Today we're exploring the cozy nooks of park model tiny homes with Cindy Ballaro. Cindy is not only a resident of a charming tiny home, but also a multipreneur who wears many hats including that of a publisher and marketer. Living in the picturesque mountains of North Carolina, Cindy has turned her sunflower-themed tiny house into a haven for both living and Airbnb guests. She's going to share with us the unique benefits and challenges of choosing a park model over a traditional towable tiny house, and how this lifestyle complements her entrepreneurial endeavors. So if you're intrigued by the community living aspect of tiny houses or are considering a park model for your own downsized life, this episode is for you.

In This Episode:

  • 🏡 Park Model Tiny Homes: The differentiation between park models and towable tiny homes, including key factors that were important to Cindy when selecting her park model home.
  • 🌐 Tiny House Communities: Cindy shares what it’s like to live in her tiny home community
  • 🛠 Customization and Choice: Insight into the process of customization when purchasing a new build.
  • 💲 Financial Aspects: Conversation on costs, value appreciation, and the advantage of selling property to finance the tiny house without needing a loan.
  • 🌦️ Climate Management: The unexpected challenge of moisture control in a tiny house.
  • 🛏️ Airbnb Hosting: Benefits of renting out the tiny home, managing personal space, and creating an additional income stream.
  • 💵 Cost of Living: Sharing the expense of renting a lot in the tiny house community and how it supports her entrepreneurial lifestyle.


Links and Resources:

Guest Bio:

Cindy Ballaro

Cindy Ballaro

Cindy BallAro has over four decades of experience in strategic planning and implementation, project management, marketing, facilitation, and singing. As a “multi-preneur” she has founded seven successful small businesses, the most recent being Sunflower House Publishing, named after her Sunflower Tiny House where she has lived in for 4.5 years. Located in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina, her Tiny House is available for rent several weekends a month on Airbnb, and she highly recommends giving “tiny” a try!


More Photos:

Welcome to Sunflower Tiny House! Photo Credit: Acony Bell Tiny House Village

Sunflower Tiny House Deck. Photo Credit: Acony Bell Tiny House Village

Tiny Home exerior Park Photo Credit: Acony Bell Tiny House Village


More Photos:

Kitchen view of Cindy's Sunflower Home. Photo Credit: Acony Bell Tiny House Village

Cindy's Sunflower home tiny kitchen design

Tiny home kitchen Photo Credit: Acony Bell Tiny House Village


More Photos:

Tiny home dining space Photo Credit: Acony Bell Tiny House Village

Cindy's laundry space Photo Credit: Acony Bell Tiny House Village

Bathroom of the park model tiny home./ Photo Credit: Acony Bell Tiny House Village


More Photos:

Cindy's Airbnb Sunflower Tiny House Couch

The living space in Cindy's tiny home. Photo Credit: Acony Bell Tiny House Village

living room of Cindy's airbnb tiny house. Photo Credit: Acony Bell Tiny House Village


More Photos:

Sunflower tiny home bedroom! Photo Credit: Acony Bell Tiny House Village

Exterior of Cindy's Tiny Home

Tiny Home exerior Park Photo Credit: Acony Bell Tiny House Village


Ethan Waldman 0:00

All right, I am here with Cindy Ballero. Cindy has over four decades of experience in strategic planning and implementation, implementation, project management, marketing, facilitation and singing. As a multipreneur she has founded seven successful small businesses, the most recent being Sunflower House Publishing, named after her Sunflower Tiny House, where she has lived for four and a half years, located in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. Her tiny house is available for rent several weekends a month on Airbnb, and she highly recommends giving tiny a try. Cindy, Welcome to the show.

Cindy Ballero 0:35

Thank you so much. Glad to be here.

Ethan Waldman 0:37

Yeah, glad to have you. You know, I have, you know, been in the tiny house world now for 12 years. And I've certainly always heard people talk about Park Model homes. They're maybe the like, cousin of tiny homes. But can you explain to me what, what is a park model home? What is a park model tiny home? And is there a difference?

