The benefits of tiny home ownership are wide and immensely appealing. Dramatically downsizing one's square footage provides liberation from a mortgage and the nonessential stuff that weighs us down; it fosters stronger, healthier interpersonal relationships by trimming away life's fat; it provides a sense of mobility and adventure absent in more permanent living arrangements; it builds community, it inspires, it challenges, it forces one to live deliberately. Tiny home ownership, however, also can come equipped with a distinctive drawback in the form of whole home thievery.

You don't often hear of entire homes being purloined but that’s exactly what happened to a San Antonio couple who were a couple of weeks away from finishing up work on their tiny dream home-on-wheels, a 228-square-foot labor of love that took over two years and in the ballpark of $25,000 to complete.

Just a few days shy of Christmas, web developer Casey Friday (you can view a small sample of his work here) received a call from the realtor who had recently sold him a parcel of land in Spring Branch, Texas, a parcel of land where Friday’s custom-built tiny house lived and where he and his wife, Jessica, also planned to reside. The realtor explained to Friday that she had been alerted to a “break-in” at the cabin on the property and that the “trailer” — the trailer that sat beneath the tiny house — had gone missing. Yep, someone had driven onto Friday’s property, hitched the home to a truck and driven off, damaging a custom paver driveway in the process.

In an (understandably) profanity-filled blog post from Dec. 29, Friday explains the sensation that came over him after learning that his home had been stolen:

I cannot properly describe how low my heart dropped in my body, except to say that it was the worst panic attack I’ve had in my entire life. My entire body was shaking as our former real estate agent told gave me the neighbor’s phone number. I called her, and she told me about how our ‘trailer’ was stolen the prior night.

A frustrated and fired-up Friday proceeds to go on somewhat of a tirade, lashing out against the “self-entitled idiots” and “ridiculous people” involved with the online tiny house movement that he had encountered while building his own downsized dwelling without any prior construction experience. He even calls out tiny house grand poobah Jay Shafer. He thanks others for their support.

Friday goes on to clarify in a later (good news-filled) post published on Jan. 3:

I wrote in my previous blog post about how upset I was with the ‘Tiny House Community.' If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past week, it’s that I wasn’t upset with the ‘Tiny House Community’ — I was upset with the people involved with Tiny Houses that I had dealt with. That is not a very large number, and is not at all indicative of the Tiny House Community as a whole. If everyone who contacted me represents a portion of the Tiny House Community, then they are almost across the board a supportive, caring, kind group of individuals.

Clarifications aside, Friday’s Jan. 3 blog post relayed a bit of good news: nearly two weeks after it had vanished, Friday’s tiny home had been located, completely intact, across town on the south side of San Antonio.

Reports the San Antonio Express-News:

According to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, deputies recovered the home Friday in the 20200 block of Spanish Grant Road on San Antonio’s far South Side. Two stolen vehicles and an illegal shotgun were also found at the location. The Sheriff’s Office said no arrests have been made in the ongoing investigation. Friday posted on his blog that he had received an anonymous tip along with a photograph of his tiny home at the site. He credited deputies for finding his home and thanked the public for their outpouring of kindness.

Wonderful! And Friday didn’t even have to visit the Alamo during the search for his stolen home.

Now secure, Friday’s tiny house has since been relocated by police to an impound. What will happen next is a bit unclear. In his Dec. 26 post, Friday noted that he and Jessica, who reflected on the unsettling and “very strange” experience of having an entire home stolen on her blog as well, were officially done. They had secured a rental apartment and had no plans to invest in building another tiny home. If their home was recovered (which, of course, it was) he no longer wanted to live in it.

We have such a bad taste in our mouths from this theft that we couldn’t bear to live in a Tiny House now. We really want a dog, and I can imagine leaving the dog in the house while we run an errand, thinking the whole time ‘Will someone steal the house with the dog inside?’ Or what if these crazy crackheads try to steal it while I’m gone and Jessica’s alone? Just can’t do it. And we can’t live anywhere else either, because I spent so long putting my love and effort into this, that I couldn’t possibly build another one.

In a follow-up post published on Jan 6, Friday clarifies:

The Police are just about finished with their investigation, but it’s not clear yet if anyone in the neighborhood our house was stolen from will be arrested. I’ve spoken with other people from the same neighborhood who’ve said they have also had multiple thefts over the past couple years. We can’t continue to build up our Tiny House just to have it vandalized or stolen from on a regular basis. We don’t have it in us to find another location (and do all the proper vetting) to put our house at now, so I’ll simply be finishing it out while it’s stored at a secure storage facility. We’re not quitting the Tiny lifestyle, we’re just not going to live in this house right now any more.

In an update to the post, Friday goes on to explain that he now has no plans to finish work on the dainty abode and plans on selling it as-is. Although there’s a very slim chance that the house will be stolen twice, it’s probably best that any future owners invest in a hitch lock and a trailer wheel lock boot camp or two. Friday himself had not yet invested in anti-theft devices for the home and explains that he didn't know that hitch locks were a "thing" until after his home was stolen.

Casey and Jessica ultimately plan to sell not only their tiny home but their car as well and move to a city with "fantastic public transportation" and low reports of people stealing entire apartment buildings.

Via [The Express-News], [MyFoxNY] via [Curbed]

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

From Texas, the cautionary tale of a tiny house stolen and then found
As one San Antonio couple find out, even custom-built tiny houses aren't safe from sticky fingers.