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Trailer vs. living in garage apartment


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John's Forum Posts: 5

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By John in CA on 2/24/2004


Has anyone had experience with living in a trailer on the property while building? What about building a garage with a one-bedroom apartment as temporary quarters until the home is built? Advantages vs. disadvantages?
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By Len on 2/25/2004


I live in WI, and it depends on the county you live in if you can stay in a trailer or not. Most cases they give an extra 5 yrs. to complete the build. Very efficient if you can do it. Same with the garage and the plus is when house is completed you can rent apartment above the garage.
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By Chad in Skiatook, OK on 2/26/2004


My wife and our three kids have been living in a 24x30 building that I built myself for a year and a half (starting to get pretty stuffy). It was going to be my dream shop when we built our house. My problem is that I finished it out too nice and now she, I mean we, have decided it is too nice, so now we have altered our house plans to include this as a game room. But all in all it has not been too bad. I built it out of my pocket (no mortgage), but we have almost managed to pay off our 11 acres and are getting ready to build in just a couple of weeks. I think it will be a big plus living there while building to be able to keep a close eye on everything. Just don't look forward to the mess for the next several months.
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By D L on 3/3/2004


We are still a year and half from starting to build our house, but in two weeks I will build a 16x20 Gambrel, two-story, "shed". Figure it will provide ample space for wife and I and pets for 6 months while saving the hassle and expense of renting. The process has proven to be insightful as to what building the house might entail as we are building this as code compliant and legally permitted.
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By Aaron in IN on 4/6/2004


I am planning on building my own home soon. One of the options I am thinking about is living in a camper on the site or building the garage first with an apartment above. Does anybody have any advice on this? Septic will be the sewer system, so that would have to go in pretty early either route I go. Any issues that could cause problems? Thanks.
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By Netie in Salt Lake City, UT on 9/11/2004


I moved to UT from the Puget Sound (WA) area and lots of people dropped an old single-wide on the land while they or a contractor built the house. It was almost a badge of honor and gave bragging rights to "have lived through heck" in a tiny space. Now here in UT: I've called several counties and the rule of thumb is - if the land is in an incorporated area, NOPE! But it's okay in the county areas - except Salt Lake County. So if you want to do this moneysaving move: make sure you are allowed to BEFORE you buy the land.
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By Karla in Silver Springs, NV on 1/2/2005


In Storey Co. NV, they will issue you a permit and allow you to put a manufactured home on your building site for one year. The cost of a used manufactured home, however, seems prohibitive to our budget, so I am not sure what we are going to actually do.

This is what we are considering. Would like your comments.

We are building a 40x60 steel building shop with a full bath (shower, sink, "wash tub" sink, washer/dryer hookup, toilet, connection to septic and electricity) prior to actually building the house. Since I don't cook anyway, the "shop fridge" and microwave along with our propane grill (our current ones from our current home) should be okay for food. We are thinking of putting a really old, beat-up, non-hooked up (except for electric from the shop; we won't use the old trailer's electric), inside the building. The building will have two 12'x14' roll-up doors and two "people-sized" doors. The lee side bay door would stay open for circulation whenever anyone was "in residence".

Thank you.

Karla


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By Kari in Colbert, WA on 1/5/2005


We decided to put an older trailer on the property. At first, we considered a travel trailer but with two kids that would be too small for anything longer than a month I would think. Used 1970-1980's single-wides are cheap and have all the hookups and are roomier. So now we are looking for a clean old trailer. We break ground in March and would move into the trailer in June so it would be only six months at most. My concern is selling the trailer after construction, that might take a while and I am sure we'd lose money with moving it to and fro but it would still be cheaper than the rent we pay now and being on-site is invaluable. There should be a rental/lease company for those who are building homes. An old very nicely fixed remodeled trailer a person leases/rents for the construction period and then it is removed and moved to the next place. I'd pay half the rent I pay now for a trailer such as that not to have the hassle of finding, moving and selling one and not to mention it most probably might be dingy inside. Just an idea that came to me.

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By Peter in Gilford, NH on 1/5/2005


In the lakes region of NH, they would not let me build a garage without also building a house too. They said they have a lot of people who want to build only a garage (to store their boats in during the winter) and never build a house (so much for "live free or die", the state motto).

They don't care what order you build on your property (i.e. garage first, then house), but they need to see the plans for the entire project before they will issue a permit.

Also, there are special rules here for "in-law" apartments. They can be over the garage, but the garage must be attached to the house. No free standing garages with livable space over them.

I don't know how this applies to other towns, but you might want to call the building department first.

P.S. The lot I have is on a bridged island, which has an association, and they wouldn't allow a trailer to be used during construction.


