Nathan and Callie cover

Say you build a tiny house on wheels but you want a legal place to park it. You fall in love with a piece of land and decide to buy it and create a legal tiny house community. Would you believe me if I told you that would take nearly two years and hundreds of thousands of dollars? My guests today, Callie Brauel and Nathan Huening did just that. They certainly didn't expect it to take so long or be so challenging, but they’re here to tell the tale and share what they’ve learned along the way.

In This Episode:

  • A creative way to finance your tiny house build
  • Custom designs that fit their lifestyle
  • The search for a perfect piece of land
  • Advice about working with a planning department
  • Important points about the due diligence period
  • How Cranmore Meadows is run
  • Are heated floors worth it?

Links and Resources:

Guest Bio:

Callie Brauel and Nathan Huening

Callie Brauel and Nathan Huening

Callie Brauel & Nathan Huening skipped a wedding registry in favor of cash gifts to build their tiny house! They started that tiny house in 2015, finished in 2017, and moved in 2019 to a 30-acre farm near Saxapahaw, NC. They spent 2 years establishing a tiny house on wheels residential community & nature preserve with 7 full-time neighbors and 6 more on the way.

Cranmore Meadows on Instagram

Nathan on Instagram

Callie on Instagram


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More Photos:

Callie and Nathan fell in love with the land immediately

They've built a few earthen structures on the property

Cranmore Meadows has seven full-time residents


Nathan and Callie's tiny home has two modular decks

The residents lead committees for various projects around the property

Each resident has their own mailing address


They've built two roads

Pets are welcome, too!


Callie Brauel 0:00

It was basically designed for three dogs. When you're in a small space and you have three dogs that need to get around and need storage and need a 40 pound of dog food stored somewhere, we, we kind of designed it for them.

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 215 with Nathan Heuning and Callie Brauel. Say you build a tiny house on wheels but you want a legal place to park it. You fall in love with a piece of land and decide to buy it and create a legal tiny house community. Would you believe me if I told you that it would take nearly two years and hundreds of thousands of dollars? My guest today Callie Brauel and Nathan YHuening did just that. They certainly didn't expect it to take so long or be so challenging, but they're here to tell the tale and share what they've learned along the way. Stick around.

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Right, I am here with Callie Brauel and Nathan Huening. Callie and Nathan skipped a wedding registry in favor of cash gifts to build their tiny house! They started that tiny house in 2015, finished in 2017, and moved in 2019 to a 30 acre farm near Saxapahaw, North Carolina. I should have asked you how to pronounce that. Okay, all right. They spent two years, two years establishing a tiny house on wheels, residential community and nature preserve with seven full time neighbors and six more on the way, Callie and Nathan, welcome to the show.

Callie Brauel 2:38

Thanks for having us.

Nathan Huening 2:39

Thanks so much.

Ethan Waldman 2:40

You're very welcome. So what a journey, I kind of want to start at the beginning and just ask you what got you interested in in tiny living in the first place?

Nathan Huening 2:49

So I suppose this short answer is that it came up on my radar many years ago. I have an email I sent to a friend I saw in 2009 to a Tumbleweed article or something. I was like, "I didn't know this was a thing that you could do." And so it was something I had been thinking about. We met in 2012. And we were talking at one point about, "Hey, wouldn't it be fun if we moved someday into something like this?" And I think part of the attraction early on was when I sort of suggested it and Callie responded favorably. I thought, "Okay, this is a, this is a life partner, I could stick with, somebody who would go on a journey like that." And so we sort of knew early on, and as you mentioned in the introduction, we we knew we were going to do it at some point. And so we we, we did a faux registry, where people you know, we listed on on the website, like instead of like a coffee pot or a platter or whatever, we did like a composting toilet and siding and nails. And you know, it wasn't that you were actually buying those things. It was just that, you know, it would it would when someone purchased it, it would be taken off the website, but it really just gave us cash.

Callie Brauel 4:05

A lot of people thought they were buying it though. Grandma would call up and be like, "Did you get that toilet I sent you?" I'm like, "Yes, Grandma. It's on the porch!"

Nathan Huening 4:13

We're using it every day! And then we the short answer is so we use like the the money from the wedding plus money that we'd saved up just beforehand. And then I got laid off unexpectedly in 2015. And before I went to get another job, we just thought, "Hey, this is sort of our chance. Let's let's use this time." And that was sort of where it started.

Callie Brauel 4:35

I should have said that I was going to add that we both before we met we had both lived had extended stays abroad. So I worked in Ghana, creating a vocational school for about five years on and off and Nathan lived in Honduras for a year. And just in those spaces, and in those countries we were living in smaller spaces and and spending a lot more time outside, you know, amongst community. And we were both very drawn from that to that from the start. Hey, you don't need 2400 square foot house. You know, it's, it's fine living smaller and it's actually better living smaller because you interact with people more outside with your neighbors, you know? And that lifestyle was really appealing to both of us.

Ethan Waldman 5:26

Yeah. And isn't it kind of amazing how people just feel the need to buy you stuff for your wedding? Total aside, but like, it's so hard to convince people that like just giving you money is actually way better than giving you stuff. But it sounds like you kind of found the life hack around that.

Nathan Huening 5:46

We talked about maybe setting up a service just for people that want to do tiny houses where it's like, it's a faux registry that you can kind of do it. But the funny thing to your point is that even now that we've been living in it for six years, people still give us stuff all the time. We're just like, "This is awesome. Where am I going to put it?? So yeah, it's a struggle.

