Dreaming of Living in a Tiny Home? Here’s the Truth From People Who’ve Done It

You’ve stalked them online and binge-watched them on TV. You’ve pinned more than a few diminutive but adorable interiors. And maybe you’ve even daydreamed about building your own tiny home. But actually living in one full time? Well, that’s seems like a whole different ballgame. (A miniature ballgame, perhaps, maybe four innings?)

After all, tiny houses are, well, tiny. Where are you going to fit all your stuff? Can everyone hear you go to the bathroom? Are you going to end up miserable, trapped in a tiny box in the middle of nowhere?

Well, with the tiny-home craze in full swing, we’ve been wondering about these things, too. We hunted down some tiny-home veterans to see what it’s really like when people stop being polite and start getting real—inside their teeny-weeny little houses. Here’s what we learned:

Tiny truth No. 1: They’re really tiny

Tiny house exterior
A customized tiny house

(Kim Ksal / Bless This Tiny House)

We’d be remiss if we didn’t begin by reinforcing this obvious nugget of truth: Tiny homes are really small.

Just ask Kim Kasl, founder of Bless This Tiny House and co-author of the book “Turning Tiny.” She lives with her family of four in a 267-square-foot home, which is smaller than most studio apartments.

Living with less has actually given her family more freedom, Kasl says.

“We call it ‘family-style minimalism,’” she says. “Removing excess space between us, clutter, and unnecessary projects, and stress leaves room for an abundance of everything good.”

But to make this all work, the Kasl family had to downsize a lot.

Annelise Brevard found herself sharing a 5-foot closet with her husband and storing all of their food in a mini-fridge when they moved into their 8-by-21-foot home. But the adjustment wasn’t hard for Brevard. A few modifications helped her family fit everything they needed.

“We did end up building a wall cabinet in our kitchen for Tupperware and a few other kitchen things that we forgot in our original design,” Brevard says.

Tiny house loft
The catwalk

(Kim Ksal / Bless This Tiny House)

On the plus side, making additions as needed isn’t as difficult as you might think. Many tiny-home owners are able to completely customize the design of the home to make the small space work for their lifestyle from the get-go. Kasl’s home, for example, has an open floor plan, two sleeping lofts, and an adorable catwalk she’s converted into a small library for her children.

Tiny truth No. 2: Finding a spot to build can be tricky

Tiny homes are a relatively new design concept without clear-cut rules, so it isn’t immediately obvious where you can actually put them.

“Tiny homes are not really traditional houses (they are not always built to code), they aren’t  RVs, and they aren’t mobile homes, either,” Brevard says. “So finding ‘parking’ for a tiny house can be a difficult process.”

Many owners choose to buy land. Some stay mobile, moving among RV-friendly sites. Brevard found a workaround by planting herself in another family’s backyard.

Any way you swing it, it’s something you’ll have to think about far in advance.

Tiny truth No. 3: You’ll have to adjust to more than just a lack of space

Tiny house interior
Tiny-house interior

(Kim Ksal / Bless This Tiny House)

As with many of life’s transitions, kids adjust pretty quickly to tiny-home living. Quite possibly much faster and easier than you will.

Kasl, for one, had little trouble getting her children on board. “They were young when we moved in—we celebrated every step—and now it’s very much natural and normal for them,” she says. “Their adjustment was easy.”

But for the adults, it was a different story.

“There was an awful lot to learn,” Kasl admits. “The composting toilet, the wood-burning Kimberly Stovetowingleveling, and skirting—all of them were new experiences,” Kasl says. “The challenges have been exciting, though.”

In retrospect, some of the stress of acclimation was self-imposed. After all, they could’ve just gotten a standard toilet instead of a composting one. But had they gone that route they’d run smack into the main challenge of tiny-home living: Finding the space.

“While we had a traditional flush toilet, the entirety of our bathroom was 3 feet by 5 feet. This included the toilet and a 2-by-3 shower. We installed a tub faucet in the shower to act as our sink, and only had a curtain as a door,” Brevard says. “We needed more space.”

Tiny truth No. 4: Even in a tiny house, you’ll have big home maintenance tasks

Once you get used to climbing skinny ladders and cooking in a smaller kitchen, life in a tiny house isn’t that different from life in any other house—especially when it comes to home maintenance. Note: A smaller space won’t get rid of the dreaded weekend DIY project(s).

