I think Bob Wells said it best when he said that the difference between a homeless person and a full-time vehicle dweller, is that a homeless person doesn't want to be there. They still have it in their head that having a house is "the respectable" thing to do and is what everyone else wants them to have.
A "vehicle dweller", on the other hand, whether they be someone who lives in their car, or a million dollar motorhome, is someone who understands travel and the freedom and health benefits of finally being wise enough to ditch that expensive "boat anchor" of a house, and the stress that goes with paying for it, maintaining it and stocking it with more and more useless "stuff". They have the courage to get out in the world and live a quality life, instead of seeing the same four walls every day.
John Lennon had a good anecdote that said, "When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down "happy". They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life."
Secondly, a homeless person often has no mailing address. After all, if they can't afford housing or maybe even food, then how can they afford the fees for a postal box? A person who chooses to be mobile will have a professional mail forwarding company to handle all their mail, packages, and even getting their vehicle plates if they can't be there in person. They may even run a business and have deposits made electronically, as well as own several credit cards for their various needs, along with owning checking accounts and investment accounts.
A mobile lifestyle includes everything that one would have when owning real estate, including internet access, mobile phones, and even satellite TV. They can Skype with anyone worldwide from wherever they are, something that some people in houses haven't even taken the time to learn how to do. They can also hold business meetings through Skype and collaborate with other workers on a project...even from the middle of a desert.
People who know nothing about how a mobile lifestyle works and all the amenities it has, can easily form certain "judgments" about the lifestyle, when in reality, they know nothing about it because they haven't studied it and may not even have the courage to try it...or maybe they just aren't interested.
The truth is that everybody is different, and has different reasons for their decisions. And some prefer not to make any decision at all, and stay in their own comfort zones without ever getting out and getting any life experience. We can't make decisions for other people, but if our own insight into our decision helps others make a more informed decision, then we're glad to help. Here are our reasons...
(1) Real estate problems. We have never had any success with managing real estate from a distance. This includes nearly twenty years of using a rental agency to rent out a vacation/retirement home 600 miles away, to simply asking friends or neighbors to watch over stuff while we were on vacation from our residence. No one accepts the responsibility for looking after a place like the owner would himself.
When a building sets empty for ANY length of time, it becomes a liability. Thieves and vandals can break in even in the best of neighborhoods. Utility problems can occur, which might be anything from floods from broken pipes to sparks from electrical equipment. If heat goes off in the winter, it can lead to frozen pipes and extensive damage. Insect and rodents tend to take over when a building sets empty, creating another kind of damage. Weather can be a factor, creating damage and causing items to be blown away and lost that if the the owner was there he might have been able to salvage. Fire can be another hazard, as well as water damage from rain or flood.
No sir! When we leave, our "house" is going with us! We will NOT leave a building behind to be yet another worry and expense!
(2) No family. We have no family nearby or that can be trusted to watch over things for us, nor to monitor mail for us. A professional agency is going to be paid for doing it. Others can't be trusted.
(3) No heirs. We have no one to leave anything to that wants it or deserves it. Sharon and I have no children between us...only my four from a first marriage. They don't care what we do and have never wanted to be a part of our lives. We worked hard to get what we have, and without anyone else's help, so we feel that we should get the maximum value out of it while we are still able to manage the disposal of it and reap the benefits of the proceeds from it.
I have seen first hand what happens when greedy relatives put shady attorneys to work to steal inheritances. My family (what's left of it) will not be put through that again. We will have disposed of all real estate, and anything that is left will be set up in a trust to charities before I let family get their hands on it. I'm sure the estate attorney will take whatever is left, which he rightly should.
(4) Real estate expense. Despite what many people will argue, we have NEVER made any significant money from real estate that we have ever lived in. The ONLY time we have made money from real estate is when we have done quick flips, on which we sometimes made thousands of dollars per week, even after all expenses were figured in.
