Yes, a tiny home can qualify for a traditional mortgage! Aubrie Gibbons works for Atlas Cottage Homes, a company that has developed a modular small home, or cottage as they call it, that can be traditionally mortgaged. They can even help you roll the cost of the land into that loan, along with the cottage. We also dispel some of the common myths about modular building, along with what modular building can and can’t do.
In This Episode:
- How does one mortgage a tiny home?
- The differences between a cottage and other tiny homes
- All about the mortgage process
- Modular does not mean low quality
Links and Resources:
As Communications Manager for the Atlas Group Ltd., Aubrie utilizes over six years of experience in data entry, customer service, real estate, and marketing roles to support the team and its goals. She is uniquely positioned to share the vision of Atlas Cottage Homes.
This Week's Sponsor:
Tiny House Engage
Calling all future tiny house dwellers! I want to tell you about something that I created a few years ago that is the secret sauce for so many of my readers and listeners to get the motivation and the support they need to follow through on their tiny house dreams. It's an online community that I created called Tiny House Engage and it's like a small private social network with just tiny house enthusiasts. We have members of all stages in their tiny house journeys sharing advice and experiences. It’s a very unique online space that I love to hang out in. If you’re truly hoping, currently planning, building, or currently living in a tiny house, I know that you’re going to love Tiny House Engage and look forward to meeting you in there. Find out more about Tiny House Engage at thetinyhouse.net/engage.
Atlas has two shops where their teams build the cottages
They can help you roll the cost of the land into the mortgage on the cottage
The homes are built according the zip code they are going to
All of the cottages are on foundations instead of wheels
Affordability is a primary focus, but luxury updates are definitely possible
Atlas Cottage Homes Ltd is a small company of about 50 employees
Modular homes can be high quality, contrary to a common misconception
Aubrie Gibbons 0:00
As traditional mortgages are currently structured, you usually need to use the home as collateral in order to fund that. And with the tiny homes you can drive off and no one will find you.
Ethan Waldman 0:16
Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 223 with Aubrie Gibbons. Figuring out how to offer a traditional 30 year mortgage for a small or tiny home has been one of the toughest nuts to crack in the tiny house industry. My guest today, Aubrie Gibbons works for Atlas Cottages, and they have actually developed a modular, small home or cottage as they call it that can be traditionally mortgaged. They have a range of sizes and can even help you roll in the cost of the land purchase with the mortgage for the small cottage. This is kind of a unique model that I hadn't heard of before, so I decided to have Aubrie on the show to tell us all about it. We will also dispel some common myths about modular building and what modular building can and can't do. So I hope you stick around.
Calling all future tiny house dwellers! I want to tell you about something that I created a few years ago that is the secret sauce for so many of my readers and listeners to get the motivation and the support they need to follow through on their tiny house dreams. It's an online community that I created called Tiny House Engage. And it's like a small private social network with just tiny house enthusiasts. So we've gotten members who are just at the beginning stages of their journeys. We have members who are currently building or working with a builder for their tiny house. And then we have many members who are already living tiny, sharing advice and experiences with you. Tiny House Engage is a pretty unique place online. I love hanging out there. I actually do monthly office hours where you can interact with me, ask me questions and more. Right now Tiny House Engage is actually open for registration. It's not open for registration all of the time. I like to keep it closed so that it kind of keeps that close knit, familiar feeling. Tiny House Engage is open right now through the weekend and I would love for you to join. You can learn more about Tiny House Engage and get a $1 trial to the community at thetinyhouse.net/engage. Again, that's over at thetinyhouse.net/engage. You can try it out for just $1 to see if Tiny House Engage is right for you. But if you are truly hoping to or currently planning or building a tiny house, I know that you're going to love Tiny House Engage. I look forward to meeting you in there. Again. That's thetinyhouse.net/engage.
