Tiny Fest

It always seemed to me that if ADUs were selling for $50,000 or less, there would be lots of interest.  Literally the first one I ran into (below) at the Tiny Fest was priced at $50,000, and people were standing in line to experience this 8.5 ft x 30 ft home with kitchen and full bath (seen in right window).


This one was tall enough that it had two lofts:


For those who want to do it themselves, these guys will sell you the kit for $63,000.  The vaulted ceiling added some extra luxury:


This was my favorite granny flat because of the porch. The upgraded version costs $65,000:


This was the deal of the day.  For $15,000 you get the building with full bath and the trailer:


Here’s my tour of the homes:

Instant ADU

If baby boomers have to sell their home because they need the money, this will be a great alternative – and could help to dry up the housing inventory, especially if you can build an ADU for less than $50,000.  Homes with bigger yards would be more valuable too.

Link to Article

Today, Samara is announcing a new initiative called Backyard, “an endeavor to design and prototype new ways of building and sharing homes,” according to a press statement, with the first wave of test units going public in 2019.

It means Airbnb is planning to distribute prototype buildings next year.

The name “Backyard” might imply that Airbnb just wants to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), those small cottages that sit behind large suburban houses and are often rented on Airbnb. Gebbia clarifies that is not the case. “The project was born in a studio near Airbnb headquarters,” he says in an interview over email. “We always felt as if we were in Airbnb’s backyard–physically and conceptually–and started referring to the project as such.”

Backyard is poised to be much larger than ADUs, in Gebbia’s telling. Yes, small prefabricated dwellings could be in the roadmap, but so are green building materials, standalone houses, and multi-unit complexes. Think of Backyard as both a producer and a marketplace for selling major aspects of the home, in any shape it might come in.


Mobile Housing Alternatives

Sell your house with Jim, and go on a world adventure!


An excerpt:

The “van life” movement has been gaining momentum for years, but it seemed like 2017 really saw a variety of intriguing new vans (and van build-outs) to inspire would-be road-dwellers to get out there and live the life. The year also saw a few very compelling motorhome introductions for those looking to go bigger and farther – without losing much homestyle comfort. The best of the best include everything from big, angry all-landers to compact, versatile everyday commuters that weekend as rolling vacation homes.

Read full article here (with 72 images!):


Disaster Follow-Up

Whether is be fires, earthquakes, floods, or nuclear attacks, we are all susceptible to being in a disaster zone.  How does it affect real estate?  Let’s keep an eye on the recent fires to gauge what we might expect if disasters came our way.

I mentioned in a tweet that I thought the Santa Rosa real estate market would be invigorated.  There should be more demand for the homes for sale from the affluent folks who don’t mind buying another home, rather than rent. We can also imagine that contractors have rushing to the scene to offer their rebuilding packages, and/or buyouts. 

Hundreds of people are probably setting up temporary living arrangements on-site, and many if not most will eventually rebuild.  But it is the ones that don’t rebuild that will make the market for the next 1-2 years – and the speculators who buy them out and rush new product to market will be the ones who bring back the old values quickly.

A snapshot of the first effects – the less affluent are hit hard:



Last week, Jeff Sugarman escaped his burning home in Santa Rosa, California. This week he faced the horrors of the region’s housing market.

One of the first inquiries Sugarman made was about a rental house nearby that was listed for $3,700 a month on Zillow. But when he emailed about seeing it, the owner told him the price had soared.

“He said insurance companies had been calling him all day and they were willing to pay $4,700 to $5,000 (to house fire victims) so I’d better be prepared to pay more,” Sugarman said, adding that he told the landlord he was “appalled” and “this was wrong”.

Sugarman passed the communications to the local newspaper and the US justice department, which he said was investigating price gouging in the wake of the northern California fires that killed at least 42 people and destroyed 8,400 buildings.

A spokesman for the California state attorney general’s office said investigators planned to enforce a price gouging provision in the state penal code that prohibits anyone from raising prices more than 10% following the declaration of a state of emergency.

Noting that Santa Rosa had declared a state of emergency about a year ago over the housing shortage and the homelessness crisis, councilwoman Julie Combs said: “Now we’ve lost 5% of our housing and 15,000 people have lost their homes.”

Sonoma County supervisor Susan Gorin, wearing a respirator and boots as she sifted through the ash of her destroyed home last week, said it was her lower-income neighbors who were most likely to be displaced from the area.

“We are so successful as a tourism destination,” Gorin said. “We produce a lot of lower-income jobs – in wineries, in restaurants, in hotels. It’s going to hurt our economy if we don’t get temporary housing for the people who lost their homes in the fire, as well as those who were already on the edge of losing their homes and the homeless.”

Adrienne Lauby, who runs Homeless Action, an advocacy group in Santa Rosa, said there were at least 3,000 homeless people in the area before the fires and the numbers were going up.

“People are already becoming homeless,” Lauby said, adding that she knew of several people who had been kicked out of informal housing arrangements so that the people they were staying with could take in family members displaced by the fire. “There are pop-up encampments all over the city. People are sleeping in the parks, they’re staying in their cars – there are still 425 people in the shelters.”

“All of these people,” she said, “are at risk for homelessness and the winter is coming.”

