As Texas A&M senior Danielle Scott looks ahead to graduating next month, she is preparing for more than just her classes. She is making sure her house is ready for the next chapter.
Scott, a construction science major, has been working this year to create her own tiny house, which she plans to move to Seattle with her following graduation.
“For the past four years of my college career, I’ve been paying crazy amounts of rent,” she said. She saw her options were to either continue paying rent for a place that does not grow in value, or she can invest in her own home.
With money from a seven-month internship, Scott has put $19,500 into the tiny house and has not had to pay for any labor on the custom-built home, instead getting help from her family and friends.
Her plan is to live in the house for about five years, and she figures it will take less than two years for her to earn back her investment.
“It feels liberating knowing that it’s mine,” Scott said. “I built it. I’m proud of it. I designed it. It’s all part of what I wanted.”
Scott’s boyfriend, Will Smith, is studying manufacturing and mechanical engineering and has helped with the tiny house’s design and construction. Ultimately, he plans to move into the house with Scott with plans for a summer wedding following his spring graduation.
While the tiny house makes it easy to move from one project to the next, Scott said, it also helps set a financially sound foundation for their future as she and Smith begin their careers.
“And that’s the goal,” she said. “It’s just to have that financial freedom.”
Sitting on its own trailer, the house measures 28 feet long, including a 4-foot porch, and is 8.5 feet wide and 13 feet, 2 inches tall. With windows throughout the space, Scott said, the house has an 8-by-10-foot loft as a bedroom, and downstairs will have a couch, a refrigerator, a stove, a microwave, a washer-dryer combo, a shower, two sinks, a self-composting toilet and multiple storage areas.
The size also means it is within the size requirements necessary for Scott to pull the house herself instead of requiring a specialized driver.
Scott and her supporters have put in the equivalent of about two months of labor since starting the project, but it has been about four months after factoring in the planning time that has gone into the project.
“It’s been great because I had this vision of, like, I want to build a tiny house, but it was definitely with the help of Will and my dad and my family that it happened,” she said. “There’s no way I’d be here without my family and Will.”
Part of the reason for looking to a tiny house that sits on a trailer is it is not subject to property taxes in Texas or in Washington. Instead, it is seen as a recreational vehicle or a shed, she said.
If she is then able to find land and put hay, cattle or bees on it, she could even qualify for an agricultural-use exemption, she said, leaving her with only about $50 or $60 in taxes to pay instead of the $6,000 a friend of theirs near Austin pays each year.
“Again, it’s all about saving on the front end of things when time’s in our favor in order to invest and put a lot of money aside in our savings,” she said. “I want to keep my money, and I want to retire one day and feel very confident financially.”
Even though their plan is to live in their tiny house for the next five years, Smith said, they are not against traditional homes and have hopes of owning their own someday.
“Where we’re at right now in life, this is the best option,” he said.
In addition to the joy she feels in being able to look at what she, Smith and their family and friends have accomplished by creating the house, Scott said, the entire process has given her confidence as she enters a career that is not a typical field for women. She hopes she can help inspire other women entering construction.