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When most first time buyers think about buying their first home, they think about buying a traditional house or flat – or a variation such as a bungalow or maisonette.

But there is an interesting and sometimes exciting range of alternative homes first time buyers can purchase. 

If you are looking to buy your own home, it is worth thinking outside the box and looking at options other than a conventional house or flat.

Other alternatives may more suit you in terms of your lifestyle preferences and, crucially, may be more accessible to you in terms of cost.

Here are the most common alternatives…

1. Park homes or lodges

Park homes or lodges are single storey accommodation on private residential parks which will have their own distinctive characteristics and “community feel”.

There may be age restrictions as to who can live in a park home or lodge. 

The homes are static, unlike mobile caravans, and when you buy a home you purchase the property not the land on which it is situated. For that reason, park homes are often a cheaper option than a traditional house where you own the land and building.


2. Mobile homes and caravans

There are residential parks which will allow you to live on the park in your own mobile home or caravan for up to 12 months in a year – giving you permanent residency including the right to get on the electoral roll.

You pay “pitch fees” for the right to stay in the park.

Mobile homes and caravans have the advantage of being mobile. You have the freedom of being able to move to another park or site if you wish – and this may prove convenient for matters such as work or school catchment.

Instead of staying in one spot permanently, your lifestyle may allow you to move around and find temporary parking as and when needed. 

Luxury mobile homes or caravans can cost huge sums. If you are on a budget, you can buy something second hand at relatively modest cost. 

With holiday parks, as distinct from residential parks, you are not allowed to live on the park all year in your mobile home. Holiday parks are normally open for a maximum of 9-11 months in a year.


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3. Tents

Living under canvas in a tent may not appeal if you like your home comforts. But if money is in short supply, it is an option –  especially if you are young and fit.

There are campsites up and down the country and after the 2008 credit crunch, there were reports of a spike in people living on camp sites.

Living in a tent, with the challenges in respect of basic matters such as cooking, washing, heating and comfort, is never going to be a long term option for most people.

However for the stoic, tough or adventurous, paying relatively modest camp site fees for a year or two could be a great way to save money for a deposit and climb the property ladder to something less spartan.

Living in a tent is of course super cheap. A tent can cost as little as £30! 


4. Houseboats and barges

You can buy a suitable houseboat, barge or the like to live on. You can moor for free using temporary moorings, but for a permanent mooring you will need to pay fees.

If your accommodation is not luxury, the lifestyle may be anywhere from challenging to harsh.

The annual cost of mooring, maintenance and repairs can be high.    

An expensive boat may rival if not exceed the cost of traditional accommodation and therefore boat living is not necessarily a cheaper option in every instance.


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5. Micro homes

As traditional homes become more expensive, expect more and more micro homes to come onto the market.

Micro-homes are small cleverly designed, innovative and often self-sufficient homes commonly not much above 20 square meters.

An example is the QB2 which can apparently be built from flat pack in 4 hours. Factory built ZEDpods are also getting quite a bit of publicity.

Micro homes can cost as little as around £10,000. 


6. Vans and buses

A regular van or bus can be converted into living accommodation with varying degrees of comfort or luxury as you wish or can afford.

You could opt for a ready to go camper van, already equipped with basic living essentials such as bed, cooker, fridge and the like.

You will find second hand camper vans advertised on eBay for as little as £1,000 – although the better quality vans are likely to be nearer £5,000.

7. Shipping containers

Shipping containers can be converted into living accommodation.

A challenge is to find somewhere suitable to site your container and to provide basic facilities such as water, lighting and heating. 

You may need planning permission to use your container as a residence.

8. Drawbacks

As well as obvious financial benefits in terms of cost, freedom and flexibility, non-standard homes can have various drawbacks.

Some forms of alternative accommodation will not give you a permanent address and this may present you with challenges in terms of registering with a GP or school or getting on the Electoral Roll. 

Usually you will not be able to get a home mortgage to buy a non-standard home – however you may be able to obtain a personal loan.

If you like spacious accommodation you are likely to be disappointed.

Day to day living may come with more than its fair share of inconvenience.

However, your primary concern in looking at non-standard accommodation is likely to be its much cheaper cost compared to houses and flats.

In return for the huge savings, you may be more than happy to put up with the inconvenience, bother or privation non-standard homes may throw at you.   

Have you ever owned and lived in a non-mainstream home? What were your experiences? Please leave your comments below.

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Dalton Barrett
Rebel Property Coach

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  1. I have been intrigued by these modular A-frame houses: http://avrame.com/ I have wondered what their investment potential is either rented out as a home or a holiday home? Any thoughts on this RPC? Would there be any obstacles?

  2. Interesting question Jim. I expect modular homes will be a good investment since they will be cheaper to buy but should provide similar rent to a regular property – thereby giving a greater rental return. As to a holiday home that would of course depend on the location of the modular property. You mention “obstacles” I am not 100% sure what you mean – however modular frame homes being residential property will need planning permission.

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