Gorin said the board should look at options such as trailers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema), recreational vehicles and cargo containers converted into homes.



Here’s another guy who insists on ‘disrupting’ real estate.  While the mobile devices are handy, are people – especially the affluent baby-boomers who are making the real estate market, going to give up their more-traditional homestead to live in a 320sf tin can?


You can tell immediately that Jeff Wilson, the 42-year old founder of Kasita, an Austin-based micro-housing start-up, has been courting venture capital. He has his sales pitch nailed—which is pretty impressive for a former university dean and professor who used to live in a dumpster.

When I ask Wilson what fundamental problem his company is solving he tells me without flinching: “Kasita is on the verge of disrupting the urban housing market in ways not seen in real estate and development in 150 years.” Wilson’s confidence may just be spot on. And perfectly timed.

Over the past decade my wife and I have asked each other countless times why everything else we own is completely mobile with the glaring exception of real estate. It’s not an unreasonably philosophical question. Every current aspect of our personal and business lives—from banking and corporate communications to reading the news or planning a vacation—now runs entirely off of five mobile devices and a wireless hotspot. So why do we still sleep in a house every night with two-foot thick brick walls that hasn’t moved an inch in 128 years?

Seeing a massive, mobility-starved void in the dead center of one of the largest segments of the US economy (while living in a dumpster), Wilson is betting that his tech-stuffed, 320-square foot, portable living capsule (a.k.a. casita, or “small home”) is poised to transform the fundamental concept of what real estate means to a new generation of Millennials, empty nesters, and upwardly mobile creative types (e.g., us) who are looking to trade-in their 30-year mortgage for mobility, simplicity, and financial independence.

Read full article here:



We need tent cities too! Hat tip to ‘just some guy; for sending this in:


SUNNYVALE — Two years of mounting rent increases pushed them out of their 800-square-foot apartment, but Emily Gwynn and Roderick Fox have now purchased their dream house.

“It’s 1,370 square feet, three bedrooms, two full baths, washer and dryer,” Gwynn said, excited to show off the spacious kitchen, as well as the master bedroom with its 14-foot cathedral ceiling.

The price: $219,000, in a county where median home prices hit $782,000 last month. The catch: It’s a manufactured home — a classy new spin on the old prefab “mobile” home.

“We were surprised,” Fox said.

Read full article here:


Zero Energy

Hat tip to ocrenter who sent this in from Bloomberg – a prototype new home that generates its own energy that they think they can sell for around $250,000:

The youtube remarks are somewhat critical of the idea – you still have to purchase the natural gas to run the ‘powercell’, so can you sell enough excess electricity back to the grid to cover?

They talk about systems, but didn’t flat out say that these are modular homes.  They show the prototype house being stick-built towards the end of the video, but isn’t the natural progression to build the houses off-site and deliver?

And when is ocrenter going to make a comeback?

More Modular

We should be seeing more applications of the modular home, especially for remote areas.

Here’s another that starts their base pricing around $200/sf, and goes up from there:

For those who are interested, they are having open house in Joshua Tree this weekend, where temperatures are predicted to be in the 90s – lower than here!

La Jolla Prefab

From Lily at the utsandiego.com:

Neighbors and passers-by stopped to gawk.

A few snapped photos.

It’s not every day you see up to 60-foot-long, factory-built pieces of a home trucked, lifted and stacked over a course of two days.

Nine pieces that make up a multi-million dollar “green” project named Casabrava took shape on a prepped site in La Jolla on Thursday and Friday after a trip from a factory in Utah. Over the next two weeks, workers will “stitch” together the pieces to prepare for finishes.

The project’s vision: Homes made on factory lines can look and feel as sophisticated as traditional homes built on-site, said Heather Johnston, an architect and future occupant of Casabrava. Johnston added that prefabricated construction is also more efficient and more environmentally friendly.

“This is not a manufactured home, which are used for trailers and mobile-homes,” said Johnston, who will live in the home with her husband, David Dickins.

“We’re building a prefab home,” added Johnston, who took a year off to do the modular project. “They’re basically house parts. And the parts have to be stronger than a normal house because they have to be transported and lifted by a crane.”

She said prefab construction —  which has been around for decades but has yet to gain wide acceptance — is more time efficient. It will take roughly nine months to finish Casabrava, from factory build time to finishes on site. A custom home takes about 18 months to be completed, she said.

“This can really affect the bottom line,” she said.

Savings also come from prefab homes being precision-cut, so there’s less waste. Plus, everything is built indoors, so there are fewer delays. The company that manufactured the pieces of Casabrava was Irontown Homes in Utah.

Building Casabrava will end up costing $220 a square foot, based on Johnston’s figures. The home takes up 4,100 square feet, including a three-car garage. The per-square-footage cost is significantly lower than the per-square-footage cost of a home resold in La Jolla. In July, the median price was $518 a square foot, DataQuick numbers show.

The hard costs of the project, including construction and land but not things like permitting, will total roughly $2.6 million.

Over time, Johnston expects to save money on energy by just the way the home is positioned on the site.

The design is meant to increase ventilation and nix the need for an air conditioner. Other “green” features include rain-catchment systems to water plants and recycled materials.

More on the architect here: http://www.hjarchitect.com/index.html

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