Welcome to part three 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.
This instalment covered another houseboat case study, so if the example in episode one didn’t convince you to become a mermaid then you might be swayed this time. At the end of the series I’ll vote for which I think was the best alternative for first time buyers. Rain your votes down on me in the comments!
How To Live Mortgage Free Episode Three
This episode’s adventures include:
If you’re daunted about the finances of owning a traditional home then this episode has a few ways for you to build cheaper. How much backbreaking you do will depend on your budget and whether you want to have a go at implementing your design ideas yourself.
The show isn’t just for first time buyers, so there are a few examples throughout the recaps for existing homeowners. I included these since the goal is to actually be a homeowner one day, and tried to pull out as much information as possible as you never know which direction you’ll want to go in future.
Skip to the bottom for more on the previous parts in the series.
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:
Rob and Becky are guardians of a disused mill in the Cotswolds, so they avoided land costs to park their horse box. The dining table can be put down to make a bed and they have luxuries like a boiler, compost toilet, portholes for windows, and electrical outlets.
The savings: To buy a flat in Cirencester would have been £200k. Running costs are £122 per month including insurance, wifi and bills a.k.a. half the average of a one bedroom flat. Their solar electric is free and gas for the log burner costs £25 per month. They built the window sills from decking wood and the walls from pallet wood.
Total costs: £7k. £2500 to buy the horse box and £4500 on conversion.
Again! Episode one also featured a houseboat reno.
Edward and Pamela built a 473 square foot boat with a budget of £20k. The mooring is permanent, so they get added space for having no engine room.
Other space saving innovations included back to back 300mm cabinets under the kitchen worktop (normal cabinets are 600mm deep). On the deck the show’s architect Damion Burrows suggested hidden cubes that make individual stools on wheels, or which can be clipped together to make a single bed. A raised ceiling, bigger windows and two sinks make it feel bigger than their old boat.
The loophole: The couple funded the project by selling their previous boat for £145k. This was an 895 square foot barge with three cabins, lounge, galley kitchen, and a bathroom. They paid £90k for a residential mooring in 1989 in Surrey; in 2017 it was worth £250000, or £1000 to rent monthly. They wanted to downsize without losing too much space and to maximise profit as they have no pensions.
However, as pointed out in episode one, there moorings vary by price around the country, so they can be found much cheaper. It also suggests that if you start off with a smaller houseboat, you could trade up if needed.
To do the same: Build your “boat” on a residential mooring then float it after completion.
The savings: It would cost £50000 to buy a new boat like theirs ready made. Their old licence, diesel and other running costs came to £5k per year, so their new boat should be cheaper to run. The windows were recycled from an old glass cabinet and the interior was reclaimed wood.
Total costs: £20000 because it was DIY got them a lounge, galley kitchen, one large cabin, a viewing deck with bifold doors, and a hull filled with concrete.
Step 1: find family member with massive garden
Step 2: build a house on their land without paying for the land
Cynicism aside, Beau had a very valid reason for building a home on land he’ll presumably inherit anyway. Beau’s dad has Alzheimers, so he rents his own house out one mile away and built a cabin in his dad’s large garden for himself. Space savers include a dining table that hides in the wall, and a TV and kitchen counter that folds down.
Timescale: 20 months in between caring for his dad. Dude, I salute you.
Total costs: £6500. As a cabinet maker Beau was able to DIY using reclaimed pallet wood, scaffolding, telegraph poles, and oak and sycamore from the woods. For energy he used a log burner, gas bottles, and electricity from the main house.
This requires an existing property to split in two.
So again I’ll keep this example in case it’s ever relevant once you buy a home, or if you have the privilege of inheriting a home that can be chopped up. It’s an extreme mortgage-free goal otherwise.
Having said that, more than eight million homes have unused bedrooms, but basements and attics etc., can also be turned into separate dwellings.
(Can we just pause there a second? More than eight million homes have unused bedrooms? Statistics like that are exactly why new build estates of executive homes aren’t solving our housing crisis…Enough of that because it’s not something I can control).
Tony wrenched his Edwardian house into two and sold one. They lost one bedroom and one lounge and half the garden, but essentially built a three bed for the cost of a one bedroom flat locally. It sold for £700000+.
That sound you hear is me whistling.
Croft land in Scotland is cheap, beautiful and requires little planning permission. £1 per square metre buys land with permission in principle that you must cultivate. The views are usually epic. Martin was a former prison guard from down south who last lived in Lancashire before building a 108 foot long timber framed cottage.
To do the same: Check with the Crofting Commission for land.
Total costs: £314k. £54000 bought 14 acres in Skye. The build cost was £260000 paid for with extra jobs and paying down their previous mortgage. (What’s that I spy? I think it’s another loophole… You don’t have to have as many acres though, and the build itself costs as much as you want). The stone cladding was salvaged from derelict properties however.
Episode Three Winner For First-time Buyers
The horse box on price alone. Otherwise I vote for the houseboat unless you have somewhere to put your own scrap wood cabin…
So what do you think? Would you consider any of these if it meant you could be mortgage free ASAP?
I think if you wanted to combine crofting with the prefab house from episode two (more on that below), then you could secure land and a regular looking house for a fraction of what Martin paid. It would still be cheaper than buying an existing house too.
You do need a thick skin to stay warm under Scottish skies if you’re not used to the temperatures though! Let me know in the comments if you would choose any of the homes from this instalment.
For more kerazy ideas, you will want to read the recap in part four very soon. Subscribe for a weekly reminder of everything new on the blog, plus extra money boosting tips for the foreseeable.
If you want to go back, part one of my recap featured the following ideas:
Moored Shipping Containers
In part two I recapped:
Garages (change of use)
Ex-council Homes For £1
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.