An emerging trend nationally is the construction of micro homes, also known as tiny houses.

An emerging trend nationally is the construction of micro homes, also known as tiny houses.

Tiny houses typically range from 100 to 400 square feet, as opposed to the average of 2,600 square feet for the typical new home.

According to The Tiny Life (thetinylife.com), “Tiny houses come in all shapes, sizes, and forms, but they enable simpler living in a smaller, more efficient space.”

While acknowledging that tiny homes are not for everyone, The Tiny Life points to the total cost of purchasing a typical single family home over 30 years as a powerful incentive to think about choosing a tiny home.

If the purchase price of a home is $290,000, once interest, taxes, insurance, maintenance, and major repairs and improvements are factored in over 30 years, the actual cost could be as much as $1,073,000.

Tiny homes face a variety of obstacles. Foremost are city zoning ordinances.

Even if a tiny home meets building codes, cities are reluctant to let a home owner build or place one in a city because it wouldn’t have much property value. Less property value equals less taxes for city coffers.

Neighbors could also object to having a tiny home next door because they fear that it could possibly  lower their own home’s property value.

Jennifer Buseman of Montevideo, with the help of her family, has built a tiny house. She plans to move her home to a location near Duluth later this summer. She will live in it while she finishes her master’s degree in elementary education at St. Scholastica.

Buseman, who graduated from Montevideo in 2006, has a very strong love of the outdoors. She learned to appreciate the outdoors while participating in former Monte high school teacher Butch Halterman’s river trips.

She is an avid fan of kayaking, canoeing, cross country skiing, and hiking.

After graduating from Monte, Jennifer majored in recreation and outdoor education from the University of Minnesota, Duluth.

She has continued her education by taking online courses from St. Scholastica, and by traveling there on weekends to do the things that can’t be done on computer.

By this time next year, she will have graduated from St. Scholastica. Jennifer spent last summer living in Washington (state). She was renting a home with two other people, and her share of the rent was $500 per month.

“I’ve always liked the idea of tiny houses,” said Buseman. “Some of my friends in Washington have tiny homes.”

Since she was only there for the summer, she decided that, instead of paying rent, she would live out of her car for the remainder of the summer.

To some people, this may sound rather odd, but Buseman did not  have many possessions with her. Basically all she had were clothes. She stayed with friends and lived out of her car, all the while enjoying nature in the Pacific Northwest.

This experience showed Jennifer what she needed, as well as what she didn’t need. She decided a tiny house was right for her.

The frame for her house came from a 36-foot camper trailer. A cousin cut it down and welded it back together to make a 22- foot frame.

The wood for Buse­man’s house came from an old granary. Her dad, Delos Buseman, helped her dismantle it. They removed all the nails from the boards, then ran them through a planer to clean them up.

Delos and his brother Rick helped frame the 18 foot wide by 8 foot, 144 square foot home. Another cousin insulated the structure with spray foam insulation, while yet another cousin did the electrical work.

Inside the home are various appliances, a sink with water tank, a padded bench with underneath storage, a bathroom with a composting toilet, and a loft for her bed.

Appliances were salvaged from the camper. The lights, refrigerator, and water heater will be powered by solar panels. “I like the sustainability aspect of the solar panels,” said Jennifer. Bat­teries will store electricity during the  day. The stove and heater use propane.

The solar panels, inverter, and batteries have been the most expensive part of the project, costing $4,000. Buseman estimates that she has spent an additional $4,300 on the project, for a total investment of $8,300.

Jennifer is currently looking for property near Duluth on which to place her home. “St. Louis County does not  have any minimum square foot regulations, but individual townships may,” she said.

Once she graduates from St. Scholastica next year, Buseman hopes to find a teaching job. She would like to stay in northern Minnesota, or maybe return to Washington. Wherever she decides to go, her tiny house will follow!


For more on this story and others pick up this week’s paper or subscribe today!