Many people forget to take into account their own time in owning and managing real estate. If they weren't able to do it, and had to pay someone else to do everything from building maintenance and repairs to mowing grass and trimming shrubs, plus the tool and equipment cost of such things, and their management time...even making phone calls to order material or parts and get the work done...they would find that they hardly ever come out ahead. Only if they buy at extreme "rock-bottom" price and are in a market with a great appreciation rate, will they ever make money.
An investor keeps track of such things, because it counts against the "basis" of the property and the resulting profits when they sell, but most homeowner's don't...and end up wrongfully thinking they have made money...or at the least, end up with a house that is paid for...forgetting that all the interest, taxes, insurance and upkeep over all that time has drained off any appreciation they might have gained.
And even after it's paid for, there is still ongoing maintenance to continue to drain their finances. And if they are maintaining a house properly, rather than milking it dry and never fixing anything, the appreciation will never outrun their expenses. And all during that time, countless personal hours are spent "managing" and making repairs and improvements...hours of which would be much more enjoyable spent doing other things.
I have been involved with real estate one way or the other since buying my first house and working on the houses of many other people from homeowner's to real estate brokers. I also had a very successful career managing a luxury apartment complex on 22 acres with 384 units and 47 condos, plus another one of 110 luxury apartments. I also bought and sold everything from conventional homes to mobile homes, some of which were sold on land contract, so that I also collected the interest on the financing. I know how to make money with real estate, and living in it long term is NOT the way.
Real estate "can" be a great tool to build wealth, but the rule of thumb in that regard is that the shorter the time you own it, the more money you will make for that period of time.
(5) Our ages. We are getting to that age when we simply can't physically do many of the things that we used to. I'm not going to go crawling under a house anymore to make repairs, or crawl through tight attics, or on top of it to put a new roof on. And forget about doing any concrete work! Those days are long gone! Any future house that we "might" own will have to have a full basement or be on a slab. Attic space is useless. And the smaller the house, the better, as there will be less maintenance.
To pay someone else to do those things we can't, and "hope" that they turn out right, is not something we want to do. When the time comes that we can't physically travel anymore, we'll probably find a small home to rent somewhere, and then whatever emergency repairs it requires are someone else's problem. If they fail to maintain the house properly, we can always move.
There may be certain exceptions to that rule, such as if we find a small place we really like which incorporates the use of an RV into it, such as many of the RV parks have in the south. But rather than have it in a park, we would prefer it be out on our own land somewhere, likely in the Southwest, where there is less maintenance on grounds. We don't want a lawn to mow EVER again, nor do we want to pay someone to mow!
With new technologies, such as solar power, satellite and internet, and even cell phones, there is no need of utilities "wired in". With the new incinerating and composting toilets, there is no need of a septic system. Gray water from sinks and showers can drain out to a garden where the water can be recycled to good use. With catalytic heaters which require no electricity, heat can be provided with nothing but a propane supply. If passive solar is either incorporated into the design or added to it later, heating costs "can" be totally free! The same concept can be applied for summer cooling needs. Water can be obtained easily from sources other than city water or a well, the same as full-time RV travelers depend on. And there are even designs available now for collecting water directly from the atmosphere we breathe!
With new products, like 50-year roofs, siding and windows, the need for outside home maintenance for the rest of our lifetimes is nearly eliminated if we would buy a new place or have one built. The few things we would need done that we aren't physically able to do can be contracted to someone else. So whether we remain in a mobile RV or choose to eventually buy or build a tiny (or at least small) house, the need for pouring concrete, replacing a roof, re-siding, or any of those physically demanding tasks are eliminated, both in cost and time.
This isn't the dark ages anymore. Anyone can be totally "off grid" and without the need of connected public utilities without sacrificing any of the comforts of a conventional house...and be much more conservative of natural resources while doing it. At our age, the last thing we want is to own real estate that requires constant maintenance! We have better things to do with our money and time!
