Want to travel long-term, but housing costs back home scaring you off? You’re not alone—if you’re traveling frequently but not living abroad full-time, maintaining a homebase can be incredibly expensive, and even damper your plans. Thankfully our friends Billy and Akaisha Kaderli from Retire Early Lifestyle have excellent tips on worry-free housing! Read on.
We have the best of both worlds. Billy and I often leave the US for months at a time to visit exotic locations. We set up a home base on the other side of the globe and settle into the local community. Then, due to visa restrictions or a desire to see family and friends once again, we return home to America’s stunning Southwest.
We are able to live this footloose life with comfort and ease, and without breaking the bank. Over the years, many people have asked us how it is that we can maintain a home and still manage to travel as extensively as we do.
Although our choice may not fit everyone’s idea of The Perfect Domicile, it works spectacularly well for us.
We live in an Active Adult Community. Sometimes they are called Master Planned Communities, Active Resort Living, or even Age Qualified Villages. These culturally-rich, low maintenance enclaves are springing up all over our nation as well as in exotic locations such as Panama, Mexico and Thailand. With Baby Boomers turning their attention towards retirement, building these villages has become quite a lucrative business, with fierce competition for our domicile dollar expanding the available choices.
From our perspective, there are many reasons why we choose this style of living:
- Value for money spent
- Lots of activities, amenities and neighborhood involvement
- Clean environment, manicured gardens
- Release from the burden of high property taxes
- Savings on home owners insurance
- Savings on transportation
- Reasonable maintenance costs
Perhaps one or more of these points appeal to you. I would like to speak briefly about a few of them.
Worry-Free Housing: Value for Money Spent
I realize that there are some of you who feel that manufactured housing aren’t real homes, that they are like toys, or somehow, inferior places to live. These types of houses have improved greatly over the years, and the attractiveness of their affordability has been proven by their rise in sales.
Our home is paid for so we don’t carry a mortgage with the financial weight that this brings to any lifestyle. Let me say that this is a very attractive arrangement and it frees us up to roam the world, renting apartments or hotel rooms without thought of draining our finances in the housing category. However, there are lots of options in these communities. You can spend a few thousand dollars for a place – or millions. You can choose to lease the property or buy the lot and build from the ground up. It all depends on your personal needs for freedom or security.
Some places offer memberships to country clubs and championship golf courses, and most usually have a long list of amenities such as full-time Lifestyle Directors, organized social clubs, dinners and ballrooms for dancing, computer center with free Wi-Fi, and state-of-the-art fitness rooms and spas, swimming pools, tennis courts, lapidaries, billiard halls, card rooms, athletic pro shops, sewing rooms, libraries, softball fields, language and lecture halls, travel offices and theaters. To join all these organizations independently or to pay for the real estate to house rooms for your own private equipment adds expense very quickly. Our full access to these outstanding options and all the apparatus needed is covered in our Lifestyle Fees.
We live close to both college and professional sports arenas, have world class shopping nearby, and an international airport for quick get-a-ways. Living in a breathtaking residential environment gives us extraordinary value. Many of the arenas, offices and colleges are brand new and have modern equipment.
Worry-Free Housing: Tax and Insurance Relief
In our location, we have chosen to lease the land on which our home stands. It is a common option that many retirees prefer and we are comfortable about our decision. However, some readers have challenged us directly asking, “How can you not own the property itself? Don’t you feel at the mercy of rent rising without your control? Property values always go up, and aren’t you being foolhardy?”
These are excellent questions. However, it is our position that many people do not realize how expensive owning a home is. So much of these costs seem hidden or taken for granted (See our piece: Cost of Working). The maintenance it requires and the rising property taxes are expenses that cannot be ignored. We have lived here since the early 1990’s, and our Lifestyle Fees are less than most homeowner’s property tax bill. During these many years, our lease has increased a couple of hundred dollars total, but it is still a measurable value for all of the amenities included. Another benefit is that our home owners insurance has not doubled as they have in other locations in the country due to being in the path of a natural disaster.
Owning less and being lighter also allows you to insure for less. It is common now for developers to attract residents by touting their tax-friendly state, and not owning the property itself loosens up thousands of dollars a year for other activities such as travel, gifts for the grandchildren, or pursuing hobbies. Removing yourself from a complicated infrastructure can be very freeing, and will give you tangible rewards.
Worry-Free Housing: Savings on Transportation and Maintenance Costs
Having entertainment and dining options nearby or within walking distance saves a surprising amount on transportation costs. Granted, we do travel the world, but Billy and I have done the math, and our average miles driven per year is 1,200. This is a huge cut back on gasoline charges, and wear and tear on our vehicle. We received an insurance discount based on the few miles that we drive per year. Eventually, we became Car-Free.
We like to bike or walk to many locations and this helps us keep fit and active. Many of our neighbors utilize their golf carts or motorbikes to run their errands. Of course we drive to the grocery store when we need to stock up, but when we only want a few items, we grab a daypack, walk to the nearest upscale grocery store in our neighborhood and load up our pack. Again, we find that having this option is very appealing.
Although we are responsible for the maintenance of our home and personal gardens, the responsibility for maintaining the whole resort does not belong to us. We don’t worry if the pool heater breaks down, if a piece of equipment in the fitness room needs replacing or when to update the lounge chairs, tables and umbrellas by the pool. We don’t resurface our tennis courts or re-felt the billiard tables, and we don’t trim the hundreds of palm trees or re-coat and maintain the roads in our village.
Best of all, we don’t worry about any of it in the slightest. It’s all taken care of and paid for in our Lifestyle Fees.
One additional point worth mentioning, especially with the women in our readership. I don’t fret about my personal safety here in our resort. For instance, recently Billy took off for a trip to Mexico. For reasons of my own, I chose to stay at home and enjoy the awesome autumn weather we get here at this time of year and to catch up on some projects.
One morning I found myself awake at 3:30 am and so at 4, I decided to take an early morning walk. I felt completely safe, and it never crossed my mind to feel otherwise. In fact, I met other neighbors who were walking their dogs waiting to catch the sunrise. Being anxiety-free walking my neighborhood alone, in the dark, at this time of morning is a rarer mood when Billy and I visit in many cities and towns across the globe.
For the numerous singles here in our community, having the familiarity of neighbors close by is comforting.
Where to Start with Finding Cheap Housing
I have assembled some contacts that will prove useful to you, and you can find them here. There are links to quizzes you can take to help you find just the city or town perfect for you, and with the weather you prefer. Sites for manufactured housing are provided as well as communities of all sizes and price ranges in a variety of states to begin your search.
Open your mind to the options that are available to you at this time in your life. You may just find that a lighter financial weight appeals to you in more ways than you imagined. Or if you still prefer a traditional home, the communities to choose from will certainly expand your social horizons.
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.