“We had only rented before living in the tiny house, and the routine maintenance that homes require—like winterizing, keeping an eye on the propane levels, or dealing with a faulty appliance—was something new to us,” Brevard says.

Tiny truth No. 5: You just might love it

Tiny house view
Sometimes you get a view, too!

(Kim Ksal / Bless This Tiny House)

While downsized living is a bit unconventional and comes with some challenges, tiny home owners seem to love it.

Brevard, who temporarily moved into an 800-square-foot home after her husband was relocated for work, is eager to go back to her smaller space.

“After tiny living, even this size can get a little lonely, since there are different rooms, rather than everything all in one,” she says.

Kasl agrees, noting that her family dynamic has changed.

“We are achieving our goals,” she says. “We get to be a one-income family that says yes to every opportunity and is flexible.”

Tiny living also pushed them to spend more time outdoors. “The door is always open, and the kids go in and out all day,” Kasl says. “We’ve seen the kids become more adventurous, creative, inventive, and they take initiative pursuing their interests.”

For whatever reason tiny-house living might be beckoning to you, remember that it’s not just a place to live—it’s a lifestyle.

“Tiny houses have a quaint, whimsical, Pinterest appeal,” Brevard say. “But life in a tiny house is busy and real. It’s an adventure.”


For this and related articles, please visit Realtor.com

Confessions of a Real Estate Photographer: What Happens Behind the Scenes When They Shoot Your House

Hands down, the most important part of any real estate listing is the photos. If they’re good, hordes of buyers flock to the house and make bids. If they’re bad—really bad—the property will likely sit with no takers, regardless of price.

But what does it actually take to make the listing picture magic happen? To find out, we talked to professional real estate photographers to get a sense of what really goes on behind the scenes.

Spoiler alert: It’s a lot more than you think!

As proof, look no further than this interview with Kaitlin Kent, who was recently hired to shoot a 4,154-square-foot, five-bedroom, five-bath house in Phoenix.

This gorgeous home was just relisted for the first time since 2014.

(Kaitlyn Kent/Snap2Close Real Estate Photography)

Since this property was located in a nice area, “I was expecting it to be updated and easy to shoot, with white walls and excellent lighting—a real estate photographer’s dream,” Kent recalls.

However, she knows from experience that homes are rarely as pristine as she hopes.

“You truly never know what surprises are waiting inside,” she admits. “I’ve seen strange pets like potbellied pigs and giant tortoises, and homes that probably should have just been demolished instead of put on the market.”

To prepare for any challenges, Kent checked online for photos of the house. She found some “poorly lit, grainy pics from the last time it was listed in 2014.”

This old photo from the 2014 listing was cluttered and dark.


These listing photos were from nearly a decade ago. Surely, the house must be in better shape today, right?

Read on to find out what she saw, plus some valuable lessons that all home sellers should take to heart.

The 2023 version of this living room definitely looks sleeker.

(Kaitlin Kent/Snap2Close Real Estate Photography)

The entrance: Show off tall ceilings

This stunning entryway definitely deserved to be highlighted.

(Kaitlin Kent/Snap2Close Real Estate Photography)

“I knew when I walked in that the ceilings, archways, and pillars were going to be a point of interest,” Kent says. “Typically, real estate photos should be level. However, here I had to get creative and throw in some artsy tilted shots to show the ceilings.”

The archways made for some eye-catching listing photos.

(Kaitlin Kent/Snap2Close Real Estate Photography)

Beyond the entrance, though, this shoot got a lot more challenging.

To capture the interesting ceilings, photographer Kaitlin Kent had to get creative.

(Kaitlin Kent/Snap2Close Real Estate Photography)

The living room: Clear the clutter

One of many rooms on this shoot that had to be decluttered before it could be photographed properly

(Kaitlin Kent/Snap2Close Real Estate Photography)

“This home is a little over 4,000 square feet, which I know I can get through in about an hour and a half if everything is ready to go and the lighting is good,” Kent says. “Here, I was met with dim lighting and a messy home that was absolutely not ready to photograph.”

While the homeowners were “kind and thankfully left the scene so I could work,” Kent says, she wishes they’d been told to clean up and put away their possessions before the shoot.

“The real estate agent and her assistant were scrambling to make beds, hide trinkets, and stuff things in closets. Honestly, I would rather shoot a hoarder house than have real estate agents trying to stage a home as I am shooting. This house was chaotic, with the agent going from room to room in a zigzag frenzy while moving pillows and blankets and knickknacks and chairs.”

