Dream Big, Live Little

By Haley Burton

December 11, 2012 Updated Dec 11, 2012 at 7:19 PM EDT

Endicott, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Two Binghamton University students are living out a big dream in a tiny home that they built themselves.

Michael Zella and Ashley Haugstatter built their own 345 square foot home in Endicott. They had an idea of building a small home to save money and be eco-friendly.

The two are from Long Island and juniors at Binghamton University.

They were inspired by the Tumblewood Tiny House Company. Zella saw the concept on Oprah and shared the idea with his girlfriend, Haugstatter.

"This was a dream of mine since I was kid. It takes to be 19 and 20 years old for your parents to take you seriously when you say you are going to do something like this so that was a lot of it. If I could've done this at 13, I would've," he said.

In April 2012, they bought a lot on East Wendell Street and spent the summer building the home. They moved in in August.

Zella's parents helped finance the project. It cost $35,000 total for the lot and all of the build. Zella and Haugstatter did the entire build themselves.

"I had been around construction for a long time. My dad and my step-dad both own construction firms so I worked with them a lot. That's where I learned most of it. I'm a Google fanatic. Anything I didn't know, I just looked up," said Zella, who is an engineering major at BU.

Inside the home, it looks just like a regular house but everything is smaller. They have a full kitchen, bath, living room, bedroom area and kitchen table. Their bed is lofted with a desk area and closet underneath. Everything inside is just smaller.

"I never would've thought I would've wanted to live in a small house but now that we're here and i see what it's like. you can have all the amenities you want, even in a small space. you don't have to give anything up," said Haugstatter.

Living small has helped Zella and Haugstatter cut down on their costs. Both are in school full-time and have jobs. Their bills total $1,000 a month including food.

"We have no mortgage. I feel you get to do a lot more with your life than just own a house. There's very little maintenance associated with a smaller house," said Zella.

Haugstatter says she feels they are living a higher quality of life by being a part of the small house movement.

"When your expenses aren't large with your home, it allows you to buy those extra clothes, go on vacation and do all those extra things," she said.

Zella says after they graduate, they may sell the house but ideally he'd like to keep it forever since it was the first they built. He says he hopes to build more small houses after in the future.