Cindy Ballero 1:04

Well, I don't think there's a difference between a park model tiny home and just a park model. But the main difference is that a park model is like mine is almost 11 feet wide. So a traditional tiny home that I differentiate them as that a towable tiny home is only eight or eight and a half feet wide. And you could literally hook it up to the back of a truck or you know, vehicle and yeah, take it down the road. With my home. It requires, you know, bigger like trailer truck, a wide load size, you know, permits, things like that. So, primarily it's the width of the home got that differentiates between a park model and a towable tiny house.

Ethan Waldman 1:57

Okay, got it. And so then with a park model, it's right there in the name Park. They are typically located in RV parks.

Cindy Ballero 2:11

Well mine is located in a tiny home community.

Ethan Waldman 2:18

Nice. So is there a mix of you know, like towable tiny homes and Park Model tiny homes?

Cindy Ballero 2:24

Yes, in fact, I would say in our community it's probably about 60% towable, 40% Park models so you know, pretty even

Ethan Waldman 2:37

Can you talk us through you know, the decision making process and why you chose a park model tiny home over a towable tiny home.

Cindy Ballero 2:49

Sure. So really, for me the towables that again are like eight or eight and a half feet wide. Well that was just too almost, I want to say claustrophobic but just you know too thin for me really. And I also wanted just I can guess a little more space so this provides with you know this width, a little more space. Also for me, I wanted everything on one level. And in the towables most towables have a loft where the bedroom is. I have come across a few towables that have a downstairs bedroom but that's pretty rare. And I that was a must have for me was a downstairs bedroom. And so that was a big part of my decision for me.

Ethan Waldman 3:56

That makes a lot of sense. Yeah, the loft. I can attest that the climbing the ladder up to the loft, no matter what your age is gets very tiresome.

Cindy Ballero 4:06

I can only imagine. Yep.

Ethan Waldman 4:09

Okay so you wanted that that downstairs bedroom you know are there any, with the extra width which again, also I validate that as well that you know the especially if you are only able to be eight feet wide on the inside of your towable tiny house that it can make things feel very kind of tunnel like whereas it 11 feet you really have rooms?

Cindy Ballero 4:31

Yes. Exactly.

Ethan Waldman 4:34

Were there any other you know, benefits or disadvantages that you you weighed when you made this decision?

Cindy Ballero 4:44

Um, I did want lots of windows and I also wanted higher ceilings. So again with the smaller ones because you do have lofts. You've cut off, you know, parts of your home, the ceiling area. Yeah. And so it doesn't quilt feel quite as roomy. And again, I wanted, I wanted just lots of windows, I believe I counted and I have 18 windows in my house. I'm not sure that you can have quite that many. And you know, the smaller version.

Ethan Waldman 5:24

That's fantastic. That's, that's quite a few windows. So, how, how easy would it be? How kind of tangible would it be for you to move your home at this point, if you decided that you wanted to live somewhere else with it?

Cindy Ballero 5:41

It would be a really big deal. Yeah, because I have a deck, you know, also that I've added on. But it would take, you know, it takes those tractor trailer trucks and special permits, and it would be a really big deal. I don't foresee moving it. Really. So

Ethan Waldman 6:05

does it get to move it it gets like loaded up onto some kind of trailer.

Cindy Ballero 6:12

Well, actually, what I actually saw this recently, because we had a new park model come into our neighborhood. And what they did, and I believe this is remembering back what they did for mine was, you know, like those, the engine part in the cab part of a, you know, regular big truck that carrying, you know, loads that cab park can attach to the trailer and the house underneath it. So that can go down the road. Because I still have you know, I'm still a trailer and wheels underneath just like the towables. Um, so that's how they brought in the one recently and I believe that's I believe that's what they did for mine also.

Ethan Waldman 7:07

Interesting. Interesting. So what kind of infrastructure is required for a park model? Versus a towable home? I'm guessing you have flush toilets? So I'm guessing, you know, like hookup to some kind of septic or sewer is required?

Cindy Ballero 7:27

Yes. And so I live in an in a community called Aconyville, we're located in Mills River in North Carolina. And so here, they you know, have provided the sewage and water hookups already electricity hookups, and, you know, have, we have a each person has a spot, and then we have 15 feet around each house. And so when you pull in either if you're towable or park model, you, you know, a professional comes and does those hookups for you, Yeah.

