Tiny-home life evolves into a tiny-home business

Who knew that starting married life in a converted Edmonton Transit bus would lead to this adventure?

When the cash-strapped Heather and Kevin Fritz married in 2005 they renovated a borrowed bus into their own tiny home and parked it on a family acreage near Spruce Grove.

When they were ready to build their dream home they bought the land the bus sat on and built their permanent home just steps from where they began their married life.

“Living tiny in the bus was a perfect way to start,” Heather says. “Our set up was comfortable and it was home. You’d be surprised with how little space you need.”

Before starting their business, Keven had been working in high-end home carpentry and design. Heather worked in marketing, administration, and business development.

Building their dream home for their growing family (four children) from the ground up gave them valuable experience that they could put to use to satisfy their entrepreneurial spirit.

“We built and designed our dream home in its entirety, from start to finish,” Heather says. “The experience of completing this project with little outside help gave us incredible experience with problem solving, perseverance, and all aspects of home design and construction.”

Lessons learned through experience in the high-end home world prepared them to build tiny homes. They attended a tiny-home conference in 2019 out of interest in the movement and, Kevin says, were “pleased when the majority of the people wanted high-end, style-driven tiny homes.”

They had found their niche. Kevin says, “We knew we could meet this need. We saw and opportunity and decided to go for it.”

Kevin walked away from his job in 2020 to launch Fritz Tiny Homes. He now builds their property near where their bus home was situated. Heather is vice-chairperson of the Tiny Home Alliance of Canada because she wants to advocate for tiny homes and be active in the wider movement.

The Fritzes have fond memories of life in a bus that belies their current acreage lifestyle. “We still reminisce about our time living tiny,” says Kevin. “Those days were free and fun. We lived off the land, lived with less, and loved our life. We were young and living a dream.”

They understand the appeal of tiny-home living even if it doesn’t suit their large-home lifestyle. The target market is greater than people might think.

The movement is enjoying rapid growth due, in part, to rising housing costs. The Fritzes have had inquiries from people wanting a four-season lake cottage, a mother-in-law suite, a rental suite, a high-end home with portability to follow a mobile career, young families and singles unwilling to rent, a retirement home near grandkids, couples looking to escape the burden of a high mortgage, and from potential Air B&B owners. There is interest in tiny-home communities with shared gardens, common areas, and a sense of community. Many people also like the “cool” factor.

Three landowners are advocating for a nature-inspired tiny-home community/RV park in Parkland county. It would incorporate spacious lots, many trees and green spaces, community gardens and trails.

Edmonton is leading the way in the tiny-home movement as it has rezoned neighbourhoods for tiny homes, allowing zoning for multiple units on the same lot. Edmonton is the first Canadian city to make these changes.

The Fritzes promise that their homes will feature innovative designs with stylish, space-saving staircase ideas. Designs are efficient to maximize spaces with creative living and storage concepts. “The tiny-home lifestyle does not need to be one of great compromise,” Kevin says.

The homes are not built in a shop but outdoors where they’ll be used (under a roof built from recycled telephone poles beside the Fritzes garden, fruit trees, and heritage-breed laying hens).

Sales are strong than expected with four homes in the quoting and design stage and one in construction. Marketing is done on social media and on Fritztinyhomes.com. Their logo-wrapped truck inspires conversations when Kevin is out buying materials. They use Facebook and Instagram pages, a blog, and a YouTube channel where visitors can see a virtual design tour. They’ll host an open house when their first home is finished.

The last word belongs to client Kylie H., who had specific needs that the Fritzes were able to incorporate into a 24-foot home. In a written testimonial she called Fritz Tiny Homes “a joy to work with. We collaborated on a tiny-home design that is functional, innovative, and customized to reflect my personal lifestyle and goals.”

Note: this article is an edited version of one that was published in the Examiner-Reporter in Spruce Grove. That article has already generated sales leads.

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