it expensive to build? Is it – what’s the low-down there?
Steve Tuma: Yeah. Well, you’ve got kind of two questions there where people take ideas, one of them is container homes. They will be like, “Whoa! I bought this container for 2500 bucks. I’m just going to put my house in there.” And I’ve seen stuff. This man built this home for $2500. Well, the container costs $2500. By the time he cut holes in it, put windows in it, do all this other stuff …
Steve Tuma: Right. There are different challenges to what that is. And by the time you make it, finish it as a home, I think people will find that the dollars are there. It might be a unique concept. It might be a different situation. But you asked about tiny homes, I’m going to blend it into smaller homes. The interesting thing is when someone says, “Hey, is it less expensive to build a smaller home?” You’ve got to kind of say, “Hey, what are you looking at? Are you looking at a generic per square foot number or are you looking at an overall budget? So in general, the smaller you build a house, the higher the square foot cost will be. It’s kind of like my example just a few minutes ago talking about a bathroom. If you have one bathroom in a 200-square-foot home, that bathroom probably cost about the same as if it was in an 800-square-foot. But as you amortized it over 800 square feet, the cost per square foot is less, kind of like the milk cost that I described. But on the other side, if you build smaller, it will be less dollars out.
Steve Tuma: But there’s I think a point of diminishing return type of situation of let’s just say you could build a 500-square-foot home for a price, let’s just put a value of X on it. And then you say, “Hey, I want to do a thousand,” and it’s 20% more or 30% more. Some people would say, “Hey, I’m better off building a thousand square feet for 20% more than 500 square feet.” Now, those are arbitrary numbers depending on site conditions and a variety of details. But it shows the point that when people say, “Hey, is it less expensive?” What are you looking to do? Because if you have a big, simple home, that cost per square foot will be considerably less than a smaller, very intricate home. So we’ve always got to qualify when people say expensive. What are they looking at? How do they determine expense? Is it square foot or overall cost? The difference of going 500 square feet to a 1000, whatever it would be.
But either way, we can work with them on designs and review the different concepts so that our customer has an understanding of the elements of cost and how different features affect the pricing of the home and then they can determine what they want to do. Do they want to go small and more intricate? Do they want bigger with more space? What is it that they value? And then we could work with them.
Interviewer: We touched on something on the last episode which I wanted to expand on, we were talking about building these ADUs with garages underneath. Well, let’s go the opposite. Can you build a garage and then put a living space above it? How difficult and how much headache does that add to a project?
Steve Tuma: Yeah. When we started, we can do that situation. And sometimes the square footage of the living space can be the same and you could still have the garage below it. There could be little nuances on how square footage is calculated. But yeah, a lot of people are doing that because they will have the space for the footprint available for a garage and then they put on an apartment, home office, studio, kids coming back from college, parents moving in type of living space. So that’s becoming more and more common.
People are trying to figure out how to control the housing cost for a variety of different reasons. Like I mentioned, it could be the parents moving in. It could be the kids coming back from college. It could be people need space because of a divorce or whatever type of situation that they would need living space. And a lot of people are doing it for short and long-term rentals so that they can create an income on their property to cover the cost of living, and that’s something that people are doing nationwide.
Steve Tuma: It’s literally everywhere where we’ve worked with people. They’ve had interest in doing this.
Interviewer: Let’s talk about restrictions from like building departments. What if my local building department would not allow me to build a separate living space for some reason but I still want to expand my home for a home office or a studio or something in the like? What do I do in that situation?
Steve Tuma: Well, the point that you’re bringing up is in some areas, you can only have one home on the lot. Sometimes it’s restricted by space. But other times, it’s actual zoning. Other places, they will let you put a separate house like the smaller guesthouse in the back. That could be a living space or studio. So sometimes when there is a restriction of you can only have one home on the land, people are putting simple additions that just brought up to an existing home and then that becomes the additional living space.
Now, there are little tricks of the trade type of situation here. When it’s like that, they usually want to make – consider it one living space, meaning, there can only be one main kitchen. So you could have – in this additional area, you could put like a kitchenette, a sink, a little refrigerator, but you can’t have a stove. A stove seems to be the determining factor. So what a lot of people do is just ask us to design in a little kitchenette and we design it that way and then what they do afterwards is up to them. But that’s how we’ve been able to do it so that say, it’s a family member moving back in or rental or whatever, it can be considered a separate living space.
Interviewer: I would imagine that really the way that people are using appliances now, there are microwaves and toaster ovens that are so advanced nowadays that if it was a matter of something like a stove, I think people would figure how to work around.
Steve Tuma: They always seem to.
Steve Tuma: I don’t know exactly what they do but they call back and say, “Hey, Steve! Everything is great. My parents moved in.”