All right, I am here with Aubrie Gibbons. As communications manager for the Atlas Group Ltd, Aubrie utilizes over six years of experience in data entry, customer service, real estate, and marketing roles to support the team and its goals. She is uniquely positioned to share the vision of Atlas Cottage Homes. Aubrie, welcome to the show.
Aubrie Gibbons 3:34
Hi, Ethan. It's so great to be here.
Ethan Waldman 3:37
Yeah, thanks for coming on. You know, I don't always just let tiny home companies onto the show because it's kind of like free advertising. And I kind of look for companies that are doing things that are a little bit different or a new perspective to offer my listeners. And so when I got an email from you talking about how Atlas Cottage Homes are able to be traditionally mortgaged and that you you know, you could come on the show to talk about how that works and why or how and why that works. I thought that would be a cool thing to bring to the listeners of Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast. So before we get to that though, could you just tell us a little bit more about yourself how you got started working with with tiny homes, tiny cottages?
Aubrie Gibbons 4:28
So I actually got into the tiny living universe from camping when I was younger with my parents. I think a lot of the tiny home community kind of gets started through RV or camping. And if it's not that, then it's the minimalism aspect of it, which I also really strongly identify with. I'm based here in Florida, I was born and raised here, which you don't hear about very often. And there's a certain environmentalist streak there because we do have the Everglades there which is A huge aquifer here in this country. So I think that was a big part of it for me. And Atlas and I kind of found each other because of that.
Ethan Waldman 5:10
That's awesome. And so did you have a background in real estate before you came to Atlas?
Aubrie Gibbons 5:15
I did, I am actually a licensed real estate agent. And so one of the reasons I was brought on was I have this kind of unique positioning of assisting experience. So they knew I was good at learning new teams, as well as a real estate license, and I was an agent for two years. And then you add in the fact that I have this connection to camping and tiny living and environmentalist emphasis. And I think that that really made for the perfect mix between me and the company's vision. And, you know, I was promoted very quickly while I was here. So I think I must be doing something right to be the new communications manager.
Ethan Waldman 5:57
Nice. How big is the company?
Aubrie Gibbons 6:01
So we do have a really big emphasis on keeping the team small. So we have a few offices, we have two plants that build our homes in Orlando, each of those probably have about 20 employees. And then we have the main office, where we kind of come up with all the ideas and give them our crazy plans, and then they fix what we give them and make it make sense. And I would say our office public has about 10 employees. So in total, probably around 50.
Ethan Waldman 6:33
Nice. And so do you build homes of all sizes? Or are you like specifically these these cottage homes?
Aubrie Gibbons 6:41
We definitely have the capacity to build larger homes, specifically, within the cottage home branch, we try to keep them smaller. There is that element of energy efficiency that we really want to preserve there. But a lot of our company was kind of made possible by our supporters who are, of course, investors. And so we try to serve them by offering a luxury home division. So if someone were interested in our other products, we do include larger housing options, but even the cottages themselves, because they're modular, can really be combined in different ways to make whatever your dream home is, in an affordable way that of course can be mortgaged.
Ethan Waldman 7:27
Yep, yep. Nice. And so what can you kind of define cottage homes for me like, general size footprint kind of things?
Aubrie Gibbons 7:39
Yeah, so I would say our cottages range from about 600 square feet, to around 1200. We have some models that have not been announced yet that are two storey and that's where you get that 1200 number from. My personal favorite is going to have a deck on it, so I'm excited for that one to get announced. I might even myself. But it was mentioned a couple times now they are traditionally mortgageable. So it's a 30 year mortgage. We try to keep rates at about $500 a month, if you're gonna go that route. If you were just going to pay in cash, it would be about $160. That's a starting rate. Those prices do tend to fluctuate just so that we can serve as many people as possible. The biggest difference between us and what a lot of your audience is probably familiar with is that we are not mobile. And that's why we refer to ourselves as cottage homes instead of tiny homes, but what you don't have in mobility, you really get in security. So having that as collateral aside, you can get that loan, but you also have the option of having community there of people around you. I know from many of the episodes that I listened to on your podcast that some of your listeners seem to really be interested in that. So it's really if you love your tiny home, and you like that small footprint, it's an option where you don't have to, you know, call a company to move your home if you really just stay there and build equity, which is another thing that you get with these that you unfortunately don't have with tiny homes on wheels, is the equity. Right? So we try to offer that as an alternative because I think there really is that element of wanting a community everywhere you go. And yeah, you should always do that here.
