Monday, June 14, 2010

Looking for a place to live - part 1

An RV as a cheap place to live?

For someone who tries to retire extremely early, the housing cost is one of the most important one to consider. It's the biggest expense in any sane budget. To cut back on the costs here, one should strive to find a place that's not too big.
The housing price will go up with every bedroom it has extra. So less bedrooms equals less money to borrow to buy the house, wich lowers your mortgage.
I'll write several posts, that document my search for the ideal place to look, which has to be beneficial in reaching my goals for early retirement.
And to start off, I'll write something about an extreme example I'm interested in: living in an RV.

Why would anyone want to live in an RV?

Well, if you live in an RV, your housing costs will be a lot lower. That might be one of the core reasons anyone would like to live in an RV. But there is also a sort of 'nomadic' component to it. You have all your belongings in a small space, which means that you can move easily. After all, it's called a 'mobile home' or 'motor home' for a reason, right?
If you buy a small RV, parking is not a big problem. It's an ideal solution for those that like to travel a lot. They can go and see the world, taking their precious home with them.
So what are the advantages, disadvantages and which of those make living in an RV appealing to me?

Small spaces

I like big spaces. Yes, if I'm outside, I like to be able to look far to the horizon. This is a problem on the inside of the RV, because it's designed to be small. But with an RV, you can drive to sunny places and be outside a lot. And there's a lot of space outside...
The small space itself, could also cause problems for storing your belongings. If you have too much of them, there might not be enough room to put everything in. But as I wrote in another article, having too much items is nothing more than excess emotional bonds that make life more difficult. This problem is already being taken care off, because I'm constantly in the process of decluttering my life. I live in a small room at the monent, even a smaller place than an RV (although that's just the room I sleep in and entertain myself in). But it has forced me to get rid of all the stuff I no longer use.
I'm actually striving to decrease my possesions to a point that they can fit in my car. And if it fits in my car, it will definently fit in any RV.

The costs of living in an RV

The good thing about the costs of living in an RV, is that you have no property tax to pay and the initial investment is much lower than that of buying a house. The bad thing is that you have to pay gas. And with rising gas prices, it does not sound like a low cost. You don't have to travel if you own an RV, but your RV becomes your car too, so you'll have to drive it anyway.
But let's presume that you can keep the gas costs to a minimum. What other recurring costs does an RV imply?
There's propane, because you need to be able to cook. The propane thank probably needs to be replaced every 3 to 4 weeks. That's not so bad, because in a house, you might use propane thanks to cook too.
Elektricity... something modern life requires. But you are not hooked up to the power net, so you'll have to get elektricity from the RV battery. Most RV owners use a special battery for their suppliances, in combination with one or more solar panels. This way, the energy from the sun gets stored in the second battery and their elektricity is taken from sunlight, without the danger of not being able to start the RV after a few days being stationary.
I'm no expert in that field, but that looks like a pretty cool solution. It's definently one of the things I like about living in an RV. But the costs of a solar panel are pretty high, I think... ? Well, it'll probably pay off in the long-term.
Another important cost are the bi-weekly fees you need to pay to dump your sceptic thanks in an RV-park. But compared to rent or a mortgage, those costs are very low. You'll also need to fill your water thanks, possibly at the RV-parks too.

The overall costs?

I think that with carefull planning, the costs of living in an RV can be much cheaper than living in a house. But RV's weren't build for permanent living, so you'll put a lot of money in modifications and appliances in the RV will break faster. Adding everything up, you will still be cheaper off than with a house, providing that you don't travel too much, to keep the gas costs low enough.

My view on living in an RV

I think it's the perfect solution for travelers, as long as they stay in the places they visit for a couple of months. You'd never have trouble finding a place to sleep, you don't have to worry about your belongings at home... they are with you all the time.
But it will cost money to maintain and upgrade, so in the end, it's only worth it if you want to live the nomadic lifestyle.
The main issues I have with it are that the material breaks faster, there are not as much camping sites or RV-parks in Belgium as in the U.S. and parking places here tend to be rather small.
And the biggest downside is that housing prices rise with the year, so the sooner you buy a house, the better. Well... I'm not really sure about that yet, but I tend move more towards that way of thinking.

Conclusion

With careful planning, living in an RV can be cheaper than living in a house.
It has it's downsides, but also it's charms.
At the moment, I think it's better suited for people that have a more 'nomadic' personality, but I'm keeping it open as an option. If it appears to benefit my journey towards my goal of extreme early retirement, then I'm willing to try anything. Wouldn't you?

Notes

Some blogs I found to be an interesting read on the subject are:
and