Steve Tuma: And they are happy. So somehow it comes together. So we’ve got to work with them to make sure that the plans conform to the guidelines of the building department and zoning.
Interviewer: Kind of looks out his back window and mom and dad are out there barbecuing and they’ve got a fire pit
Steve Tuma: Exactly.
Interviewer: Who needs a kitchen?
Steve Tuma: That’s actually happening more and more with the lifestyles. Kitchens are – they’re not just a formal place to cook with a formal dining room. It’s becoming more of a pass-through on-the-go type of situation. More and more people are doing peninsulas or islands where people …
Interviewer: And dining rooms seem to be taking a backseat islands nowadays.
Steve Tuma: Yeah. Basically yeah, and they are becoming game rooms or big great rooms or big TV rooms. So yeah, we are flexible. We will figure out a way around it.
Interviewer: I wonder if that’s just from a societal standpoint. I wonder if that’s a good thing that people are moving away from dining rooms and actually just everybody is in the kitchen. I think it’s kind of a good thing actually. It’s not less formal and everybody in the family is just sitting around, who knows? I don’t know.
Steve Tuma: Yeah. I think every family is going to work a little differently with dual incomes, different situations. It works. I think overall, whether it’s a recreational property and everyone is going kayaking or fishing or whatever they choose to do, it’s becoming less formal. And even if people aren’t more active, they are more home-centered. The dining room is, if it’s there, it’s getting to be smaller and smaller. With the exception of people that have large families and for the birthdays, the holidays, they want to have a layout where 20 people can show up. So sometimes it’s a great room that somehow furniture gets pushed to the side and big tables get in there and it goes. So, that’s the neat thing about it is whatever someone wants, we are able to work around it to get a design. And sometime that’s what’s happening with these smaller homes. The people still want to have their own individual space to have their own privacy but they are still part of the family group. So when people get together, they want to know that there’s space for everyone and everything works out well.
Interviewer: Yeah, we are human beings. We are adaptable. It’s not quite like the cockroach, but almost.
Steve Tuma: Right. Hey, we did one house awhile back where the guesthouse was actually for their animals. Yeah, they wanted a separate place for their dogs and their cat. It was like a separate little playpen. So whatever goes, we can figure it out.
Interviewer: And let’s talk about something I got in my notes here, accessory building. Now, what’s the difference? I mean is an accessory building the same as a guesthouse or the same as an ADU? Run that down for us.
Steve Tuma: An accessory building is more like a storage place, sometimes a home office or a studio or workshop would be more of accessory compared to guesthouse. We are kind of thinking the guesthouse as a – it’s a living space, a kitchen or kitchenette, separate bedroom, maybe one open bedroom, bathroom type of a situation. But we are able to work with people in different situations because sometimes zoning will allow an accessory building but it would not allow that to be living space.
Interviewer: Oh, got you. OK.
Steve Tuma: So depending upon what people are prioritizing. So the point that I’m getting at is if someone wanted a separate say, art studio or home office, you don’t necessarily need a kitchen in your office or a separate bathroom. You just need a distinct spot to work on your projects. So we are able to work with people in different situations and sometimes it’s just a matter of how zoning dictates things and what that zoning will allow. So that’s the key to it. The accessory building is more just space where the smaller home, tiny home, guest home is considered to be living space.
Interviewer: Well, a guy like me like I’m not married. I don’t have kids. So I don’t need a MacMansion. But can I build a smaller home and control the cost and still kind of get a place that I move in and I really enjoy?
Steve Tuma: Yes, and that’s the key element. We can help you control the cost, understand what you are building, and work with you to get the home that you want, whether it is a McMansion or whether it is a small home, a home office, a guesthouse, ADU, whatever it is. That’s the key is we can work with you to get the house you want.
Interviewer: Oh, I see. That’s everything. And this question kind of – that kind of leads into this. But we had talked before about being able to adapt your design even for a small house to make it kind of even more cool or more fun. So can I dress up like a mini house, a mini home so that it looks just fantastic on my land? I don’t want it to look like a modular. I want it to be something kind of unique. Is it adaptable that way?
Steve Tuma: It’s very adaptable because we are able to come up with a design that you want as far as the general structure of the home, what does it look like? Is it simple with four 90-degree corners? Does it have corners? Does it have a steep pitch roof? We can design the guesthouse, the smaller home to be exactly the way you want. Sometimes this gets involved with the finishing materials, the architectural details, the types of windows, setbacks and walls, roof pitches. We can work all those details. And then also on the inside, do we put lofts in there? How tall are ceilings? Just get the general feel to be tuned up exactly the way you want it to be.
Interviewer: Anything that when you guys have designed smaller structures, smaller living spaces, have you run into anything that’s just completely like so cool that who thought of this? I mean I’m sure you guys get some pretty interesting adaptations to your own designed. People must – people are really artistic and really the average person can come up with some cool ideas.
