Stefanie Mortenson traded her life in Virginia for a $159,000 tiny home near Tampa, Florida.
Stefanie Mortenson, a 53-year-old HR director, moved from Virginia to a tiny home near Tampa, Florida in May.Her 396-square-foot dwelling at Escape Tampa Bay Village’s tiny home community cost her $159,000.Mortenson says she’s saving money and feels like she has more space compared to her previous Virginia apartment.
This essay is based on an interview with Stefanie Mortenson, a 53-year-old HR director who moved from Virginia to Escape Tampa Bay Village’s The Oaks community, a tiny home neighborhood near Tampa, Florida. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
My priorities changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 1998, I moved to Alexandria, Virginia about 10 miles from Washington, DC for a better career opportunity. I was a month shy of 25 years in Virginia and working at the US Senate Federal Credit Union — where I’m currently the director of human resources — when I moved to my new tiny home in Escape Tampa Bay Village’s The Oaks community.
I had been looking to move somewhere on the coastline. And living near Washington, DC was very expensive. I wanted to own a home but the cost was absolutely ridiculous. I got tired of the traffic. I got tired of hearing my neighbors all the time. I was doing everything not to work from home even though I could just because it was too noisy.
The walls started coming in on me
In May, 53-year-old Stefanie Mortenson moved from her apartment in Virginia to 396-square-foot tiny home in Escape Tampa Bay Village’s The Oaks neighborhood.
So I turned to the idea of minimalism. And these tiny homes were very intriguing.
I first found this particular neighborhood after googling “tiny home developments” in May 2020. When presales opened in March 2023, I literally got up at 5 a.m. At around 6 or 7 a.m., it opened and I bought my house based on a video of the unit.
They had an open house a few weeks after. So I flew down to see and start taking measurements of my new 396-square-foot home.
I have two lofts. One is five feet, one-inch tall while the other is only four feet, five inches tall. When I first entered my unit and sat on the floor of the shorter loft, I asked myself, “Can I do this?” But I realized I’m only going to be sleeping there. Once I sat in the space and thought about it, everything was fine. Now, one loft is my office for remote work and the other is my bedroom. It worked out perfectly.
I sold most of my furniture before I came down here
Mortenson’s $159,000 tiny home has two lofts, a bathroom, a kitchen, a living room, and an outdoor deck. The neighborhood also has amenities like a pool, park, and additional storage.
When I moved into my house in May, I realized I still had too much stuff. So I’ve been slowly but surely getting rid of it. I’m actually enjoying it.
I am starting anew in a lot of ways and I’ve had to be more creative. The furniture I ended up buying has dual purposes, like a couch with built-in storage. But it feels like I have more space than I did at my 650-square-foot Virginia apartment. Here, the space is better utilized.
Outside, the community is a pretty and calming place to live. You don’t come in here thinking it’s a mobile home park. It’s more upscale than that. And the homes are too — they look higher-end than some of the mobile homes I’ve seen.
My old apartment had two glass sliding doors and a tiny window in the bedroom. Here, these units have a ton of windows. It’s nice looking out and seeing the park with trees and Spanish moss. I see it every day and it’s still lovely. That feeling hasn’t faded and I don’t think it will.
My home will be paid off before I retire
There are homeowners association-type fees that cover the landscaping, septic tank, water, trash removal, and more. This unit is really electricity efficient: My second electric bill was probably half of what I used to pay at my Virginia apartment. I’ve already saved so much money.
I haven’t regretted moving. I miss the people, I don’t miss Virginia. My future is to stay here as long as this works. I want to retire here. The only thing that could be a problem with age would be the stairs. If they’re not, then I’ll be here.