Ethan Waldman 6:07

Yeah, the struggle, the struggle never ends. So tell me about your your design and build process, like at this point in 2015, when you were like, "Okay, jump, let's do this." Had you already, like designed the house? Were you ready to go? Or is that when you really started the serious planning process?

Nathan Huening 6:28

That's a really good question. So we relied heavily on Tumbleweed back then. So in 2015, there were not nearly as many YouTube resources as there are today. Your house I think had already been completed at that point. And we use yours actually as inspiration, which I will mention in a moment. But so we paid for a Tumbleweed weekend course in Raleigh, North Carolina. And so I spent all day Saturday, Sunday back when they would do like workshops, and you'd pay and then when you paid for one of those, you got a discount on plans for one of the houses. And so we had identified one of their houses, and so bought plans and bought a trailer from them. We ended up throwing out the plans completely and just doing a fully custom build that Callie laid out and has served us really well. We basically just use Pinterest, Google and just sort of made a lookbook of okay, these are sort of the bits and bobs, that we want. But Callie laid out the actual floor plan. And it served us extremely well.

Callie Brauel 7:31

It was basically designed for three dogs. When you're in a small space that you have three dogs that need to get around and need storage and need a 40 pound of dog food stored somewhere. We we kind of designed it for them.

Ethan Waldman 7:46

Yeah. Wow. I mean, dogs are like, dogs are people too. I mean, in terms of the space that they take up, they need somewhere to sleep, they need somewhere to eat, and they need somewhere for you to store all that.

Callie Brauel 7:59

Yeah, so one of them is, you know, one of the

Ethan Waldman 8:06

We have a bit of a lag, but go for it.

Callie Brauel 8:10

One of the things we designed was the staircase. You know, the staircases all cabinet storage for the dogs, you know, we can fit a 40 pound bag of dog food and one of the steps, toys, meds treats, and the very bottom step is a water bowl that pulls out for them and then you can push back in. Also, we have a pullout step so that it creates a lot of extra room in the hallway when the dogs aren't using it. We really only need the stairs at night to get the dogs up into the loft. That was helpful we have. Right? What else did we design for them?

Nathan Huening 8:45

Well, the sofa itself so we have like a sectional U shaped sofa that we can include in the show notes, I guess. And it pulls out into a day bed. And that's not only good for guests that might want to stay but also we sort of just leave it in the day bed configuration most of the time because both of us and all the dogs can kind of fit there at the same time. And ours is a small, relatively I should say back in 2015, 20 footers didn't didn't seem especially small. Ours is an eight and a half by 20 foot but these days as you know you see 24, 32, 36. Like they're sort of getting crazy triple axel stuff. But ours ours is relatively modest still.

Ethan Waldman 9:22


Nathan Huening 9:23

But yeah, we made sure the dogs would go up and down the stairs and we built a fence and things like this to hold them in.

Callie Brauel 9:30

Our deck is also a key part of our build. And we built it so that it was kind of - it was movable. So we've already moved it to two different locations and rebuilt it that's kind of modular, but our deck itself is bigger than the tiny house. It's 12 by 20 feet built into two different sections. And one section is a screened in porch and then one is just a covered, covered area. It has a clear plastic so it lets all the light in to all our windows because we counted recently and we have like 14 windows I think in our, in our small tiny home.

Ethan Waldman 10:07

Wow. So is the deck permanently built in place? Or could that be moved? If it if it needs to be moved?

Callie Brauel 10:15

Yeah, it's modular. It's built into two pieces.

Nathan Huening 10:18

It's free standing to so you theoretically could just tow the house away and it would still just be standing there. We bolted to the house just for wind and that kind of thing. But yeah, it's a freestanding deck that's into two pieces.

Ethan Waldman 10:31

Very cool. So the build looking, looking at you know, from your bio, that it took two years to build I'm guessing that you built it yourself.

Nathan Huening 10:43


Ethan Waldman 10:44

And how - can you kind of tell us about some of the details of construction like how how is it constructed what type of insulation you know, some of the systems kind of stuff?

Nathan Huening 10:56

Yeah, sure thing. So it's stick built, two by fours. We use as much reclaimed lumber as we could. All 14 of our windows I think Callie mentioned we're all secondhand kind of use reclaimed replacement windows. We used rigid foam insulation, so three and a half inch poly ISO throughout. So all all floors, walls, roof.

Callie Brauel 11:20

We got that secondhand, too.

Nathan Huening 11:22

That was also purchased secondhand. Yeah, and we've got radiant heat in the floor, which we're huge fans of. Its propane for the water heater and for the range, and then everything else is electric. It's just a small shower stall three by three shower pan base. So we don't have a tub. But we do have a stack washer dryer is a smaller unit. It's like a 24 inch wide. But we do have a stack washer dryer.

Ethan Waldman 11:48


Nathan Huening 11:49

That is a huge part of it. And we also have a Fisher and Paykel dishwasher that we quite love. It's a shed style roof. So just single slope.

Ethan Waldman 11:58

That's the drawer style?

Nathan Huening 12:00

Correct? Yeah, exactly. And that's awesome. I 100% would recommend if we got the like a scratch and dent model on eBay for like half price which was awesome in the den was in the back. You can't even see it.

Callie Brauel 12:11

Two lofts.