This angle makes this living room look cozy.

(Kaitlin Kent/Snap2Close Real Estate Photography)

Once the living area was cleared, the next challenge was creating an inviting ambiance, what Kent calls “lifestyle shots.”

“This is usually for vacation rentals,” but they can also work for any home, particularly if it has some vacation-worthy features such as a fireplace.

Who doesn’t want a fireplace in their new home? It was smart to play up this feature.

(Kaitlin Kent/Snap2Close Real Estate Photography)

The kitchen: Clean all shiny surfaces

In the kitchen—another make-or-break listing shot—Kent encountered more problems.

“There were crumbs and small things all over the countertops, and coffee still in the coffee pot,” Kent recalls.

While it might not seem like much to the untrained eye, “Even small flaws like smudges and streaks will show up in photos,” Kent explains. This is particularly true for a kitchen’s many shiny surfaces made of stainless steel and chrome.

Kent’s workaround was to alter the angle: “I lowered my tripod so the countertop grime was hidden.”

Still, ideally, kitchens should always be thoroughly cleaned before a shoot. The same goes for all mirrors and windows.

“There is a lot that goes into getting your home ready before the photographer arrives,” Kent explains. “This is the real estate agent’s job, but homeowners can really help by decluttering and hiring a cleaning service beforehand.”

The kitchen really needed a good cleaning, so Kent worked the angles to hide any grime.

(Kaitlin Kent/Snap2Close Real Estate Photography)

One option for home sellers who don’t have the time or energy to clean and clear is to invest in some virtual staging.

“I have shot homes in the past that were a mess, but the real estate agent wanted it shot like that and they were going to do virtual staging,” Kent says. “It’s less of a headache for everyone.”

The bedroom: Make your bed

Home sellers, take note: Even if you lack the energy to make your bed every morning, try to do it before a real estate shoot. In this home, Kent was vexed to find the beds unmade, so the real estate agent stepped in to handle this task, adding an upgraded comforter and more pillows.

Another oversight was the lighting.

“One of the bedside lamps was not working,” Kent recalls. “The agent had to step out to get another one.”

This bedroom photographs beautifully, but it also had to have new linens.

(Kaitlin Kent/Snap2Close Real Estate Photography)

While the primary bedroom ended up looking “beautiful” after these adjustments, the other bedrooms were so cluttered it was tricky to create the minimalist, Zen-like ambiance these rooms truly need.

“This was one of the bedrooms that was completely redone,” Kent says of the photo below. “The agents and I moved a box around out of my shots as I moved through the room. There are still some things on the nightstand that did not get moved.”

This bedroom had to be completely remade during the shoot.

(Kaitlyn Kent/Snap2Close Real Estate Photography)

Bathroom: Keep it light and bright

Bathrooms are another area where lighting is key, and for the bathroom Kent shot in the photo below, “all three lights were out,” she says. “Luckily, there was a skylight that added some natural light.”

Natural light saved this bathroom shot.

(Kaitlin Kent/Snap2Close Real Estate Photography)

Outside: Lighting matters here, too

Kent was thrilled to see that the backyard had a huge pool, outdoor kitchen, and batting cage. But none of these features would look all that great without the right light.

Luckily for Kent, the sun was high and showed off this backyard beautifully. Home sellers will want to pay close attention to the timing of their shoot.

Generally, it’s best to avoid long shadows that can be cast in the morning or evening, although twilight shots can be magical if the house has artificial lighting in the outdoor areas and hin the pool.

The gorgeous pool was a major selling point of this house.

(Kaitlin Kent/Snap2Close Real Estate Photography)

Not only is there a pool, but there is a palm tree and a batting cage in this pic.

(Kaitlin Kent/Snap2Close Real Estate Photography)

So what happened to this house?

This house was listed for $1,389,000—much higher than Phoenix’s median of $469,838. Nonetheless, this property was on the market for just 22 days before receiving an offer. While the final sales price and other details of the deal are unknown, Kent is not surprised that this home ended up getting an offer fairly quickly. In fact, in a slow market like today’s, it’s all the more crucial for a home to look its best to stand out.

Although everything turned out well for this house, Kent hopes her experiences help show home sellers that pretty photos don’t happen without plenty of preparation on the part of the home sellers.

