Despite rising housing costs, you don’t have to spend a fortune to become a homeowner. These affordable alternative homes are great for anyone looking for a unique style of living on a budget. 


Owning your own home has long been a big part of the American dream. However, traditional housing can get expensive, fast. It also doesn't help that home prices increased over 16 percent in just a year, either. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St.Louis, the average cost of a house in America now runs about $375,000—ouch. That can mean a hefty monthly payment, plus you need to account for insurance and other expenses that come with being a homeowner. 

It can feel like owning your own home has become nothing but a farfetched dream if you can't afford that price tag—but don't despair. In fact, there are many alternative home models out there that offer a more affordable option. Plus, these alterna-homes let you simplify your life along with your budget—and maybe even be able to semi-retire sooner than you think. 

With a bit of imagination, downsizing, 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.

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Live in a yurt.

Yurts have been around for 3,000 years, which is why they make an excellent alternative home. 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, you can build a home that is not only unique, but structurally sound. 

According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost to build a yurt can run $11,000-$44,000 depending on the size and how luxurious you want to make it. For instance, if you customize it with more windows, French doors, porches, etc. it will increase the price. Either way, yurts are eco-friendly, durable, and can be much cheaper than a traditional home.

Repurpose a shipping container.

If you love the thought of upcycling something into your pad, 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 can vary quite a bit, depending on the size of the container you get. But you can either go the DIY route or find prefab homes within your price range. If you decide to purchase containers used to start from scratch, they cost between $2,000-$4,500. 

Of course, you have the build-out costs, but it's still much cheaper than buying the home pre-made. Check out these fabulous container home ideas that cost less than $100k. 

Scour 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 old-school bus converted into a beautiful recreational vehicle. The best thing about converting a school bus? 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 used 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 like any other home you refurbish, but can range from $20,000-$30,000. However, you can drastically reduce costs by finding preowned materials, appliances, and more. 

Plus, with skoolie living, you don't have to own land to have a home. The open road, parks, beaches, and more are where you can hang your hat; of course, you could still purchase a small piece of land for your home base if you are so inclined. 

Try out a tiny house.

Minimalism is increasing in popularity, and so are tiny homes. A tiny house is a home that is under 400 square feet, excluding lofts. For many Americans, it's easy to fall prey to the myth: The bigger and nicer the house you have, the happier you'll be, right? Nope: Studies show that having more stuff and even making more money leads to more stress. 

Those who take a step back and find their true joy realize that less is actually more, which is why tiny homes can be the ticket to freedom. Tiny homes can be made pretty much out of anything. 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. Basically, your imagination is the limit with this minimalist home. 

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 to your dreams. If you purchase one preowned, you could find one for under $30,000. Some may require a bit of TLC, but you can save quite a bit by going this route.

Keep in mind that you will have to pay monthly mooring fees. These fees are for docking your boat, waste removal, garbage disposal, and more. The average monthly fees are about $955 per month, but it is still a pretty affordable option considering the median cost of rent in the U.S. is $938. So, if you are an aquaphile, then you should consider living where your soul feels at ease.

Additional expenses to budget for

Now that you have some ideas for your new home, you need to know what other expenses to budget for. The prices of these alternative homes do not include the price of your property, well and septic, delivery costs, and more. So be sure to shop around and get quotes for these things before deciding on which home will be right for you. 

These additional expenses need to be accounted for to ensure you are sticking within your homeowner's budget. That way, you don't underestimate what your new place is going to cost. 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.

The price of land will vary widely, depending on the size of the lot and location. The best thing to do is to get estimates, so you know where you stand. Remember, even though these alternative homes are a cheaper way to live, you still need to set aside money for repairs, maintenance, taxes, and any other additional expenses that come. But the good news is you don't have to live in a traditional house to be a homeowner these days. 

So sit down and really think about the type of life you want and what brings you joy. Then start making plans to find an awesome alternative home that's best for you.