Nathan Huening 12:12

Yeah. So once the sleeping loft. And one is like a shorter loft, just above the living area, which is sort of like has variously been a workplace like an office. It's right now it's like a study there's a bookshelf and some cushions and our guitar and things like that. And I think it was anything else. Kind of noteworthy Oh, I do want to say for the external design. So one thing that we noticed during like planning the design is that you'll see because you've got like a case is 11 to 12 foot wall to reach out 13 steps from from the ground. It's not unusual for people to just have the same kind of siding or cladding all the way but in normal residential construction, you have like a first floor second floor third floor. And so it'd be really unusual to have that much vertical space with the same kind of siding. You'd usually have some break at the floor level versus second floor. And I remember seeing your design early on when we were doing like our lookbook and planning and you had the cedar shakes kind of at that half storey above you know the first floor at that eight or nine foot level kind of thing and I was totally taken by that. And so we totally stole it in our design. So we have wood siding on like the first floor and then like the second half floor is all cedar shakes. And so thank you for that excellent design choice of yours because we totally used it and love it.

Callie Brauel 13:31

And something unusual that we did was build over the tongue. You know, you know you don't see that done too often. And we actually fit in a 20 foot tiny home, we fit a stacked washer and dryer over the tongue. And so it's you had to kind of build around the washer and dryer. And so we put it in and then we have like a panel that comes off and you can kind of access it from the outside but we literally built around a stacked washer and dryer.

Nathan Huening 13:58

Yeah, if you think about it, so it's it's boxed in but it's a triangle because it's the tongue and so we have the washer dryer, we have the water heater and then we have our like exterior hookups. So the water and electrical all in that little kind of box area and that includes we have like a UV filter to purify water that comes in because you never know kind of like what your water will be and then also like a whole house charcoal filter there as well. So boxing in that little tongue area was a huge part of of this class I think of the build because it created a lot more space that we wouldn't have otherwise.

Ethan Waldman 14:32

That's really clever and that's you know, that's a lot of things that you don't normally well really just the washer and dryer that you wouldn't normally see in a 20 foot tiny home. I certainly wouldn't be able to fit one in mine without - I actually just don't think I'd be able to fit one of mine period. Has the as the bump out on the tongue for that washer and dryer affected like the towing turning radius? Because I know that can be a concern when you build out over the tongue.

Nathan Huening 15:02

It's true. If you're not totally careful, you could potentially hit the bumper of the truck. But you have to do more than like a regular turn just a negative return, you're fine. So you'd have to be like doing the goofy U turn or backing it up or something. So it's, and we move it so rarely that the trade off is 100% worth it.

Ethan Waldman 15:21

Nice. Yeah, I would I have laundry envy for sure. So you, you finished the tiny house in 2017. And by by my accounting of your bio, there's a there's a two year period between when you finished and when you moved to the farm. So, you know, how many different places did you live? And how did you end up? You know, zeroing in on on this particular farmland.

Callie Brauel 15:54

Yeah, so we originally built our tiny house on Nathan's dad's property in Durham, North Carolina. And that was super helpful because he has an he is an engineer by trade, and has an engineers mindset. So he was able to troubleshoot all the problems with us are from early on. And from there, we moved it to our friend's property in Durham, who had three acres, kind of in rural Durham was the end end of a gravel road. And out of necessity, we kind of started looking for land. We were really happy, there was three acres of land wooded, beautiful, but, you know, if a neighbor complains, you're technically living illegally when you're on someone else's land. So we got a notice on our door one day, from environmental health, saying, "Hey, what are you doing with your septic?" Yeah.

Nathan Huening 16:51

Where does your wastewater go?

Callie Brauel 16:54

Yeah. And so at that point, it kind of lit a fire under both of us being like, "Okay, well, they know we're here. And it's only a matter of time where we're going to be able to remember we're gonna be able to, or when we're going to have to move." And so that was when we started seriously looking for land. And it took us maybe six months to find land would be longer, maybe even longer. Luckily, environmental health or the county did not come back during that time and kick us out. That we were looking for land that that perked was the main thing, because we realized at that point, then when we were looking, we were wanting to do a community, they said we for solving this problem, there's no place to park a tiny house in the triangle right now that's legal. So if we're doing it for ourselves, and we're going to the other investment to do it, we might as well do it for other people who are in the same situation as us. And so at that point, we looked for land and the main consideration was does it perk and testing the soils. So Nathan actually found the land on Zillow. And we fell in love with it. As soon as we walked it, it was, you know, the topography was, was beautiful, rolling sloping hills, had a pond had a creek, half meadows, half forest. We both knew when we saw that piece of property in particular that that was going to be the home of Cranmore Meadows.

Nathan Huening 18:27

And I'll point out to that the, when we were living in that other place about two little under three years at that other location, we spent about $5,000 out of pocket, putting in sewer connections into because there's a house with a septic, so we just tied into the septic that was there, we put in a water line, we paid Time Warner to run. And so we were quite comfortable there and had like a flush toilet and everything. But at the time, you know, we can either afford to build a tiny house or buy land, but not both. So we opted obviously for doing the tiny house. And we looked at a lot of properties in that six to nine month plus that Callie mentioned. And just nothing felt right. It was either just like clear cut looks like a football field or just wasn't that interesting. And the location, it was like 40 minutes to the nearest gas station, you know? So you're juggling all of these requirements. And to Callie's point, we were thinking like, "Okay, well buy a spot for ourselves. And then maybe try and if we're going to put in utilities, let's put an extra, like three extra hookups or something. So maybe something like three to five acres." We ended up buying 30 acres. So 10 times more than what we planned and a lot more expensive than we had planned. But as I mentioned, having looked at all these different properties, and we saw this one immediately, we're like, "Oh, this is it." And the tricky part was when we put it under contract in the spring of 2018. We didn't have a way to pay for it. But we had a due diligence period of six months. We basically said okay, "We're gonna buy this, and we gave ourselves six months to figure out a way to pay for it."