(6) Real estate cost versus RV travel costs. To maintain a home is also far more expensive than living full time in an RV, and traveling with the weather, especially if you live in snow country. Both heating and cooling bills are cut to the bare minimum. We currently pay for our own utilities on this real estate, which include electric and propane (both used for heating), plus a water bill, taxes, and lawn care...all of which are a "non-issue" when RV'ing, especially with our own solar panels and system to provide what power we need. Water is free in most places (or very low cost as compared to a monthly housing water bill). Sewage disposal (in our current case) can be handled at any restroom where our porta-potty can be dumped into a toilet. If we go to a larger RV, with holding tanks, we may have to pay $5 once or twice a month to dump at a proper facility. By switching to an incinerating toilet, even dump fees can be eliminated. It still beats having to fork over $9000 for a whole new septic system for a house, like we did last year! Propane cost for cooking and heat will be less than 1/8th of what we pay now.
Camping fees, unlike a fixed mortgage every month, is a controllable expense. If we boondock all the time or use our numerous free resources and clubs, it could cost us nothing at all. If we use an "average" combination of our free resources, mixed with a few paid camping nights, we figure our maximum camping fee budget should be no more than about $300 a month...nearly half of our current fixed monthly house payment...and without all the maintenance costs, taxes, insurance, water bills, electric bills, heating/cooling bills, and other hassles and expense of owning real estate. We can easily adjust our camping fee expense to use more or less free sites, as needed. Try adjusting your mortgage payment that way!
Internet access "can" be free, if public WI-FI is used. But if we want "over the air" data service through our cell towers for internet, that and cell phone expense will remain about the same as we pay now, as will insurance on the vehicles.
The house insurance won't be there anymore. If a state is chosen where there is no personal property tax, even the vehicle taxes "could" be eliminated. The only additional expense (for us) will be the fees for a professional mail-forwarding service. But when eliminating all other expenses associated with real estate, we still come out far ahead.
The only other issue is maintenance on the vehicles, and just as in real estate, that is unavoidable. All things break down or will need replacing. The newness of the vehicles has some to do with how much that will be. But in general, the maintenance of an RV is far less costly than repairs on a house. And unlike a house, if we don't like where we live, we can easily "trade" our house for a better model without having to change "neighborhoods". But since our "neighborhood" will be the entire country, we can easily move away from bad neighbors in any one location.
(7) Hard, bottom-line facts. I put together a five-column comparison spreadsheet, to compare the cost of:
(a) Expense at home now
(b) Home after traveling (renting)
(c) One survivor at home (renting)
(d) Full-time travel with no house
(e) Part-time travel with a house
That spreadsheet is downloadable on an OpenOffice (readable by Excel) format from http://blog.caravancamperrv.com/blog2/2013/06/16/808/ where you can insert your own figures into the spreadsheet and let it do the calculations for you. Figuring up your own expenses may be the way to prove it to yourself, as we did, that trying to maintain real estate and travel at the same time is a losing proposition. Besides, all the time and expense devoted to real estate takes away from time and funds you could be using to travel.
Just download the spreadsheet and fill in the blanks. It will automatically calculate what you need to know, at the bottom.
(8) Availability of other real estate to use. Some have said we may get tired of RV life and feel the need for more space occasionally. Why? You travel down the road in your compact cars and other vehicles smaller than what we will have, and for hours at a time. When we stop, the only time we will be inside is if the weather is bad, and even then, we can always go shopping, or to a clubhouse. The rest of the time, we will have the entire outdoors as our living room, with beautiful weather for the most of the year. The fact that we "could" feel cramped at times "could" still be true, and we have an answer for that, too.
We own two different "every-other-year" time-shares with two different companies, Diamond Resorts, and Westgate. One is at Sedona Summit, and the other is at Painted Mountain, in Mesa. Both are tradable for units anywhere else we feel a need to go. Both are high-end deluxe units (one is a 2-BR lock-off, with the possibility of renting two separate sides of it) in "red" time, and the lock-off is on a point system where we could trade for several weekly stays in smaller studio units.
On top of that, we are also members of Condo Travel Club, where we get weekly email blasts of time-share weeks that can be picked up on short notice for as little as $99 for the week...ANYTIME we want them and are close enough to get to them quickly (within a couple days). If we want to entertain visitors, we can easily arrange a time-share week at a convenient location to all people who want to come.
