Right now, our housing options in the US are fairly limited. Those limitations stem from a status quo that favors a housing model that’s over 100 years old, which is a lot of institutional inertia to try and overcome. The combination of Wall Street, the Federal Housing Authority, the insurance industry, and a colonial retail real estate industry have combined to limit our housing options. That’s why we still build houses out of wood in Tornado Alley, and put shingle roofs on homes in hurricane zones. It’s really quite insane.
Luckily, this here is America and, if we don’t like our options, we can make better ones. Your life doesn’t fit a traditional model, so why should your house? Sometimes that means giving up a few conveniences but, on the plus side, almost always means saving a big chunk of money every month. There are a world of housing options to consider, that will not only put a roof over your head, but some of them actually put money in your pocket to boot. Here are five just to get your thought processes working.
If you live anywhere with a seasonal increase in population, there will be people who want someone to look after the place in the off season. Here in South Florida, opportunities abound over the summer to stay in some pretty swanky places, many of which have separate housing for a caretaker. For a few, those opportunities extend year round, when the owners spend a lot of time traveling and don’t want to screen new caretakers every fall. If you’re handy at landscaping or doing repairs, you can even find the odd arrangement that covers your rent and a little money on the side.
Besides private land, the state and federal governments own tracts of land and facilities that need watchful eyes because they’re in remote places.
I put RV living and tiny houses in the same category. If you can get by with less space, and can live without the accumulated junk and possessions of a lifetime, you can save a lot of money living in an RV or a tiny house. My wife and I lived in a four-star luxury resort for years at a fraction of the cost of our last house payment. If you’re willing to forego the resort lifestyle in favor of more rustic campgrounds, you can save even more money. A few hardy souls even manage to carve out living space on public land without paying a dime.
Live Aboard a Boat
If you’re mechanically inclined, and one of those busy bee types always up for fixing, scraping or painting something, you might consider living on a boat. While the maintenance requirements are higher, liveaboards not only have the option of tying up at a full service marina or resort dock, but can also anchor and tie up at many places that don’t cost anything. If you have the right boat, and don’t mind taking to the open ocean, there are many islands and cays in far flung places where you can live for days or weeks at a time for the cost of food, fuel, and maintenance. Living on a boat generally costs more than a tiny house or RV, but also provides greater latitude for travel.
Another option is working aboard cruise ships, some of which turn into long-term arrangements that can last for months or years.
Some people confuse a housing co-operative with a commune — and that’s unfortunate, because there are many awesome communities that are run as some type of a cooperative. Places like The Great Outdoors in Titusville, Florida, are part RV resort and part co-op housing community, built in the middle of a wildlife refuge. TGO, and developments like it, are really more like a small city with its own police force, restaurants, bank, post office, movie theater, golf course, vehicle dealership, service center, and water treatment facilities. Similar developments can be found all over the country, with even a few in large urban areas. Co-ops are hard to find because many don’t need to advertise to stay full.
Managing an Apartment Complex
There are a lot of options under this category, that range from being the superintendent of a high rise, to managing an apartment complex, which requires a license in many states, to buying a multi-family housing unit and being an on-site landlord. Buying a multifamily house is, in some ways, easier than buying a traditional home, because it’s a commercial property and the formulas for evaluating profitability are well established. Even if you work for someone else, trustworthy apartment managers and good renters are like gold in the industry.
These are just a few of the possibilities available if you’re looking to get out of the housing rut. If you’re willing to think out of the three bedroom, 2 1/2 bath box and regard housing as a roof over your head, you’ll discover a whole world of options you never knew existed.