Skoolie Build Adventures Story Time
Scott & I can’t believe the adventures we’ve already had & we haven’t even begun building out our skoolie yet! It has been an emotional roller coaster, but we’re happy to begin unveiling our beautiful beast from hibernation to start making our dreams come true. Let the skoolie build adventures begin!
This blog is our first of our “Skoolie Adventure Diaries”. We will continue to share our ups & downs of our journey with the skoolie community. Our blogs will be raw, blunt & up front. We want to keep things real & honest. We welcome comments, suggestions, questions & opinions, but please keep it respectful. On that note, let’s begin with some details of the wild ride we experienced from buying to finally getting things ready for the build.
Meeting Our Skoolie
We had some luck in finding our bus. It didn’t take long at all. We started with a little research online & bumped into 2 different bus photos via a newspaper ad. We knew when we saw our bus that it was THE one (Neo…er, SkooWoo). I had already picked out the name, Skoolie Woolie, when I saw the photo.
The next luck we had is that the previous owner already took out the seats, saving us a chunk of time & aches. Scott took to driving the bus rather quickly, even though it’s always a little nerve-racking for him. We parked our new beast at his parent’s place while we made plans to get him registered at the DMV. There we had another surprise.
Registering Was A Cinch
The rep at the DMV that helped us was more lenient than expected. She registered the bus as a motorhome without having it built out & without an inspection. We kept looking at each other like, “Is this really happening”? Indeed it did, because we walked out with new plates!
Our luck would continue when we discovered Humble Handcraft to build out our bus…or so we thought. Their tiny homes were showcased on a popular & one of our fave YouTube channels, “Living Big In a Tiny House”.
Luck Had Run Out
When we checked out HHC’s website we were thrilled on how they seem to have the same values as ours. Indeed, the woodwork is stunning too. We also thought we had a great conversation with Ryan, the owner, who gave us hope that he could build what we were looking for, within our budget. After discussing our design ideas over the phone, Ryan was as excited & anxious as we were to get started on the build. Little did we know that our luck had reached its peak & it was heading down, a steep way down.
Our first shocker was when Ryan more than doubled the costs of what was told to us initially. Of course, this was after we drove 6 hours (there & back) to drop off SkooWoo & paid a $6K design deposit. Ryan explained he didn’t realize how much work & hands were needed to build out our bus, even though Ryan understood the design we wanted. I felt this was a HUGE red flag & personally, wanted to pull our bus out of there, but we were also on a deadline.
Don’t Judge A Builder By His Wood
Scott, who is more forgiving than I am, convinced me to give Ryan the benefit of the doubt. Instead of picking up our bus, we tried to work with Ryan in reducing costs by pretty much revamping our design. Unfortunately, his customer service did not match his skills with wood working.
The following are some of the many ways Ryan represented himself & his company:
- His spreadsheets were too vague, making it unclear where we could cut costs. Scott made suggestions on changes that would be helpful to us, but they were never implemented.
- He was often flaky. Numbers were constantly changing, often increasing rather than decreasing in cost, even as we cut features out of our design.
- He avoided responding to some questions we emailed.
- He seemed to forget things we talked about. One moment, he would agree to something, but it would not be reflected in the updated budget.
- He admitted to his mistakes more than once, yet, he continues to defend his service was worth more than the 6K deposit we paid.
Trust Your Instincts
In the end, after over 2 & 1/2 months of unprofessionalism & constant disappointment, we decided to cancel the design process & pick up our bus. This wasn’t easy. Ryan assumed we pulled out of the project because we found someone else. Therefore, he tried to extort more money from us, $5K to be exact, for “damages”. However, HHC’s contract allowed for cancellation with refund.
We picked up our bus & discovered it had minor damage. Of course, nothing was said to us about it. When we brought it up, Ryan behaved as if he was unaware of the damage. To our relief, he paid for the damage, but still kept our $6K. We had to request a detailed receipt. What he gave us had numbers that were rounded to be exactly $6K. Sometimes I would think back, wishing I had trusted my instincts earlier.
To this day, Ryan has not returned any of our money, but claims that he completed the work & then some. Yet, we have no design & only a messy budget spreadsheet to show for our $6K. We’ve tried to be civil throughout this entire project, which wasn’t easy. This unfortunate situation really tested our patience. The entire time, he only focused on how everything affected him. Even when he doubled our costs, he admitted it was his mistake, yet he didn’t even offer a way to make up for this or any of the other mistakes he had made. He never made us feel that our satisfaction, as customers, was a priority.
The steep drop of this ride really kicked us in the gut pretty hard, but our journey has taken us back up another hill. Another door has opened & new skoolie build adventures are about to begin. Scott’s family decided to move to Northern California, which changed our plans, giving us more time to build out our bus. So, we decided to build it out ourselves with the help of his family’s expertise.
We have zero knowledge of using tools, let alone building anything. Scott’s first & only building experience was our FJ’s camp kitchen, with help from his family. We’re looking forward to learning from the skoolie community as we go. We already met some kind locals, who offered their help in building out SkooWoo. Of course, our family will be helping too. We’re due for some positive vibes now.
Learn From Others’ Mistakes
We’re sharing our story with all skoolie & potential skoolie/van life/tiny home people here, in hopes it is less likely that our unfortunate situation happens to others. Do extensive research of who to entrust your vehicles/homes with. We were somewhat rushing the process because of a deadline we needed to meet, but it’s not worth your hard earned money or time not to do your homework. Even those who seem so kind at first, can take advantage of their clients to fill their pockets. But, we’re slowly making new skoolie build adventures & can’t wait to share them with all of you!
For those interested in copies of our complete details of our experience with HHC, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can provide you with copies of the spreadsheets, email exchanges, etc. A quick note, Living Big In A Tiny House & those affiliated with LBITH have nothing to do with our experience with Ryan & HHC.