How to Build Your Dream Home with Only 2,200 Dollars and


Most folks think of yellow school buses and remember noisy trips to school. But this guy, Michael Talley, saw an old rusty bus for sale and had a unique idea. Instead of a bus, he saw a potential dream home. Using his DIY talents, he turned it into something amazing. It took lots of hard work and creativity, but his journey turned trash into a remarkable treasure. Want to hear more about this unexpected and true story?

Jumping Into A New Line Of Work

Michael Talley took a leap by buying a school bus from an online auction without fully knowing what to expect. At the time, he lived in Austin, Texas, worked as a graphic designer, and felt fed up with shelling out $1,200 monthly for his studio apartment.

Facing financial strain, Talley sought an alternative. With the rising popularity of tiny houses, he saw an opportunity to save money. Being a designer, he had a flood of ideas for his own tiny home.

Decision Of A Lifetime

One day, it hit Talley: a school bus could make the perfect foundation for his home. With its existing walls and roof, he figured it’d be a breeze to convert it into a house. But as it turned out, things weren’t as straightforward as he initially thought.

In hindsight, Talley admits feeling a bit naive; he had assumed it’d be a simple task. Still, his lifelong dream of creating a compact, movable home motivated him to delve into bus research for his mobile living idea.

Bargain Of The Century

As Talley started looking for buses, he didn’t expect to stumble upon one so soon. While browsing the web, he stumbled upon an auction on featuring ten school buses up for grabs. The Austin School District was quietly selling these vehicles, resulting in a lack of bidders due to the limited knowledge about the sale.

Talley struck an incredible deal and snagged the bus for a mere $2,200, a price far below that of a used car. While many might have bought several buses at that rate, Talley was content with just one. The astonishingly low price left him amazed, and he eagerly looked forward to the next phase of his adventure.

Moving Into A Tent

To fully invest in his new project, Talley made the choice to leave his apartment. The $1,200 monthly rent for his small studio could now be redirected toward funding the transformation of his bus.

Despite its challenges, Talley opted to live in a tent to allocate all his funds toward renovating his tiny home. This change meant a 40-minute commute each way from his workplace, sacrificing proximity for savings. Yet, every penny mattered significantly for this substantial project.

A Rough Year To Make Him Stronger

While working on the bus, Talley faced a series of personal upheavals. In the span of a year, he went through a breakup, lost his job, and mourned the passing of his grandfather. Despite these hardships, he immersed himself in the renovations, channeling all his energy into the project during these trying times.

Through tough times, the bus project became Talley’s guiding light. Despite challenges, he pressed on, grateful for the timing and his ability to find solutions to every hurdle.

Back To The Basics

Despite facing overwhelming odds, Talley refused to give up on the daunting task he’d taken on. His initial perception shifted rapidly as he grasped the enormity of the work involved. Rather than a straightforward project, he began seeing the bus as a mere framework for his ambitious vision. As someone with no prior building experience, the challenge was a lot to process.

Talley admitted to numerous sleepless nights, pondering the design and construction process. His mind churned with constant new ideas, preventing peaceful rest until he finalized the home’s layout. Though daunting, he felt prepared and eager to start the project.

Stripping The Inside Of The Bus

Beginning the transformation, Talley cleared the bus interior completely. Seeking a blank canvas, he removed the seats and stripped everything inside. With assistance from his stepdad, they spent considerable time removing all the bolts underneath the bus.

In hindsight, Talley acknowledged that having an angled grinder would have eased the process. However, at the project’s onset, he held a fear of power tools. This step revealed the bus’s complete potential for the first time, igniting Talley’s excitement to proceed with the work.

One Of Many Mistakes

After clearing the floor by removing the seats, the next task was tackling the ceilings. Unfamiliar with an impact drill, Talley faced immense difficulty removing the ceiling paneling, resulting in a much longer process than he initially anticipated.

Upon successfully removing the panels, Talley proceeded to take out the old insulation. He soon regretted this choice upon realizing the previous insulation was still in good shape, which could have spared him significant trouble down the line. This endeavor unfolded as an extensive learning experience for him.

Too Tall To Ride The Bus

Talley encountered his initial hurdle upon realizing his height surpassed the bus’s interior space. Standing five inches taller than the bus’s ceiling, he felt a wave of concern. Stepping inside, he found himself hunched over and was unsure how to resolve this unexpected challenge.