Ethan Waldman 9:15
So I think it bears repeating. I want to just ask you the question directly, like, Why can't a tiny house on wheels qualify for a traditional mortgage kind of as they are currently imagined?
Aubrie Gibbons 9:43
As traditional mortgages are currently structured, you usually need to use the home as collateral in order to fund that.
Ethan Waldman 9:52
So that tiny house or that the house itself is the is the collateral so that the bank has something to take away if you stop paying.
Aubrie Gibbons 10:00
Exactly. And with the tiny homes you can drive off and no one will find you.
Ethan Waldman 10:06
Okay, so that's that's the main thing is that the tiny homes kind of can get driven off. Now, one thing that I've heard, also is that oftentimes what is the appreciating asset when you buy a house is the land, and that the house is actually a depreciating asset. And so I'm curious how does that factor in at all with with the cottage homes, since you do sell them, I'm guessing you'll sell them without really knowing where the where they'll go?
Aubrie Gibbons 10:36
Well, we do have to know where they're gonna go because we build them according to the zip code. So I also don't necessarily agree that houses are depreciating assets.
Ethan Waldman 10:46
Aubrie Gibbons 10:47
Even with mobile homes, which I know a lot of people don't like that, to be compared. I would not say that we're similar to them. But they can be transported if they haven't, you know, settled into the ground yet. Even those values have gone up. In many, many cases, I would say they've gone down every once in a while. They can't say they never go down. But having a structure like that, that is stable, that has been built to a certain code, you know, mobile homes are built to federal codes, and ours are built the zip codes. So there's a lot more standards there. And a lot more consistency, you kind of know what you're getting when you order, order, custom order a home from us. But yeah, that is really a big difference, I would say. So I, I think it's also important to note that the land can be rolled into that loan as well, because that is what a traditional mortgage does. So there's that aspect too, we can help them finance there as well.
Ethan Waldman 11:49
Oh, interesting. So if somebody is looking for land that they they want to buy, they can contact you and say let's do a mortgage that includes the cost of the land and the house that I want to build or to place there.
Aubrie Gibbons 12:03
Yes, that's an option that we've discussed. So there's a lot of potential here, I think this is really kind of laying new ground, our biggest focus with this is that it is affordable. And we do have premiere options for you to get nicer finishes and things like that. But even our most kind of luxurious models, you feel that sense of luxury that you get with luxury homes, but just in a very small package that gives you that sense of control. Privacy is great for first time homeowners who can't really, in this market, go for anything else. But I also think that, you know, just gives you this sense of all of your environment is yours. I think a lot of these larger homes don't really serve what we actually need. And I say that, again, as someone who was a big camping enthusiast. And I really realized when I was younger, how much space we don't need by doing that. So.
Ethan Waldman 13:02
Yeah, so how are the homes built?
Aubrie Gibbons 13:06
So they are modular as I mentioned. So if viewers are familiar with that, there's kind of a standard process there, where we kind of build out the shell and we put the insulation in place. The differences that come in place by zip code can be pretty expensive. So I can't go too in depth, because I wouldn't want to say a part of the process that isn't entirely accurate. But, you know, they have generally a 14 x 42 floor plan. We do kind of currently exist as one of the only 800 to 1000 square foot builders in Florida. They do get as small as 600, but we generally say around eight. We have a 10 year owners warranty. I would say a lot of again, a lot of what we do really depends on the zip code. So the biggest commonality we have is with those modular homes, and I would say that's basically how we build them.
