26-year-old pays $0 to live in a ‘luxury tiny house’ she built in her backyard for $35,000 — take a look inside

In 2019, I purchased a 1,400 square foot, three-bedroom home in Atlanta, Georgia for $196,000. I thought I could earn some extra income by renting out the guest rooms on Airbnb, especially since I travel a lot for work and was rarely home.

Unfortunately, bookings dried up in 2020. No one wanted to share a house with a stranger at the start of the pandemic. My work trips also stopped, so I was living alone in a house that seemed too big.

But in May, as I looked out the kitchen window at my huge garden, something clicked: I could use this space to build a small house to live in and rent out the main house entirely.

Before starting, I had to submit building, electrical and plumbing permits to the planning office.

Then I purchased a shed from Liberty Storage Solutions and hired a local subcontract crew to pour a concrete slab foundation. They got to work in October 2020.

All in all, it cost me around $35,000 to build the house, which includes the pre-fab shed structure, labor, and material costs.

Instead of taking out a bank loan, I cashed in $8,500 in stock and put about $20,000 on my credit cards to pay for it all. I was able to repay that debt last year.

While the house was being built, I rented my main house and rented a room from my neighbor for $300 a month.

Precious’ tiny house sits in the back corner of her 7,280 square foot garden.

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After I finished building the tiny 296 square foot house in March 2021, I immediately rented it out on Airbnb for a few months to recoup the costs.

By charging between $89 and $129 per night and $1,300 for monthly leases, I was able to bring in almost $32,000 in gross rental income. And in January, I moved into the tiny house to save on living expenses.

Here are the associated monthly costs for the two houses:

  • Mortgage and property taxes: $1,200
  • Electricity: $190
  • Water: $110
  • The Internet: $80

Total: $1,580

This is all covered by the $2,725 I earn renting out the main house, which means I can live in my tiny house for free.

To give the place a light and airy feel, I painted the walls a coastal blue hue and added some rustic touches like a wooden ladder leading up to the queen-size mattress in the loft.

Tucked under the mezzanine is a small desk, which she uses to check her emails and catch up on work.

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In addition to the daybed that doubles as a sofa downstairs, there is a full bathroom, kitchen, and dining area.

Sliding rustic barn doors provide easy privacy.

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The bathroom has a shelf for extra storage and a glass shower door, which makes the room feel bigger.

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My favorite area is the kitchen. Most people are surprised to see that it has a large refrigerator and a very large sink.

The kitchen has an induction hob and a small dining area.

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The eight separate windows, wall mirrors and glass shower door expand the space. I sometimes forget that I live in a shed.

Small details like this mirror make the space feel bigger and more welcoming. “I sometimes forget that I live in a shed,” says Precious.

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I had to reduce my wardrobe and my shoe collection. But rather than getting rid of clothes that I still want to keep, I store some at a friend’s house. Every few weeks we do a wardrobe swap.

Precious’s dog, Sachia, also lives in the tiny house with her. She plans to entertain friends in the garden when the weather warms up.

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I don’t often have friends, but once the weather warms up, I plan to use the fire pit as a place of reception.

Having this home has given me a ton of real estate options, including rental income and emergency housing for myself or aging family members.

I believe that tiny homes will play an important role in offsetting the global housing crisis. Last year I gave a TEDx talk about how they can help create a sustainable sharing economy for the earth.

When the weather is nice outside, the spacious porch is a great place to enjoy the fresh air with a coffee.

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In 2021, after realizing the effects of vacation rentals on the Atlanta real estate market, I stopped listing my properties for short-term rentals on sites like Airbnb. Renting more and more space for vacations means less space for people who need long-term housing.

I have since reduced my portfolio and rent to local students and low income workers. My plan is to add an adjoining guest suite to the main house and provide even more stable accommodation.

Precious’ least favorite part of her house is the attic, which doesn’t have much space for anything other than sleeping.

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This year, I’m excited to fully experience the tiny house lifestyle for myself. It’s amazing what you can do with a little space in your garden.

Valuable prize is a TEDx speaker, marketing strategist and social entrepreneur. In 2021, she founded LANDRIFT, a digital real estate marketplace, amid the conversation around the impact of short-term rentals on housing affordability and availability. She holds a master’s degree in management information systems from Indiana University. Follow her on instagram, Twitter And Youtube.

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