Welcome to part two of my notes on How To Live Mortgage Free. This six-part series was presented by property expert Sarah Beeny for Channel 4. The show was designed to provide alternatives to traditional buying and selling because the UK market can be so expensive.
In part one I recapped the following ideas:
Moored Shipping Containers
I found this episode a bit more appealing for a prospective first-time buyer (which was me at the time). I was earning a low five figure salary across two jobs while haemorrhaging rent in London when the show aired. I didn’t fancy living on water as in episode one (water, scary, ’nuff said) and couldn’t overpay a mortgage I didn’t have. All of the second episode’s alternatives to traditional housing seemed more doable. I’ll explain at the end of the series why I chose my type of home.
Unsure whether you have no choice but to go mortgage free? Then you should read this mighty trifecta to work out what you can afford:
How To Live Mortgage Free Episode 2
- Mobile homes
- Shipping containers
- Prefab house
- Ex-council homes for £1
Yet again the case studies featured a lot of opportunity for creativity, innovation and upcycling. There are also a few items in this ep that don’t require getting your hands dirty, although I think part of the fun of these self-builds is that you get to learn some crafts.
Disclaimer: If you sign up for a free trial or purchase via an affiliate link below, I earn a commission from the seller at no extra cost to you that might one day go some way towards covering the cost of producing lots of free content and hosting the blog etc.
Why would you want to live in a temporary dwelling on farmland? A temporary dwelling on land requires planning permission and there are rules about where you can park mobile homes. However, you can get permanent permission to live in a temporary dwelling (bit of an oxymoron!)
So this is hunkydory for agricultural land where we’re not allowed to build a house. Permission is more likely if we work on the land that we want to live on. So put on your wellies?
Case study: 220 square feet for £38k
Freddie’s family in Romney Marsh have farmland, so he built a mobile apartment. He extended the width of a hay bale flatbed trailer from 8.5 feet to 10 feet. At 32 feet long, this ultimately gave 220 square feet of living space.
Freddie went for an aesthetic finish: the back is corrugated iron, but the rest is wooden cladding. The birch ceiling has a honeycomb pattern with LEDs set into the gaps. A floor length mirror slides to be both wardrobe door or dressing table mirror.
The savings: no more rent on a £600pm cottage in Rye. One bed flats in his local town cost £153000.
The windows let in so much sun that the only heating is a bespoke copper radiator in the bathroom. This is heated by a combi boiler from bottled gas. The bed was made from offcuts from the ceiling and walls…which were clad with potato boxes.
Total costs: £38000 versus the original £20k budget. This is possibly why Sarah says less than five per cent of under-30s self-build?
The trailer was £2700 at auction. The bathroom cost £2000; they made their own cabinets. Freddie had to move in with parents after spending £25000 in 12 weeks. £4000 went on double glazing and a sliding door which Freddie installed himself to save money. A carpenter friend built the apartment frame. They made a fold down wall too for a deck with a steel frame costing £650. The floor made from scaffolding boards cost £350, not including many hours sanding and cutting.
If someone has done something for a price, that only means one thing though: it’s time for someone new to do it cheaper!
Unlike Max’s marina containers in episode one, this was another example of a temporary dwelling on farmland. The gent they spoke to is a welder and put together a lounge, kitchen, study and two beds with ensuite.
Timescale: 12 hours per day for one year. This homemaking business is not always for the fainthearted. However, working this many hours for an employer in a year won’t net most of us the extra money we would need to pay someone else to do the work.
The savings: The bed was made from stable dividers, and the kitchen table from a tree that blew down in a storm. The floor was reclaimed from a gymnasium. They couldn’t afford bifolds and a patio, so the kitchen has a fold down wall to create a deck.
The loophole: The couple sold a house with an existing mortgage to pay for the conversion.
Total cost: £80000 which would only buy a tiny one bed flat nearby. It would cost double to self-build a traditional house.
This case study was all about change of use.
Graphic designer Stephanie converted garages into an office then a home. The latter requires extra planning permission because you are changing the use of a building from commercial to residential (but she obviously shows it’s possible to get this permission).
Inside was double height, so she built a mezzanine for a guest bed above the lounge. The three garages include a master and ensuite, kitchen diner, utility room, a second toilet, and her design studio.
The loophole: no land costs as her parents owned the garages…However, garages sell for less than houses. The worst case scenario is that you can’t get planning permission and sell them on again.
Total costs: £12000 converting them into the cottage. The upgrade is now worth £150000, so it was well worth the effort.
To do the same: Garages are sometimes listed on sites like Zoopla along with any other type of property. However, if there’s nothing local or within your budget, it might be time to spot some for yourself and then haggle with the owner.
So the big draw of prefabricated houses is that they can often go up within a week, and the lack of labour involved saves money therefore. Sarah says to take a traditional self-build from finding land to getting planning permission can take 32 weeks in comparison.
Bryan Stuart bought half an acre outside Aberdeen and designed an eco prefab house full of space and light. It would have cost double to buy an equivalent property locally.
They chose timber because of its longevity; Bryan highlighted that there are timber buildings in Europe over 1000 years old. Apart from replacing the cladding eventually, the prefab house should be durable.
To do the same: Allow 16 weeks if you want your own How to Live Mortgage Free prefab house like one of Bryan’s Model D Homes. In my own research I came across smaller prefab houses from The Wee House Company. I’ll take some space in a later post to explain who a Wee House is ideal for. If you speak to either of these, let them know you heard about them from Save Like A Bear.
Total costs: £135000 for the prefab house including service connections. The land was £30000.
Ex-council Homes For £1
This scheme started in Liverpool in 2013. You usually need to have a salary but below a certain amount to buy the derelict homes. The councils make the money from renovation loans i.e you pay back £30000.
Rachel got a two bed terrace in 2014 with a decent lounge, kitchen, and bathroom when her hometown of Stoke on Trent ran a scheme. All she had to do was paint and carpet. Prior to that she lived with her parents and had stayed local for university.
To qualify participants had to earn less than £25k and not sublet. The council renovated 32 houses and plan to use the repayments to repeat the scheme. Rachel’s reno loan was for 10 years and she expected to be mortgage free by 41.
Total costs: £31001 (don’t forget the £1!)
I plan to recap the Channel 4 television series about £1 houses like this one, so join the mailing list at the bottom of this page if you want to know when that goes live. For the timebeing those emails also have tips to boost your savings and income, plus you’ll be the first to hear about any changes around here.
Episode Two Winner For First-time Buyers
Stephanie’s garages win on price if you only count converting them. I’d be curious to speak to anyone who has bought garages AND converted them for less than the price of the ex-council house scheme. The prefab house is still a good deal for the house itself.
So what do you think? Would you consider any of these if it meant you could be mortgage free ASAP? Comment below.
The prefab house and the ex-council home are possibilities for the renovation shy. Although if you can build your house then you should be able to fix almost anything in future! If you want creativity and control without doing the work, then prefabs usually also have a menu of layouts and fixtures and fittings that you can customise.
For another range of freaky and not so freaky homes, you will want to read the recap in part three very soon.
I believe anything is possible. You can even time travel right here on the blog…by reading How To Live Mortgage Free part one. I’m a giant nerd, and I’m not sorry.
If you’ve plenty of time on your hands, you can watch How to Live Mortgage Free with Sarah Beeny on All4 for free. You’ll also find How to Live Mortgage Free on Netflix if entertainment is one of your spending priorities.