Ethan Waldman 14:01
Nice and so they're like if somebody buys that, that the tiniest end of the home the 600 square foot house, is that going to be, ike how is that delivered? Is it is it all like is the house just kind of comes on a truck and gets plopped down or is there some like site build that happens too?
Aubrie Gibbons 14:23
So we generally do a site build. Right now our cottage homes are most commonly found at cottage home communities. And we have an example of that in like _____. They are currently in planning to lay some of our cottage homes down. And with each of those, you know you have the built ins, place for a toilet, you have the washer and dryer that are stackable, a fully functioning kitchen. I think it's really important to emphasize here that sometimes with tiny homes on wheels, you don't get all of those amenities. Like I know that you don't always choose to have the toilet in the tiny home on wheels. You can instead have it be kind of a more intensive labor intensive process? I don't want to go too in depth. But from my experience, it's a little more work than a regular toilet.
Ethan Waldman 15:14
Aubrie Gibbons 15:16
So with those, it's really important to kind of emphasize that it's essentially the same as a traditional home, just a little smaller.
Ethan Waldman 15:23
Yep. And so what kind of site work needs to get done to the land in order to kind of prepare for the house getting put down? And what does that generally cost?
Aubrie Gibbons 15:34
Yeah, so the cost of preparing land can really vary. I wouldn't feel comfortable giving a number on that. But with how much you are saving on the mortgaging process. Over time, of course, there's the interest and everything but month to month, you have a lot of your income left to yourself, I would say that it's certainly not a stopping force in this process. We have plenty of contractors that we're usually happy to refer to our clients, especially since, you know, we are kind of based in Florida right now, given the level of customization we need to do based on the zip code.
Ethan Waldman 16:12
Got it. So in terms of of the kind of the mortgage and the overall purchase price, like what's, what is the like, starting price for like, a 600? square foot home? Like what's the least expensive option for those listening? Who are just kind of wondering what it is?
Aubrie Gibbons 16:35
Yeah, so for the lots are, to my knowledge being placed at ________. The estimates for that the lowest end is 160. If you were to buying cash, that would be $150,000. To answer your earlier question, I realized I actually do have notes on that here.
Ethan Waldman 16:52
Aubrie Gibbons 16:52
It's usually about $2 per square foot to develop land.
Ethan Waldman 16:56
Aubrie Gibbons 16:56
So since we are pretty small there, you've got about $1,000 to develop.
Ethan Waldman 17:02
Okay. Okay. So $2 per square foot of house finished land. And from the pictures on your website, it looks like these are mostly like, put on to a slab like a concrete slab?
Aubrie Gibbons 17:15
Yes, we do really want you to have a solid foundation for that property. So you know, again, the Florida Building Code, which can be pretty stringent, though, all those things are just for your security. So yeah, concrete.
Ethan Waldman 17:30
Got it. And so have you started operating outside of Florida? Or is this still like, like, if somebody in another state wants to buy one of your homes? Are you able to do that? Are you specific to Florida right now?
Aubrie Gibbons 17:43
At this exact moment we're specific to Florida, but depending on the interest that we see, over time, we're definitely interested in expanding outside of Florida. We have a few ideas on how that could be done in terms of you know, making sure that we have the right load bearing weight, or like snow roofs, for example, is really important. So we have some concepts for that, depending on the demand that we get, we could certainly accommodate that. Right now we're focusing on Florida, because that's kind of where our company was born. And it's easier to learn all the specifications for ZIP codes, like that. So I think once we have a little bit more of an automated, rapid system, it'll be easier to expand.
Ethan Waldman 18:28
Yeah, and there's a lot of tiny homes, a lot of tiny home builders, a lot of tiny house communities in Florida, it's kind of the other than the West Coast, I would say that Florida is probably like the place where there's the most Tiny House activity happening.
Aubrie Gibbons 18:44
Yeah, I mean, I just recently saw another community opened in San Francisco, that is all tiny home on wheels, I think is about 60 to 63. So they're gonna be offering. So I would say that that's certainly our closest comparative market.