Standing at 6’6″, Talley faced a predicament: the bus interior measured only 6’1″ from floor to ceiling. This meant significant structural adjustments were necessary, an unforeseen challenge he was determined to tackle. Turning to YouTube tutorials, he concluded that he’d have to quite literally “raise the roof” to resolve this issue.

Cutting The Bus In Half

Due to his height and the necessity for more comfortable living space on the bus, Talley had to raise the roof. Assisted by friends, they made two cuts, splitting the roof in half. The process was tense as they came close to damaging the bus, but it seemed the only viable solution.

Talley had custom metal sleeves crafted to replace the old ceiling, increasing the bus’s height by 20 inches. At first, he aimed for an additional 24 inches, but his friends convinced him it was too ambitious, persuading him to settle for the 20-inch extension instead.

Everybody Raise The Roof

While documenting the process online, Talley endured constant jokes about “raising the roof.” However, the reality was far from easy. Initially aiming to expand the space by two feet with the new ceiling, his friends advised against it due to the complexity of the task.

Assisted by his friends, they synchronized the screw jacks to elevate the roof flawlessly on their first attempt. The scaffolding used during the structure’s renovation can be observed, ensuring stability throughout the process. Although challenging, their collective efforts made it a success.

Birds Eye Design Views

During the design phase, Talley explored numerous floor plan concepts. One idea drew inspiration from his favorite movie, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, but it didn’t pan out as expected. Ultimately, he prioritized convenience in the design to ensure efficient movement within the space.

Talley strategically positioned the bathroom and kitchen nearest to the door, recognizing them as the most frequently needed areas for guests. Given his love for hosting, he aimed to create a space where friends could comfortably gather and hang out.

Making Every Inch Count

With his designer’s eye, Talley aimed to maximize every inch of space efficiently. Precision in measurements was crucial as even a single incorrect measurement could disrupt the entire design. The initial inspiration stemmed from the adventure vehicle featured in The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

Despite his affection for the movie-inspired concept, Talley opted for a different approach. Prioritizing his love for entertaining, he positioned the public areas nearer to the bus’s front, reserving the rear for his bed and office. This shift in layout meant his new kitchen would surpass the size of the one in his previous studio apartment.

Lending A Helping Hand

Talley relied on additional hands to complete this project, and his stepdad played a crucial role. Not only did he assist in navigating the power tools, but he also went the extra mile, crawling under the bus at one point to remove bolts.

In addition to his stepdad, several of Talley’s friends extended their assistance and guidance. Upon removing all the seats, a wonderful couple volunteered to collect and transport them to the scrap metal yard. These acts of support kept Talley motivated, knowing he wasn’t undertaking the project alone.

Finding Treasures From The Past

While stripping the bus’s interior, Talley unearthed some unexpected discoveries. Among them was a note that humorously read “kick me,” likely a relic of past pranks from the bus’s previous use. It hinted at the lively and playful atmosphere often associated with yellow school buses, where memories of rowdy kids and playful antics linger.

Though not the most cherished memories, Talley was brushing them aside, ushering in a new chapter for the bus. Creating fresh memories along this journey, he envisioned a complete transformation that would render the bus unrecognizable from its past self.

Starting To Take Shape

Daily progress saw the interior of the bus gradually taking shape, with each piece falling into place within the framework. Planning made it simpler to envision the layout, and meticulously measured furniture snugly fit the compact space. Talley even arranged a makeshift office to squeeze in some work amidst the ongoing construction.

A pivotal task involved removing and replacing the bus windows, which stood as a significant undertaking for Talley. While considering retaining the original windows, he realized they lacked proper insulation and would likely rattle. Seeking improved insulation and enhanced privacy, he opted to install new windows instead.

Movie Room Fit For A Movie Star

In addition to his passion for entertaining, Talley is a devoted movie enthusiast. His social media showcases snapshots of him mingling with celebrities such as Matthew McConaughey. Given his affinity for movies, it felt only fitting for his new home to feature a theater-like space, perfect for inviting friends over to enjoy movies together.

Given his profession as a designer, Talley required a substantial work area as he primarily worked from home. With numerous ideas to integrate into this limited space, he eagerly embraced the challenge ahead.

Kitchen In The Works

For Talley, who adores cooking and hosting guests, the kitchen held paramount importance in his design. With restricted space, his goal was to optimize the counter area, creating a countertop suitable for chopping vegetables directly without the need for additional boards or plates.