Ethan Waldman 8:03

Can you talk about, you know, what was the buying process like for you? Or actually, I'll back out and say is, is your home? Was it? Was it a new build for you? Or is it a used Park Model?

Cindy Ballero 8:17

Yes, this was a new build for me. Um, and so at the time, when I started looking, I was living in Charlotte, North Carolina. And I wanted to be able to go and you know, walk into the model of the house. Okay, I just, you know, that was that was a must for me. So I, I just started looking like within a drivable radius of who was selling tiny homes and park models. And that took a bit of research, but I and I went on several trips, you know, to go be in them. And then I found an actual it's a it was an RV dealership that had these Park models on it. They were carrying this line in Yadkinville, North Carolina and so I went there and was able to go inside it and walk around and see the layout and it was, you know, all of the things that I wanted, and so, the builder is Kropf it's a very hard word to say. But they actually build them in Indiana. So I was able to pick out you know, like my outside color, my roof color or my floor color my wall color my it came with curtains, I could pick up you know, the pattern of the countertops backsplash. So, you know, I had a lot of things that I got to choose in the process, which was really great.

Ethan Waldman 9:57

Yeah, that is great. Nice. Do you have the ability to do some customization? Right now? Or the things like the layout? I'm guessing that's like pretty set in stone in terms of like, you choose your layout, but you can't really say, Oh, I'd rather have, you know, this wall be a little bit, you know, can I make this room two feet bigger?

Cindy Ballero 10:17

Right, I don't think I could have said that. They had a couple of different versions. In fact, they had one with a loft and the downstairs bedroom. But to me, I just knew I was not going to be using that loft. It just felt like wasted space. And I'd rather have the higher ceilings. So you know, there were there were some other models I could have chosen.

Ethan Waldman 10:50

Yeah. Interesting. And then what, if you wouldn't mind sharing, you know, what, what was the cost of the home? And if you use any financing, I know that our listeners are very curious about how people are paying for their tiny homes.

Cindy Ballero 11:12

Well, I had previously I had a condominium, and I sold my condominium and I had enough money from that. That was what was going to help me with my tiny home. And so did not have to do any financing, which I'm very happy about. Yeah. And I'll tell you, I bought this home in 2019. This is pre pandemic. I think I found the most inexpensive part model yet. Okay. Know, solidly built and, and all of that, that I have anybody I've spoken to. Because with with the home, the skirting that was done and my deck adding on. Yep. It was around 55,000. Wow. Which, you know, when I sell it, believe me, it's more expensive because because everything has, you know, gone up. Yeah. But I just feel like I really was in the right place the right time.

Ethan Waldman 12:28

Yeah, that's great. I mean, that even if it is a bit more expensive now, that's, that's pretty darn affordable.

Cindy Ballero 12:39

Yes. In fact, I had looked on the website. I don't know, in the past year, and just even the base prices, they were already like, doubled of what, you know, I paid so okay. So it's because, yeah, because cuz, you know, just the labor and the supplies have gone up, you know, sure. Since the pandemic and all the other things that have happened in our world.

Ethan Waldman 13:08

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So, you know, who would you say a park model tiny home is ideal for?

Cindy Ballero 13:19

Well, I am a single woman. And it's perfect for me. And I have several other single women friends in my neighborhood that also have Park models. So I would say that's a that's a good target. Um, I think that, you know, definitely a couple could live in here. Probably pretty comfortably. Um, we do have a few people who have, you know, a child living here, and they are even in the smaller towables Yeah, I think that would be a bit much for me personally, and really, I are in our community that age ranges are just, you know, all over the place. I mean, we have 20 Somethings up to you know, people in their 70s. So, it's a really wide range.

Ethan Waldman 14:23

Nice, nice. Can you share one unexpected benefit and one unexpected challenge you've encountered from living tiny?

