You live in a camper?
Good question. Let me explain…
But first, let me state plainly:
In general, you can live in a camper or RV full-time with some lifestyle modifications and securing the right location to park your recreational vehicle.
So my wife and I had our house up for sale. What? Why were you selling your house? Damn, you want to know it all. Ok, here it comes.
My wife and I are officially empty nesters after our youngest graduated college this year. Before that, we were kind of empty nesters for the past four years since our kids didn’t live with us while they were in college. Now we don’t feel compelled to have a landing spot. They are off on their own, and we are off on our own.
During the last economic boom, we sold a house at a higher price and bought a house at a higher price – sold high and bought high. We later sold that house after the recession (low) and bought a house low. We didn’t like how this felt and swore we’d never buy high-sell high, buy high-sell low, or buy low-sell low ever again.
As a general rule of thumb, you want to buy low and sell high. We found ourselves in the position where we bought low and had an opportunity to sell high. We looked at the market and felt it had just about peaked. Add to that the warnings that a recession was coming, so we thought now would be as good a time as any to sell.
We looked at a ton of houses while our house was on the market and just couldn’t find anything we liked for the money. We were pretty determined to put off buying for the time being, but I still held out hope that we might find a distressed property. In the meantime, we essentially resigned to renting.
Renting? Yeah, we were going to enter the rental market after 25 years of owning homes. Boy was that a wake-up call! Many owners did not take care of their properties. We also felt the rents were high. Add the other expenses, and we were seeing our money being burned on a monthly basis.
We also did not like the application process. We had plenty of money to pay rent and didn’t like the idea of having to give a stranger renting their parents’ house our social security numbers, tax returns, fingerprints and a lock of hair. Ok, the fingerprints and lock of hair were not asked for, but it felt like that might be the next step.
So, what did we do? Another good question. We decided to take the mantra of “we’ll figure it out”. We packed our belongings into two storage units, closed on our house and visited a friend for a few weeks. While we visited, we continued house hunting online, but also needed something to rent in the meantime.
The situation at our friend’s house was wearing thin. He gave us his cluttered guest room, which was crammed with clothes, shoes, and collections. I constantly knocked items over when I climbed into bed, and we both found ourselves turning sideways to maneuver the room.
We also had a cat in tow, so the litter box was in our room. Add to that the unwelcome feelings we were getting from our friend (after being invited to visit for as long as we wanted). We decided it was time to go, but where?
We had a friend that had stayed in an AirBnB RV while their house was being built, so we asked who they rented from. We spoke with the people and secured our new temporary quarters. We didn’t have to complete an application or put down a deposit, and we would have our own space and privacy.
We were relieved to get out of that cramped bedroom and one shared bathroom. We arrived at our new location excited about our next phase…whatever that was.
As soon as we entered, I smelled a musty odor and told my wife. I guess I must have made the comment a few more times to her because within a few minutes of arriving, she was prompted to say “Ok, John. So you think there’s a musty smell in here”. I wasn’t appreciating the new situation and she was just relieved to have our own space.
I must admit, it was nice to have our own space. Looking around, the RV had just about everything we needed – a bed, kitchen, dinette and bathroom.
I have fantasized about living in a tiny home before – kind of a craving for a simpler life. A life without so much “stuff”. We’ve been in hotel rooms, and I’ve looked around and said “You know, we could live in something about this size if you just turned this space here into a kitchenette.”
Although the space was doable, the location of the RV just wasn’t working. Let me explain.
The RV was situated on someone’s multi-acre property. They had it parked under some trees, which is great for cooling a camper in the Florida summer. Since these trees were at the edge of the woods, the RV was essentially in the woods. Woods plus shade in Florida means mosquitoes lie in wait for the next unsuspecting mammal to walk by. Add to that the fact that my wife is “the chosen one” for mosquitoes.
She and I could be in an Alaska parking lot at noon without trees in sight, and she’ll make a comment that mosquitoes are out. This prompts me to say something like “there are no mosquitoes out” and be proven wrong when she glares at me and shows the ever-swelling welts from her mosquito bites. Ok, I might be exaggerating a bit (not much – maybe the Alaska and parking lot part), but you get the idea.
So back to the camper, any time we opened the door, the marching orders of the mosquito air force kicked in, and they zeroed in on the open door. They also seemed to lie in wait for us to go to the car because they knew juicy mammals were inside. I guess the thick hide of the cows next door proved to be too much work. Whenever it was time to leave, my wife would aim a fan at the door to make it more difficult for these flying vampires to get in, and I would run out to fog the area around the car so she could get to it (this part is 100% true).
Sometimes the mosquitoes did get in, and we waited with one light on in the camper hoping they would go to the light and expose themselves to our killing spree. Shade and woods also attract spiders and other insects. I found myself buying bug spray and treating the outside and inside of the motorhome.
Later, we learned the RV had also been flooded by an overflowing toilet (yuck), hence the musty smell that bothered me so much. There was still toilet water in the carpet under the sofa. I was right – I knew it!
Then the air conditioning died in August in Florida!!! We lived without air conditioning for a day and a half until the landlord bought a portable air conditioner, which we later found out they had plans to return it as soon as they installed the new RV air conditioner (shame on them).
The portable A/C cut down on our space, and the installation and air conditioning problems cut down on our privacy. This, along with the shady practice of using a new portable AC and returning it for someone else to buy thinking it was new, was enough for us to know we would not be there long.
Oh, I forgot to mention that the toilet filled up with waste after the first 2-3 days, so I had to remind the landlord to empty the tank every two days if he forgot.
We first thought we would stay there for 3-6 months, but we started looking for a camper within a week.
We knew the space could work, but we just wanted our own. We started looking at small travel trailers in the 15 foot range, but quickly graduated to our 29 footer (36 external measurements). It was a pleasant surprise to learn we could purchase a camper at a reasonable cost. We just didn’t know where we would put it. Would we buy a distressed house and live in it while we rehab the house, or buy land and build from scratch? Who knew? We just wanted our own space.
We were at a dealership, and after speaking with the salesperson and touring different units, she asked if we would sit tight so the manager could speak with us. We stayed, but thought “Oh crap, here comes the hard sell”. We were surprised by how nice the manager was, and then he asked the question – “So are you guys thinking of living in this full-time?”
We basically were, but I didn’t want to give it away as I wasn’t sure people did this type of thing. I held things close to the vest and he said ” Because if you decide to live in it full-time, there’s an RV park right down the street. I live there and it only costs $395 per month and this, this and this are included.” “And if you don’t have a truck to tow it, we’ll deliver it for you.” Free? “Sure, as long as it’s not too far.”
Bam! The light bulbs, fireworks and whatever else went off! Do you mean to tell me I can get a new camper for a decent price, not have to tow it, and pay only about $400 per month?
I WAS SOLD!
So, there’s the backdrop of why we live in a camper.
We discovered we could live in a smaller space and loved the idea of cost savings. When the market is right, we are in the perfect situation to buy low after selling high. We just took a small detour…maybe.