Alternative Housing Arrangements

How to avoid signing your life over to a mortgage
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Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by thrifty++ » Fri Oct 30, 2015 4:15 pm

I'm interested in hearing about other peoples experiences with alternative housing arrangements.

I live in one of those overpriced expensive world cities and feel the need to extreme down my core costs a bit more. I'm talking about boats, buses, pop up trailers, campervans, vans, living in an office etc. They all have their challenges:

- Boats - cost of purchase plus mooring in a marina and maintenance costs.
- Pop up trailers or campervans - potentially a pop up could be quite cheap to do up and make nice. However challenges are the cost of staying in a trailer park or trying to find a big plot on someones land reasonably close to the city to rent at a low price.
- Vans - not sure this would meet my comfort levels. Im a corporate professional with reasonably stressful work and need to also look highly polished and in a suit every day as well as do some work on the laptop and printer and internet from home for about 10 to 15 hours per week on top of my full time job. I read Walden on Wheels but that was about a student living in small cities and rurally who did labouring work over summer.
- Living in an office. I thought about living secretly at my own office but I know I would get busted and potentially sacked for misuse of company resources real fast. Otherwise maybe renting an office space is cheaper. However I am not sure whether this is lawful and whether landlords would rent to me for such usage.

Im interested in hearing about how others had strategised and lived in any of the above circumstances successfully and in a way that saved lots of money. Particularly from people doing corporate work and living in large cities as I think that makes the above more challenging,

jacob
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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by jacob » Fri Oct 30, 2015 4:46 pm

RV in mobile home park. Saved about 60% over a studio apartment; 75% over a house rental. Read all about it on the blog ;-)

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C40
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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by C40 » Fri Oct 30, 2015 4:51 pm

The examples I read/hear about that are the most appealing to me are ones where a person lives on the property of another person for free in exchange for a small amount of work. Sometimes the "work" is as simple as just being around to keep an eye on the property. Jennypenny recently shared a good example on another thread:
jennypenny wrote:....Look for alternative arrangements. An older woman I know has a twenty-something guy living in the apartment over her garage. He has a regular full-time job, but he also does what she calls "husband" stuff for her on the weekend-- cuts the grass, rakes the leaves, cleans the gutters -- in exchange for the free apartment. And I think she feels safer with a guy nearby..

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by thrifty++ » Fri Oct 30, 2015 4:55 pm

@ jacob - awesome thanks! I will have a look on your blog. I didn't realise it would work out that cheap. I think I could do up a pop up trailer nicely for total cost of about $3.5k. So if the trailer park wasnt too expensive that would work wonders!

@C40 thanks! Thats a great idea. I wonder how to find those gigs. Might be quite hard in Auckland though - everyone is taking advantage of the out of control housing boom by trying to rip money off other people. MIght be hard to find anything better than pay us rent + do work for us. I will have a look around on websites though.

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by Did » Sat Oct 31, 2015 1:40 am

Not sure if you have any family around, but maybe use their pad (or somewhere else) as a base while you housesit (ie live there between sits). Worth a shot. I use http://www.trustedhousesitters.com.

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Sat Oct 31, 2015 7:21 am

They aren't as inexpensive or readily available as other brands, but I highly recommend the Aliner as a pop-up. I lived in one of the smaller models for a couple months this past winter in a variety of climates. It can readily be towed by a small truck, and it can be popped up and down and hooked up in a matter of minutes. The bed is a tiny bit short for the very tall, but it is wide enough for a couple people, and the dinette was more than adequate as mobile office space. Other pop-ups I've used for camping have either been more of a PITA to set-up or not nearly as comfortable and well-designed for living space. Also, it is very cute and has the opposite of a "trailer-trash" vibe, if you care about that sort of thing. I would have been happy living in it continuously, but my BF was too much of a wimp.

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by thrifty++ » Sat Oct 31, 2015 1:47 pm

@did yes I really like the house sitting idea. Not sure I have a stable go between though. Could be a good idea to couple a pop up trailer with that for luxurious stays away from the trailer.

@7wannabe5 - awesome. Where was your trailer? Was it in an RV park or on someones lawn? How the cost work out?

