Tiny house builders Ken and Tori Pond, owners of Craft and Sprout, are passionate about the tiny house movement, refreshingly candid about the challenges they have faced, and honest in their business dealings.
The Greenwich, Connecticut, couple launched their tiny house construction company in spring 2016. Their first build was a beach-theme model (see photo) that made Craft and Spout one of two builders that shared a Best Builder award at a recent tiny house event in northwestern New Jersey. Based on the numbers of people waiting in lines to view the houses on display at that show, the Craft and Sprout THOW was the most popular home there.
“Craft and Sprout is a small business with close ties to the community. With four kids, we are obviously active in the schools and Ken is a volunteer fire fighter.”
“I owned a construction company, and before that an electrical company with my older brother, Tom, who is a career fire fighter,” explained Ken. “I followed him into the fire service, I guess you could say. I’ve been volunteering for six years. Now I custom-build tiny houses full-time. Tori and I both work full-time for the company – we’re all in!”
“Our name represents us well, I think,” said Tori. “Craft because our houses are handcrafted, customized, one-of-a-kind creations. And Sprout because we have four little sprouts.”
Those sprouts are all boys, age nine and under – Ethan, Dylan, Noah, and Levi.
“The boys take part in all of the builds to show them hands-on work,” said Ken. “We want them to learn to see something through from start to finish, and the value of teamwork within a family. We want them to learn that the more you work and the harder you work the more money you make.”
Tori was in the insurance industry for years, and before that worked for PanAmSat Corporation as an event coordinator.
Craft and Sprout Standards
“Tori did a lot of the design work for my construction company – layouts and decorating. Those skills naturally blended right into the tiny house business,” said Ken. “She has a great sense of style. People love what she creates. It’s partly because she uses only the nicest materials.”
“Safety is one of our highest priorities. We exceed Florida hurricane building codes. We want to be sure you can tow our homes down the road at 65 MPH,” said Ken. “Our 24-foot model has 1,500 miles on it and it weighs 12,500 pounds. We built it on 14,000-lbs trailer. It tows beautifully – partly because the trailer was custom-built for the load.”
Tiny House Economics
The beach model they built has high-end finishes, including a copper, standing-seam roof, but remains budget-friendly.
“We don’t think a 24-foot home should go over $75,000,” said Ken. “We are building a 32-foot gooseneck for a young couple for $65,000. That’s a real value.”
The gooseneck was purchased by a young couple in their mid-20s – prime candidates for tiny house living.
“They plan to live in it for three years in Vermont while they get their masters degrees. That’s better than paying somebody else’s mortgage,” said Ken. “Plus, after they’re finished with school, they should be able to sell it for what they paid.”
“Another issue is working out property taxes so that it’s fair for everybody. This is going to be complicated, but once they figure out the taxes, I think you’ll see all of the other regulations get modified quickly,” predicted Ken.
Alternative Uses for THOWs
The Ponds use their model home as a pool house on their property.
“We market tiny houses for use as pool houses, she sheds, yoga studios, man caves, accessory apartments and Airbnb rentals,” said Ken. “Our boys love it. They’ve had three sleepouts with their friends in the tiny house over the last three weeks!”
A cash down-payment plus a signature loan is the most common way people finance tiny houses, according to Ken. He readily admits that financing can be challenging and that the industry needs to improve in this area.
To help with financing, Craft and Sprout offers RVIA certifications to its customers.
“It costs a little bit more to get RVIA certified, plus it’s a double-edged sword. If you get your home RV certified, it could hinder your ability to live in it because some towns won’t let you live in an RV fulltime. But, RVIA can help the buyer get RV financing,” said Ken.
An NADA license can help builders like the Ponds get vehicle financing for their customers.
“We work with customers to help them get their houses registered,” said Tori.
“What we really need is to be included in the national building code. We strongly support the effort to add tiny houses to the IRC (International Residential Code),” said Ken. “Every town has different zoning and building codes. We see it moving west to east across the county. I don’t think it’s a matter of if tiny houses will be legalized nationwide, I think it’s a matter of when.”
The Pennsylvania show is going to do well. That’s a heavily populated area down there. We expect a huge turnout and a lot of interest, said Tori.