Cindy Ballero 14:39

An unexpected benefit. Well, I had hoped that this would happen, but I didn't really know if it would. So I really wanted to live in a community of people where I knew my neighbors and would, you know, hang out with them and socialize with them. And when I see somebody walking their dog by the street on the street, I like know their name. And that has come true. And so that has been awesome. You know, even when I lived in my condos before, you know, I might know the neighbor just right next to me, but I just didn't know, all my neighbors like I do here. There's, there's something about, you know, there's a camaraderie between us because, you know, we want to live in these tiny houses, which are so unique. And yeah, yeah, so that's been a, that's been an awesome benefit the community itself.

Ethan Waldman 15:43

that's awesome.

Cindy Ballero 15:49

An unexpected challenge has been that a lot of moisture in the air and house. And so I discovered that because I found some mold on some of my clothing. And I was like, I gotta do something about this. So, you know, I have these little damp rid containers around and I have a dehumidifier. Yep. sucks the moisture out of the air. Yep. And I think that's probably you know, because I have so many windows and, and that kind of thing. But other people in my community have told me that they've also had that issue. So, yeah, the moisture in the air, I didn't expect to be like, you know, kind of having to deal with that.

Ethan Waldman 16:48

And is that primarily, like in the winter? Or is that just all the time?

Cindy Ballero 17:00

It probably is more in the winter. When I think about it. Because in the summer, you know, I've got the air going. And that sort of dries it out. Just doing that. Yeah. But yeah, but I keep you know, I keep them are out year round and changing them year round. So still, there

Ethan Waldman 17:25

Right. Okay. So what, what made you want to Airbnb your tiny home?

Cindy Ballero 17:36

Well, I am self employed. And, like you said, in my bio, I'm a multipreneur. You know, I just have lots of, I have income coming in from multiple streams. And I've kind of always been like that. And so when I moved here, and again, as a self employed person, you know, my income is, you know, up and down each month. Sure. So, I thought, you know, if I'm gonna move there, they offered spots where you could Airbnb. And I thought, I think that would be another great stream of income. I have friends, you know, I lived in Charlotte for 30 years. And so I have friends that are always saying, Come back and visit. So that was a good place to go. I have a new grandson that lives an hour away, I have to go see him at least once a month. And then my mom lives about three hours away. And I you know, want to go see her. So I usually go to Greenville for the weekend. And then I'll drive to mom's on Monday, and I'm there for a week until that next weekend, and then come home so that, you know, that opens up two weekends in a week where the house was just going to be sitting here. So I thought you know, I think I'm gonna see if I can make a little money during that time. And it's it's really worked up great for me, and I've had fabulous guests and fortunately, in our community. We have somebody who manages the Airbnb rentals, because there is actually a whole section here that is strictly rentals. I'm kind of actually the only hybrid that lives in my house and Airbnb, Airbnb is it so there's somebody that manages those reservations, so I don't have to do all that part of it, which makes it really easy.

Ethan Waldman 19:42

Oh, that's fantastic. So they handle you know, doing the cleanings and the laundry and just interacting with the guests. Right. Excellent. May I ask, like what I mean they must take some kind of commission from your from your bookings. What What is it

Cindy Ballero 20:00

Yeah, we do a 7030 split. So I get seven, eight, and they get 30. And that feels comfortable to me. I think that's probably about standard, you know, that's awesome. or other places that are doing something similar.

Ethan Waldman 20:13

Yeah. That's, that's fascinating. Because I mean, I'm also an Airbnb host. I also Airbnb, my tiny house. And you know, I do all that work myself, but it is a lot of work. Yeah, certainly. You know, and I'm never all that far away. So it's like, I'm doing the laundry myself. I'm answering guests. If something breaks, you know, I'm the one that's driving down there to fix it. Right,

Cindy Ballero 20:34

right. Yeah.

Ethan Waldman 20:39

So how do you manage your privacy and your kind of personal belongings when you're renting out your house?

Cindy Ballero 20:45

Well, I have these little signs around that say, Thanks for respecting these personal items. And so and then I have little signs that say, for guests, so I just put those out. And I have a little sheet that people when they come in that kind of explains that. Yep. And I really, I've just never had a problem with it. Nice. I kind of feel like the people that are attracted to stay in tiny houses are, I don't know, I just want to think that they're above board and authentic people. For the most part, and, you know, wanting to experience what it's like this to be in a tiny house. Yeah, of course, it's all over the internet now about living tiny and people are so many people are curious about it. So they're getting an opportunity to really come see what it's like. And so I've had great guests I have I've just never had a problem with anything missing missing, or if it is missing, I haven't noticed. It doesn't matter.