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Sat Oct 31, 2015 4:05 pm

The advantage of living in a truly mobile home is that you can move very easily if you find a better deal. The best deal we came upon, overall, was 50% discount off-season in a state park in South Carolina. Beautiful white beaches, natural preserves full of birds and other wildlife and less than $10/night including electric which we could use for heat. Propane can sometimes get to be a bit pricey if you have to use it all night. Of course, if you have 10 friends and you can park 3 nights in each friend's driveway at a time, and just run your electric cord into their garage, your only expense might be the case of beer you buy them in exchange for the power. We parked in a driveway outside of Chicago in the middle of the winter and extreme cold wasn't an issue. Only the most obnoxious sort of neighbors will complain about a zoning violation that only lasts a week or two. Anyways,it wasn't really an exercise in frugality except in my own mind because my BF became homesick for his creature comforts long before I was going to hit the travel budget limit. I just keep burning through the men with my mean frugal ways.

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by Did » Mon Nov 02, 2015 3:50 am

In a few years I'm thinking of living in a van in Europe and jumping from housesit to housesit (the van being the base between sits). It would mean we wouldn't be paying much if at all for accommodation.

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by akratic » Mon Nov 02, 2015 1:25 pm

The best single trick is to share a 1BR with a significant other and instantly cut rent in half and maybe your food budget as well.

Another social capital play is to have an extensive friend network that offers you a cheap room in the guest bedroom in their house. I have an extrovert friend who bounces between free rooms like this and rarely pays any actual rent. He’s not taking advantage of anyone though: he more than pays them back by doing stuff like taking care of their kids or enthusiastically chipping in on whatever they’re working on. For example, he’s told me that if I ever buy a fixer upper home, he’ll happily crash in it while we figure out how to fix it up together. This is a win-win!

Some other comments:
- My personal favorite is the sublet section of craigslist or gumtree or equivalent. People with vacant apartments or rooms are often facing a real possibility of their place sitting vacant for the entire duration of the sublet. I’ve offered someone 66% of their list (rent) price, cashier’s check up front, move in tomorrow and had it accepted. By finishing other people’s leases you can also try out a neighborhood for 1-3 months, which is hard to do otherwise, but the perfect length of time. Most people have too many physical possessions and too much fear of the unknown to string sublets together, but I kind of like it. And if you stumble across a really good sublet, you might be able to renew at the end of the sublet and turn it into a longer term thing that you know is a good deal.
- Housing wanted section of craigslist. We just moved into a place in Austin that’s way under-market based on its location and amenities. We found it because the landlords contacted *us* rather than the other way around. They thought we “seemed really nice” based on our writeup about ourselves and the pic we put on our housing wanted post. The landlords have a standalone cottage in their backyard, and I think they just wanted to make some money from people they would like living near, rather than make us much money as possible.
- Geoarbitrage. We paid $250/mo for a furnished luxury apartment in Ecuador and $350/mo for a furnished luxury apartment in Thailand. We didn’t get especially good deals either: that was simply the market rate.
- House-Sitting. We've house sat for a week in Pennsylvania, a month in Instanbul, a month in Brussels, a month in France, and a weekend in Manhattan. House sits in cool places like this don’t come along often, and the competition can be pretty fierce for them. We beat out 30 or so other applicants for some of these. It’s also hard to recuperate the cost of the flight to get there. However, it’s undoubtably nice to move somewhere that’s already set up with internet and kitchen stuff.

Some thoughts I’ve had but haven’t tried:
- Inverted seasons: live in a ski condo in the *summer*. You still have nice mountains and town infrastructure like grocery stores that are built for the on-season, but supply and demand are big time in your favor.

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by sky » Mon Nov 02, 2015 9:53 pm

camper van vandwelling in a class b

Stealth conversion of high top cargo or conversion vans

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Ego
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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by Ego » Mon Nov 02, 2015 11:09 pm

I posted about our near zero expenses living arrangements a few years ago.

viewtopic.php?t=1869

We've since moved to a new building which is a considerable upgrade from the last. Historic building. Tons of extra storage rooms to keep the inventory for my small business. Located in a great neighborhood with a walkscore of 90 and a bike lane running down the street. 1/2 block to the largest park in the city. Internet included. The building is larger so we are earning a little income on top of the free rent. The rent reduction is non-taxable which makes it even more valuable with Obamacare. The building is full of high income millennials which might be good, might be bad. I'm not sure yet. So far so good. We're still sleeping on the thermarests until we find furniture at the swap meet. Right now we own absolutely no furniture and we're playing musical chairs with the one office chair.

