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mr2s2000elise UltraDork
2/8/21 8:46 p.m.

I have a 5 acre property at Joshua Tree 


  • Property has electric and water
  • I would like to have 5 houses on there to airbnb and stuff with friends etc. 

basically looking at 1-2 bedroom hotel room type. 

but I don't know a thing about trailer home, modular home, tiny home, container home- I don't know the difference between them 

price seems to be all over - $8,000-$250,000 


I saw these two companies 








Used to be you could get repo single wides damn near free. Dunno if you still can, that was 15 years ago. 

In reply to mr2s2000elise :

First of all, check with whatever governing body applies(county, township, etc.) and confirm what they do/don't allow. Many places have a minimum sq-ft that's larger than most "tiny homes".

mr2s2000elise UltraDork
2/8/21 9:07 p.m.

In reply to Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) :

Thank you Pete. I have an appointment with land use/zoning on Friday to see what is allowed or not. 

I am using 3 acres of the property as an extension of my farm. 

concerns here are heat (hot all year), 30-40s in winter. No snow barely any rain. Desert climate. 

mr2s2000elise UltraDork
2/8/21 9:18 p.m.

These are two types of cabins we stayed in utah and alaska we liked very much 



1) alaska 



2) utah 


spitfirebill MegaDork
2/8/21 9:39 p.m.

I think your county is going to be the biggest hurdle.  

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/8/21 9:50 p.m.

It depends on what you want to end up with (and what your municipality allows) but a few definitions.

A mobile home isn't really mobile.  Most of them are 12' wide which means wide/oversize load permits to get them to your property.  Once there, you have to set them up on some sort of cribbing.  Double-wides can come in widths of 8', 10', or 12'.  Most double wides are two lengths of 12' to make a 24' wide home.  The other thing about mobile homes (as a used purchase) is that they often have a great deal of labor and stuff involved with re-mobilizing them.  When you see a mobile home being delivered on the highway, nearly always they use some combination of jacks and cranes to set the home in place, then they remove the axles and take them to attach to the next delivery.  This is why you so often see hundreds of "free mobile home" ads online.  "Free house" means "I ain't paying to move this E36 M3, maybe someone wants it for free."
Image result for mobile home

The term Modular Home has many nebulous meanings.  Technically a double wide is a modular home.  But the term modular home most often refers to a home that is built in 8, 10, or 12' boxes and assembled on-site with a crane.  Instead of a single-story mobile home or double wide, they can be assemled just like a real, stick-built house in separate sections, then you screw them together on site.  For example, this company makes modular homes, and they look like a regular stick-built house.  They assembled the house in a factory in sections that they could trailer to the lot and use a crane to put them together like a puzzle.  Like this:

modular homes, prefab homes for sale

Many Tiny Homes are designed to be truly mobile, which means they have a max width of 8'6" to avoid needing a permit.

Container homes are built-on site and usually require a large amount of metal fab/welding.  Containers are usually 8' or 10' wide, so if every room were only 8' wide, I don't think your AirBnB would be very successful.  I have lived in 8' wide RVs and I don't mind it, but it's not a luxury experience.  You would be limiting your client base to people who want to live in a cramped space.

Image result for container home

Some of the manufacturers that do both RVs and Mobile homes (like Fleetwood) got smart and started making tiny homes.  They aren't cheap, but if you buy carefully, you can tow them to your property with an F350 and be done.  They will probably last about 6-10 years and they'll be wasted.

When it comes to towable homes in the RV world, there are a few terms to know.

- RV.  This is where you hitch up and take off for a camping week.  It could be a wee little pop up, all the way up to a 40-ish foot trailer with four slide-outs.
- Park Model.  These are basically really big RV trailers that are engineered primarily for taking it to a permanent campsite and you just leave it there.  Usually in the 30-40' range, but still under 8'6" wide so you don't need a permit.

Park model example:

Image result for park model RV

TL;DR... figure out what you want to have and what your local laws allow.  But to get you started, anything over 8'6" width and (varies by state) anything over about 53' long will require professional delivery with oversized load permits, and possibly paid escort vehicles.  I forget if CA requires it, but some types of permit loads require police/CHiPs escorts as well.... which you pay for.  That was one of the reasons container homes became popular.  They were 8x40 and you could find a buddy with a CDL to drop them off and you could fab.

nderwater UltimaDork
2/9/21 12:13 a.m.