Ethan Waldman 21:56

Nice, nice. Do you have any, any memorable stories or interactions with with guests?

Cindy Ballero 22:08

You know, the only I'm usually gone when they're when they're here. I did have one time when there was a woman who really, I think she's still does really want to move here. And so she came, and just somehow it worked out that I was here when she arrived. I can't even remember how that happened. But so we got to me, and that was really fun. And now we're still friends on Facebook, and you know, all that. Nice, but yeah, usually, I do have a guestbook. And I asked people to write in it. And they, they usually write really lovely things that sometimes make me tear up even, you know, just how homey it felt and how comfortable and thank you for sharing and opening up your home for us. You know, so yeah, it's the it's really heartwarming to read those notes when I get home. That's wonderful.

Ethan Waldman 23:12

Well, I'm always curious about how people kind of make their lifestyles work for them. And as an entrepreneur myself, I'm always curious to hear about what other entrepreneurs are doing. So can you can you tell us about your other businesses, you also have a publishing company?

Cindy Ballero 23:28

I do. I have a publishing company that is called Sunflower House Publishing, after my sunflower house, and I have published five books that I wrote or put together, and then I just recently am starting to offer services to people who have a book, but they don't know how to literally get it, you know, published and on to Amazon. And so a woman came to me who I've known for years, Twyla, and she had a book and she asked me if I would, you know, publish it for her and so I did it. And it was a great experience, you know, to help her do the final editing and proofreading and then get it formatted and then up on to Amazon. And so it's, it's up there now. So that's great. That's been really great. Yeah, yeah, I'm and I really want to do more of that. So anybody out there has a book that they are just sitting on their computer, please give me a call. And then I also my my background has been a lot in marketing and marketing for performing arts organizations. And so I still do that for some small companies, a theatre company in Charlotte, as well as A company that goes to this very cool, they go to large retirement centers and recruit a group of seven to 10 people who go through about a six month process of revealing their life story. And then they write a script from that, and then perform it. And it's just really amazing. Those Those productions are really amazing. So helping do the marketing for that. And then I have a couple of solopreneurs that I do their marketing I have a podcast that I also help produce. Yeah, that's, that's a fun thing.

Ethan Waldman 25:48

That sounds that sounds great. And do you find that living tiny helps to kind of support your entrepreneurial lifestyle?

Cindy Ballero 25:56

Absolutely. Because I do not have a house payment. I have you know, my my lot payment for my rental but it's much less than what it would be if I was you know, in an apartment or, or condominium with a mortgage,

Ethan Waldman 26:10

What is your lot payment.

Cindy Ballero 26:13

Um, they're right now they are going to be set at $700 for new people living in mines a little less because, you know, I've been here for a little bit. Yep. And but that is your water, the lawn maintenance. And then of course, the hookups for the sewage and the electricity. And then we also have a beautiful stone clubhouse here, which is available for us to use whenever we want to and an outdoor pavilion and they're, you know, adding some other fun things on the property. Yeah. Lovely. Not to mention that I'm in the middle of just this beautiful, beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and you know, can't get better than that.

Ethan Waldman 26:58

Nice. Well, fantastic. One thing that I like to ask all my guests is, are there any books or other resources that you'd like to recommend to our audience?

Cindy Ballero 27:20

Well, I've been I have been interviewed on two YouTube channels. So tiny home tours was the last one. And that just aired at you might have seen that one. In fact, that just aired like a month ago. Yep. Six weeks ago. And so if anybody wants to go check that out, then they will see the full tour of my home.

Ethan Waldman 27:52

Excellent. I'll definitely post a link to that in the show notes for this episode, which I'll tell people what that link is in the outro of the show. Great. Thank you so much for being a guest on the show today. It was great to meet you.

Cindy Ballero 28:05

Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Have a great day.

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