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by thrifty++ » Mon Nov 02, 2015 11:26 pm

All great ideas. Thanks people! Time to do a bit of researching now. :)

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by Riggerjack » Tue Nov 03, 2015 12:41 am

Long haul trucker. May not be workable in NZ, but in the states you can live in your truck, and get paid for it. Beats van living!

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by enigmaT120 » Tue Nov 03, 2015 12:34 pm

I've never seen the inside of a sleeper. My neighbor drives one (owns it), I should ask him if I could look inside some time.

I've been reading too much bicycling stuff, as when I saw Long Haul Trucker I thought it was the Surly bicycle.

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by Untiedshoelaces » Sun Nov 08, 2015 8:24 pm

Work trade and 'caretaking' can work out well in some areas. I've lived the last year in a high cost of living area 'rent' free.
I found mine through craigslist and wwoofing. Woofing was less great of a deal--If you were just doing it for the cash advantage, the hours were essentially the same as working a part-time job and paying for an apartment. (20 hours a week, factor at least 10-12 dollars an hour at an easily acquired job=same cost as a shitty shared apartment in a sketchy neighborhood.) However, there were the other benefits: Free food from the garden, skills and learning, good friendships and above average housing. Wwoofing often includes room and board. If you pick the farm right, you essentially have food and housing covered, get to learn things, meet interesting people, for under 20 hours a week. I did this and worked a full time job. It worked well. However, WWoofing is on a farm, so if you work in a city, you probably will have to have a car. If you aren't white collar, you can probably find a job within walking distance. You can do this all over the United States. Not sure about how it would work for other countries, totally feasible for Americans.

Caretaking has been a great deal. My share of the deal was: There had to always be someone at the place, and a little mowing/weedeating, taking pictures of orchids and flowers. The person at the place didn't have to be me, so if I was out of town I had to find a friend to housesit. It was a vacation place that is very rarely used. I was allowed to have as many people live at it as I want, provided no damage to the facility. I could have sublet it out and gotten income off of it and the owner would have been ok with it--He just wanted someone there. It did mean talking on the phone with him about twice a month, for about an hour, taking pictures of the place and emailing them. The owner is strange and very paranoid, which could possibly present a problem. I no longer do this--never had a problem, but foresaw that it was definitely a possibility, just because of the owner's quirky behavior. ((He asked me to do things like find old appliances and dump them on nearby properties that were for sale, to discourage others from moving into the area. I never did these things, but I wasn't comfortable with being asked to do things like that.)
I lived there for a year and the owner did not visit during that time.

Great deal though. I saved a lot of money while doing that.

If you live in a place considered a vacation destination, this type of thing is fairly common.

I've enjoyed work trades, usually. Most have allowed me to learn things I wanted to learn.

Around here, If you are handy, there are often small apartments available for property managers who can respond to tenant problems. They also often come with a salary. The last one I saw was a great deal: 1600 cash monthly with a small apartment in the heart of town, 20 hours a week of work.

There are often posts looking for caretakers for elderly that include housing, in many areas. I've lived all over the united states and seen these in many cities. Not my thing, so I've never pursued them. I think these work best if you are socially competent.

I've had a lot of friends that have rented entire houses, then sublet the rooms for amounts that covered the entire rent of the place. This is perhaps dicey. I lived with one friend who did this: She budgeted in extra for the rooms so that she saved enough from the rents to cover vacancies when they occurred. It worked out well-ish for her. She also lived in an area that had a high cost of living and a shortage of affordable housing.

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by bryan » Fri Jul 22, 2016 4:08 pm

how about parking a small trailer in someone’s driveway?: https://i.imgur.com/vT4kjxK.jpg

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by black_son_of_gray » Sat Aug 13, 2016 5:23 pm

Recent news story on vandwelling in Silicon Valley... Looks like some streets are completely lined with RVs/campers/vans!