Take a look at what’s already listed on Airbnb and VRBO for that area. That will give you an idea what’s already been permitted in the region and what your competition will look like. Don’t just think about what will be cheap/easy to build, but what will help you stand out from the other properties for rent.

Are you a landlord or STR host already? If this will be your first venture in that space, I strongly suggest that you cut your teeth with an existing property before sinking a lot of time and capital into construction.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
2/9/21 6:48 a.m.

If it is like here, the ruling factor will be turd.  

That is to say that the septic requirements will likely be the biggest hold back factor.  You are proposing 5 units each with 2 bedroom.  At 4 people per unit that's 20 people crapping per day.  Add a pull out sofa to 6 people per unit and now your at 30 people per day.  If you are not on a real sewer system that is pretty dense for 3 acres.  

I recommend finding you local zoning rules online and then study them in depth.  I know you are meeting with the local guy but do your homework and know his/their rules before the meeting.  If it is like here, do not expect that the answers they give you of "you can't do that" are fact.  Often, it is opinion.  If you've done your reading you might be able to counter their rebuttal.  These local guys tend to enjoy their perceived power to keeping their surrounding to what they want them to be. 

In simplified terms, they may not want your outside agitation.  

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
2/9/21 8:26 a.m.

Another thing I notice in what you have written; you mention AirBNB and you mention farm.  

If AirBNB with separate front doors to each cabin (not people staying in your own personal residence) you might need to be zoned commercial for this venture.  Commercial zoning, at least around here, will change the rules (more strict) and greatly increase your property taxes.  

If farm, like around here, you might have some protections giving you reduced property taxes.  Farm or agriculture (at least here) has the loosest zoning requirements.  But, here you can not get those agricultural protections on property less than 6 acres.  But, if you can get those protections and you actually farm a crop, you could probably drop down the buildings you want under the guise of "migrant housing".  However, getting it approved for one thing and then using it for another could get you in all kinds of heat too.  

Read the zoning.  Also don't be surprised if you find things that seem to be contradictory.  I'd be lying if I didn't think this is on purpose.  

mr2s2000elise UltraDork
2/9/21 10:30 a.m.

Thanks guys. I appreciate the detailed reply 


to clarify a few things 


1) I have a farm few blocks away. Full working farm. Scottyb has eaten the products of the farm. 

2) I had purchased this additional property to increase my farm production. We back up to gorgeous mountain/desert views and saved 2 acres to do nothing really which is where some Airbnb comes in 



competition wise people are doing 3 things 

1) glamping tent $100/night 



2) full house rental ($250 a night) and is always booked 



3) buying RV/airstream and renting those on the property 


4) tiny homes 






mr2s2000elise UltraDork
2/9/21 10:31 a.m.

Septic (for our other properties), we have it at the end of the property. City comes every 30 Or 60 days and empties 

lotusseven7 (Forum Supporter)
lotusseven7 (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
2/9/21 10:35 a.m.

Yurt on a raised and insulated platform? Several of them would meet your proposed needs. Easy to put up and take down and I once erected, the inside can be configured as you would like.


mr2s2000elise UltraDork
2/9/21 10:46 a.m.

In reply to lotusseven7 (Forum Supporter) :

Yurt or tent sounds like the best short term solution. If I purchase 4-5 of them, I can be in business 


mr2s2000elise UltraDork
2/9/21 11:19 a.m.

This woman who isn’t far from me Has the yurts Charges $277 / night


Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/9/21 11:49 a.m.

You have the advantage of being near Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Rhyolite, and not terribly far from Salton Sea.  If I tried to AirBnB my house, my drawing features would be like "Local attractions: WalMart, Racism, and Amish people"

I'm not an AirBnB-savvy person, but I'm told that you really have to stand out to get booked.  It seems like people are less driven by the cheapest price and more driven by the uniqueness or niceness of a spot.

Placemotorsports GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
2/9/21 12:38 p.m.
mr2s2000elise said:

This woman who isn’t far from me Has the yurts Charges $277 / night


Just had to repost cause I got a chuckle when reading the lady has the yurts...sounds bad lol

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/9/21 12:42 p.m.

In reply to Placemotorsports :

"You coming to the game, jack?"