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By Brenda in WA on 2/28/2005


That's a good idea! With all the up and coming owner-builders it could prove to be a very valuable service. We are going to live in a 40-foot 5th wheel with a pull-out while we build, with our 12-year-old son. We are planning on building a shop (60x40) and alternating between it and the fifth wheel while we build. We will have to winter over between the two. The shell of our house SHOULD be up by September and we will work on it through the winter and into the next spring. I hope the winter is as mild next year as it has been this year.
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By Bill in Sacramento, CA on 3/3/2005


Karla... I am building in Amador County in California. We also talked about the shop idea, 40x40 with plenty of space to make as temporary quarters. Just having to front the money to build prior to the house. I have noticed our county is a bit tuff on buildings being used as living quarters. Great idea if it is in the plans anyway.
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By Kirsten in Atascadero, CA on 3/17/2005


We finished building last year having lived in a 35-foot travel trailer for about 11 months during the process. Because of the trees on our lot, we were unable to get anything bigger out after the house was built. We have four kids and it was tight, but doable. The key is to keep the outcome in mind. It was invaluable to be on site during the building.

The planning commission in our town told us living on site was not allowed, but an office was. We pulled the trailer in and never heard anything from the city or any of the inspectors during the building process. We were able to sell the trailer for more than we bought it for when we were done with it. What an adventure!
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By David in San Francisco, CA on 6/19/2005


How did your local neighbors feel about having a trailer on their street? We are looking to build in a pretty nice neighborhood with small lots; the eyesore may cause some friction with the locals.
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By Kirsten in Atascadero, CA on 6/19/2005


We have great neighbors. They were very understanding and supportive. I would recommend checking with the local planning commission to be sure trailers are allowed. There is a city ordinance against living in a trailer on a city lot even during construction, but nobody gave us any problem. It was technically an on-site "office". Although it's very difficult to hide a family of 6! Good luck!
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By Wayne in Fresno, CA on 6/20/2005


I agree with Kirsten, we are building in Madera Ranchos and had to get a temp permit for our trailer. Before they would issue it they sent questionnaires to all our future neighbors to let them know and no one had a problem with it, so we got it. We move on as soon as our dirt work and well are installed (a couple of weeks).
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By Bob on 6/18/2006


We are O-B'ing in West Virginia, and just "celebrated" two years of trailer living. This is not for the faint of heart!! We expected the building process to take 6 to 9 months, but it has dragged on and on.

We are in a 31-ft. travel trailer with a bumpout (and children.) The winters have been the hardest part. We've had all the amenities we're used to, but the constant clutter, condensation on the windows (leading to mold on the carpet, despite our best efforts) and problems with the temporary electric set-up due have been exceedingly frustrating. On those dreary February days, the half-finished house sits there taunting us, so close, and yet so far...

On the positive side, living on site has been a DEFINITE advantage. We know of many other building sites that have been vandalized and had tools/materials stolen, but we haven't had a single problem. Also, it's SO handy to walk 20 feet to the work site! We've saved a ton of money over renting a place.

I wouldn't advise going the travel trailer route unless you and your spouse are both easygoing, with a very good sense of humor. There have been many times we wanted to cry, but laughter pulled us through. Of course, living in the trailer will make us tremendously appreciate our new home :-) We hope to move (20 feet!) into the finished house in August.

Barbara


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By Marc in Defuniak Springs, FL on 6/19/2006


5/11/2006
Marc in Defuniak Springs, FL
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Gary,

In February we found a great deal on a travel trailer and moved it to our property to live (camp out) in while we were on site. Our home now is 50 miles one way to the home we are building. At the time I had a 350 Ford and was using a ton of gas to and from.

Our thoughts were this: "To save on gas and wear and tear on the autos, to stay safe (working daylight to dark and then driving 50 miles to sleep, only to wake up and drive back) and not just that but saving the time on travel and being rested I believe has made the project that much more enjoyable". It seemed worth it if we could find a deal and sell it after the project was done.

I looked hard on eBay and the trade magazines. One day I found it in a yard with a for sale sign on. 38' 1980 for $5K. We wrote the check. The first pic I am attaching is in Feb, before the second-story pour. The second is last week. Note the septic hook-up.

Good luck in your search.


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By Tavis in Stevensville, MT on 3/8/2007


My wife and I are set to break ground in May. We are pretty much set on living in a fifth wheel trailer on the property. My main concern is how I will deal with the septic situation.

From what I understand here are the basic requirements:

  1. Park the fifth wheel uphill from the septic system, so that gravity can do its thing
  2. Don't use chemicals (i.e. has to be some sort of biodegradable agent, as to not ruin the living organism of the septic system)

Is there anything else I am missing? Anybody else beside Marc have experience in this situation?


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By William in Galt, CA on 3/8/2007


Hello Tavis,

You're idea is basically correct. Septic systems are not that complicated.

One thing to be aware of is to make sure the downward slope to the septic tank is NOT too steep. The liquid portion of the waste can actually flow away too fast and leave the solid portions sitting in the pipe.

Stevensville is a very pretty area. I have a friend who lives there locally and I visit often. My wife won't even consider moving there because of the winter weather.  :-(

BILL

 


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By Dale in Richland, AZ on 3/8/2007


Only other thing to add as a point to consider is using septic-friendly toilet paper and be careful of what you use for cleaning supplies. (Go easy on chlorine-based products.)

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By Tavis in Stevensville, MT on 3/15/2007


Thanks for the info.

I'm considering a 36' fifth wheel, its a great deal. I'm wondering what resale is like on larger model trailers, is it any harder to sell than say a 27'?
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