Ethan Waldman 19:02
Got it. Got it. So the mortgages, it sounds like you guys work with a specific lender, like, it's not like I could come to you and say like, "Oh, I got pre approved at my local credit union. And I want to do this." Like, is there a reason why you have to work with that one lender?
Aubrie Gibbons 19:19
I wouldn't say that you have to work with our lender. You certainly could bring your own lender. I think the reason we might sound a little bit like that is this lender was able to get these homes recognized as homes. And so we know he knows how to do it. I think local lenders are an excellent resource and always recommend using them if you know that they have your best interests at heart. But when it comes to commercial lenders, for example, that can kind of run into a few issues because we aren't really in traditional property in all the senses. So sometimes just the concept of how different it is can throw them off. And not everyone is capable of innovation. We really, yeah, kind of sound like that, just because we know that Cardinal has done such a good job of consistently getting these approved, we haven't really seen any credit score not be approved for these properties yet. So I think that that's part of why but you're definitely welcome to bring your own lender.
Ethan Waldman 20:27
Another guy, go ahead.
Aubrie Gibbons 20:30
Oh, that's great. I think you were about to ask me about more stuff. I think another thing that's kind of important to note here is with the kind of loan that we're able to get, because of the construction to permanent loan, we're able to build a lot faster, because we get the money upfront. We don't have any of those, you know, holds along the way than a lot of other companies. And there are, you know, as I mentioned earlier programs for really any credit score, so we're talking about a property that you could have, you know, basically, in three months, depending on, you know, what our production looks like, you know, as your first home, as a second home, as an ADU. So, you know, I think that's important to note as well.
Ethan Waldman 21:13
Yeah. And that's, can you can you talk more about that, like, what, what is a construction to permanent loan?
Aubrie Gibbons 21:19
So, a construction to permanent loan is just a little bit different than a lot of the other ones people tend to be more familiar with, in that, as I kind of mentioned, you kind of just get the builder gets that money upfront, instead of in portions. So with other loans, you generally need to submit certain approvals. First, which we do need permitting here, and you need to clear the land and prepare it. But there's a little bit more paperwork that goes into those than what goes into a construction to permanent loan. Again, that has mostly been done on like Overwatch site right now. So I think you might want to, you know, determine your individual situation before I can confirm that that's how all of them would be done. But it does make the process a lot faster for us and easier for the client.
Ethan Waldman 22:10
And I know you kind of mentioned that it like depends on what the lead time is what's happening with your production, but like, what is the average, like, lead time for for a house, if somebody's like ready to go?
Aubrie Gibbons 22:23
I'm gonna share, I guess a secret that won't be so secret. But we did have a few contracts put in place a month ago, and we already have the homes in our factory waiting. So as soon as that deal closes, which is why it's kind of a secret, we haven't gotten it close, they'll have a home. So we do like to be prepared for clients. And we do have a really strong lead system in place right now. So there's a lot of interest in that area. But, you know, I think we have a lot to offer throughout Florida, and then in the future further than that. So I don't think we're ever going to turn someone away. But our process is certainly pretty fast. If they were interested, they wouldn't have to wait very long.
Ethan Waldman 23:11
Got it. What do you think? You know, the modular home industry has certainly been around for a long time. What do you think is makes your company makes Atlas Homes, you know, unique?
Aubrie Gibbons 23:23
I think what makes us unique, really, and truly, is that we have a passion for this. And we really understand it in a way that I think a lot of companies don't. I think we're open to innovation at every turn. And I think what we offer that some of them don't is those communities that I kind of mentioned are a big focus for us. While we are more than happy to do, you know, a new build or property built on first sight, a lot of our focus is on kind of challenging the idea that you need all of that space. For one person, two people, even even a family. You know, I think with some of the models that we have in development, it certainly could fit a four person five person family. I mean, I grew up in a family of six. And I could have seen with the models that we have in development, not necessarily yet how we could have been pretty comfortable. And I think there is this notion that for things to be good, they need to be big. And I think other modular companies recognize that that's not necessarily the case, but they're not trying to challenge the status quo, either.
