Left feeling a little “blah” about the idea of a traditional apartment or a suburban house with a white picket fence?
You’re not alone. From the rise of tiny homes to the spike in co-living spaces, people from all walks of life are rebelling against skyrocketing housing prices.
What qualifies as “skyrocketing”? Home appreciation at double the rate of a normal market.
And it’s not just about money, either. With more Americans than ever working remotely, why chain yourself to one location?
Whether you’re looking to save money, embrace a more nomadic lifestyle, or just beat your own drum a little differently, here are eight ideas to get you excited about alternative housing! We’ll start with mobile-oriented ideas, then move into drop-in homes for those with land, and wrap up with a couple ideas to live for free.
1. Live on a Boat
Who said you have to live on land?
My sister Lauren dated a guy who wanted to live closer to her, so he bought a used houseboat for around $40,000 and rented a slip a few blocks down the waterfront Promenade in Fells Point. It had two bedrooms, full electricity, a 46-inch LED television, heat, running water, and of course a motor.
(I always thought they should have toodled down the coast, parking the house boat in the Keys or somewhere equally enticing. They didn’t, alas.)
Fellow personal finance blogger My Money Wizard breaks down all the advantages to a houseboat, from cost to mobility to an upgrade in scenery and view.
Nor is a houseboat the only option available. Why not sail around the world with your spouse, significant other, or just a (really) good friend? Check out Chad and Leann’s experience at HoboSailor.com.
2. Tour the World in an RV
When you think of an RV, what do you picture? If you think of those rickety beige trailer-buses from the ‘70s, think again.
Today’s RVs often share more in common with luxury homes than trailers. Many include enormous “slides” – rooms that slide out of the main section to create a spacious, multiroom home when parked. From jacuzzi tubs, queen-sized beds, fully-equipped kitchens and comfortable bathrooms to any other amenity you could ask for, RV living is whatever you want it to be.
Whether you earn $1,000/month or $10,000/month, consider a fun and mobile RV lifestyle at whatever luxury level you can afford.
My father-in-law doesn’t live full-time in his, but he’ll take off for months at a time with his wife in their upscale “mobile mansion.” On the other end of the spectrum, Paul and Nina live a frugal-but-fun and rewarding full-time life in their RV, on a modest budget.
3. Tiny House in Tow
By now, everyone’s familiar with the tiny house movement. But it’s worth noting some of the advantages to hitching up a tiny house to the back of your car or truck.
First, you don’t need a dedicated RV – you can keep your own car or truck, assuming it has enough power to pull a hitch.
Second, you don’t need an RV park necessarily, for power and water. Many tiny homes have their own solar roofs, with rainwater reclamation and filtration systems. That means you can pull up just about anywhere you like, and settle in for as long as you like. Assuming the law doesn’t come shaking its stick at you.
Who needs a mortgage, anyway? Throw down $10,000-50,000 and go forth into the world!
4. Other Nomadic Options: Housesitting, Airbnb & Beyond
No one says you have to buy a home, even a nomadic one. Why not go live in other people’s homes?
Depending on the destination, it’s possible to live extremely affordably in others’ homes using Airbnb or similar short-term listing services. For that matter, long-term stay hotels are an option too, and in some countries, they’re cheap.
But they still cost money. Want to stay for free in others’ homes? Offer to housesit! For a free matchmaking service for pet owners and house sitters, check out TrustedHousesitters.com. Additional options include Craigslist, local pet owners’ groups on Facebook, and local Realtors.
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Free Mini-Course: Passive Income from Small Multifamily Properties
5. Prefab Cabins
Own some land? Pick up a prefab cabin!
Even better, build your own cabin using a cabin kit. My father and uncle did this – they bought a 10-acre lot near the Madison River in Montana, bought a three-bedroom log cabin kit, and spent a few summers building it.
It’s gorgeous, boasting solar panels for electricity, a water tank for running water, and a propane-powered on-the-fly hot water heater.
For heat, a pellet stove or wood-burning stove will work wonders, and are cheap to buy and install.
6. Shipping Container Homes
Shipping container homes are cheap and easy to drop in anywhere.
They can also look and feel more “homey” than you’d think. Nothing says you can’t cover the metal skeleton of the house, both on the inside and outside.
Perhaps best of all, you can combine multiple containers to customize a home to be any shape or size that you like.
7. House Hack a Multifamily
Who wouldn’t want to live for free?
The idea is simple: you buy a small multifamily property, rent out the other units, and your neighboring renters pay for your mortgage.
No sweat, right?
Well, maybe a little sweat, if you’ve never bought a home or rental property before. Here’s a detailed house hacking case study on how an insurance underwriter with no real estate experience house hacked and currently lives for free in a beautiful suburban home.
If multifamily properties are scarce where you want to live, you can do this with a property with a carriage house or casita, or with an income suite. or even buy a home and rent out other bedrooms (Denise and I have both done this, and it worked out beautifully for both of us!).
8. Teach Abroad and Live for Free
I actually do this myself!
More specifically, my wife works as a school counselor at an international school in Abu Dhabi. Her school puts us up in a two-bedroom apartment, in an excellent building with a pool and gym. Beyond our building is a beach and boardwalk.
As an added bonus, you don’t have to pay U.S. income taxes on your first $104,100 earned abroad (for tax year 2018).
We have friends who have traveled the world this way, living on multiple continents, raising their children and sending them to the schools where they work. It’s an incredible lifestyle.
In fact, it’s also a great way to save money and invest in real estate. Look no further than Ashley and Kevin Thompson, who have now retired using rental properties in their early 30s after saving the money they earned teaching abroad.
Housing is the number one expense for nearly everyone in the world. If you can reduce or eliminate that cost, it will free up much more of your income to invest in income-producing assets, such as rental properties and dividend-paying stocks.
And the more expenses you can cover with your passive income, the closer you’ll be to financial independence!