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Alternatives to Buying a House

12th May 2022

By Ben Walker

When you are thinking about moving out, most people normally think about either renting a property or buying one. However, there are alternatives to buying a house. Of course, all of the different options cost varying amounts, so you would have to choose the one best suited for you.

Living in mobile homes

Instead of buying a property or piece of land that’s set in one place, some people are tempted by mobile homes. Mobile homes can take a number of forms, with one that’s gaining a lot of popularity being converted vans.

Van Life

Vans can offer a sense of freedom and adventure that properties just can’t. Over the last few years, videos of van conversion have gone viral, showing what can be done with time and effort. There are multiple advantages to buying a van to convert, or an already converted one.

Pros

The first of these is cost. The average cost for buying a decent quality van and converting it to be lived in full time is around £20,000, but it is possible to do this much cheaper. If you want to buy an already converted van, there are multiple price ranges but you can get a good quality van for around £25,000. The average cost of a house for first time buyers in 2021 was £264,000, which is over 10 times the average cost of a van.

Additionally, vans offer greater freedom. If you decide to go to a national park one weekend, there’s no need to book accommodation as you’re driving it there. Also, if you need to move for work, you wouldn’t have to worry about selling your house.

Also, so long as they’re well looked after, converted vans tend to hold their value very well. So, if you spend the time and effort to look after them, you may be able to get most of your money back.

Cons

However, there are some aspects of van life that may not appeal to everyone. First of all, you would have to live a minimalist lifestyle. As vans are reasonably small, you may struggle to fit everything you own in. So at this point it becomes more about what’s important to you. There are examples of vans that have everything you could possibly need, including ovens, showers/toilets, washing machines and dishwashers, but these do make the van more expensive, and leave you with less space.

Also, unless you decide to buy an old vintage van, the chances are it won’t go up in value. This is where property is better, as if it follows the trend from the past few years, property prices will continue to rise.

One aspect of living in a van that may not be for everyone is the lack of privacy. More often than not, vans will have to be parked in reasonably public areas. Additionally, as vans are obviously quite a small living area, it can feel like you are being crowded by people constantly.

But, though you may be surrounded by people constantly, there is also a risk of you feeling quite isolated. It can be very difficult to have friends over for example. 

The final big disadvantage is keeping clean. If you don’t have a shower, toilet and washing machine in your van, it can be very difficult to stay clean. There are some with portable toilets and showers, but they are difficult to use full time. While it is possible to have all of these luxuries fitted to your van, they do significantly add to the cost, and take up valuable space. At the end of the day, you have to decide what is right for you.

Staying with the parents

As house prices rise, more people are staying with their parents longer. The percentage of people aged between 15 to 34 who live with their parents has increased from 36% in 2000 to 42% in 2020. While most people want to move out to gain some independence, in today’s world it may just not be possible. When asked, a large proportion of those people stated that they expect to never move out of their parents house. 

Over the next few years, staying with your parents longer will become more commonplace. But, for those who are working on a budget, there may be options available to you to buy your own slice of independence. If you are not ready to buy yet, read the article about renting to learn more.

Container Homes

Container Homes are an attractive option when compared to traditional houses. They are becoming more popular by offering a lower cost, quicker alternative to buying or building a house. So, as expected, there are many contrasting opinions on whether they are a viable option.

Pros

One massive advantage is that in general, they are much cheaper than buying or building a house. Container homes can be built in a factory and then transported to the location, which massively reduces the total costs. If you want to attempt to create your own container home, the simple building blocks are also very cheap. It’s possible to find used shipping containers for £1,500, or newer ones for £4,000 or more. 

Additionally, they are very strong. As containers are designed to transport goods all over the world, they can handle any weather conditions. They are also designed to be stacked up to 10 containers high. This overall strength means that not only can you build tall strong structures, but they are very resilient, requiring little maintenance.

Another benefit is the shape and size of the containers. As they are modular, it is easy to stack and connect different containers together. Their size also makes them easy to transport all over the globe, as they can be transported by ship, rail or road.

Cons

However, there are some negatives. First of all, steel is a very conductive material, but doesn’t maintain temperature well. This means that in warm weather, the container would become uncomfortably hot, and the opposite for cold. So, the container would require more insulation than a typical brick house.

If you are buying a second hand container, there is a chance that it will have suffered damage over its lifetime. This could take the form of spillages inside, up to cracks and twists in the container itself. This damage could end up requiring lots of time and money to fix, or making the container unfit to be used.

To add to this, containers are normally covered in a variety of nasty chemicals to survive. Before humans can think about living in them, all these chemicals will have to be removed, requiring lots of sandblasting and maybe more.

Container homes could offer a cheaper alternative to buying a traditional house, but may not be for everyone. There could be issues with buying the land for the container home, or with planning permission. Before you start anything, it’s important to check with your local authority if you can actually put a container home on some land. But, it is possible to build a more cost effective property by using containers.

Building a house

Pros

One option you could go for is to actually build your own house. Generally, building a house would work out cheaper than buying that same house. So, it can be an effective option to reduce costs slightly. 

As well as this, as you are building the house, that means you have much more creative freedom. You can work with architects and builders to design a house that you really want.

Additionally, you would be able to have a better control over how much it will actually cost you. As it will be your home, you can set the budget and make sure it doesn’t get too expensive.

Cons

However, there are problems with trying to build your own house. First of all, it can still be very expensive. There are so many aspects to consider and pay for. The first of these is the cost of buying the land. Land prices have been rising over the last few years, adding to the overall cost. As well as the land cost, there’s the cost of actually building the house. You can expect to pay between £1,200 to £3,000 per square metre in the UK to actually build the house. Adding to the building and land costs are all of the extras. This can include paying the architect, planning permission fees, legal fees and more. 

Another disadvantage to building your own house is that it takes time. It can take up to a year to build the house, and that’s not including all of the time spent before the build getting permissions and various other processes. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart, and requires a lot of patience.

Before you decide that you want to build a house, you’ll have to figure out whether you have the time, budget and patience to pull it off. But, if you decide to go ahead, by the end of the project you could have a place to truly call home.

So, there are alternatives to buying a house that could save you money, but choosing the right one for you isn’t easy. It’s best to ask those around you what they think, but ultimately, it is your decision.


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