Fortunate timing came in handy as Ikea was clearing out their previous kitchen line, allowing Talley to snag an incredible deal on his butcher block countertop. Additionally, purchasing cabinets and drawers for just $30 each aided in cost-cutting, freeing up funds for other aspects of the design.

Using Furniture From The Past

Utilizing furniture from his previous apartment, Talley opted to modify it to suit the compact space. He dismantled his couch, removing the back and arms to ensure a better fit. Crafting new armrests that aligned seamlessly not only improved the fit but also served as a cost-effective alternative to purchasing a new couch.

This formed another crucial element of the design since Talley required a cozy spot to relax, enjoy movies, or dine comfortably. It introduced a blend of comfort and style to the area. As his initial decorative touch, Talley opted to display the American flag.

Warning: Power Tools At Work

Throughout the project, Talley grappled with fear when it came to using power tools, as they were unfamiliar territory for him. Recognizing their necessity for expediting the construction process, he was apprehensive due to their hazardous nature. Nonetheless, he gradually conquered this fear, understanding their importance for the task at hand.

He’s seen here employing a power tool to cut windows for the kitchen and bathroom, gradually gaining confidence in handling more intricate project elements through practice. Prioritizing safety, he meticulously implemented precautionary measures to prevent any potential injuries during the process.

A Home You Can Drive

Among the numerous setbacks, dealing with the bus’s engine posed a challenge for Talley. During his initial attempt to move the bus, it got stuck in the mud, resulting in a broken power steering system. Maneuvering a 40-foot school bus without power steering proved to be an incredibly arduous task, as highlighted by Talley.

Talley grappled with the decision of whether to entirely remove the engine or retain the bus’s mobility. Considering his lifelong dream of using the bus for country-wide travels, he opted to restore the engine. It became another challenge he had to navigate during the project.

Literal Blood, Sweat, And Tears

Throughout the journey, Talley encountered numerous obstacles, including some minor mistakes and occasional minor injuries. Given the nature of working with heavy materials and power tools, it was almost inevitable for him to sustain some injuries during the process.

While installing the steel siding, a panel slipped and cut Talley’s arm, leaving a permanent scar as a testament to the effort poured into building his home. The saying “blood, sweat, and tears” took on a literal meaning in his case.

An Energy Efficient Home

With a commitment to environmental consciousness, Talley aimed for maximum energy efficiency in his home. Opting for solar panels to power his bus reflected his eco-friendly approach. This decision stood as both the most beneficial and the most demanding step in the entire process.

The panels proved challenging to handle, compounded by the fact that it was the only day Talley had to manage them alone. He described it as a frustrating day due to the wind causing items to blow off the roof, with no one available to assist him.

DIY-ing Everything He Could

The whole makeover was a massive DIY endeavor for Talley, striving to handle as much as he could independently. Among his proudest accomplishments was the kitchen’s backsplash, a project he envisioned and eagerly anticipated bringing to life.

The only specifics he was certain about were dark hardwood floors and white subway tiles with black grout. While he acknowledged it wasn’t his finest work, it stood as a notable achievement for someone inexperienced in installing a backsplash. Talley also ensured the material was both lightweight and durable.

The Legacy Of The Armadillo Bus

Among the buses up for auction, Talley selected this particular one due to its heartwarming backstory. Adorned with an armadillo sign, it earned the nickname “the armadillo bus.” The significance heightened as two of his friends used to ride this bus to school when they were younger, adding an extra layer of sentimentality to the choice.

During the project, thoughts of those friends often crossed his mind, and they even lent a hand in the process. It felt as though the bus had entered his life to guide him toward happiness. Regrettably, the armadillo sign was inadvertently scraped off while he was finishing the bus’s exterior.

A Home Office To Inspire His Dreams

As a designer, having a creative workspace at home was crucial for Talley. Amidst the successful progress of the bus transformation, he prioritized setting up a dedicated home office. Seeking a fresh start, he aimed for a space that would ignite inspiration and sustain a continuous flow of creative ideas for his work.

While exploring various tiny houses, Talley noticed a common trend of installing small flip-out desks on walls, but that wasn’t his preference. Instead, he constructed a desk measuring five feet in width and two feet in depth, marking the largest desk he had ever owned.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

During Talley’s interior planning, his focus extended beyond space efficiency to include environmentally conscious and budget-friendly materials. Regarding the wood utilized for interior flooring and furnishings, Talley expressed feeling exceptionally fortunate with his selection.

