By Steve Gillman - 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
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
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
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
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!