We also have opportunities for rental units at many of our membership resort parks, so we have plenty of opportunity to "use" real estate, but as Thoreau said..."own it not". We may "own" our time shares, but only for a week out of every two years. Someone else maintains them 100% of the time.
We are also members at Western Horizon Resorts with our home park at Blue Mesa Ranch in Gunnison, Colorado.
Along with that, we also have access to AOR resorts and Sunbelt Resorts, plus Coast to Coast to use nearly any other membership park in this country (roughly 500 of them). And most of them have rental units.
Does that sound "homeless" to you? To us, it sounds more like "freedom"!
(9) Conservatism. An RV typically uses far less resources than a conventional house. Not only is it much smaller in size, but because it can be moved to follow good weather, the heating and cooling requirements are much less. So even if you plug into a pedestal regularly, you are still using a lot less electricity, no matter what you do. That relates to less energy having to be produced by power plants, of which many are still coal-fired. This reduces natural resources used as well as less air pollution from the smoke stacks.
If your electricity goes out at home, you may be without power for hours or days, but most RV's have the capability of producing their own electricity these days, either by solar or generator, and being smaller in size, they require much less than most houses. Some can even run off batteries and an inverter from your vehicle engine battery.
An RV typically uses a lot less water, especially when no hook-ups are available. RVers tend to learn to be much more conservative with the water they carry and use, because they may have to make it last awhile. A typical household of two people can easily run through 3000 gallons per month in a house. In an RV, it is not unusual to make 300 gallons last a month. And more often than not, there is no bill when they have to refill their tanks. Most water is free, unless they buy bottled water for drinking, which they may do in a house, too.
In a conventional house, what happens when you run out of water? Being locked into real estate means you have to stay there and figure out a way to get the water back, whether it be from the city or a private well. There is usually no storage tank that you can dump water into unless you have created one. RV living tends to force one to be conservative with water, but even if you run out, you can always go somewhere to get more, and not be forced to do without, like at home.
If your fuel runs out at home, you may freeze until you can get more. Whether electric-powered or fossil fuel, you typically have only one source. If you have two propane tanks, like some RV's have, you can sometimes switch over to the second one without being totally out, and use it while you go get the second tank refilled. And with the new catalytic heaters, which are very efficient, a small 20-pound tank like used on a BBQ grill can often supply heat for over a week, even in temperatures that are below freezing.
We typically spend over $600 for propane to heat our average sized house during our six-month heating season. That's over $100 per month just for fuel, not to mention the added cost of electricity for the furnace controls and fan. An RV that travels with the weather can cut that back to less than $20 a month for fuel, and zero cost for electricity.
No matter what utility you choose, RV's simply use a LOT less of them, and are more cost efficient!
(10) Ease of maintenance. The more square footage a person owns and has to maintain, the more expensive it is, cost-wise and time-wise. As we get older, we realize that having to go through a normal-sized house and clean "stuff" is a never ending battle. And as for replacing a roof, or any other outside maintenance, it simply may not be doable anymore for older people!
People don't come here to see our "stuff". (At least, we hope they don't!) We aren't running a museum here! Why should we maintain a large house, with a pool table, swimming pool, large kitchen for cooking for groups, and fancy grounds to impress people, when we can have that stuff to use whenever we need it without having to maintain it 365 days a year? What kind of warped logic is it when you pay to provide and maintain things 365 days a year, for company that comes maybe once a month...or less in our case? We have all of that in the clubhouses that our dues help to maintain, and can use it whenever we choose to! And someone else maintains it!
We would rather be out seeing the rest of the country, and have the freedom to move anytime we want and follow the beautiful weather. Our taxes and membership fees pay for the amenities we enjoy, and in the case of the taxes, most people are paying for these amenities already. So why not get out there and use them?