Callie Brauel 19:54

I would also add to that in narrowing our search we talked to all these different planning departments from four different five different counties, right? So we kind of did our research early on as to which county was going to be most receptive to having a tiny home community, because the rules vary county to county for RV parks, and how long you can stay in a RV park. And, you know, that's kind of what determined that we've settled in Alamance County. So it did narrow down our search. After talking to the planning department and figuring out the rules, specifically for Alamance County.

Ethan Waldman 20:33

What were the rules in that particular county that that made you want to do it there?

Callie Brauel 20:38

Well, one thing it didn't have zoning. And that was really helpful for our cause, because with 30 acres, you know, we wanted to be able to do multiple things. We wanted to have a farm on one and a tiny house community and then also some other way to make money, because we realized we were gonna go into a lot of debt, just community. So we're thinking Event Center down the line, we're doing an event center, retreat center, or something like that, to help us pay back some of the infrastructure, so we need to know zoning was a big attraction. And then also they follow ordinances instead of, I guess, instead of zoning. Right?

Nathan Huening 21:22


Callie Brauel 21:23

So we, they have a manufactured home ordinance, that was pretty clear cut. And that's the ordinance that we followed, and it was straightforward. And, you know, they don't really have any rules for how long you can stay in an RV park or a mobile home park.

Nathan Huening 21:42

I'll give you an example. So in Durham County, the the rules are, you can't stay in an RV and of course, tiny houses on wheels are considered RVs in most jurisdictions, you can't stay in a tiny house on wheels for more than two weeks, like even in an RV park is zoned for an RV park. At the state level, if if the jurisdiction the county or the city does not have any law on the books, they just default to the state level, which is six months. And so Alamance County basically said, "We don't have any ordinance, so six months is fine. And you can just sort of keep renewing the six months." But to Callie's point about the zoning, that was a really interesting thing. Because if you're looking to buy land, you're looking at land, I'm trying to figure out what the uses are the zoning, the residential zoning ordinance will tell you, Okay, this is where the single family homes go. This is where the factories go, this is where the commercial district is, you know. And so if you're looking at some land, you're like, "Oh, I'm gonna turn this into a tiny home park." It might be zoned for single family homes, and they're, you know, you'd have to rezone it. And the challenge that a lot of cost and time, and, frankly, you'd have to get all the neighbors to agree because they're gonna do a public hearing. And they might show up and say, "I don't want an RV park next to my house." And so the fact that we are able to find a county nearby that did not have rules around this meant that we could have, as Callie said, a single family home next to a working farm next to an RV park, which is essentially what it is next to an event center next to a lake, whatever else you know, we kind of want to do with it. And but I will also say to when you talk with planning boards, most county and city planners are very helpful. That you might you might expect that they're going to try and turn you down right away. But when we talk to a lot of planning, county planners or city planners, they say, "Oh, we love tiny houses on wheels. They're awesome. I would love for you to - you can't live in one, I'd love for you to be able to. You can't." And there's not any, you know, they're obligated to enforce rules that they didn't create. So regardless of their kind of personal preference about it, it says, "Well, according to the city of, let's say, Chapel Hill, you know, you can't live in these. It's too bad because I'd love for you to do it. I'd love if we could." So they often will be your allies in in saying like, "Oh, let's see how we can make this work."

Ethan Waldman 23:47


Nathan Huening 23:47

Whether as an ADU or something else. So that's, that's one piece of advice is don't look at them as adversaries but as as advocates.

Ethan Waldman 23:55

Yeah, that's great advice. I mean, people who work in planning departments are usually passionate about housing, from one angle or another, and tiny houses are kind of an exciting movement in in housing and an affordable housing. So that's really great advice.

I asked John and Fin Kernaghan have united Tiny House Association what they love about their PrecisionTemp hot water heaters. And here's what they told me.

John Kernohan 24:19

Hey, Ethan. This is John and Fin Kernaghan with United Tiny House Association.

Fin Kernohan 24:25

We organize tiny house festivals.

John Kernohan 24:26

Oh, yeah, I guess so.

Fin Kernohan 24:27

First and foremost.

John Kernohan 24:29

We have a total of three PrecisionTemp On Demand hot water heaters. The thing we really like about these and folks know this, I think they pick this up on Fin and I, if we don't like something, you'll never hear us talk about it. So the two things we noticed that we noticed and experienced immediately. They took painstaking effort to make sure that it was done right and installed. And so that was pretty cool right there. The other thing is the continuous on demand hot water that just ran forever without any fluctuations or anything. I can't imagine an application, especially in our environment and our lifestyle of being the nomad, transportable, mobile, tiny lifestyle where one of these units aren't good to use.

Ethan Waldman 25:20

I'm curious, did you end up having to kind of get any rules changed? Or any kind of waivers to existing rules in order to do what you wanted to do?

