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Tiny homes selling big on Orchard Road

400-square-foot cottages selling fast on Orchard Road. 400-square-foot cottages selling fast on Orchard Road.

The most notable thing about the tiny homes on Orchard Road is that they’re not as tiny as you might think.

“What you’re seeing on TV is what we call the tiny towable,” says Jacob Lions, director of sales of the Village at Flat Rock, a community of tiny homes on Orchard Road. “That was a different animal than what we’re doing out here, that we call park models. The tiny towable is totally mobile, it can be pulled around with a full-size pickup truck.”
The development has small section of towables but is doing its real land-office business in the bigger cottage-like dwellings. Built on the Twin Ponds trailer park land, the development is about four years old and has been growing fast since new owners bought it last August. It’s closer to Dana than Flat Rock but thanks to the U.S. Postal Service the property has a Flat Rock address and the cache that goes with it.
Park models are 400 square feet with 13½-foot ceilings, a bedroom on the ground floor and full size appliances. Built at Blue Ridge Log Cabins and Clayton Homes in Georgia, the homes are brought in on a trailer and set up “just like you would a mobile home,” Lions says. The difference is the tiny homes are built to residential stick-built code. Skirts made of Hardie board hide the trailer and wheels.

Sales director Jacob Lions shows a park model tiny home, which have full-size appliances and 13-foot ceilings.Sales director Jacob Lions shows a park model tiny home, which have full-size appliances and 13-foot ceilings.
“We set them up as though it was permanent. We unbolt the tongue, put it underneath the house so if you ever want to move it, it’s there. People say, ‘Can I move it?’ Yeah, you can move it but you’re never going to move it.” Simple Life sells the house to the buyer and then leases the land underneath — for $550 to $650 a month, depending on location. The rent includes city water and sewer, basic cable, garbage and recycling service, lawn service, road maintenance, dog park, “a million-dollar remodeled clubhouse” with fitness and yoga rooms and outdoor pool. Bocce ball and pickleball courts are under construction.

Ninety percent pay cash

A real estate broker for 30 years, in California, Florida and here, Lions was on board when the development changed hands. The new owners kept him on and he’s just gotten busier. When a prospective buyer walks in, Lions shows him three different models — no customizing.
“Somebody can come in today, write a check and we can deliver that house before the sun sets,” he says. “Ninety percent of our people pay cash.”
Prices range from $99,500 to $166,000.
“I’ve been here 14 months, I’ve resold nine homes, they’ve all made money,” he says.
A new Highlands section next to the clubhouse and pool will have 20 lots and next month the Jacksonville Beach, Fla.-based developer is closing on 25 acres across Orchard Road for a new tiny home community.
The Hamlet will “celebrate the wetlands” with a pond, walking trails, dog park and benches, Lions says. “We’re not going to build a clubhouse, pool and all of that. It’s all going to be nature oriented. We don’t want to turn this into a 300-unit community. This is a whole different community.”
Who’s buying? Baby boomers, mostly, many of them single, with a dog and grown kids.
“People are looking for two things,” Lions says. “They want a downsized lifestyle. They realize that we don’t need everything we needed when we were 30 and 40 years old. Live in one room at a time. The second thing they want is community. That’s what we’re really selling first here. You can be as private here as you want or you can be as social.”

Homeowner Pam McMaster has downsized four times and settled in a 40-square-foot cottage.Homeowner Pam McMaster has downsized four times and settled in a 40-square-foot cottage.Two residents, Pam McMasters and Elizabeth Papps, sitting on McMasters’ porch on a sunny afternoon, fall into the social camp. Both are single — like 70 percent of the residents — and dog lovers.
McMasters, a women’s boutique owner from St. Petersburg, Fla., “retired on a Friday and drove up here on a Saturday.”
“This was a totally new chapter,” she says. “When I got here, I had a POD delivered and the day the pod came, five people stopped, introduced themselves (and asked) could they help? It was like going back in time when neighbors knew each other, cared about each other, helped each other. That was it. I was in love with the people and the environment and the friendships.”
A part-time resident from Maine, Papps first looked at a tiny towable before deciding it wasn’t realistic to drag a trailer 1,100 miles up and down I-95. She rented a park model and within a month had decided to buy.
McMasters had a 2,900-square-foot house on St. Pete Beach, then a 1,800-square-foot house in downtown St. Petersburg before downsizing for what she thought would be one last time, to 1,000 square feet. She’s fine with 400 square feet.
“You get furniture that’s scaled to where you’re living,” she says. “You realize how unimportant everything is.”
“If you bring something new in,” Papps adds, “you take something out.”
With more retirees willing to shed a lifetime of material goods, Lions forecasts a big boom in tiny homes.
“This is here to stay. This not a fad,” he says. “Because the baby boom population is saying, ‘I don’t need a big house.’”

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The tiny home development, 24 Empire Lane, Flat Rock, is hosting an open house sales event 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday 2018. Although the open house sales event is free and open to the public, reservations are encouraged. Several tiny homes will be open for tours and a shuttle will provide a guided look into the community’s grounds and amenities. For more information or to make a reservation call 828.707.0969 or email