Last year, California legislators took aim at the state’s housing shortage by mandating that cities loosen their building restrictions to allow homeowners to build or divide their homes into legal rentals, so called accessory dwelling units. Incredible Tiny Homes in Tennessee, founded by Randy Jones, tackles housing affordability by taking another direction. For the past three years, Jones’ has labored to bring affordable tiny homes to neighborhoods around the country. His professional standard of craftsmanship is topped only by his desire to build a respected company in the emerging tiny home industry.
Q: How did you get started building your homes?
A: It was the aftermath of the 2008 market crash. I lost a $12 million resort I owned in the Blue Mountains, went through a divorce, and basically had to start all over like I was 19 years old again – framing houses and digging ground. I previously was a custom home-builder and inspector for 25 years, a carpenter by trade. In 2009, I found myself collecting materials and wood thrown out from jobs I worked. One day cruising through the internet on a borrowed laptop I saw a tiny home for $60,000. I knew what homes cost and knew I could build one for less. I had a friend who trusted me and gave me a loan so I could build my first tiny home. It was a Hobbit home and the local news got wind of it. After their newscast aired, I ended up selling it to a Nashville guy for $30,000 within a month and it just grew from there.
Q: What is the difference between a tiny home and a trailer home?
A: Though both are on wheels, there is a real big difference. Our homes are actually built like a regular home using 2 x 4 wood and full insulation. With an RV it’s not if, but when it will leak. We take great care and use materials to build a home that doesn’t leak. An RV will freeze. Our homes have heating and air systems, regular windows and are a lot heavier. Their structure is similar to ours, but an RV’s interior is a composite from manufactured materials. In our tiny homes, we use real wood, real metal and steel. Everything is real and custom built, not built on an assembly line.
Q: Is there a market for tiny homes in Southern California?
A: We sell our homes all over, coast to coast. The tiny home market is growing at a steady pace, though I think it has a ways to go before it hits its peak. The state of Maine has just legalized the building of these homes with a separate building code. San Diego and Fresno are both tiny-home friendly, along with Hawaii and Oregon. We have a live show every Wednesday and Saturday on our Facebook page that shows how we build our homes while having a little fun at the same time. We started out with 300 subscribers the first year and now it is up to 35,000. Interesting thing about this market, 95% of the buyers are women. I don’t know why, maybe they are more practical about money and spaces. There are challenges to a tiny home. It is a major readjustment to downsize into a small space and you need a place to put it. But there are also advantages.
A: One of the main advantages is the low cost compared to a full size home. I believe many people don’t want to be “sold out” to a mortgage on a home for 30 to 40 years. You can have an affordable home and live in the part of the country that makes you happy. Another advantage is living off grid, which can make it easier to find a place for your tiny home. For example in Hawaii they allow them in the backyard of every home as long as it is off the grid. A tiny home in their backyard can supplement income with a monthly rent. But the minute the home is hooked up to the grid, it is under a permit system. Most people have done their own due diligence in finding out their local city codes. But we can send contact information where they can find out about permits. I’ve also started a small off-grid community of tiny homes and it is our dream to have them nationwide. If it takes off, people can move around to live in different communities we’ve created.
Q: What is part of your off-grid system?
A: Our homes are customized and we can install solar power and reclaimed water systems if you choose. For reclaimed water, we use technology that has been used for decades by NASA in their space station. We took that invention and applied it to our homes. We have UV filters, tanks, and pumps that are quick and efficient. So you can take a shower, do your dishes as it runs through filters, purifying and ozonating up to 1,000 gallons of water. Of course you have to be a person who is conservation-minded since you are collecting rain-water and if doesn’t rain, water is limited. Solar power has become very efficient with a battery life of 10-15 years. But even so, you have to be conscious of how much electricity is being used.
Q: You also offer another way unique to the market that makes it more affordable to buy your homes.
A: Yes, our Tiny Home University where you can build your own home and save money. We have a 70,000 square foot warehouse where we build the homes. And what we’ve done is initiated a workshop once a month (room and board included) where we coach and supervise you actually building your own home! So after seven days and six nights, you leave with your own tiny home. I’m going to start touring with our workshop, beginning with Hawaii and then on the road to different cities. I’ve also started a way to help people finance their own tiny home called Lean on Me. There are no banks involved, partners or lines of credit. It’s all made possible through our hard work and how we manage our money. What we do is a total American dream, completely done by a passion, a little bit of talent and a whole lot of work. I started this company with borrowed tools, used materials and quality workmanship without any banks involved.
Q: How are you able to sell your homes for less than the current market?
A: That is what my company is all about, I can build and sell a tiny home and still make a decent living for me and others who work at my company. I’m not about inflating price. If I want to make more money, I’ll just build more homes and employ more people. For me it’s about gaining a niche in the market. When it comes down to it, I’m going to own the market. I’m building a strong and trustworthy company. I wouldn’t feel good about selling a home for what many of them are currently being sold such as $70,000 for 18 feet. I simply can’t sell something I myself couldn’t buy. I’m out here to simply make a decent living and have a decent life.
Q: That’s a pretty strong statement.
A: When I lost my resort and sitting alone in my camper, I didn’t have a dream to get me out of bed. I realized a dream is way more important than money. When you don’t have passion behind the money, you are a dead empty soul. I agree it is hard to sell that idea to corporate America. But we have a responsibility to the human race on the way we live our lives. Our slogan is “Choose tiny, live free.” Freedom is a big thing. Being out from under debt is a big thing. I have a great product at a great price. I’ve been laughed at for my concept. It doesn’t bother me. I’ll just continue building my dream, one tiny home at a time.
Randy Jones, Founder
Incredible Tiny Homes
4901 Enka Hwy #502c
Morristown, Tenn. 37813
phone: sales: (423) 581-6928 | office/community : (423) 581-6925
By Gina Dostler