Nathan Huening 25:33

Yes, and no. And I'll have Callie if she wants to chime in, too. So the short answer is we didn't necessarily have to. When we approached the planning board of Alamance County, we said, "This is what we want to do." They said, "Well, the nearest thing that this looks like, is a mobile home park. So we're going to just regulate it like it's a mobile home park." And so they gave us all the rules. It was roads, this with setbacks of this amount, road frontage of, you know, this much of this as much. So as long as we met all those guidelines, they were like, "Yeah, go right ahead. No problem. We already have a protocol for this kind of development, this kind of community." And I'll point out to that, for listeners, you know, there is often a distinction between a manufactured home park, or mobile home park and an RV park. Manufactured homes tend to be purpose intended to be permanent, you actually have an address, like a street address, and this kind of thing was an RV park is more like I'm passing through camping with a family kind of thing. There's no, there's no like address or anything like that. So so we wanted it to be a mobile home park, but they're on wheels. And the county was okay with us. Now, in our particular case, there were some elements of that ordinance that we were not able to meet. But it was mostly just because the land was so challenging that topography, so much earthmoving we had to do but basically the room that we had, like, for example, they all had to be an 8000 square foot lots, which is a 1/5 of an acre, which was fine. But in order to get them to fit, we're like, "Well, we can't have a setback of 45 feet from the road, we just, we can't. Like three of them, we can do; Four of them, we can't." So we basically had to appeal before the planning board, first of all, to get their blessing. And then we actually appeared before the county commissioners and said, "We want to do this project, we're like 90% of the way there, we need an exemption, basically a variance. So essentially, we need you to basically pretend that we're okay with these last bits. If you think it's a worthy project." And 4-1 they said, "Yeah, go ahead, we'll let you we'll exempt you on these couple bits that you can't meet. Because we think it's a worthy thing to do."

Ethan Waldman 27:29

So where, where are you now in terms of the community? Because I I've checked out the the Notion website, I love Notion; I use it myself, is, you know, there's there's phase one, and then there's phase two on that, on that plan. Where are you like, are there other other tiny houses there?

Callie Brauel 27:55

So we completed phase one, as of October 1 2021.

Ethan Waldman 28:02


Callie Brauel 28:03

So we've had about seven spots open for six months. And it took a few folks a couple months to move in, but they're fully occupied now. And we hope to start on phase two with six more spots maybe this summer. Start on the road and you know, the septic and some of the infrastructure and will probably take about a year to complete phase two. We have a long waitlist for phase two. But and we'd like to start tomorrow, but we just - the money and the cost of the infrastructure and the financing were very complicated. And we kind of got in a little over our heads, not knowing all the costs up front when we first started. So we basically ran out of money before we could start.

Nathan Huening 28:51

Halfway through.

Callie Brauel 28:53

We had to get really creative with with financing. So I can talk about that too. If that's of interest.

Nathan Huening 29:00

Yeah, if you want us to break down the numbers ultimately. So our tiny house is there. So we have ours then seven more so eight total. We will have one or two also available for temporary rent like Airbnb if folks want to come and scope out the place and visit the farm. And then six more and ultimately the 13 number to Callie's point she mentioned earlier when when you are doing soil testing throughout property, you basically see how much of the soil is permeable, like water wastewater percolate, and then basically we'll work backwards and say. "Okay, if if the flow rate for this soil is x, then you can only fit y units because each unit requires X number of gallons per day," and that kind of thing. So, so the number the county came up with with our planning the max that we could fit based on all the ordinances and requirements was 13

Callie Brauel 29:47

Plus 150 wedding venue

Nathan Huening 29:49

Plus a 150 person wedding venues. And then we also said, "Let's just throw in a couple of houses in case in the future we want to build like a clubhouse or we want to build another house for ourselves kind of thing." So the process of and I'll just tell you, when you're developing land, there was nothing out there. There was no water, no power, no sewer, no nothing. When you're developing land and looking for stuff like this, the question is, "Where do you poop?" That's like the number one question like is, yeah, you're limited by your wastewater. And then from there, you can work backwards to other kinds of things. But like, that's the number one most important thing. And so that was what dictated sort of the use of the land.

Callie Brauel 30:25

Yeah, and I would add on like, just a piece of advice for anyone who's looking for land or a tiny home community. And they had mentioned this, try and get as long of the due diligence period as you can. We negotiated, we paid a little bit more in due diligence, but we - it was worth it. We needed six months, and we got six months to kind of do our research on the land. Because you don't want to be stuck with a huge piece of property that you you can't develop into a tiny home community, right. So you know, it was really important for us to one do the soil testing for the wastewater, we're in the county, you're in the city, it's different, you can hook up to city sewage. In the county, you need to put in a septic you to put in a well, we had to put in a road. During that time, we also found a landscape engineer, Bobby Tucker from Bodie Design. And that was huge for us. So he could walk the land with us and kind of we didn't know what we didn't know at the time. So we kind of walked through everything with him. And he helped us develop a site plan and figure out kind of what systems we would need what infrastructure, we would need to go forward with this. Because this, we were both completely new to development. So hiring someone, some consultant early on is really huge and developing the site plan. And then also, I would say, and we weren't so great about this is developing a budget, you know, before you go forward with it. So if you hire that site, site engineer, and they help you like figure out the systems you're going to need, then you can get some quotes on those systems. And the major cost for us were road, the number one cost, the land and septic are the, I would say the big three. And then there are a bunch

Nathan Huening 32:19

Well there's the engineering, paying, paying engineering fees, and permitting. Yeah, so just to give you a sense of the land, we bought 30 acres was a little under $300,000. We put down $70,000 that we had. And then on top of that, just the road and the septic together, just what we have, so far, those two is a little under half a million dollars. So just to give you a sense of like, that's sort of what we're dealing with. And yeah, we are collecting rent from seven tenants, we're still in the red. So the fact that we're still having to like finance from other like our full time work, just to read it. And you know, we can double our lot rent, probably right now and still have a waitlist, but we're aiming to keep it as affordable as possible. Even though we're in the in the red, I expect and hope that with a final six we'll to a little above breakeven, at least what? That's great. We still have to both work full time jobs that you know, to do it. But you know, we're not we're not getting rich, right? You're not getting rich doing something like this. That's not the idea.

