-Alaska Wagoner | The Tiny House Concierge
@frugal_beans was kind enough to let me take over their blog for a hot minute to talk about
the housing crisis that’s bleeding us to death. Whoops, that got dark quickly! Don’t worry though, this is not going to be a doom and gloom article. I actually hope that it will be a really fun and inspiring one! Yes, the housing crisis is abysmal, but you, Frugal Beans, are very crafty, and I know there’s a fabulous way out of this if we all put our heads together!
Who am I, you ask? My name is Alaska, AKA, The Tiny House Concierge. Today I am a writer, realtor, and tiny home owner, but jump back in time a few years, and I was a paycheck-to-paycheck, 9-5, rat-race millennial who suffered a complete and utter breakdown.
My breakdown took my new business, my marriage, and nearly my sanity, but in the process forced me to do a deep dive of my life. I started asking hard questions, like what do I really value? How much is “enough?” And how much does the life I want actually cost?
Friends, I made spreadsheets like you wouldn’t believe. I counted the objects in my house, and documented how they came into my life and what the resale value was. I wrote out a manifesto that included a bucket list I was sure would cost thirty million dollars to achieve. Imagine my surprise when a little research revealed that it was more fiscally advantageous for me to move to Bali, than to keep my current job.
Armed with the above knowledge, I quit my life and started over.
If I had to sum up what I learned from my deep dive, and my early years working in real estate, it would be this:
Housing is our biggest expense, therefore, it’s our greatest opportunity to re-write our lives.
Hear me out. We spend most of our TIME at WORK to earn MONEY, only to turn around and spend most of our MONEY on HOUSING. By focusing our efforts on solving our housing problem first, we break the time-money conundrum that keeps so many people bound to the hamster wheel, and prevents the building of wealth.
Back in 2018, my paycheck-to-paycheck job had me working at a gym. After doing my deep dive (which ultimately resulted in me getting a real estate license) I realized that if I could somehow eliminate my housing problem, I would give myself a 56% raise overnight. Yeah. That is a true factoid, Friends. When I lived in Orange County, California (USA) my half of the rent ate up 56% of my take home pay. I needed a plan- we all need a plan- and to that end, I have compiled a list of alternative housing solutions for you to consider.
Please keep in mind that none of the “solutions” need to be permanent arrangements. Even a year or two of more affordable housing could change your life. Also, please keep in mind that there is no “right,” “best,” or “cheapest” answer here. What is right, best or cheapest, is going to depend on about ten billion factors including: where you live, what your risk tolerance is, how much space you require, and more. I present this list only as jumping off point. Finally, please keep in mind that while I am a realtor, I am not your realtor. I’m also not a financial advisor, lawyer, retirement planner, or (probably) resident of your state / country. If you do pursue any of these options, please do a heavy amount of your own due-diligence. Alright! Let’s do this!
Badass Ways to Rethink Your Housing
My name is The Tiny House Concierge, you had to know I’d start with that one!
Tiny houses are relatively new, and as such, the laws and protocol for handling them are still being established. This makes them a trickier option, but not an impossible one! If you live in an expensive area, don’t know what the future holds for you location-wise. Don’t need a lot of space. And don’t love the idea of roommates, this could be a great option for you! Tiny living is a lifestyle and a mentality, as much as it is a house.
‘Tiny’ homeowners usually come equipped with a DIY attitude, an interest in reducing their carbon footprint, and a focus on mindfulness and minimalism. These houses have a ton of popularity right now, so the feasibility of using your house to build multiple streams of income is a viable possibility! Maybe you Airbnb it when you travel; Maybe you monetize a YouTube channel and share your life. Tiny living is not for everyone, but it is a super rewarding lifestyle, and in some situations can be a cheaper, home ownership option!
Van Life ‘Housing’ (Skoolies, Box trucks, etc.)
The idea of living in a vehicle used to be so much more taboo. But people from all walks of life are putting a new spin on this option. You’ll want to weigh what you desire for your lifestyle, and (if you decide to live on the road) what the difference will be in your travel income. Versus, what you would have earned at a traditional job. In some cases, this lifestyle is cheaper, and the benefits don’t end there! Living in a vehicle can provide locational flexibility, an increased sense of wellbeing, and a lifestyle that focuses on “doing,” rather than “having.”
RV’s are some of the OG’s of alternative housing. Occasionally, I’ll still run across stigma with regard to this option, but hello- why?! RV’s are frequently cheaper than tiny houses, or converting a pinterest-level, Mercedes sprinter. They are accessible, come in so many sizes, and best of all, the world knows how to handle them! Ever tried explaining to a planning department that you want to park a tiny house? Trust me. Having the government on your side with regard to housing logistics, is of massive benefit. If RV life is for you, I high-five you, human!
