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Alternative Housing

By - 2007 - 2013

What do we mean by alternative housing? Well, living in tents, RVs, cabins, and underground homes are a start. Then there is the option of renting a room and other opportunities which are at least a little less common than houses, condos and apartments. Below you'll find some of these housing options, and an explanation of why people choose different styles of housing. We also recently added the following page:

Tiny Houses - We're talking really small; many of these easy-to-care-for homes are less than 100 square feet in area.

Mobile Alternative Housing

Recreational Vehicles: In Arizona and California there are whole communities that spring up each winter, full of people living in their RVs. The advantages? You can move with the seasons, try out different places, and avoid property taxes as well. I've seen people living in RVs that cost $200,000 and ones that cost $600, so the selection of accommodations is varied, to say the least.

School Busses: While camping at a hot springs area, we sat around the campfire one night with several young men living in the desert in their old converted school bus. They paid nothing to park it in the desert, bathed for free in hot spring tubs that were as nice as those in nearby expensive resorts, and played guitar around the fire each night. Not a bad life.

Conversion Vans:. My wife and I spent almost a month living in our conversion van one year, as we traveled from Arizona to Florida and then to Michigan. The advantage of a van is that it gets better mileage than an RV, and it is inconspicuous. We could park and sleep almost anywhere. Realistically this has to be considered as temporary housing, but it's not a bad way to save money while looking for a house to buy or an apartment to rent.

Other Alternative Housing

Buy Land: A friend of mine, after living in state campgrounds in a tent for a while, upgraded to a shack he built for $3,000 on a small piece of land he bought. He did eventually run into problems with the county because he had no occupancy permit. You can't live on your own land if your home is too small, apparently, but you can camp on it. In other words, a small used RV parked on your land makes for a cheap and legal housing alternative.

Rent a Room: In almost any area where rents are high, renting rooms has become common. For single people, this makes sense. You pay a set amount, and if it includes utilities you have a predictable and lower cost of living. I rented rooms in my home for years, and even put carpet and lighting in a shed so I could get $50 per week in summer.

Get a Houseboat: People live on houseboats to avoid paying property taxes. Others live in the jungle near the beaches in Hawaii, so they can afford to be in paradise. I have friends who lived in a basement while slowly building the house above for cash. There are people living in cabins built in the national forest wilderness, moving every few years as they are discovered. Your imagination is the only limit to your alternative housing options.

Be a Caretaker: There are semi-permanent positions that involve taking care of people's homes, and they often include housing. There are also sites like the one run by the Caretaker Gazette, where you can hook up with owners who will be traveling for months and need someone to watch their homes.

Stage Homes; This is a new alternative housing scheme we recently learned about. Our house is for sale in Colorado while we are settling in here in Florida, and an agent at the listing office offered to pay us $400 per month to "live lightly" in the house and keep it staged and looking nice to help it sell faster. She promised that she would move as quickly as necessary when there is a sale. We said no, but the home would rent for $950 normally and she says she has done this several times before.

I suppose to do this long term you would have to plan well. You might target homes that are over-priced, so you will get more time before a sale. You would also have to keep up on what's being listed and contact the listing agents to see if the home is vacant, in order to move on to the next when necessary. All in all, it seems like a lot of work and worry just to get cheap rent, but it is an interesting strategy.

Shipping Containers: These large metal containers that bring us so many things from around the world are tough and large enough to use as a small cabin, which is what some people are now doing. You can buy them online for a few thousand dollars and have them delivered to your property. Put two or three together and start renovating!

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Houses Under Fifty Thousand | Alternative Housing