The Simple Life: Are non-traditional homes growing in popularity?

We all know prices are rising. With the cost of living rising, along with the Bank of England base rate, it’s natural that people are looking for cheaper lifestyle alternatives. 

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While many people are finding ways to get on the ladder the traditional way, including buying with friends, doing their research and even just saving as hard as possible, others are looking for more extreme alternatives.

There is a rise in people choosing some non-traditional homes, in a bid to save for a normal home in the future, or as a long-term alternative to traditional living.

What are some of the most unusual homes? 

  • House boats. These have been a long-standing alternative to homes on land, with a long history of water-based communities.
    Some people will choose to live on a moveable boat, embracing a nomadic lifestyle and moving every few weeks (this saves on mooring fees!). Others choose a fixed home on water. While these are cheaper than traditional homes, they do come with a lot of hidden costs to consider and as they are now a trendy alternative, they are one of the more expensive ‘cheaper’ options.
  • Shipping containers. What started out as a way to transport goods across the ocean has now become a viable housing alternative for young people around the world. Some people purchase old shipping containers to convert into homes (a brilliant way to recycle and hit those eco goals!), while some companies are building homes inside the containers, so they are easy to ship and you can just fold your home out when it arrives!
  • Tiny Homes. Tiny homes are a growing trend across Europe, ticking both financial and eco-friendly boxes. They’re smaller and therefore cheaper, but they do come with big lifestyle changes and are tricky to find land for.
  • Yurts. No longer just the preserve of festival glampers, some people are living in them more long-term in a bid to save some cash. However, they’re not as sturdy as a shipping container or tiny home, so while you could spend your summer in one, you’d need to move on for the winter. 
  • Caravans. Like a tiny home, caravans are on the smaller side and can be cheaper to purchase and run. Motor homes are also an option, so you can move around for work or weekends away quite easily. While not as tricky as tiny homes, thanks to caravan parks, finding somewhere to settle can limit your options.
  • Eco-hubs.  Built into the landscape, these homes are pretty unusual looking! They’re a more expensive option, but if you’ve got the right background, you can go full Grand Designs do a lot of the planning and building yourself and save money (and the planet!) using reclaimed materials.

But while living in an unusual home can be an adventure, there are other elements to consider. Could your non-traditional home end up costing you just as much as a 3-bed terraced home?

What are the benefits of a non-traditional home? 

We always like to start with the positives! So what are the draws of a more unique dwelling?

Tiny house movement

  • Cheap! Most of these unusual home options are cheaper than a traditional flat or house, offering you the opportunity to save more towards a traditional deposit, which can feel impossible when you’re also paying rent in an expensive city.
  • Short-term boost. If it isn’t what you want to do long-term, that’s ok! You don’t have to commit to a lifestyle overhaul for the rest of your life, but even just a few months to a year could have a positive impact on your finances, allowing you the chance to save towards a deposit or clear some debt. 
  • An adventure. If you’re only looking to do this short term, embrace it as an adventure! You might learn more about what sparks joy in your life and at the very least, you’ll have some fun stories to tell.
  • A lifestyle change. For some, the lifestyle change is part of the fun of it. For many people, the city-based 9-5 lifestyle just isn’t for them, so finding a more unusual home offers them the opportunity to build a community of like minded people.

What are the downsides of a non-traditional home?

As always, there are some downsides to consider.

  • Tricky to insure. Any unusual home will be tricky to insure and if you are able to get cover, you may have to pay higher premiums. Most insurers won’t cover non-permanent residences like pop-up pods or yurts, so you won’t be able to cover your home in case of emergencies and you won’t be able to cover your contents either.
  • No mortgages available. While these are cheaper alternatives, they aren’t cheap. The costs can run into thousands which you may not have in your savings, ready to go. Unfortunately, you are unlikely to get a mortgage on any of these types of residences.
  • Not a great investment. You’re unlikely to gain any money when you are ready to move on, in fact, you are more likely to make a loss.
  • They can be tricky to offload. These slightly less-than-permanent structures, like tiny homes and yurts, are likely to look a little shabby after a while and because there is a much smaller market for them, it can be tricky to sell them on, if you are able to at all.

Is a non-traditional the right choice for me?

It all depends on your ultimate goal. If you are looking to get your first step on the property ladder, we wouldn’t recommend investing in a non-traditional home. 

There is a lot of risk involved as we don’t have the long-term view on these that we have on bricks and mortar – we can say with certainty that bricks and mortar is a reliable investment. You are likely to make a profit on a traditional home, particularly if you renovate a doer-upper. However, the same cannot be said for these more unusual homes.

So if you’re looking to take your first step on the ladder, with a view to moving onto a larger property in the future (perhaps you are even hoping to become a landlord and eventually rent out that first home?), we recommend taking more traditional steps. Check a mortgage calculator or book a call with a mortgage specialist and get their advice on how you can get started.

However, there is a place for unique homes – it wouldn’t do if we were all the same, after all! If you’re looking for an adventure or lifestyle change, this could be for you. If you are looking for a short-term change to get your finances straight, perhaps unusual living is the answer.

But before you take that step – make sure you know exactly what you want out of it and run those numbers!

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