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16-Year-Old Builds Tiny Home to Guarantee a Mortgage-free Future

By Kirsten Dirksen
August 30, 2011
File under: Green Building Design, Living Space, Saving Money

Austin Hay is still in high school, but he’s building his own house. It’s only 130 square feet, but it makes him a homeowner without a mortgage at just 16 years old.

Right now, it’s in his parents’ backyard, but he’s built it on wheels so he plans to take it to college and then wherever he goes after he graduates.

Moving out at 16

He’s been sleeping in his tiny home for a few months now and he’s already decided not to return to big (his parents’ home is 1800 square feet). “Living small means less bills, living big means more bills. I don’t want to pay big bills,” he explained from the tiny stoop of his new home.

Hay’s 130-square-foot home may make him the youngest member of the growing Small House Movement. Perhaps not coincidentally, Hay has spent his childhood at one of the movement’s epicenters (See Land of Tiny Home People).

From the land of the Tiny Home People

In his county (Sonoma), there are at least three tiny homebuilding companies (not to mention the independents), as well as the founder of the Tiny House Blog and the country’s biggest Tiny Home star Jay Shafer. Shafer, owns Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, has been something of a role model.  Take a tour of Jay’s 96 square foot house here.  (

Before breaking ground, Hay attended one of Shafer’s monthly tiny open house tours and Shafer gave plans to build his home (it’s a Fencl design like the one Shafer lived in for years).

A $12,000 home

Hay expects to spend about $12,000 building his home (the used trailer cost him $2000) and he’s paying for it working two summer jobs (at a camp and at a park snack bar). He’s cut his costs in half (the home’s estimated DIY price is $23,000) Though this is a considerable discount from the home’s estimated price of $23,000 because Hay has scavenged everything from doors, windows and flooring to the kitchen sink (the hardwood floors were $25 at a salvage yard and so was the stainless steel sink).

Tiny construction waste

Like most in the Small House Movement, cost isn’t Hay’s only concern. He’s also aware the tiny homes consume less heat/AC/building materials and so leave a lighter environmental footprint. To make the point, he’s been collecting all of his building waste and after nearly a year of building, he only has two half-filled garbage cans filled with items he couldn’t recycle.

With a little help from Santa

In this video, Hay shows us his tiny home, his handiwork, the salvaged bits and where he hopes to put all his furniture and appliances (including the camping oven that was a gift from “Santa”).

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