The “tiny house” in a St. Paul backyard is yours for $8,000 — if you can move it
Tiny house enthusiasts have a variety of reasons for choosing the lifestyle. For starters, it is a cost-effective and effective way to combat climate change.
For Matt Brochat, he had an extra incentive to build a 120-square-foot house in the backyard of his St. Paul home: His roommate was loud.
“It was a combination of wanting to get my little space back and also learning how to build and seeing where it went,” said Brochat, who rents rooms to friends at his home in the Dayton Bluff neighborhood. “I just watched a lot of YouTube videos and over time I built up my skills…. It’s been a really fun journey.”
The project, which he started in June 2022, took two months to complete and cost about $8,000. He sells it for the same amount, if the buyer can solve the puzzle of how to transport it, which has been an obstacle for interested buyers.
When he was building his own backyard, he took everything he learned from remodeling his house, built in 1919, to YouTube when he faced a new problem.
During the day, he worked at his family-owned Wrap-It Storage business, then hopped in his hatchback, drove to Menards, picked up supplies and spent hours working in his backyard.
The just-for-fun project came at a huge cost, partly because he had to buy new tools. To reduce costs, some of the materials he uses – such as flooring – were selected in the clearance department.
He decided not to include a kitchen or bathroom, because he had access to the main house. He outfitted his two-story home with a small bench, a TV, a desk and a small refrigerator. There is a sleeping loft with a drawer that can also be used as a bookshelf. Brochat also added some racks for clothes upstairs. The space is insulated and equipped with heat so it can be used during the winter as well.
“I lived here for a few nights last winter. It was 10 degrees outside when I was sleeping here,” he said. “It took about 30 minutes to heat up to 65 degrees.”
But he admits that living in his guest house full-time can be a bit difficult.
“I think Minnesota is a tough place to live here just because it’s so cold during the winter,” he said.
Brochat has since moved from St. Paul and lives with his family in south Minneapolis. He is selling the building to provide more backyard space for people who are now renting the house.
He thinks the structure would make a great guesthouse for someone else’s backyard. Or it can be converted into a home office or storage unit.
The only problem? In essence, he is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Or between the tree and the garage in this case.
“It’s like you need 30 people to pull him out of here,” he said. “I would probably sell it for $15,000, but I listed it for $8,000 just for the fact that if I could sell it (and move it) that would be great.”
Definition of tiny house
Brochat refers to the building as a small house or “little house.” Most people would agree that it’s small, but whether it can technically be considered a home depends on who you ask.
A tiny house is loosely defined as a living structure of less than 400 square feet, according to Brad Weissman, CEO and chairman of the Tiny Home Industry Association.
But definitions can vary by state or even by municipality. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry defines a tiny home as 400 square feet or less and containing a toilet, sanitation facilities, bathroom and shower.
Regardless of their name, the tiny house movement has continued to gain momentum, Weisman said. It is estimated that there are between 70,000 and 150,000 such homes in the country.
In Minnesota, some cities have made it easier to build tiny homes. Just last year, the St. Paul City Council approved changes to its zoning code, removing restrictions on building size, location and occupancy, to combat the housing shortage.
Tiny home construction is likely to gain steam in the near future, Weissman said.
“Only people who were willing to live in the gray areas were building tiny houses,” he said. “But if you let people live smaller, economies of scale come in” and that will drive down the price.
Brochat enjoyed the project so much that when he finished building it, the 30-year-old quit his day job at his family-owned supply chain company to start a full-time remodeling and construction business specializing in tiny homes.
“My parents were very upset that I was leaving the family business, but I think they were excited for me, because I was building my skills and liked what I was doing,” he said. “They would say: ‘Do it, try it.’”
Looking back at his first project, Brochat said there are things he would change. Now, he also knows how to install a bathroom if the customer wants it. Although this may be optional, there is one thing that won’t be the case next time.
“I’ll build a tiny house again, but I’ll find a customer who will pay for it and build it where it’s needed” instead of moving it, he said.
At press time, there was an offer pending. To view Broshat’s listing on Facebook Marketplace, visit bit.ly/broshat.