Alternative Housingby Royce Carlson
standard way to set up housekeeping in the West amounts to this: The
American dream is to own a house. If you canít afford a house you can
start with a condominium. Until you can afford either one of those it is
expected that you rent either an apartment or a house. Once you can
afford the down payment for a house, you are supposed to find a real
estate agent to help you find one and then you get a bank to finance it.
With a standard 30-year mortgage if you borrow $100,000 you will end up
paying around $300,000 by the time your loan is paid off. A lot of
people make money from you if you do it the standard way and it ties you
down to a mortgage (and a job) for a long, long time.
There are other ways, however, that cut out the middleman and make
housing much more affordable. For example, you could find someone with a
large parcel of land who would be willing to let you use part of it in
exchange for some work or even for free just to have someone there to
protect the property. I just recently met some people who have been
living on a three-acre chunk of a large private parcel of land, without
owning it or paying for it, for over 20 years.
I lived on a beautiful 30-plus acre piece of remote property for two
years for very little money just so the owner could know that the
property was watched. Not owning the property can make a person feel
somewhat insecure about how long they will be allowed to live there so
this option isnít for everyone.
Years ago I met some people who lived even more dangerously and built
houses deep in the National Forests of the Northwest U.S. without the
governmentís knowledge. Now, this was totally illegal, but it was
still possible for them to do it for many years due to the incredible
amount of densely forested land and the inadequate budget for the Forest
Service to patrol and police the area.
For those who want the illusion of security, ownership is the next
option. An ownership option is to buy some remote vacant land
and then just start building. Itís possible in many parts of the U.S.
to pay cash for some pretty nice property instead of using the same
amount of money as a down payment on a suburban home. Then you could
live in a teepee, motor home, or tent until you build your house. This
is a rather labor- intensive way and is certainly not a fast way but it
is a possible means to own your own home without involving real estate
agents, etc. It, very likely, would involve living far from a city and
probably without utilities, paved roads and close neighbors but who
wants to pay all those electric, gas and water bills, anyway?
Sharing property is another way to make home ownership affordable by
unconventional means. Thatís how many intentional communities started.
People pooled their money and bought some acreage and they all helped
each other build their homes. With this kind of arrangement you can
share other expenses as well, creating an inexpensive way to live as
well as an interesting social environment.
Even in urban and suburban areas itís possible to own a home for
much less money than you might think. I have heard of people buying a
vacant lot and then buying a house that is about to be torn down in
another area and having it hauled to the lot and set up. You can often
get the house for a little as one dollar plus the cost of having it
moved. A friend of mine did this and probably spent no more than $40,000
total on the deal, including the land, and ended up with a home worth
over $100,000. Some people have done this several times and have
accumulated quite a bank account for their trouble.
If you buy a lot that is approved for mobile or manufactured homes,
you can buy a used mobile for much less than a new one and, once again,
end up with a house for considerably less than you would have to pay if
you bought it already set up.
But why own or rent land at all? I lived in an old school bus
converted into a rolling home for a while and I know people who have
been enjoying that nomadic lifestyle for many years. With this lifestyle
you are trading space for mobility. The cost is far less than owning
real estate and you can live wherever you want whenever you want because
you bring your home with you when you move. You just canít accumulate
near as much stuff as you can (and will) in a house.
Quartzsite is a town in southwestern Arizona where hundreds of
full-time nomads gather together each winter and set up a temporary city
where they have potluck dinners, buy and sell items and generally enjoy
each otherís company. There are many other places like this all over
America although probably none as large. There are regular annual
migrations of these modern nomads from the cool north in the summer to
the warm southwestern deserts in the winter.
Iím sure there are other creative and alternative ways of arranging
a place to live that I havenít touched on in this article. Suffice it
to say that the conventional wisdom about homes and houses and how to
get them leaves a lot to be desired. You can do better, especially if you
can think outside the box.
You can reprint articles on the Zenzibar web site for free.
I am happy to help provide content for
your publication as long as I get credit.
To use an article in a print
publication you must credit the author and Zenzibar Alternative
Culture as the source, and include the web site address.
To republish a Zenzibar article on
your web site you must credit the author and Zenzibar Alternative
Culture as the source and include a clickable link to Zenzibar at http://zenzibar.com Please tell
me if you are going to
reprint an article by e-mailing me
and mentioning the name of the article and where and when it will be
To link to the article on
Zenzibar's site you can do a text link without any restrictions (you
don't even have to tell me, but it would be nice to know).
If you want to use the image
associated with the article you are welcome to use it as long as you
don't change it or use it in any way other than to link to the article
at Zenzibar. Also, please tell me if you are going to use the graphic. If you have any questions, please