Father-Son Builders Bring Tiny Homes To Fresno

Photo: California Tiny House on Facebook.

What if you could combine the rustic charm of a cabin, the mobility of an RV, and the coziness of a one-bedroom house? You can—in a tiny home on wheels. Fresno-based, family-owned California Tiny House specializes in 180 to 360 square foot homes that contain all the components of a single family home for a fraction of the cost.

Miniature living spaces are all the rage in the real estate industry right now, even though sales and zoning laws have yet to catch up with the buzz. The appeal of downsizing is obvious: a smaller carbon footprint, budget-friendly living, less housework, and the ability to relocate at will (with a one-ton pick-up truck). Some tiny homes even allow you to go off-the-grid completely.

Nick Mosley, who started California Tiny House with his father, Pat, first became motivated to build tiny homes while on vacation. The property he was staying on was supposed to have 12 cottages to rent but zoning laws only allowed them to have four permanent structures on the property. With a bar and restaurant, an office, and 12 cottages, they were far above the limit. Ultimately, the owners tore down 10 of the cottages to comply with the law. Mosley wondered why they didn’t replace the cottages with travel trailers, because if the structures had been mobile, they wouldn’t have violated zoning laws. That’s when he realized he should start building.

Photo: @californiatinyhouse on Instagram.

Photo: @californiatinyhouse on Instagram.

“I saw a need for additional housing and a way to get around some of the zoning laws that prevented companies and businesses from having structures on their property,” he says. A couple of companies were already making tiny homes on wheels on the East Coast. Mosley went to check them out. “I wasn’t completely impressed with the way they were building,” he says of the competition, which was knocking out a limited number of models as quickly as possible. He wanted to do custom homes that allowed for more artistry and unique design in the building process. In 2014, California Tiny House was born.

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Since then, the company has been featured on HGTV’s Tiny House Hunters and in Tiny House magazine. The company is about to begin building its eighth home, a process that takes four to six weeks, start to finish. While all of Mosley’s previously built homes remain in California (to his knowledge), his customer base is all over the map: retirees, single people, married couples, families. And in case you’re worried that a burly frame might prevent you from hopping aboard the tiny house trend, consider this: Mosley is 6’5” and he can move around just fine in the structures, even in the upper-level sleeping lofts.

Tiny House Bedroom Loft

Photo: @californiatinyhouse on Instagram.

“It’s a very functional 180 to 360 square feet,” he says. “Instead of a staircase, you’ll have a staircase that houses the pantry and the refrigerator and additional storage. Or you’ll have a bathroom that has a walk-in closet attached or a bathroom with a washer/dryer that’s built in. There are a lot of multi-functional spaces which make it seem a little bit larger than it is because you have everything you need in a small area.”

The homes are wired and plugged just like a standard house, but link into a power grid like an RV. One of the biggest selling points of these homes is that because they’re fully insulated, they’re cheaper to heat and cool than both a standard home and an RV (the latter is not insulated and requires constant heat or AC to maintain temperature). Mosley only uses LED lights in the company’s designs, and even the largest one doesn’t exceed 100 watts of lighting. On average, California Tiny House buyers spend between $12 and $40 per month for utilities.

The structures don’t have to be used as primary homesteads, either: some counties in California consider them “backyard cottages” and allow them to be parked at an already existing dwelling. In that context, the structures can act as a mother-in-law suite, a guest house, a dorm room, a cabin, or whatever other function you see fit.

Photo: @californiatinyhouse on Instagram.

Photo: @californiatinyhouse on Instagram.

But what you really want to know is how you can pimp out your fun-sized bachelor pad, right?

“You can have all the amenities of a standard house. It’s really up to the customer,” Mosley says of the homes, which start at around $45,000. “You can design and create your perfect, tiny space.” Thus far, he’s fulfilled requests for full-size appliances, a California King sized bed, a soaking tub, a paw print door for a litter box space, and a porch addition. Want a “smart home” that you can control with a central remote or on an iPad? Done. A heated roof? No problem. Heated floors? You can have those, too.

“You name it. There’s no limit,” Mosley says. “Anything you can do with a standard house you can do with a tiny house with a little bit of ingenuity.”