When I first moved back home to Quebec last year, my original plan was to buy a house close to my parents. Houses are considerably cheaper here compared to houses back in Calgary (where I moved from) and I thought I’d take advantage of the lower prices to get out of the renting game.

To give you an idea of my determination, I actually made offers on two different houses. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I had to walk away from both of those deals for different reasons. In retrospect, I can’t believe how close I came to being a home owner – in one instance I was literally just one signature away. Now that I’ve given up on the idea, however, I’m thankful that they didn’t work out.

To be honest, having a mortgage has never really appealed to me. I’ve never actually wanted to own a home, so much as to stop paying rent which feels like throwing money away. I also wanted to get away from having annoying neighbours, which you typically find in large rental buildings. The other weekend I was woken up at 6am by the tenants above me yelling “I love you Jesus, you are the only God” over and over (and over) again for at least an hour – I’m not even joking. If they’re not partying until 2am on a Sunday night, I swear they’re building Noah’s second ark up there. I don’t care that they’re religious, only that they’re extremely noisy.

Housing alternatives

Not wanting to rent, but also not wanting a mortgage pretty much eliminates all of the options available to me. I suppose I could live on the street, but I’m not that frugal. I consider hot showers and a warm bed essential to living life. Lately, however, a third alternative has been gaining traction in the media — so called tiny houses. If you haven’t heard of or seen these yet, imagine a really tiny 150sq/ft house on wheels. I’ve given these a lot of thought over the years, and even investigated the possibility of going this route as soon as I moved here. Unfortunately, all I came across were problems.

The first is that city bylaws (at least here) won’t allow them. The guy at city hall pretty much laughed at me when I asked him about it. He told me I wouldn’t be permitted to park a tiny home on any plot of land unless said property already had a “regular” house on it. This obviously pretty much defeats the purpose of getting a tiny house — since you’re going small to save money. I suppose I could just rent out the regular house, but I don’t want the hassle of having tenants, etc. It also wasn’t clear if I’d actually be allowed to stay in said tiny house, since it could be considered “camping” on your yard, which is a big no-no apparently.

The second problem is that tiny houses are still pretty expensive. Most articles/books I’ve read say they cost about 30k-50k to build. One company here in town sells new ones for essentially the same price. It’s obviously a lot less than your typical bungalow, but it’s still a considerable investment. And unlike a regular house, I doubt you’d be able to get your money back if and when you decided to sell your tiny house. I mean, what’s the resale value on a tiny home on wheels?

Which got me thinking, why not just live in an RV instead? You can get a used one pretty cheap, and they’ve got everything you need already. Most come with a toilet and shower, some storage and even a little kitchenette. What more could I need?

So I decided to do some research and came up with the following list of positives and negatives.

Living in an RV – The positives 

They’re cheap to buy (when bought used) : I was just looking through kijiji.ca and found a few used camping trailers for as little as $800. Even if I invested 5k into it, I’d be way under budget.

They’re inconspicuous : unlike a self built mini home, an RV doesn’t stand out when it’s parked in your driveway. The great thing is that this attracts much less attention to yourself – especially from nosy neighbours and city planners/officials/whoever.

They come with everything pre installed : obviously a home needs a toilet, a shower and some sort of kitchen to cook food. Having to build these yourself would be costly and complicated — and require skills I barely have. With a used RV, this becomes less of an issue since they’re already there.

RVs are cheaper than building a tiny home : at this point this is just a theory of mine, but I’m pretty sure I could rebuild an RV into something decent for next to nothing. There are a couple blogs out there that show people doing just that.

I can live anywhere I want : unlike renting (which usually means having to sign a lease that locks you down) or owning your own home (which you’ve got to sell before you move), RVs can go almost anywhere, anytime. Get tired of a city or don’t like your neighbours? Just move it to another spot. You can even park it for free — a concept I know very little about called boondocking. The other great thing is that many RV parks charge monthly rates, which are usually cheaper than typical rent in the same area.

Living in an RV – The not so positive stuff

I still have to put it somewhere : in my case, my parents have said they’re ok with me parking it on their yard while I figure things out. They’ve got a pretty big property that’s surrounded by trees, which is nice. That should give me a year or two to finish renovating and living in it while I figure out my next move. On this note, my parents think I’m absolutely nuts — which is generally a sign that I’m doing the right thing.

Winters are chilly : this is a big one for me, since I live in Canada where winters are notorious for being long and cold. Maybe not Siberia cold, but still pretty ^%#*ing cold. It’s doable, from what I’ve been able to gather based on my research, but it’s complicated and tedious. One potential solution would be to become a snow bird when I retire and move to the southern US when winter rears its frozen head. (Let it go… let it go!!!)

Dealing with waste : so obviously my toilet won’t be hooked up to the sewage system, which means all of my waste water will need to be disposed of at some sort of dump. Having never done this before, I’m not really sure what this entails. I’d consider a humanure system, but I doubt my parents would be into that, not to mention their neighbours and the city.

Transportation costs (gas) : although I don’t plan on moving around that much, maybe once or twice a year, it’s still expensive to transport an RV. I’m considering getting a trailer, which also means I’ll need some kind of truck to tow it — which is another added expense.

Conclusion

I still haven’t made up my mind completely about this, but it’s looking more and more like a certainty with every passing day. I just ordered “Walden on Wheels” tonight to read about what it’s like to live in a van (expect a review soon, lol!). I’m hoping the book will give me some insight on how this stuff works — since I’m sure it’s comparable. I’m excited to find out more about this style of living and will post more on the subject as I get closer to making a decision. I also think it would be fun to post updates on the construction/renovation once I commit to the process.

External Links

Here are some links to websites of other people doing the same thing (and some other sites too):

1.) Heath Padgett
http://www.heathpadgett.com

This is one is of the first blogs I found on the topic — probably because it’s the first link that comes up on Google when you search “living in an RV”. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a quality blog. There’s a lot of interesting information here; I totally want this guy’s life, travelling around the states and working as you go along. Sounds like the ultimate adventure!

2.) Gone with the Wynns
http://www.gonewiththewynns.com/rvin

Another great site about a couple that decided to give up “real life” and live in an RV. They’ve got a lot of information about how they installed solar panels on the roof of their RV, which is something I’m definitely interested in doing.

3.) Winter RV Living in Alaska
http://tinyhouseblog.com/yourstory/winter-rv-living-alaska/

Great little article with tons of tips on how to make winter RV living work. Not for the faint of heart, by the sounds of it!

4.) Surviving the winter in your RV
http://www.marxrv.com/skp/survive.htm

Although the website looks like your typical Geocities page (remember those?), it has a lot of great advice on how to survive a mild winter in your RV.

5.) 1977 Ford Brougham RV Now Tiny House Tour
http://www.doityourselfrv.com/1977-ford-brougham-rv/

While I’m not a fan of their final colour scheme, the before and after shots are amazing and really give you an idea of what’s possible! Again, another couple that decided to go with Solar Panels for electricity.

6.) Homestead in a Travel Trailer
http://www.wikihow.com/Homestead-in-a-Travel-Trailer

Lots of great info here. I’ve never heard of a Yukon Plunger before. I could totally see myself doing this… even in the apartment.

So that’s it for now. What do you think? Is it a crazy idea? Have you done it yourself? Post your thoughts below. Would be great to get some feedback, especially from people who have done the same.

As always, thanks for reading!

André