Ethan Waldman 33:25

Right. And then maybe the hope that the wedding venue, or the Airbnb rentals could help bring in some additional income on top. So I, my understanding is that it's more difficult to get a mortgage for land, when you're not also building a house on the land.

Nathan Huening 33:49

Correct. Much more difficult.

Ethan Waldman 33:50

How how did that work for you?

Nathan Huening 33:52

I'll just say So initially, we thought our only option was, well, we're gonna have to borrow money for to build a house also. And so we're basically to build a house that we don't want and we spent $5,000 on architectural engineering, permitting fees, just so that we could then have plans and borrow more money on top of that, in literally the like, we went through three four lenders in that six months. I think literally in the two weeks before we had to close we found a lender who was like, "Oh, no, well, we'll lend it to you just land without having to do a house."

Callie Brauel 34:25

Carolina Farm Credit.

Nathan Huening 34:26

Yeah. And it's basically a Farm Credit Union specializes with farmers. And they've been awesome. Like,

Ethan Waldman 34:33


Nathan Huening 34:33

saving grace and everything about them, they the rates are a little higher. With land, it's closer to like 7-8% versus like a typical 3-44% kind of loan. But there's other benefits they get they pay you dividends because it's like a cooperatively owned thing and so we get like a cash dividends every year. That sort of offsets that higher interest rate which brings it down to around 5% or so.

Ethan Waldman 34:56

That's awesome. What a what a huge and amazing undertaking. It's... Do you? I asked this question seriously, like if you knew how hard it was going to be to do it. Looking back, would you have done it?

Callie Brauel 35:13

Probably not. I'm - we're so grateful. I'm glad we've done it now. Like, you have no idea like we are so happy all the people that live out there. It's exactly what we wanted it to be. And we can talk about that. But we looking back, we probably wouldn't have done it. Just knowing, especially knowing the financing and the cost of everything going into it, we would have been like, there's no way we could afford that.

Nathan Huening 35:42

Yeah, well, just to just to say like, so we had to get, I mean, we both been working. Each of us have both been working two full time jobs for like the last three and a half years. So. So we actually have our actual gigs. Kelly's now full time on the farm as of just a year ago, I still have a full time job. But for a while there, we're both full time we're trying to develop this property. We we actually bought land in Durham, a house, and renovated it and sold it and used the proceeds to put back into the property and then did it again, just to try and scare up cash that we didn't have to borrow. So here we are working full time jobs, developing this community, and nights and weekends going to work to renovate a house to sell.

Callie Brauel 36:26

All in all, we probably have, well, we know we have at least a million dollars into the land and the infrastructure. And 60% of it is debt financing. And the rest is stuff that we've we've put in through our own sweat equity.

Nathan Huening 36:41

Savings and and anything that we could do to try and make it happen.

Ethan Waldman 36:46


Nathan Huening 36:47

We've been really, really fortunate a lot of support from the universe, like the partners that we find, like Kelly mentioned our wastewater engineer, because the road and the septic had to be defined. We found good surveyors, we found good breeding companies, these guys are all

Callie Brauel 37:00

We found us an Uncle Sam. Literally his name is Sam, and he's a retired general contractor. So he helped. He's kind of been a consultant for us on a lot of the projects. Because he has so much experience, he's helped us figure out how to turn all the old buildings on our land and to renovated spaces. And without that help, you know, I think, without a lot of the help that we've found, we would have been really lost.

Ethan Waldman 37:29

Wow. Wow. You mentioned a minute ago, just about the people who live there. And I was curious if you could talk about, you know, the community that you've created and how that's set up?

Callie Brauel 37:44

Sure. It was, well, Nathan, and I call ourselves benevolent dictators. We talked to a lot of, I guess, co housing developers in our area and across North Carolina, before developing the lands and all their advice was the same. "Don't do it."

Nathan Huening 38:10

Like intentional communities.

Callie Brauel 38:13

And, you know, it's just really hard when you are trying to come to a unanimous decision amongst, you know, 12 different people. And with us having so much of our own money and labor. At the start of it, we realized, you know, that we kind of had to create a community that we we wanted to live in, you know, but also that we had final say in just because it was, you know, so much of our own our own money that we had poured into it.

Ethan Waldman 38:47


Callie Brauel 38:47

So that being said, we lucked out, because we have the first seven that came to us was pretty organic. We did tours, and it was mostly word of mouth because people didn't know about our community. We didn't, you know, have a ton to show for it. So people walked the land with us. And we found seven tenants that are wonderful. They all have a similar mentality to community and community focus. So we have different committees now. So we have two, two ladies leading the chicken committee and they have right now they have 14 chickens in their tiny house lofts little baby chicks that are getting ready to build a chicken coop for and it's kind of kind of a shared shared model where everyone's going to take care of the chickens and we'll rotate. We have another couple who's living there who's taking charge of the community garden. So everyone will have a plot in the community garden. And the model right now is just like, "You have an idea. We have lots of land, lots of space. Come to us with an idea. We can all talk about it but Nathan and I will make the final decision and we'll also - bring us a budget and we'll pay for the startup costs of your project." So I think it's a win win for a lot of people living in the community, because they have access to land and funding that they might not otherwise have had. Anything to add about the residents?