Steve Tuma: We’ve had a bunch of people do a variety of things. I spoke once about the lady, it was a retirement home in Arizona where the wife was just into cooking pies and she wanted to have her kitchen exactly one way only with windows overlooking the yard so she could see the grandkids and the family running around. We have gotten into man caves.
Interviewer: That’s after my own heart.
Steve Tuma: Right. Whether they are detached unit spots in the basement. And like we laughed about once, urinals and man caves. There are different situations like that. But – and I don’t know that this has really been labeled. There is almost like kid caves, that has been something where people are finding spots for their kids, rock climbing walls, little loft areas, and ceiling areas where they have their own little spot where they can crawl up there and have their games and kind of work and then slides coming out of …
Interviewer: That’s awesome.
Steve Tuma: … these kind of hidden areas. So we’ve run into that. We’ve had people put safe rooms in their houses. We’ve also had people put in their own speakeasies.
Interviewer: Oh, that’s cool.
Steve Tuma: Yeah, you push a button and like the cabinet spins around and then there are some situation like that going in. We’ve had people that are into equestrian properties, work on different type of – I don’t want to call it a formal tack room but they can come in from working with the horses, clean up and not bring all the mud and everything into the house. We’ve had people have pet rooms. Some of them where they’ve got their own little tub showers type things to take care of dogs, some of them literally eight pet rooms. In one case, it was one third of this house. I was asking them, “What are you guys doing?” They just had a big like a couple of glass walls looking at this – the end of this house. They said, “Our cats are our kids.” So they build this little internal jungle inside and it was almost like a zoo where you look through the glass or the bars and to the animal space.
So there is a lot – a big situation with that. A lot of people are getting into audio or home theaters. And then there are also situations where people are working on different hobbies whether they are creating their home studios for audio and video work or it’s crafts or woodworking situations.
Another thing as we help more and more people that are doing their retirement homes, it’s just locating the house properly to take advantage of the view, if they are waterfront or by a mountain that they want to take advantage.
Interviewer: Yeah, nothing wrong with that. That’s great.
Steve Tuma: Yeah, there has been a lot of work on site, make sure windows are right so if see can see out. So I guess you asked a question. I’ve kind of rambled on for a little while.
Interviewer: You know what? It’s OK because what I’ve been doing that whole time is dreaming about, “Man, if I could just have a urinal and a fireman’s pole, I’d be happy.”
Steve Tuma: We actually did that in a house once. I joked with the people. They are like, “Oh, where do we stick a staircase?” I’m like, “We will put a fireman’s pole.” The guys are like, “Really?” Yeah, so we have done situations like that. Then other stuff, kitchens. People get into some big gourmet kitchens if they are really into cooking. So now that we have started talking about mini houses and tiny house and we’ve got man caves and slides and rock climbing walls, I guess we are back to talking about regular size houses.
But the point is, even with a smaller home, you can still do stuff like that. If you wanted a rock climbing wall for your kid, it could still be done in a little house. If you wanted a little loft for a little kid’s cave up there, you can do it. If your ADU or guesthouse needs to have a certain view, we can work with that. Or sometimes you want to avoid the view. You don’t want bedroom windows looking in bedroom windows. We can work with people on that. So the general concept of Landmark’s ability to pay attention on what you are looking at and what you want and how people put together, it’s what we desire to do and that’s the really fun part of all of this.
Interviewer: Awesome. Well, folks, that about wraps it up for us today. That went by really quick. We’ve been having some good discussions on the podcast and sometimes they are a lot of fun. Today was a lot of fun.
Steve Tuma: Yeah. I hope listeners enjoyed it. It’s pretty interesting stuff to talk about. Some families decide to build it right away. Some families decide to think about it for a little while. Either way, we can help.
Interviewer: And put in a fireman’s pole. [Laughs] Before we go as we like to do on the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show, we give Steve a chance to let the listeners know how to get a hold of you guys over there and your great team at Landmark Home and Land Company. So give us the low-down on what’s the best way to find out more information and to reach you.
Steve Landmark: The best way is to look at our website at LHLC.com. That’s kind of the initials of Landmark Home and Land Company, LHLC.com. You can email me directly, Steve Tuma, at Landmark@LHLC.com.
You can call, Mike will answer the phone. We answer the phone. If for some reason you do get our voicemail, please leave a message. We will call you back right away. We are proactive. We want to help you. But that number is 800-830-9788. Again, it’s 800-830-9788. You can also see us on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and we will do whatever we can to help a family decide what it is that they need for their home.
Interviewer: And there you go. So, for Steve Tuma and myself, we want to thank you all once again for listening in. Be safe out there, people. And happy building. And we will see you next time.
Steve Landmark: Have a great night.