“Be 100% ready! I cannot stress this enough,” Kent concludes. “Even if you think you are ready to go, there’s probably something you are missing. The majority of the time when I walk through a home, there’s at least one thing I need to move or tuck away, and that’s fine because my eyes are trained to catch things that homeowners miss. But I am not there to move boxes, make beds, or clean windows. A photographer’s time is valuable. We may have five shoots that day, and if you are prepared, it makes our day go a lot smoother.”

This home definitely had the physical elements for a great shoot.

(Katilin Kent/Snap2Close Real Estate Photography)


It’s a slow Sunday morning. You’ve just brewed your Nespresso and popped open your laptop to check out the latest home listings before you hit the road for a day of open houses.

You’re DIYing this real estate thing, and you think you’re doing pretty well—after all, any info you might need is at your fingertips online, right? That and your own sterling judgment.

Oh, dear home buyer (or seller!)—we know you can do it on your own. But you really, really shouldn’t. This is likely the biggest financial decision of your entire life, and you need a Realtor® if you want to do it right. Here’s why.

Today we’re going to talk about how to find the one.
6 Reasons You Should Never Buy or Sell a Home Without an Agent

1. They have the right expertise

Want to check the MLS for a 4B/2B with an EIK and a W/DReal estate has its own language, full of acronyms and semi-arcane jargon, and your Realtor is trained to speak that language fluently.

Plus, buying or selling a home usually requires dozens of forms, reports, disclosures, and other technical documents. Realtors have the expertise to help you prepare a killer deal—while avoiding delays or costly mistakes that can seriously mess you up.

2. They have turbocharged searching power

The Internet is awesome. You can find almost anything—anything! And with online real estate listing sites such as yours truly, you can find up-to-date home listings on your own, any time you want. But guess what? Realtors have access to even more listings. Sometimes properties are available but not actively advertised. A Realtor can help you find those hidden gems.

Plus, a good local Realtor is going to know the search area way better than you ever could. Have your eye on a particular neighborhood, but it’s just out of your price range? Your Realtor is equipped to know the ins and outs of every neighborhood, so she can direct you toward a home in your price range that you may have overlooked.

3. They have bullish negotiating chops

Any time you buy or sell a home, you’re going to encounter negotiations—and as today’s housing market heats up, those negotiations are more likely than ever to get a little heated.

You can expect lots of competition, cutthroat tactics, all-cash offers, and bidding wars. Don’t you want a savvy and professional negotiator on your side to seal the best deal for you?

And it’s not just about how much money you end up spending or netting. A Realtor will help draw up a purchase agreement that allows enough time for inspections, contingencies, and anything else that’s crucial to your particular needs.

4. They’re connected to everyone

Realtors might not know everything, but they make it their mission to know just about everyone who can possibly help in the process of buying or selling a home. Mortgage brokers, real estate attorneys, home inspectors, home stagers, interior designers—the list goes on—and they’re all in your Realtor’s network. Use them.

5. They adhere to a strict code of ethics

Not every real estate agent is a Realtor, who is a licensed real estate salesperson who belongs to the National Association of Realtors®, the largest trade group in the country.

What difference does it make? Realtors are held to a higher ethical standard than licensed agents and must adhere to a Code of Ethics.

6. They’re your sage parent/data analyst/therapist—all rolled into one

The thing about Realtors: They wear a lot of different hats. Sure, they’re salespeople, but they actually do a whole heck of a lot to earn their commission. They’re constantly driving around, checking out listings for you. They spend their own money on marketing your home (if you’re selling). They’re researching comps to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

And, of course, they’re working for you at nearly all hours of the day and night—whether you need more info on a home or just someone to talk to in order to feel at ease with the offer you just put in. This is the biggest financial (and possibly emotional) decision of your life, and guiding you through it isn’t a responsibility Realtors take lightly.


For this and related articles, please visit Realtor.com

Inheriting property can be a mixed bag. On the one hand, you’re dealing with losing a loved one. And while you’re likely grateful for the inheritance, you also have to deal with many complex legal, financial, and tax matters.

And then there’s the big cleanout. Sifting through decades of a person’s belongings can be equal parts dreary and stressful. This stress is only compounded if the inherited property is a hoarder house.