Nathan Huening 40:15

Just that they're all terrific, and we lucked out. And we, we feel really fortunate to have such great neighbors. And you know, when you live somewhere, you never kind of know who you're gonna get. But we sort of got to, not like select them. But you know, by virtue of living tiny, even though you're really different, you have this shared, touchstone, that that you have that that means that whatever else you do, you have in terms of your personality, your life, like you share this one kind of thing about living more simply, being outdoors, observing nature, you know, being a steward of nature, so that that's something that runs through all of it.

Callie Brauel 40:50

And I'd say two, we have a lot of diversity in terms of in terms of income, in terms of gender expression, in terms of age. We don't have diversity in other areas, but we're hopeful for phase two, that we will, we will see more diversite people.

Ethan Waldman 41:10

Nice. And how, well, how much does it cost to rent a spot there? And you do like, is it like a year long lease? Or is it month to month? Like, I'm guessing that you that you hope that people will stick around for the long term? But how do you have that all structured?

Callie Brauel 41:29

Yeah, so I'll answer the second part of your question. First, it's, it's month to month. And that's mainly because of the legal issues, our lawyer advised us to do month to month. So you know, we are it is technically under North Carolina law, right. So you're supposed to stay six months. But that being said, everyone in our community is very well rooted. And most of them don't have plans of going anywhere.

Nathan Huening 42:02

And we charge $600 a month for lot rent. And that includes your water, your sewer, your trash, your road maintenance. It includes a actual address, like a Private Mailbox, does not include power does not include internet. So you optionally take out those two in your own name. But we have plenty of residents who don't do internet and they save a bunch of money and how are you sort of have to do but. And that way you use kind of more variable, but we put in a community like gigantic well, that serves the whole community. And we have like a dumpster on site that we pay for. So you just kind of bring your trash to the dumpster. And then a truck comes.

Callie Brauel 42:43

And we also have a lot of community spaces, too. So we have some of the old farm buildings that we renovated. They used to be cinderblock, like pig stalls, we renovated them into a community kitchen. With a washer and dryer, we realized early on that a lot of folks in tiny homes don't have washer and dryers like us. So we created a community kitchen where folks can wash their clothes too. And we also next to the community kitchen, we have a community guest room. And we rent that out for $30 a night. If you have your family coming in, and you don't have a place for them to stay. And there's also a deck with a hot tub. And we do a lot of awesome a lot of potlucks up there and just parties social social stuff.

Nathan Huening 43:28

And a lot of this is hard to visualize. So I will I will for your listeners encourage them to click the link in the show notes. Tiny House expedition just wrapped up filming. Last weekend, they were here for three days doing a tour of the house and a tour of the community. So that should be out in about two weeks.

Ethan Waldman 43:46

Awesome. Yeah, I think people are gonna be really excited to see and I'll embed the video right, right in the show notes page for the episode. And so you actually created a Street, "Tiny Home Run". I didn't realize that, you know,

Nathan Huening 44:00

two of them,

Ethan Waldman 44:01

people were going to be able to take out power and internet in their own names.

Nathan Huening 44:06

Well, now you know why we spend so much on the infrastructure. But yes, no, they have an actual street address in the mailbox, and they get packages delivered and they have internet in their own name. And so in order to do like we mentioned before, we permitted it as a manufactured home park. Like if you go to a mobile home park, all of those units have their own address. They have their own it's a it is a private road, class one private road that's 20 feet wide. And the fire marshal said an ambulance and a fire truck have to be able to pass each other on the road. So yeah, if you're just like living in somebody's backyard, and there's no road there and you're just doing your own thing, you're that's fine. You're real cheap. There's real easy, but to actually do the infrastructure, we created a small city. And I think if we'd known how much that would have been at the outset of how much work and money I mean, people would be like, "Oh, 600 bucks a month. That's like so expensive." And it's like well, first of all, there's a there's an RV park two miles was up the road that has 55 units, spots, you know, packed in like sardines, no ponds, no community building. And they do $550 a month for their long term rental. And they're booked out nine months. So we were like, "Let's try and be competitive to the area." But yeah, we would love to charge more, because as I said, we're about $2,000 a month in the hole. And we just have to make up in other ways just so the community can keep going,

Callie Brauel 45:28

We are passionate about affordable housing. And my background is the nonprofit is so we are trying to we are kind of a nonprofit right now. Not by choice. But we are trying to think creatively about how could we, you know, how could we still remain affordable housing, and make some of this money back? So one idea that came to us for phase two, was potentially doing a sliding scale model. And, you know, there's, it's 50-50 in our community, for folks that are, you know, there's, there's a lawyer in our community, and then there are folks who are making more towards the minimum wage, right. And that's a big discrepancy. You see all types of folks and tiny homes. And so we were thinking, you know, what, if we had a range of $550, to $800, and, and first lot rent, you know, and that way, it would average about what we needed to make per month, but it would still be affordable for those that needed it to be affordable.