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/high-ren ... -vehicles/

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by bryan » Sat Aug 13, 2016 7:13 pm

black_son_of_gray wrote:Recent news story on vandwelling in Silicon Valley... Looks like some streets are completely lined with RVs/campers/vans!
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/high-ren ... -vehicles/
Yes, you can find _a lot_ of RVs and vans in parts of the Bay Area. Vans are easier to park in SF, but you still see plenty of RVs segregated to certain areas (mostly due to parking regulations, since vehicle dwellers have the benefit/flexibility to find a good parking spot at all hours). Once you live in a van/rv, your Baader-Meinhof radar is constantly alarming (someone lives in that van, oh look it's a row of RVs on that access road).

Pretty funny they interviewed Brandon and he asked not to name where he works (Google) and then they jump to Google who asked not to address their own employees living in vehicles!

There are so may spots to park in the America we know (designed for cars), that at some point you think "why not just take advantage of all this empty space and sleep there?" One tricky bit is if your parking there is taking away from anyone else parking there during on-peak hours (commuters wanting to park for free on the street), such that resentment grows towards vehicle dwellers.

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by Noided » Sun Aug 14, 2016 4:14 am

black_son_of_gray wrote:Recent news story on vandwelling in Silicon Valley... Looks like some streets are completely lined with RVs/campers/vans!

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/high-ren ... -vehicles/
It is just weird that as a society we think that the unless you have a convrntional house, you are homeless. For example the 59 year old dude who lived alone has plenty of space for himself.

On the other hand, the RV of the family with 3 kids was small for them.

I will be moving in the next few weeks so I also have to research more efficient housing arrangements.

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by enigmaT120 » Sun Aug 14, 2016 11:02 am

It's even in the U.S. Census, that people who live in RVs are counted as homeless. I disagree with that assessment but they didn't ask me. That happens a lot.

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by BRUTE » Sun Aug 14, 2016 1:01 pm

bryan wrote:Pretty funny they interviewed Brandon and he asked not to name where he works (Google) and then they jump to Google who asked not to address their own employees living in vehicles!
brute was somewhat pleasantly surprised that they didn't display him as an elitist asshole, given he makes a ton of money and still lives in a vehicle. brute finds his arguments pretty convincing, why pay for unused real estate if showers, gym, etc. are available at work and he never goes home except to sleep, anyway?

the mayor of Mountain View being so positive about the situation was surprising, too. brute would've expected some angry comments like from the lady towards the end ("we pay so much rent why don't they..").

brute thinks as long as excessive negative externalities are avoided, this seems like a good strategy. they did mention how most of the RV humans keep their area very clean. the real problems probably begin when nearby residents feel they're suffering from the vehicle dweller's presence.

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Sun Aug 14, 2016 4:51 pm

I think if a person who pays their property taxes on their land and purchased a camper is not allowed to reside in it because sub-standard then the situation is just the same as when a person is forced to purchase health care insurance.

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by jacob » Sun Aug 14, 2016 5:10 pm

enigmaT120 wrote:It's even in the U.S. Census, that people who live in RVs are counted as homeless. I disagree with that assessment but they didn't ask me. That happens a lot.
Funny, because the IRS counts such people as home-owners. If you borrowed money to buy an RV and you live in it, you can deduct the interest on schedule A. (By IRS definitions, a home has a place to cook, a place to sleep, and a place to go to the toilet. RVs qualify.)

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Re: Alternative Housing Arrangements

Post by bryan » Sun Aug 14, 2016 7:32 pm

BRUTE wrote: brute thinks as long as excessive negative externalities are avoided, this seems like a good strategy. they did mention how most of the RV humans keep their area very clean. the real problems probably begin when nearby residents feel they're suffering from the vehicle dweller's presence.
Yes, though it's only a matter of time if things keep going as they are until those externalities build up in places like SF or Oakland (where the good parking is more competitive than in the burbs like Palo Alto, Mountain View, Santa Clara).

For your entertainment, I present an instance of conflict between a RV/van dweller and a normal in SF which I documented. The location has a good number of van dwellers but parking is scarce from 9-5. Very shortly after the incident, an RV restriction sign appeared (no vehicle over 22ft long or 7ft high allowed 24/7): http://imgur.com/a/ovt8D

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