Sometimes, even an ordinary hoarder home in a coveted neighborhood has been known to spark a bidding war. But on the flip side, rehabbing an extensively damaged house could cost more than you can sell the home for. So, how do you know what’s best for you to do?

From cleaning it out to fixing it to determining its value, our experts weigh in on what to do when you’ve inherited a hoard.

Inherited a Hoarder House? Here’s How To Deal With It (and Possibly Make a Profit)

Assess the mess

Not all hoarding is the same. Some hoarders resemble collectors whose acquisitions have gotten out of hand—whether it’s designer fashions with the tags still on, baseball memorabilia, or movie toy collections.

If this is your situation, it could pay (big bucks) to call in an auction professional to assess the value of the collectibles.

Another common type of hoarding involves old files, bills, paperwork, and magazines. If this sounds like your house, and if the “collection” isn’t blocking doors or preventing you from easily walking through the home, the solution might be as easy as placing a call to a junk collector or a mobile shredding unit.

However, if some of those books could be valuable first editions, call the auctioneer first.

Clean it out

When it comes to cleaning out the house, most experts with experience in hoarder homes suggest leaving it to professionals.

“Dealing with inherited hoarder homes can present unique challenges,” says Nick Giulioni, managing partner of Off Leash Investments, who has extensive experience buying, rehabbing, and managing distressed properties. “Hiring a professional clean-out service is often crucial. It ensures a thorough cleanup and lightens the emotional burden for inheritors.”

Just note that hiring the pros can set you back “thousands of dollars,” adds Giulioni.

Do what the pros do—or hire them

The cost of an expert cleanout might have you considering doing it yourself, but tackling the job alone may be challenging depending on the conditions of the home.

“We highly recommend calling in a professional company if the situation is severe,” says Kevin Geick, manager at Bio Recovery, a nationwide hoarding cleanup company for over 20 years. “Reasons for this include proper disposal and recycling that conforms with local regulations and environmental guidelines as well as safety concerns regarding potential hazards.”

Signs that you need a professional cleanout include the following:

  • The hoard includes garbage or food containers.
  • There’s no easy pathway through the house.
  • There are animals and animal waste on the premises.
  • The house has structural defects.

Professional cleanout services have the expertise and the equipment—including biohazard gear—to clean out such a home safely, advises Geick.

Determine market value

While the general advice for home sellers is to wait for your buyer’s appraisal, if you’ve inherited a hoarder home, you’ll want to get an approximate valuation early. This way, you’ll know if you’ll recoup the costs of cleaning it out and fixing it up.

“Engage a licensed appraiser to objectively assess the home’s current and potential value,” advises Giulioni.

home inspection will identify all structural issues.

Rehab the house

Most hoarder houses suffer from deferred maintenance. When a home is filled to the rafters with clutter, it can prevent the homeowner from seeing and fixing problems, and it might block vital mechanicals, like the HVAC system.

So, a hoarder house can have problems that range from minor repairs to major structural issues. If your home’s issues are minor, take care of them before you put it on the market. This way, you’ll get the best possible offer on the house.

But a hoarder home with extensive damage (think unaddressed water damage and associated mold conditions) requires remediation and renovation, and that could cost thousands of dollars.

Know when to sell it as is

Depending on what your agent suggests is a reasonable sales price, you might not recoup the cost of significant repairs to a home in dire shape. If this is the case, you could be tempted to put it on the market as is. But this approach is more challenging than it sounds.

“This significantly reduces the pool of potential buyers,” says Geick. “The property might sit on the market for an extended period, leading to carrying costs and reduced profit. In addition, potential buyers may see it as a risky investment and offer lower prices.”

So Giulioni advises that you accept offers only from buyers who have physically inspected the property.

“This reduces surprises and price renegotiations during the inspection window, as the buyer has a more realistic expectation of the property’s condition,” he adds.

Know when to sell it to an investor

Rather than attempt to sell the home as is to a general market, Geick suggests seeking out buyers looking for distressed properties.

“Some real estate investors specialize in purchasing properties as is,” says Geick. “They may be more willing to buy the property quickly, even if it requires significant cleanup and repairs.”

The drawback is you won’t get as much money for it as you would for a home that is in marketable condition.

“Flippers make their money based on the arbitrage between the rehab cost and the change in value,” explains Giulioni.

But on the plus side, you won’t have to deal with the expense and headache of rehabbing the home. And you’ll get your money right away, in cash.


For this and related articles, please visit Realtor.com