"Can't. Got the yurts this morning."

eastsideTim PowerDork
2/9/21 12:54 p.m.

No advice, but I want to follow this thread, as I may try to Airbnb whatever you end up building, instead of my usual stay at the High Desert motel, or some chain hotel in 29 Palms.

lotusseven7 (Forum Supporter)
lotusseven7 (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
2/9/21 1:09 p.m.

In reply to mr2s2000elise :

Ding, ding, we may have a winner!!!!

californiamilleghia SuperDork
2/9/21 1:17 p.m.

The Indian style Tepees on Route 66 were always a draw .....

Modern Tepees ?

or  "yurts"  that look more like the huts the Mongolian nomads have ......

How windy does it get out there ?

Good Luck

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
2/9/21 1:33 p.m.

RV parking with full and/or partial hook-ups?  Sounds like it should be cheaper and less maintenance if you don't have to provide the actual structure.

I've been reading a lot about a severe lack of RV parks.  Lot's a folks booking months in advance to get a slot in a park.

eastsideTim PowerDork
2/9/21 1:36 p.m.
Ian F (Forum Supporter) said:

RV parking with full and/or partial hook-ups?  Sounds like it should be cheaper and less maintenance if you don't have to provide the actual structure.

I've been reading a lot about a severe lack of RV parks.  Lot's a folks booking months in advance to get a slot in a park.

If the water/sewage infrastructure could be built, that's probably a good idea.  Campsites in the park are primitive.

SVreX (Forum Supporter)
SVreX (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
2/9/21 1:58 p.m.

Learn your MARKET. Not your product.

It doesn't matter what kind of shelter you build. What matters is what people want to rent!

When searching AirBnB, I suggest digging deeper. The individual examples you are showing are a perfect example of researching the PRODUCT, not the MARKET.  You are finding individual specific examples that appear to be the success story. But you know nothing about the business they have developed and what it took to get there. It's the equivalent of looking at FaceBook and saying, "Look... Mark Zuckerberg did it. Why can't I?  All I need is a URL!"

On AirBnB's site, find the losers in your area, and figure out why they are NOT succeeding. Who's charging $17 per night and still can't get the place rented. Why?  Look hard at the profiles. Read the write ups and reviews.  Go to the booking page and check their availability. Is their calendar full for 6 months in advance?  Completely empty?  There is a LOT more info that can be gleaned from AirBnB's site then just a couple of winners (which will be the first links that show up). 

Go talk to the lady with the yurts. Ask if you can buy her dinner and pick her brain. I guarantee there is more to her business than a few tents in a field with $277 a night rental rates. Is she fully booked?  Are there bad parts of the year?  How long did it take her to build?  Is the market big enough that she would welcome you as a fellow provider, or feel threatened by you moving into her territory?

Forget the buildings and shelters. Learn your market, and what people want to buy. Then solve THAT problem for them. 

SVreX (Forum Supporter)
SVreX (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
2/9/21 2:09 p.m.

AirBnB is about the EXPERIENCE, not the space.

Tiny houses are hot on AirBnB. I've stayed in a few. But there are almost never any repeat customers. The business model has to include ALWAYS drumming up new business, and being in a location that has sufficient traffic to do that. Places like Atlanta are excellent for this. 

Luxury Tree houses are big in ATL. It's a fun experience for a city dweller. But 1 hour north in the mountains, tree houses are worthless like kindling. Because when people go to the mountains, they want a CABIN. They don't want to be in a tree out  in the cold E36 M3ting in the woods. 

Curtis did a nice job summarizing the differences, but I would summarize by saying...

Mobile home?  Nope. Too much association with meth labs. It's not what you are looking for. 

Modular?  Probably too big and expensive. 

Tiny Homes?  These are tricky. They are NOT homes. They are overweight trailers. They do NOT appreciate in value. They give you a few years of cash flow, then get hauled away.  They are very good for cash flow IF you are in an area that can attract many, many different guests.  

Yurts sound like a nice balance, and an excellent experience if you do them well.

My daughter manages AirBnBs full time. About 15 units.  I have a couple too.   It is NOT passive cash flow. AirBnB guests have an expectation of involvement by their hosts (sometimes engagement, but not always). They are high maintenance customers, and every single successful AirBnB I know of is a lot of work. 

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