(11) Mental and physical health. To be trapped inside four walls in a fixed location all the time isn't even healthy...for the mind or the body! RV'ers in general, who get out in the sunshine, fresh air and exercise, are much healthier than those who own homes! And they get more exercise to help keep the extra pounds off! Easy chairs, recliners and couches are our enemies when it comes to health! And especially when they are combined with bad weather, or environments which prevent us from getting out!
Here, we can't even take a walk around the block without worrying about vicious dogs. We can't ride our bikes because the hills are too steep. We have to rely on a treadmill, stepper, and Airdyne type bike to get our exercise...summer or winter. Even this far south, we still only have about six months of enjoyable weather. The rest of the time is cold, damp, overcast, rainy, icy or snowy. And if it's the latter two, then we have to worry about slipping and falling and maybe having a permanent injury! What kind of life is that?
(12) Posterity and memories. We don't need to continually buy more "stuff" to remember all the places we've been. No one wants to sort through all that "stuff" when we're gone because it won't mean anything to them. They aren't even interested in it while we are alive. Why should I burden someone with it when we're gone? They weren't there to share it.
How often do people's eyes glass over when you try to show them all the travel photos you took? How many times do you get interrupted with something totally irrelevant when you try to show others souvenirs that you bought on your trips? For the most part, other people don't care, because they weren't there and can't relate to what you did!
We have even cut back drastically on taking pictures while on vacations. We have found that other people simply don't care! And even to clutter up a blog with every single picture you took...many of the same thing, over and over...does nothing but slow down page loading times, and bore readers to death, the same as too much text and little visual interest. A half dozen pictures per blog post is the "normal" thing. And for Heaven's sake, People... take a breath! No one wants to read a half a page of nothing but text, with no paragraph breaks...especially if it's small font. It takes visually appealing pages (and paragraphs!) to keep people's interest! Anyway, I digress...
For us, we have our memories, and in the end, that's all that we can take with us anyway. Our blogs will remain long after we are gone, but I doubt family will even bother to read them, because none of our family are RVer's or can relate to our lifestyle. It will be mostly strangers that we have never met, who will happen onto our blogs, probably because they DO have an interest in the topic, and maybe they will read them beyond the most recent entry...maybe not. We won't be around to know or care.
So maybe all of this has a slight negative tone, but on the other hand, everything we are getting ready to do is very positive. We are getting out of our comfort zones, off our well-endowed (but soon to be much thinner) derrieres, and getting out in the world to learn about and experience new things, about ourselves, about our country, and about other people. We want to read more about the book of life than that "first page" that so many others get stuck on.
All the real estate and other "stuff" that people collect in their lifetime won't go with them when they leave this earth, and many will leave a grand mess for others to clean up after they're gone. I wouldn't wish that on anyone! You may be thinking you are creating an "estate" or a "legacy" for future generations. Did it ever occur to you to ask if they even want it? If you have raised them as good responsible adults, they have already created their own lives...sometimes far away. Why would they want what you have? Why force them to clean it out and put it up for sale, only to have them argue over who gets what? Give to them what you want them to have and dispose of the rest, so they don't have to argue over it!
So to all those that "highly suggest" that we hang onto some form of real estate as a "home base", all I can say is "you don't know what you don't know", and you aren't living the same reality that we are living.
Some people have loving (and often large) families that they stay close to and can trust with whatever responsibility they throw at them. Others don't. The ones who do have absolutely no comprehension of how the other half lives, or what they have to go through. They have zero experience at it. Sometimes some family members are so irresponsible (or greedy and conniving) that it is best to keep one's distance from them so as not to get sucked into all their problems.
The friends and family who would visit us, have already been doing so on a regular basis, and have responsible jobs (or are retired with good incomes), so that they can afford to travel and go anywhere we go. They think like we do and understand the lifestyle that we all enjoy. To others, who have chosen to waste their talents, time, and money on things less important than family, they can only reap what they have sewn. If they enjoy it and have no regrets, that's great. We're happy for them, If they can live with what they have stolen from others, then we can live very well without them!
Still, this does not cover our intentions, and what we plan to do once we get to traveling full-time, so that warrants another page. Thanks for reading and see you there.