Thinking of Downsizing? Consider One of These Affordable Alternative Homes

You don’t have to spend a fortune to become a homeowner. Instead, try one of these tiny house alternatives. 

Owning your own home has long been a big part of the American dream. However, traditional housing can get expensive–and fast. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the average cost of a house in America now runs about $455,000. That can mean a hefty monthly payment, plus insurance and other expenses that come with being a homeowner.

It can make owning your own home feel like a farfetched dream—but don't despair. Alternative home models offer a more affordable option. Plus, they might simplify your life—and even allow you to semi-retire sooner than you think.

With a bit of imagination and planning, you could be living in your own home in no time. We rounded up our favorite out-of-the-box home ideas below.

01 of 06

Live in a Yurt

Yurts have been around for thousands of years. Nomadic groups still use these portable round tents for dwelling in the steppes of Central Asia. Thanks to companies such as Pacific Yurts and Smiling Woods Yurts, today's yurts are structurally sound and can be quite lavish, with full kitchens, bathrooms, and porches.

According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost to build a yurt can run $11,500-$44,000 depending on the size and how luxurious you want to make it. Adding windows, French doors, and fireplaces will increase the price, but it's still much cheaper than a traditional home. Plus yurts are eco-friendly and durable.

02 of 06

Repurpose a Shipping Container

If you're a fan of upcycling, then a shipping container home is perfect for you. Container homes have been popular for quite a few years now. Of course, if you get elaborate, it can get expensive. But you can have an incredible alternative home on a budget if you do it right.

The costs vary depending on the size of the container and which type of container you buy. If you decide to purchase a used container to start from scratch, they cost between $2,000-$4,500. Or you can buy one from a company that's already transitioned the box into a home. This is exponentially more expensive, but still much cheaper than buying a regular home. There are fabulous container home ideas that cost less than $100k.

03 of 06

Travel the Country in a Skoolie

Do you crave adventure and travel but still want a place to call your own? Then a skoolie could be your dream home on wheels. A skoolie is an out-of-commission school bus converted into a beautiful recreational vehicle. You can customize it any way you want. Plus, you can do it on a budget if you do most of the work yourself.

You can find retired school buses for around $3,000-$10,000, depending on the size and age of the bus. The build-out costs of a skoolie will vary but can range from $20,000-$30,000. However, you can drastically reduce costs by finding preowned materials, appliances, and more.

Plus, with this option, you don't have to own land. You can purchase an acre or two to park your skoolie, or you can let the open road, a park, or a beach be where you hang your hat.

04 of 06

Try Out a Tiny House

Minimalism is increasing in popularity, and so are tiny homes. Studies show that having more stuff and even making more money leads to more stress–which is why for some people, a tiny house can be the ticket to freedom. A tiny house is a home that is under 400 square feet, excluding lofts. They can be made out of pretty much any material. One couple found a cheap old RV and converted it into a permanent tiny home for $12,000. Others have made dome homes, tree houses, and cabins. Your imagination is the limit with this minimalist home.

05 of 06

Make a Home on a Houseboat

Do you long to live on a lake or river but can't afford the property? A houseboat could be the answer. You can buy a pre-owned houseboat for under $30,000. Of course, you will have to pay monthly mooring fees for docking your boat, waste removal, garbage disposal, and more. But it is still more affordable than renting a home on land.

06 of 06

Budget for Some Additional Expenses

Alternative home prices do not include the price of your property, well and septic, delivery costs, and more. For instance, a well and septic could range from $6,000-$20,000, depending on how far down they have to drill, your location, etc. Shop around and get quotes for these things before deciding on which home will be right for you.

The price of land will vary widely, depending on the size of the lot and location. Get several estimates and set aside money for repairs, maintenance, taxes, and any other additional expenses as well.

The bottom line: You don't have to live in a traditional house to be a homeowner. In fact, one of these home alternatives might bring you a lot of joy.

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  1. FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Median sales price of houses sold for the United States.

  2. Petrone P. LinkedIn Learning, Stress at work—see who's feeling it the most and how to overcome it.

  3. Liu Y, Zhao X, Liu Y. Stress and unethical consumer attitudes: the mediating role of construal level and materialism. Pers Individ Dif. 2018;135:85-91. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2018.06.044

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