Talley mentioned, “I was fortunate to come across this wood. It’s reclaimed floorboards sourced from a 1941 house here in Hyde Park, Austin. I simply flipped it over and utilized the unfinished sides for all my accent walls and the couch.” This inventive approach not only showcased creativity but also led to substantial cost savings for him.

The Design Wasn’t The Only Thing That Mattered

Beyond the design and interior furnishing, Talley had to consider crucial elements such as electricity and plumbing, fundamental for a functional home. The precision in executing these aspects was paramount, leaving no margin for error given their significance.

After completing the lighting and plumbing installations, Talley could shift focus to other facets of the design. Securing the solar panels onto the roof, he then affixed interior panels to the ceiling, resulting in the achievement of functional electricity.

Trying To Stay Cool While Working

Before the bus had air conditioning and operational electricity, the scorching Texas sun made it feel like Talley was standing in an oven throughout the day. Despite efforts to cool off by using a fan, opening windows, and doors, it was impossible to find relief during the lengthy building process.

Talley prioritized staying hydrated and increased the number of fans inside the bus to maintain air circulation. Although it posed a challenge in the process, like other issues, Talley persevered and viewed these moments as memories to reflect upon in the future.

The Wheels On The Bus Don’t Go Round And Round

The bus showed its age, evident from the fact that Talley’s friends used it for school transport when they were children. Numerous features were already deteriorating when he purchased it, and at one point during the transformation, a wheel unexpectedly fell off—a situation that definitely shouldn’t have occurred.

While it didn’t disrupt the building timeline, replacing the bus tire dealt a financial blow to Talley’s budget. It ended up being more costly and challenging than anticipated. Following this incident, Talley had to reassess areas where he could reduce expenses to compensate for the unexpected tire cost.

Everything Went Up In Flames

Throughout the construction journey, Talley had garnered significant attention, with many following the transformation on Facebook. Taking a lighthearted approach, he infused the entire process with humor and didn’t take things overly seriously. As an April Fool’s prank, he shared this photo with his friends on Facebook.

Upon posting a picture of a bus seemingly on fire, it caused a frenzy among everyone. While Talley found it amusing, most of his friends were terrified, believing that all his dedicated efforts had gone up in flames. Talley regarded it as his best April Fool’s joke yet, almost causing his mom to have a heart attack in the process.

Kicking Back With A Good Movie

During the final stages of building, Talley took full advantage of testing out the parts of the bus that were already finished, like his movie room. There is nothing like kicking back with a good movie after a long hard day of work. He had to make sure everything worked, so why not enjoy the new setup?

Talley acknowledged an oversight in his approach to connecting the HDMI cables, admitting, “I should have also wired HDMI cables to the cabinets below and above, but I made a mistake, so now I plug my PS4 in whenever I use it.” He found himself making some compromises, but as he reasoned, who doesn’t encounter such situations?

Meal Time On-The-Go

When you transition from an apartment to focusing most of your time on converting a bus into your new residence, ensuring it has all the essentials becomes crucial. A refrigerator stands as a fundamental requirement in any home. Talley had to carefully select one with precise measurements to ensure it fit within the limited space available.

From the looks of this photo, it appears he might need to head to the grocery store to replenish his fridge. Ensuring that everything remains secure when driving the bus stands as another essential aspect for this home. Nobody would want food items flying all over while navigating a winding road.

Time For A Fresh Coat Of Paint

This was among the final pictures Talley captured before determining the color for his bus. While the yellow hue was iconic, it warranted a fresh coat of paint post-renovations. Seeking uniformity between the exterior and the revamped interior, Talley opted for a more neutral color.

Due to the raised roof, its color differed from the rest of the bus, necessitating painting. Talley relocated the bus in preparation for the paint job, marking the final stages of completion. He was thrilled to be inching closer to the culmination of this extensive transformation.

Everything Plus The Kitchen Sink

Despite facing numerous challenges, Talley experienced fortunate moments that helped him save money during the process. Apart from securing a substantial discount on the countertop and cabinets, he also stumbled upon the ideal sink at Ikea, available for half its original price.

