How To Make Money In Tiny Living – Whitney Hansen

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If you find tiny house living fascinating, this episode is for you.

I had the honor to interview Kristie Wolfe, who is known for building her tiny home empire. She finds interesting properties, builds unique homes, and rents them on Airbnb. Her portfolio includes a fire lookout tower, a giant potato, a treehouse in the Hawaiian jungles, and a Hobbit Hole.

In this episode, Kristie shares her philosophy in purchasing $500 cars, her experience living in a tiny house, the process of building each tiny home, how she found success on Airbnb, and what are her future endeavors.

$500 Cars

Kristie Wolfe chooses to live on a smaller budget, which translates to all her decisions, including vehicle purchases. She prefers to only purchase cars for no more than $500. She claims this lifestyle choice is not for everybody, but it works for her.

Kristie views cars as a means to get from one place to another – not something of a luxury. Thus, once her car is no longer functional, she’ll look for another at the same price – some last her a couple of years, and others last her a few months.

She typically finds these vehicles by word-of-mouth. Her network will let her know if they run into a car in her budget.

Kristie’s Experience Living In 97 Sq Feet For a Year: First Tiny Home

I decided to build a tiny house as an experiment. Taking on new lifestyle changes and testing it out for a year is not unfamiliar to me. Essentially I built a little box on a trailer on the weekend and decided I would live in it for a year as an experiment of minimalism.

Kristie Wolfe

The biggest takeaway she got from this experience is that she has zero attachments to her possessions. So, instead of desiring things, she could appreciate the beauty of material things without feeling the need to buy them.

Second Home: Building a Treehouse

She found the land on craigslist for cheap because the seller was motivated. Fortunately, she was lucky to purchase the land for so cheap ($8,000) and not running into any significant issues (considering she hadn’t checked it out in person before purchasing). I spent about $11,000 to build the treehouse and another $5,000 for living expenses.

Third Home: Creating The Hobbit Hole

Kristie decided her next project wouldn’t require a ladder and went on a quest to find a property in either Oregon or Washington where she could build a tiny home on a hill.

Turning a Giant Potato As A Rental

Idaho’s Commission had a marketing campaign with a semi-truck that would carry around a 6-ton concrete potato and take it all around the country. They decided they wanted to remake this potato to be more travel-friendly. Thus, they donated the original potato to Kristie! Now, she used this 12,000 lb potato to create a unique Airbnb experience on her property, which was initially used for her FIRST tiny home.

How To Find Properties for Tiny Homes

Financing: Owner Financing

Basically, instead of going to the bank to get financing for a house, you arrange financing with the owner. Sometimes I’ll ask them if they’ll take 20% down with a payoff in 3-5 years and make sure to include no penalty on an early payoff. I pay cash for everything.

How to Build Your List of Properties?

Go travel and see which cities you’d like to have a tiny home in.

If you’re going to have an Airbnb business, make sure to think about the following:

  1. Location
    1. Make sure the property is located somewhere people already go to. Ex) Hawaii
      1. Although there are exceptions: The Hobbit Hole
        1. People go to Orondo, Oregon, to stay at the Hobbit Hole and not the other way around. However, keep in mind that Orondo is less than three hours away from major populated cities, like Seattle, so that’s something to keep in mind.
  2. Utilities
    1. How are you going to have power, water, sewer, etc.?
  3. Management – Caretakers and Guesty
    1. She makes sure to pay her caretakers well and distribute her duties to others so she can enjoy her life. Guesty is a paid service that answers any customer inquiries that may come in. 

Finding Success on Airbnb

Kristie tried other platforms, and by far, Airbnb turned out to be the best. Its simple and convenient platform offers a strong presence for your renting needs. A unique benefit of using Airbnb is the liability insurance – they cover up to a million dollars. “They really take care of the host and customer” – Kristie.

The lookout is probably the most expensive project I’ve taken on: $67,000.

Tip: Think about the entire experience. Everything counts from the arrival to the departure. What the customer sees, smells, and feels is important. What experience do they have at your Airbnb?

Marketing

She first started with Google AdWords and then Facebook ads. Once she got a following and got recognized, articles were written, and that’s when it exploded.

*I recommend having test guests when you’re starting. Have about ten friends of friends who will give you feedback and will leave a good review. Once you have ten 5-star reviews, you become a super-host. Once you’re more established, you can have people who influence different market segments to spread the word.

Kristie Wolfe

Future Endeavors

Kristie plans to build more hobbit holes and also look for some land in Joshua Tree.

If you’d like to listen to this podcast episode, click below.

In Conclusion

Tiny living isn’t for everybody. However, if you’d like to get into the Airbnb business, there are things that one must consider before diving in. Kristie Wolfe is an expert in this field, and she advises focusing on the following:

  1. Paying attention to Location
  2. Financing (preferably owner financing)
  3. Availability of utilities on the property
  4. Management
  5. Taking advantage of the Airbnb platform
  6. Focusing on the experience the customer will have at your property
  7. Marketing

I had such a wonderful time interviewing this rockstar. Let me know what you, the reader, took away from this by shooting me an email. Until next time!