Tiny-home owners desperate for somewhere to park their homes will appreciate a significant increase in the listings of land available to lease over the past month.
Sharla May, who runs Landshare, a tiny-home website, says listings are up 50%. She puts the demand down to the state of the economy: “People are wanting to get some extra cash coming in.”
But there’s still just a small window of opportunity for the owners of tiny homes. “Listings come onto the website and go really quickly,” May says.
“The changeover happens so fast. People are keeping their eyes out – we get around 1300 views a week.
“When I was living in Auckland, I was leasing land owned by a guy in Oratia. There were a few tiny homes on his land and he was taking in over $900 a week.”
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May says she wished she had known about land leasing when she owned a house a few years ago. “I was paying 60% of my income on my mortgage, and the rest got eaten up with renovating and upkeep. I wasn’t earning a lot, and it felt like I was just working to pay for my house. If I’d known about leasing part of my land [to tiny-house owners], I would have done that.”
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May says a majority of people looking for suitable land are couples. “There are a lot of older couples who haven’t been able to afford their retirement dreams.”
The average price to lease land for a tiny home is about $250 a week. If the site is in or near Auckland, it is usually $250 to $300 a week, but the price drops for sites in other places.
May is leasing land at Whangārei Heads. She was given permission to undertake a little landscaping, flattening out a suitable site for her house bus: “I pay $180 a week, which includes a cabin with power where I have an office and lounge. It’s an easy passive income for the landowners.
“I go kayaking most days, and I am setting up an outdoor bathroom and hot-water tub for friends. It’s like glamping – it’s so much fun living like this.”
Tired of renting, this Auckland couple pooled their resources and built themselves a tiny house from scratch – with a lot of help from friends, family, strangers and YouTube. (Video first screened in October, 2020.)
Maria Binnie, the landowner, says she decided to lease the land when the idea of subdivision proved too difficult and expensive. She says she has never looked back.
“It has been the ultimate solution. It’s an easy way to get extra income, and some lessees have added value developing the land a little – Sharla has created a flat platform, for example,” Binnie says.
“We have always had really good lessees here. They bring a sense of community to an isolated place, yet we still have our privacy. There’s quite a distance between the two homes.”
Ryan Steven and Ziski Poschl, whom Stuff featured two-and-a-half years ago, have moved to Raglan from West Auckland. They had found their first site via a rural letterbox drop, but are now in Raglan on a site with four other tiny homes, a caravan and a couple of permanent homes.
“We had started to get really busy and this was a way of forcing us to get a work-life balance back,” says Steven. “Ziski works three days a week, and I am doing two or three, and we have slowly pieced our new lifestyle together. We’re starting to get a nice garden established.”
Steven says the couple pays $150 for the site, which includes water from a spring on the property. “Everyone here is quite environmentally minded and cautious with water. The water from the spring trickles down to an inlet, and there’s enough to serve the families on the land.”
The couple have added solar panels to their tiny house, so they now have their own power source.
Gina Stevens, the director of Build Tiny in Katikati, has leased land to one of her tiny-house customers, JoLynne, for the past 15 months. “It has been quite a good income for us – we get about $10,000 a year and just supply water and power,” she says.
“We got to know JoLynne really well as we built the home for her, so we felt very comfortable having her on the land. I would recommend other landowners get to know the person [they will be leasing to] first.”
Stevens’ own tiny house is also on the land – it is rented out on Airbnb, while Stevens, her partner and family live in the permanent house on the property.
Beryl Oldham is another landowner leasing land to tiny-home owners. She has a tiny house owned by a friend tucked to one side of her bush-clad North Shore property, and another tiny house on a trailer on a section at Ōtaki Beach. Together they bring in $250 a week.
“I am sure I could get more, but it wasn’t really about the money. One [of the tiny-house owners] is a friend, and the other owner looks after the section at the beach. However, we do have proper lease agreements in place saying they are renting the land, and we need to give three months’ notice either way.
“It makes sense for people to do it. It makes good use of your land, gives you an income, and you’re helping people. And it’s like we have a little community without living in each other’s pockets.
“During lockdown, I was in a bubble with the owners on my North Shore property while my husband was up north.”
May took over the Landshare website (built by Nathan Orr) 20 months ago. She rebuilt it on a different platform and relaunched it with a new map feature.
Tiny-home owners listing on Landshare usually post photos of themselves, and May manually approves each listing before it is posted. “I like to give landowners a bit more confidence [that lessees have been vetted] as much as is possible.”
May says there are responsibilities that come with leasing land – for both the landowner and the person leasing. The arrangement is not covered by the Tenancy Act, and she recommends both parties ensure there is a land lease agreement in place (the website has a guide).
This can give the owner to right to terminate the lease within a fixed period if there is a problem with a local council – and May is working with the Auckland Council to draft a new email template for landowners approaching their local council.
May also suggests landowners talk to neighbours about their plans to lease part of their land. “It’s a courtesy, and it’s important to get them on board first. We talk to people about the importance of boundary setbacks.”
Other considerations that need to be discussed between the two parties include whether power and water supplies are included, and how greywater and human waste will be disposed.
May says most tiny houses have a composting toilet and recycle wastewater for gardens. The website provides guidelines about this.
Steven and Poschl’s tiny house, like others on their site, has a greywater treatment system – the water is used for irrigation. They have an odourless dehydrating toilet, with the waste eventually going into a compost bin. After a year, the clean soil can be spread around fruit trees and ornamental gardens.
Owners living in mobile vehicles will usually dispose of their waste in a dumping station.
May says most tiny-house owners are fully versed about waste disposal, and it’s a little worrying if they appear not to have this sorted.