This Woman Lives Debt-Free in a Tiny Home Village – and Found a New Family

  • A retired software developer has moved into a small community and is now debt-free.
  • EJ Runyon bought an “Hobbit”-style house for $30,000, and it now has a value of about $50,000.
  • According to the community’s owners, 70% of its residents are single women older than 45.

A fast-growing community outside Knoxville, Tennessee is offering residents their homes for as low as $20,000.

Insider heard from a retired software developer how she got rid of her mortgage to move into a “Hobbit-style” dwelling, where most residents are single women over 45.

‘Family of 170 total strangers’

EJ Runyon is an author who moved to the community after she had lived in New Mexico and New Hampshire. She realized that she could afford to purchase a home.

The 65-year-old spent $25,000 to build a custom “Hobbit”, a home that resembles a Hobbit, in 2020. He also spent $10,000 on renovations and three-years of ground rent in order to live in the community. Incredible Tiny Homes designed the home, making some adjustments at Runyon’s request.

The home is made of wood and has a circular door that resembles the Shire’s. The interior measures 160 sq. feet. A 36 sq. foot sleeping area is accessible via a ladder.

An insurer appraised the property and determined that it was worth more than $50,000. However, the financial gain is insignificant compared to the other benefits Runyon has received from living small.

Runyon said she wasn’t a hugger before she moved to the enclave. She has found intimacy easier since she started a support group for tiny-home residents in Tennessee.

Runyon will join other residents for Sunday breakfast, as there are four libraries nearby. She said that she was able to overcome the loss of a friend in July.

The village hosts pot luck dinners, and is currently designing a section for the game horseshoe.

Runyon stated, “I’m just amazed by the level of family that you can find out from 170 total strangers.”

Runyon is just one of many residents who are able to live in extremely affordable Tiny Homes and avoid a lot of debt. The village’s lot costs $200 per month.

The story is similar to “Nomadland”, which is a film about older Americans who live in vans or RVs and nomadically after losing their jobs or homes. 

Tiny house community "The Beach", outside Knoxville, Tennessee.

The Beach is a tiny home community located outside Knoxville.

Tiny House Giant Journey

With housing costs soaringAmericans are finding new ways of settling down as mortgage rates rise at their highest point since 2006. Many have moved to vans. Insider spoke to one woman who said she was considering moving to a house in a van. sell her van to mainly live out of her car.  

This tiny village allows people to stay put and make connections, while still reducing their expenses.

Incredible Tiny Homes

Incredible Tiny Homes owner Randy Jones began building tiny homes. This community has grown to more than 170 residents. He now builds hundreds of tiny homes each year.

This community is a hit among retirees. Jones estimates that about 70% of residents are single women over 45 years old. Some are widows, while others are divorced.

“The people we have spoken to live alone in either an apartment or a large house they couldn’t maintain,” said Amanda Hayes. They now have their tiny house,” Amanda Hayes, who runs Jones’ community, said. 

“They’re going to go to the shops together. They go on hikes together, and they visit each other’s homes. They needed this community and they so badly crave it.”

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