Narrowboats & Barge Housing
This is one I learned about more recently. I was doing a bit of research on the housing crisis in major European cities. I discovered that there are people who are purchasing and renovating beautiful boats, and then owning their roof at a fraction of the cost of a traditional home. So, just in case I wasn’t clear, there are people enjoying waterfront property, under their own roof, in fabulous European cities for less money. Right?! I have a new life plan too.
Part 1 – House hacking means buying more house than you need, and renting out the excess to supplement, or cover the mortgage. In some cases you can even make money by living under your own roof. House hacking is a form of real estate investment, and it can manifest in many different ways. One way is to buy a house with more bedrooms than you need, and rent out the extras. You can also do this with a multi-unit property, and rent out the additional units. Real estate fun-fact: buying a multi-unit property is not much harder than buying a single family house. IF you keep it under the commercial limit (up to four units in the United States).
House Hacking Part II – As I mentioned earlier, tiny houses are still in the process of becoming legalized in many areas. Still, if you are buying a traditional home, it’s worth considering the feasibility of offering tiny house parking- if only as a future option! Offering tiny house parking is a great way to supplement a mortgage, while having your own space, and not being responsible for maintaining the structure. If you own a tiny house, and can also qualify for a traditional home loan, you could even do this backwards: buy the property, live in the tiny for free in the backyard, and rent out the main house to pay down the mortgage!
House Hacking Part III – Airbnb. VRBO. Whatever they are calling it in your area, short term rentals can be an awesome source of income! Buying a property that has plenty of parking, separate entrances, auxiliary dwelling units, and the like, can all lend themselves to profiting off your housing! Just make sure you check before you buy- some cities and HOA’s forbid vacation rentals.
Buying a House in Another Area
Ready for me to blow your mind? You don’t have to buy a house where you live. Yup. Depending on the price-to-rent ratio of your area (how expensive it is to buy vs. rent) it might make more sense for you to continue renting where you are, and buy a rental property in another town / part of the country. Doing this allows you to build equity, while living in the area that is otherwise most beneficial for you. Not all houses make good rental properties. In fact, most don’t. Real estate investing can be hugely profitable, but make sure you know what you’re doing, and how to spot a good deal before you go down that road.
Professional House Sitting
I have a friend who is getting paid to live in a million dollar home on the coast of California right now. People need their plants, and fur-babies tended to. They want to make sure that packages will be picked up, and that the house will be safe while they’re gone. It would definitely take some leg work to do this full time, but hey! How would house sitting for a year change your financial situation? Could you even get a free vacation out of the deal?
Living with Family
This isn’t an option for everyone, and in some cases, it isn’t worth what it would cost you in mental health! I think it’s worth mentioning though, because in many Western cultures we have a stigma about “moving back in with family” after we’ve set out on our own. I spent most of the pandemic living under my mother’s roof, and while it wasn’t always easy, that decision saved me over 13k! (Thanks, Mom!) If you are bleeding out from rent, it’s worth putting pen to paper. Show your family and friends what you stand to save by taking advantage of this option, and how that money would change your life. Sometimes people have resources to give, you just have to ask!
Live-Work Housing Situations
You’ll likely have to quit your 9-5 for this one, but if you’re feeling adventurous, there are job options out there that provide free housing in exchange for manual labor, seasonal work, and caretaking-type duties! It’s worth asking yourself how you stand to benefit. Are you better off keeping a higher paying job and paying rent? OR getting a lower paying job with free housing, and possibly a better quality of life? You might be surprised!
Trading a Paperclip
OK, I fully admit that this one is outrageous, but guess what? It actually happened. Back in 2005, Canadian Blogger, Kyle MacDonald started a wealth building experiment in which he traded a red paper clip for things of consistently higher value. By 2006 he made his final trade: a movie role for a 2 story farmhouse. It probably won’t be your easiest route to cheaper housing, but it totally proves that a little ingenuity can recreate a reality!
Well, that sums it up for me! I hope you learned something, that you feel inspired, and that ultimately, you find the perfect housing solution for you! The narrative might be broken, but you, Frugal Beans, are the true survivors of this world. I see you out there making it happen, and may I say- you do it in style!
Have you had success with anything on this list? Is there an option I missed? Please drop me a line! I’m always available to listen, and I love to hear your stories.
Until next time!
Alaska is a writer, realtor, and founder of The Tiny House Concierge. She lives mortgage free in her tiny house in the United States. It’s her dream that everyone recognizes the relationship between time-money-and housing, and leverages that knowledge to consciously create their very best lives.