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Viewpoints: Tiny House Tours & Respect for the Privacy of Homeowners

Laura LaVoie of 120squarefeet.com recently wrote a post ("Tiny House Tours, Private Homes, and Etiquette") for Tiny House Listings in which she gives some important yet rarely mentioned advice:

Above all else please respect that tiny homes are actual private homes owned by the individuals. Being open on the internet is not an invitation for a complete lack of privacy. Please respect their personal space and only view tiny homes in the appropriate context.

I've had the same experience that Laura and I'm sure many others have had: struggling to say no when people ask for a tour of our tiny home. Laura describes it very well:

“We’re in town for today only. Can we come see your house?” I glanced at my watch. It was already 3pm and Matt and I weren’t at home. In fact, we had several more errands to run and weren’t expecting to be home until well after dark. “I’m sorry, no.” I said... Even if we could, or would, our house wasn’t exactly showplace-ready. We live in our home just like anyone. There were dirty socks on the floor and the bed wasn’t made.

She then goes on to list some do's and don't when it comes to tiny house visits. Read the full article here.

Our Experience

Her post got me thinking, and I'd like to add a few thoughts of my own.

Though my experience with the entire tiny house process (from research, planning and design to construction, finishing and towing) makes me a valuable resource -- and granted, I position myself that way online, through this website -- that doesn't make my desire for privacy any less, nor does it indicate in any way that our house is a showpiece.

So many of the tiny house photos people see online are of newly completed houses, still empty of their eventual human owners, all their personal belongings, clutter, and the "life" that happens in a home. Maybe this gives some the wrong idea? That people only build tiny houses as showpieces and give tours day and night to all who are interested?

Our private space -- shared by our cute little pup!

Our private space -- shared by our cute little pup!

Our house (I say "our" because it's my partner, Anjali, our shiba inu, Anya, and I) is our full-time residence. I built it for us because I thought it was a great housing option for this point in our lives. I did it for our personal housing needs, not as a business or a selling tool. Though I can get excited about some of the attention it has received, I never built it to get noticed.

But as a by-product of exploding national interest (reality TV is a clear indicator), our daily lives have in many ways collided with "The Tiny House Movement," sometimes at the expense of our comfort, privacy, and personal boundaries.

Finding a Balance

We must find a balance -- a way to meet and maintain our own need for privacy while still serving the greater community and offering all we can to help others on this path.

A crowd of over 35 people gathered for our first open house in Sebastopol

Does this mean we don't show our house (or accommodate media/press requests)? Of course we do! I've given many tours to individuals who's made the trip out to Sebastopol, to those requesting interviews and to film videos, and for large groups in a planned open-house format.

But we can't always say "yes", and we are increasingly saying "no" to help assure our own long-term well-being.

There will always be chances to see our home in the future, but do keep in mind that phones exist (I'm happy to talk to you!), that this website has a wealth of information (including photo documentation of the entire construction process), and that many photos and videos exist showing the ins and outs of our house, and explain our motivations for building it in the first place.

Tips

I love tours too! Thank you Vina for allowing us to see her house!

I love tours too! Thank you Vina for allowing us to see her house!

For any of you with the desire to tour someone's tiny house, please keep a few things in mind.

  • If you are asking for tour, you're certainly not the first. Think of how many others have already asked for the same, and how many times the homeowners have already opened up their home to strangers (and cleaned it thoroughly to be pretty for you all!). Take this into consideration if they do decline your request.
  • Tiny house owners who give tours usually do not charge a fee or ask anything in return. Please give them as much respect and gratitude as you can possibly manage. If you enjoyed their home, consider buying a product they might offer (an eBook, house plans, etc) as a way to gain more info for yourself and to compensate the homeowner for their time spent with you.
  • Be flexible! Unless you are traveling from another country and only in town for a few hours of one day, try to give the tiny house owner as many options as possible and allow them to pick the date and time that works best for them. (I know that when given this flexibility I almost always say YES!)

With that in mind, don't hesitate to contact the owners of homes you'd like to see. Their are no guarantees, but there is a good chance they'll be welcoming and happy to show you all the details of their space.

What are your experiences either giving or receiving a tiny house tour?

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2 comments on “Viewpoints: Tiny House Tours & Respect for the Privacy of Homeowners”

  1. Good afternoon,
    We wanted to let everyone in the tiny home community know that we have just launched The Great American Tiny Home Building Contest, a design and construction competition to build (or have built) a Park Model tiny home that can compete in cuteness and innovation with the more popular 8.5′ tiny homes on wheels. Our minimum width is 10 feet with no minimum length.

    My name is Beth Livingston, one of the developers of Coral Sands Point Recreational Village, a tiny home community offering deeded waterfront tiny home lots for PMRVs on High Rock Lake in North Carolina. First prize in the contest is a waterfront tiny home lot at Coral Sands Point (value = $55K). Note: Laura LaVoie is interested in being a judge. 🙂

    This contest is open to BOTH professionals and amateurs with a maximum of 25 entrants (minimum is 10 entrants – pretty good odds). We have already been contacted by a major home-focused TV network and they have asked us to distribute their casting application to our contestants.

    We are currently seeking contestants and tiny home resources for our contestants. If you have a book or other product or a service you’d like us to include in our resource list, please let us know. And we will also be happy to promote your blog on our website in exchange for the same.

    Please take just a few moments to look over the contest details athttps://www.coralsandspoint.com and if interested, please email us or use the “Register to be a Resource” form on our website to indicate how you’d like to be involved.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this message and review our site and we look forward to any feedback you’d like to provide. The registration period is Feb 2 – 28 while entry applications will be submitted in early March. Competition in late August in NC.

    Beth Livingston
    Coral Sands Point Recreational Village
    We were tiny when tiny wasn’t cool!
    336-416-4232

  2. I don't know how you do it? I know you feel a responsibility towards the movement. I am one who has an appreciation for the insight you provide us looky-Lous. I am facinated by this movement. But at the same time could not see just calling up and asking for an on the spot tour. I would love someday to partake in a build, but dream of my own also. Love your blog, I've been in the corner watching for awhile.j