Ethan Waldman 24:39
Aubrie Gibbons 24:39
They're comfortable filling a niche that has developed on its own. We're trying to get people to see that. This doesn't have to be a nice, you know, anybody could live here and be very, very happy. I think one of the best ways to do that is to create a community where everybody is there supporting each other. There's a lot connectivity, or public transport, you know, available between locations. So you basically have your own little mini city, all of people who have accepted that there's a new way of doing things that we could probably explore. And I think a lot of people who watch your podcast probably recognize that as well.
Ethan Waldman 25:22
So are the designs that you offer? Like, you do completely custom builds? Like if someone came to you with a set of plans and said, like, "Can you build this for me?" Do you do that? Or is it like, you've got certain models that you offer, and then people can kind of customize the fit and finish from there?
Aubrie Gibbons 25:42
We currently we have certain models that we offer, but I always hesitate to say no to anything, because we, again, are always open to innovation. So I think if someone came to us, and they really made a strong case, we might be able to do something. But as of right now, as we're, you know, developing further out, and especially as we focus on building those communities, we are offering specific models that you can kind of customize from there, but yeah.
Ethan Waldman 26:11
Okay. Okay. Um, I think one myth out there about modular homes is, is that like, they're cheaply built, or they're like cheaply made? Can you talk? Can you speak to that?
Aubrie Gibbons 26:25
I'm so glad that you have brought up the unfortunate myth. I totally disagree with this. The building quality depends on the builder that you use. And we use the exact same quality of materials that you would, again, in a traditional home, but even further than that, there's, you know, you know, there's also this concern that modular homes don't have good spam protection, you know, and things like that. How can something smaller than, you know, 2000 feet in some kind of storm protection or whatever? I don't think that these opinions don't make sense. But I do think that there's a level of unfamiliarity behind that kind of answer.
Ethan Waldman 27:08
Aubrie Gibbons 27:09
We definitely are open to people visiting our factories and seeing how we're able to put this kind of amazing product together. But essentially, to answer your question, I completely disagree with the concept that they're cheaply made. I think that association comes, unfortunately, from mobile homes, which were much more popular in the 70s and 80s. And originally did not have a lot of regulations. And, again, even mobile homes are not necessarily low quality. there just weren't regulations in place. And so for us to be building to such stringent codes we really can't be cheaply made. But more than that, we care about the product that we put out, and people are living there. So we take this seriously.
Ethan Waldman 27:52
Nice. Nice. Well, one thing that I like to ask all of my guests is, you know, what are a couple of resources that have like helped you learn about the tiny house or cottage industry or just things that have inspired you around small homes that that you'd like to share with our listeners?
Aubrie Gibbons 28:12
I think one of the things that really made a difference for us, was the THIA organization. No, I just want to make sure that I'm getting the acronym right. So let me
Ethan Waldman 28:24
No, that's correct. The Tiny Home Industry Association. Yep.
Aubrie Gibbons 28:27
Yes. I think they're doing a great job of advocating for, you know, changes in regulations, developing best practices in this industry, but also just recognizing that this is an industry. You know, I think there was an element of discomfort as this started to develop. And there's now this recognized recognition that all across the country and even the globe, people are starting to, you know, switch to smaller living. So that was a great resource for us. And we are a member of that.
Ethan Waldman 29:01
Awesome. Well, Aubrie Gibbons. Thank you so much for being a guest on the show today. This was really fun.
Aubrie Gibbons 29:07
Yeah, I had a great time. I'm so glad you let me come on.
Ethan Waldman 29:11
Thank you so much to Aubrie Gibbons for being a guest on the show today. You can find the show notes, including a complete transcript, photos of some of the Atlas Cottage models and more at thetinyhouse.net/223. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/223. Well, that's all for this week. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman. And I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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