A tiny home in the making inside the California Tiny House workshop in Fresno.
Written by Frank Lopez
For those who subscribe to the idea that less is more, there are a number of builders in Fresno that bear that idea in mind when constructing tiny homes.
While tiny homes are nothing new, the trend gained more interest after the financial crisis of 2007-08, and received more media attention with shows like “Tiny House Nation” and “Tiny House Hunters”.
Even though the average size of the American family has decreased in the last 40 years, according to AEI.org, new U.S. homes today are 1,000 square feet larger than the average home in 1973.
The tiny home trend coincides with other popular lifestyle trends such as requiring less space to live, living with less material objects and saving money.
“We see tiny homes as an opportunity for a lot of folks to achieve homeownership in an affordable sense,” said Andrew Sturgill, owner of Seabreeze Tiny Homes in Fresno. “People are saying, ‘I don’t need the big overhead, the large mortgage, and the maintenance and upkeep that a traditional home has’.”
Before manufacturing his own tiny homes, Sturgill worked for a company that would manufacture mobile showcase vehicles for clients such as Legoland, Disney, and DeWalt Power Tools.
After years of creating mobile showcase vehicles, he heard about the tiny homes trend and got interested in producing tiny, mobile homes.
After creating a business plan, and a year and a half of research, Sturgill opened Seabreeze Tiny Homes in November 2017.
Sturgill said that the zoning laws in Fresno are very favorable and accommodating for tiny housing.
Tiny home ordinance, construction
In November of 2015, Fresno City Council enacted a new development code that recognized tiny homes and tiny homes on wheels as acceptable “backyard cottages,” or Accessible Dwelling Units (ADU’s).
Fresno is believed to be the first city in the nation to have adopted a zoning code that makes tiny houses legal.
While there is no set definition as to what qualifies as a tiny home, they are usually considered to be between 400 square feet to around 1,000 square feet.
In most U.S. states, it is legal to tow a tiny home on the road without permit if the structure is 13.5 feet tall, 8.5 feet wide, and 40 feet long, or under.
The price range for tiny homes can start at $40,000 and go to just over $100,000 and can be customized to fit a buyer’s financial budget and preferred style.
Outside buyers and demographics
Though there are a handful of companies producing tiny homes in Fresno, most of the homes they are building are sold outside of the Central Valley or out of state.
Pat Mosley had been in the construction business for more than 35 years, building custom homes and remodeling kitchens and bathrooms with his company, Pat Mosley Construction.
In 2014, one of Mosley’s son’s, Nick, found out about tiny homes, and they thought it would be fun to start making their own. After working in the day for their original business, they would build tiny homes at night, which they eventually turned into their family-run company, California Tiny House.
Mosley says that out of the approximately 40 tiny homes that he’s built since they’ve started, most do not stay in the Central Valley.
“We only have about three [tiny homes] in the Fresno-Visalia area,” said Mosley. “Most of them go where the rents are high: Santa Cruz, San Diego, Los Angeles. What we’re paying $200,000 for in Fresno, they’re paying $2 million for in the Bay Area. Most homes go up there because they’re cheaper per square foot.”
Other tiny homebuilders in Fresno such as Seabreeze Tiny Homes and KJE Tiny Homes also said that most of the homes they build are placed outside the Valley.
Sturgill and Mosley also said that they have a wide demographic of buyers.
KJE Tiny Homes started in 2016 and is owned by Ashley Cobbs who said that she got influenced to get into the business after seeing the tiny home shows on television and started the company with her husband who had worked in construction for years.
Cobbs said a question that she is frequently asked is about the demographics of the buyers of tiny homes.
“I get that question a lot and it varies,” Cobbs said. “ We get young couples, all the way up to retired individuals. We get families, people with kids, people with no kids. It’s not really a set demographic, its wide, which is the good thing about tiny homes, they can appeal to anyone.”
Sturgill and Mosley said they also have a wide demographic of buyers in different age groups and income brackets.
Cobbs said that a lot of elderly citizens buy a tiny home so they can live on property that their children own, and has buyers that rent out the tiny homes or use them as an Airbnb.
Clovis cottage program
The City of Clovis is following the tiny home trend and aims to revitalize its downtown with its Old Town Cottage Home Program.
In its effort to bring infill to the residential areas of downtown Clovis, the city has developed three cottage home plans that may be built on properties that have alley access.
The city will provide basic floor plans, plans to get contractor bids, building permit submittal package and fee-waived checked plans. The cottage home plans offered by the city are less than 450 square feet of livable area and are meant to face into alley ways to try and create a unique pedestrian street environment.
Maria Spera, coordinator for the Cottage Home Program and planning technician for the planning department for the City of Clovis, says that there are 10 permits issued and four are already being built.
Spera says that hopefully this program will bring more people into the area and make alleyways into new neighborhoods.
“Alleys can be an ugly place,” Spera said. “Putting these cottage homes within the alleys will create neighborhoods and create eyes on the alley. It will be a way to beautify the alleys.”