a guest Jun 25th, 2019 56 Never
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- Stephanie Donahue has done big things with her tiny house in Collingwood. Three years ago, she and her husband converted their garage into a 215-square-foot Airbnb that has helped her pay off her mortgage, quit her job in sales, support her growing family, and spend more time doing what she really loves: Great Lake and cold water surfing. In other words, she’s a total badass. This is her story:
- Jenny Morris: What was the inspiration for building the tiny house?
- Stephanie Donahue: We’d been living in our new house in Collingwood for five months when we discovered I was pregnant. We already have two grown children — an 18- and 20-year-old. Around the same time, we watched a documentary about minimalism. We were intrigued by the idea of having less stuff and more flexibility to do the things we love to do. We wanted jobs that could be really flexible, we needed more space in the house and we wanted to figure out a way for somebody else to pay off our mortgage. So it was all of these ideas coming together that made us want to convert our garage into a tiny house.
- JM: What was your first step after you got the idea?
- SD: We went to the town and found out what the bylaws were. At the time, they were passing a bylaw to allow secondary dwellings. So we got a permit and went about building it. When we were done, my friend suggested that we put it on Airbnb to make some money. My goal was to rent it out just four days out of the month. But the first month I put it on Airbnb, it blew up and we were booked every single night. But then, I realized we weren’t in compliance with the town bylaws — it fell under a short term rental which isn’t allowed in Collingwood. So I had to cancel 50 guests and it was devastating. At the time, we had another child (our youngest children were 16-months apart) and our eldest was going to university, so it was a really frantic time.
- JM: What did you do to get around the bylaws?
- SD: We spent about four months beating down doors in the town and researching bylaws. Finally, we discovered we could operate as a bed and breakfast. All we needed was a bigger driveway which was no problem because we were renovating anyways. We already checked the other boxes needed to qualify — we had to live in the primary property and the bed and breakfast couldn’t be larger than our primary residence.
- JM: How much did it cost to build the tiny house?
- SD: My husband is actually a builder. We would work on it late at night after we put the kids to bed. It was about $22,000 for materials and equipment. The biggest cost for us was the plumbing because we had to tap into our home’s plumbing and electrical. The plumbing alone was about $5,000 and the electrical was $4,000.
- JM: How has the tiny house changed your lifestyle?
- SD: Going into the third year, the tiny house is bringing in $40,000 a year. I never went back to my job in sales. This is my job now and I only work about an hour a day. It’s been an amazing lifestyle change for our family. Since then, I’ve done consulting with people on how they can also build a little suite within their house. Our tiny house has also added about $100,000 to the value of our house.
- JM: What do your guests say after they visit?
- SD: We’ve had over 300 guests and we have all five-star reviews. People love it. They think it's unique, simple, clean, cozy, minimalistic. People say they feel really relaxed — because they don't have all this stuff distracting their brains!
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