Ethan Waldman 46:29

Nice, what is there like a resource or a service you wish existed to help more people live tiny, who can't afford it?

Callie Brauel 46:37

Well, one resource that has been awesome for us, is the TINY LIVING NC Facebook group, one of my friends, Mary, actually, to of my friends, Mary and Peter, run that group, and you can post them there, they have, you know, 1000s of people in there, and you can post in there. And you can just get a whole discussion going about how someone's built a certain tiny house or how you know, they've installed solar or where to put your tiny house. So that's been a hugely helpful resource for both of us. And I think one other resource that's lacking right now, and Nathan kind of phrased it really well, when one time I heard you recently say, "You know, there's the place you don't know where to... What's lacking in the tiny rural community is one, where to put the tiny house right, and two, how to fund the tiny house." And I'll just say for us, we've built a couple of tiny homes, our friend has on our lot, we have a warehouse. And recently, we had someone who bought a custom tiny home from us, she had an 800 credit score, *00 point credit score, she made it, she made, you know, a decent salary, it was more lower middle income, but she was paying $1,600 rent and Chapel Hill for the last five years. And she could not - she could put $20,000 down for her tiny house. And she could not find any bank, any bank to lend to her for a tiny house. And that was just so frustrating to see, and made us both very upset. And we ended up our friend ended up doing a loan to her owner finance loan for the tiny house. But it just kind of put a fire under us. But you know down the line, if we ever make some of this money back, that we would like to start a credit union for specifically for tiny homes and for earthen building homes. We have a couple earthen buildings on our property that we've made, and our original, when we were getting financing for the land, we were trying to do an earthen building, like a larger earthen building and we approached eight different banks. We both were working full time, decent salaries, not any debt at the time. And we could not get one loan, one bank to say

Nathan Huening 49:05

For a straw bale house in particular when she says earthen building or cob. And Ethan, I want to point out to I think I want to recognize you and your efforts. We've never spoken before. But we've been following and admiring your work for some time. But within terms of your advocacy, you're you're describing your own process of building and your your education, work, your consulting, work your Tiny House Engage Community, your podcast. So I think you've gone a long way towards creating resources to help people learn what they need to learn. And so I don't know if anybody has recognized that but we've been really fortunate and grateful for that. And so that's that's certainly like a plug, at least for Tiny House Engage the role that that you're playing in the community, so we we're quite quite grateful for that.

Ethan Waldman 49:51

I appreciate that very much. It's, I feel sometimes I just feel like I'm sitting here behind a computer and you know, you're kind of out there building a community and really making a difference. So I really appreciate what you're doing too. Um, I wanted to quickly circle back to one thing that I wanted to ask you about back when you were talking about your house, your build, which was the warm floors. I'm curious. I always like to ask people about them, because I've heard mixed reviews of of whether or not they can kind of be the primary heat source. So what has your experience been with with your heated floors? Like can that heat your tiny house by itself? Or do you have to supplement?

Nathan Huening 50:32

100%? Yes.

Ethan Waldman 50:34


Nathan Huening 50:34


Callie Brauel 50:35

in North Carolina.

Nathan Huening 50:36

Yeah. So first of all, we live in a mild climate. Yeah, so in North Carolina, we do get freezing temps. But it's no Vermont, let's just be clear. But so our mini split is a dual unit. It's a heat pump also. But honestly, we turn on our floors in October, set it to 55 degrees, and don't turn it off until March. And that's honestly maybe sound on one hand the number of times over the winter that we even need to turn on the the mini split overhead heat, but it can you know, we have a lot of solar gain, because of so many windows and it's southern facing. And then also, of course, heat rises, so you can sleep more comfortably in the winter. And it's nice to have that we did, I will I will point out we had cork flooring initially, which we love and was amazing. And it's warm and the dogs liked and everything that because it's like an organic material, it expanded and contracted in response to that heat. And so we were seeing huge gaps form over the winter. Now we did end up getting like a water leak in the bathroom that ruined like half the floor. So we had to tear it up anyway, we went back and put vinyl on top of that. And that's been there's no expansion in vinyl at all the dogs don't like it because it's super slick. And but it's really easy to clean now and stuff like that. So you do want to be sort of a little conscientious about the kinds of for cladding that you use. But it was really it was like 500 bucks in and out of the system. And so I highly, highly recommend it.

Ethan Waldman 52:04


Nathan Huening 52:04

For anybody in any climate.

Callie Brauel 52:06

Yeah, it's a game changer. Wake up and have the heat.

Ethan Waldman 52:09

It's an electric system, right?

Nathan Huening 52:10

Correct. Yeah, it's and it's real. It's completely noiseless. So you don't have any, like fan blowing or furnace or I mean, it's, it's just marvelous. Yeah, I would. We've done two other builds.

Ethan Waldman 52:20


Nathan Huening 52:21

And we did it. And both, both of the other two builds, I would just include it with every build that we do.

Ethan Waldman 52:26

That's awesome. Well, Callie Brauel and Nathan Huening. Thank you so much for being guests on the show. It was really, really wonderful to hear about everything. And I I would love to come visit. So next time I'm in that area I'll look you up.

Callie Brauel 52:41

Awesome. Thanks for having us.

Nathan Huening 52:43

Such a pleasure. Thanks for your time.

Ethan Waldman 52:45

Thank you so much to Nathan and Callie for being guests on the show today. You can find the show notes, including a full transcript, photos of Cranmore Meadows and links to all of their Instagram profiles at Again, that's That is 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.

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