TROY — While most builders in Miami County are aiming larger to maximize profits, John and Chris Paulsen of Vandalia just went tiny.
Located at 836 Atlantic St. in Troy, a brand new 468-square-foot “tiny house” constructed by the couple is about to hit the market.
Currently residents of the Vandalia area, the Paulsens have a history in apartment complex management and real estate, and have managed Gem City Services together for two years.
“When I was 17, I got a book on how to convert a one-car garage into a tiny house or apartment,” John said. “Ever since then, I’ve wanted to do it. Many people who build tiny houses put them on wheels, but I decided early on I wanted to build one set in place. This lot came up for sale and I contacted a guy named Duane Puckett, who has since retired from the City of Troy. He said, ‘About 20 people have looked at this lot and can’t figure out what to do with it.’ It’s an undersized, non-conforming lot. I told him I’d like to build a tiny house.
“Two inspectors came out and within a few minutes, they liked the idea and started driving stakes into the ground. I turned in the paperwork, and had permission within a few days.”
The Paulsens noted that finding a lot appropriate for the project took several years, due to strict laws most communities uphold on new real estate.
“The main problem we ran into was zoning,” John said. “What really matters is that you follow all the codes and that your finished house is a reasonable facsimile of the plan you turned in, but most communities don’t want you to build under ‘x’ amount of square feet. The construction boom really just kind of started again in this area, so we had trouble finding somebody to come and do the concrete, too. Construction is a for-profit business. Most builders won’t build a house this size, because it doesn’t meet their profit expectation, and I understand that.”
Despite hiccups in the early stages, the Paulsens broke ground on Nov. 11.
“Troy found a creative way to let me do this,” John said. “To come up with where the house could sit and how big it could be, they did what’s called a block front average. They looked at where other houses were built relative to the street and the sidewalk, and that’s how this house was positioned where it was and how they permitted me to build it. From there, the land was surveyed, and we laid the foundation.”
After concrete was poured and block was laid, John did most of the rest of the work himself, along with the assistance of family and friends, with framing beginning in early December.
The product resulting from the Paulsens’ hard work is a house measuring 18-feet-by-26-feet, that features a living area, full kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, walk-in closet, laundry fixtures, and a crawlspace.
“For a house this size, a lot of things are kind of overbuilt,” John said. “You can frame this house with 2x4s. Instead, I used 2x6s, which gives you extra insulation, extra drywall, and nine-foot ceilings. By the time we framed walls with the oversized lumber, the frame was very heavy. It took about half a dozen of us to get it into place and secure it.”
The Paulsens agreed that from the very beginning, the house would be sold rather than leased, due to the quality materials used in its construction.
“We have rental properties, but I’m going to end up selling this house,” John said. “In most rentals, I wouldn’t put in a solid hardwood floor, a quartz countertop, oversized cupboards, or tall ceilings. Everything is really overdone for what you’d do with a typical rental property. I have some very good tenants, but on occasion, you get a tenant that’s not so good, and a house can suffer a lot of damage.”
The Paulsens feel that the project not only highlights the ingenuity of economy in home construction, but also represents a need not being met in many communities.
“In a lot of communities, especially growing communities like Troy, there’s a lack of workforce or service employee housing,” John said. “Unfortunately, a lot of codes in some communities prevent small, affordable housing from being built. I’m hoping to use photographic evidence to show just how nice something small can really be.
“A young couple working full time at minimum wage could buy this house. That’s a big deal. Why go and spend 700-800 a month on an apartment when they could buy a house like this for 500-600 a month? Home ownership is part of the American dream, and a lot of people are shut out, for whatever reason. A brand new 1,200 square-foot house might be $150,000. It’s not something young people can readily afford, which puts them into renting instead of buying. New houses being built are typically too big for starter homes, so this sort of house would be great for that.”
An open house event is scheduled for the property on Saturday, Sept. 23 and Sunday, Sept. 24, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days.
“We’ll be putting it on the market on the 24th,” Sarah confirmed. “Once we see what kind of response we get, we’re going to have it appraised. As a realtor, I’m not even sure how to list it, but I think it’ll sell pretty quickly. A lot of realtors I work with are even interested, just because it’s so different.”
The Paulsens both noted that the experience has been incredibly positive, and that both would love to build more tiny houses, particularly in the Troy area.
“During the building process, at least once a week, somebody would approach us and ask what this was,” Chris said. “The neighborhood has been great.”
“I’d like to do it again in Troy, simply because the local government has been spectacular,” John said. “They were superb in understanding the codes and making sure I met those codes. They were incredibly helpful.
“For me, closing it out isn’t the sale of the house – it’s the completion of a project that I’ve had on my bucket list since I was 17. My satisfaction is in finally being able to get it done.”
For more information on the Paulsens, visit Chris Paulsen Realtor, Coldwell Banker Heritage Realtors on Facebook.