The matte black sink was a stunning addition, perfectly fitting into Talley’s designated space. He appreciated the contrast of the dark sink against the light wood, seeing his envisioned design taking shape. Given unexpected costs like the tire incident, Talley found solace in saving money whenever an opportunity arose.

A Kitchen For A Food Lover

As the kitchen gradually took shape, it became a pivotal aspect for Talley, impressing him immensely with its design. It resembled an upscale kitchen, surpassing the size of the one in his studio apartment. With a distinct style in mind, once all the elements were assembled, it exuded a flawless appearance, meeting his expectations perfectly.

Every item found its place in ample storage, maintaining a tidy and organized setup. Talley was thrilled with the result, eagerly anticipating hosting friends and preparing meals for them. Beyond the aesthetic appeal, he managed to secure everything at a fantastic bargain.

The Most Important Spot In The Bus

The bedroom held immense significance in his tiny home—a place for essential rest. Talley ensured it was a snug and comfortable spot where he could unwind. After sleeping in a tent during the transformation, he eagerly looked forward to having a proper bedroom furnished with a soft mattress and a TV.

Talley ensured the bedroom provided a vantage point for admiring the beautiful forest views. His affinity for nature made having the bed by the window a delightful choice. Opting to maintain the bus’s originality, he retained both the front and back, keeping the emergency door fully functional.

Every Detail Counts

For some, having two TVs might appear excessive, but for Talley, it felt like a well-deserved reward for his dedicated efforts. Originally, he had one TV in the theater area, but he decided to add another to his bedroom as watching Netflix on his phone every night wasn’t quite cutting it.

Talley meticulously considered every minor detail to ensure the transformation unfolded flawlessly. With the extensive time, effort, and investment poured into the project, he felt entitled to incorporate whatever he desired into his dream home. It was his personal vision, and external opinions held little weight in its realization.

Finishing Touches

As the transformation neared its completion, Talley meticulously incorporated all the final touches. His efforts, particularly in the living room, were commendable. The space exudes warmth and comfort, providing an inviting atmosphere for friends to gather and spend quality time together.

From this photo alone, one might hardly recognize it as a bus at first glance. The barely visible steering wheel in the front makes it resemble a typical room in a home. The immense effort Talley invested—through all the challenges—undeniably paid off.

Looking Back On His Hard Work

Reflecting on his transformation journey, Talley recounted numerous memories, one of which he shared through a picture from the project’s midpoint—an unforgettable memory for him. Following the removal of the old insulation, he had to rework it to ensure the bus retained warmth during cooler weather.As he was spraying the insulation, he got a bunch of it in his beard and didn’t realize until an hour later. Talley said he ended up having to shave his beard off because there was no other way to remove it. He looks back on this and laughs, but he wasn’t so happy about it at the time. 

Cheers To The Final Product

Following nearly a year of dedicated effort, Talley savored the rewards of his hard work. Amidst numerous sacrifices, he achieved his dream home in the end. With a friend allowing him to park the bus on a farm, Talley relished moments like these, often ascending to the roof to relish the southern sunset.

Being an Austin native, Talley found solace in the serenity of the farm. He relished gazing across the verdant landscape, reveling in the unobstructed views of nature stretching for miles. This aspect stood out as one of the most cherished features of his new home.

Being an Austin native, Talley found solace in the serenity of the farm. He relished gazing across the verdant landscape, reveling in the unobstructed views of nature stretching for miles. This aspect stood out as one of the most cherished features of his new home.

Nature Views From Every Angle

Talley’s unwavering commitment and effort culminated in this remarkable home that offers the flexibility to travel anywhere across the country. Wherever he ventures, the breathtaking views greet him just outside his bedroom every morning. This, among many other things, stands out as one of the prime benefits of his mobile tiny home.

Talley was thrilled to finally relax and relish the home he had dedicated so much effort to build. Each day, a sense of gratitude washes over him for completing the project, now owning this delightful space to host friends and family. It was a dream he had long envisioned, and now it stood before him, brought to vibrant life.


Building your dream home with just $2,200 is a testament to determination, creativity, and resourcefulness. Talley’s incredible journey showcases that with passion, dedication, and a touch of ingenuity, it’s possible to craft a remarkable living space without breaking the bank. His story illustrates the transformative power of perseverance and vision, proving that financial limitations need not hinder the pursuit of one’s aspirations in creating a cherished and personalized sanctuary.

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