Ever find yourself 15 minutes into an episode of Tiny House Hunters, thinking I could do that? Here's your chance. Luxury homebuilder Joseph Santarelli, owner of Dallas-based JDS Innovative Home Concepts, is departing from the sprawling abodes he typically builds to bring tiny houses to Big D.
"The craze got me," says Santerelli, who first discovered the movement while shopping for an RV. After comparing tiny houses to RVs, he concluded "there is no comparison."
Although most RVs aren’t up to his luxury standards, tiny houses can be tailor-made to fit any aesthetic — and, perhaps more important, budget. They’re also mobile, and when done right, built to last.
"You may go through a couple of remodels, but with a tiny house, you have something that's going to last 60-80 years," Santarelli says. "Dollar for dollar, I believe the value is just superior to a recreational vehicle."
Convinced the tiny trend is one with staying power, Santarelli set out to put his own high-end spin on the small spaces, starting with a version for himself. When it's completed — and it's close — he plans to tour the country with his wife, hopefully creating interest along the way. He shouldn't have any trouble; drawing on more than three decades as a builder, he pulled out all the stops.
At around 455 square feet (on the larger side for a tiny house, which can start at 100 square feet), Santarelli's custom creation has cedar siding, an all-metal roof, vaulted ceilings, and insulated windows. It also boasts a garage big enough to fit a pair of Harley-Davidsons or a golf cart — a first, according to Santarelli. "It's going to be fully equipped," he says, "all the bells and whistles."
It's the crème de la crème of tiny houses, and Santerelli predicts it will top six figures when all is said and done. "But you could build them for as cheap as $20,000-$30,000," he points out.
This broad price range is one of the main draws for supporters of the movement. It may seem an odd choice to hawk tiny homes in Dallas-Fort Worth, the land of McMansions, but Santarelli thinks it's a perfect fit. He says there's a strong market with millennials who may not be able to afford a traditional house, as well as affluent families hungry for a new toy — like a boat or beach house — to add to their collection.
Santarelli's big-picture vision is to expand the concept with a tiny home development à la those popping up in Colorado and Oregon.
"I'm going to approach a couple of different cities [around Dallas] and see if they'd entertain it," he says. "This could be a retirement thing for me — just to casually build some tiny houses. It's a lot of fun, so I'm excited to see where it goes."