Welcome to part five 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.
As with episode two and four, there is another take on mobile homes in this episode. (Links to previous parts are at the bottom). It does seem to be one of the cheapest routes to owning a home if we don’t qualify for a mortgage yet. These examples challenge our idea of what a mobile home or tiny home should look like too.
There were also a few ideas again in this episode that came from existing homeowners. Although the blog is first time buyer central, I’ve kept these in as with the other recaps in case it’s relevant later down the road.
Alternatively, I think we could also fund some of these on a smaller budget. I bet we could replicate the barn build for less, for example.
How To Live Mortgage Free Episode 5
Overpayment (again! See episode one)
Double Decker Buses
Mobile Homes round #3
Agricultural land without planning permission
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:
Pay my non-existent mortgage early again? Agh!
Following on from the couple in episode one, this is obviously another example of what’s possible once you have a home. Elaine Collier was 48 when they filmed and wanted to pay off her mortgage in 10 years. Her business went under in 2009 and she is a single mum of two boys, so she wanted to be debt free for life. Elaine bought a five bed in Fife in 2007 on a 30 year term for £140000, but had to go on benefits.
She still overpaid her mortgage, some months only by £14 because it was all she could afford on benefits. In 2013 she got really serious and started budgeting everything and teaching her kids about moolah. She also had side hustles e.g writing in newspapers, as a film extra, and delivering newspapers.
The savings: Elaine had no spend months where she only bought food. Elaine went on to work as an office manager for a local MP. Elaine also buys food in bulk that has a long shelf life. Sarah suggests buying one less coffee a week, having one less takeaway and one less night out per month if you usually do these things every day/week.
Total costs: Elaine paid off £56000 from 2013 to 2017 and had £70000 outstanding.
I already listed some ideas in the episode one recap for how to overpay a mortgage when the day comes. The couple in this article paid their mortgage within the first four years (yes, that’s four, not forty). Make it eight years if there’s one of you, I guess!
Here were the rules the gave themselves to abide by:
Put savings from using comparison sites towards the mortgage
Only seek employment that includes a bonus and overtime
Sell anything that hasn’t been used for a year
Always start supermarket shops at the discount shelf
Keep remortgaging to lower the interest rate
Use cashback sites like TopCashback for purchases
All of these rules apart from the remortgaging are also great ways to save for a deposit.
Want more updates like this?
Double Decker Buses
I suppose this is another mobile home!
Prefer to listen (again) later? I covered this case study on the podcast:
How To Save Like A Bear Episode 011 https://pod.fo/e/aef5e
The couple in this episode used a bus to solve the problem of accessible housing. When the show aired, the average house cost £218000. Most of these need renovations to create disabled access.
Britain has 10m+ disabled people and in 2016 1.8m in England said they struggled to find suitable housing. Grants exist, but it can take £1000 to make front doors accessible, £4000+ for kitchens and £10000+ for bathrooms.
Professional inventor Rick rented a four bed in Cambridge for £1400 pm with his wife Amanda and their two kids. Amanda has severe mobility issues after her parachute failed to open during a skydiving accident in her 20s. They couldn’t modify the property properly besides a stair lift because it’s a rental. Rick didn’t qualify for a mortgage because he was the sole earner and sole carer.
Amanda had to start making dinner in the mornings sometimes if she was in a lot of pain and hadn’t slept well because it would take her even longer to move around. The cupboards and counters were either too high or too low and she couldn’t stand without pain.
Rick solved this with a height adjustable chair and open plan kitchen. He removed the inner tube from an old trolley tyre and sealed the outside tubes with a metal plate to make it airtight. Rick then mounted an office chair on a hinged metal frame. He put the tyre underneath the seat and inflated it from a canister of compressed air attached to a control, moving the seat up and down.
The bus would have a central automatic door, retractable wheelchair ramps, and a telescopic lift on an electric winch to get to the master bed and both children’s beds upstairs. Rick designed the lift to have the least impact on space while letting Amanda use both floors.
Rick built an octagonal lift shaft and made steel lift runners either side from workshop odds and ends. A metal basket rested in the runners and an electric winch like what you use to put cars on trailers moved the lift.
They also planned a seating area for when they’ve parked up and a second lift so Amanda could use this space without needing a chair upstairs to manoeuvre (Amanda can get straight out of bed into the other lift).
Rick also designed the chair so that Amanda could travel around the bus by monorail. He thinks this is common engineering and not hi tech. Have a go?
They used vacuum-formed lightweight plastic to partition the bedrooms.
To do the same
Rick had space outside his workshop to do the conversion (then you need to find a legal place to park). Job number one was removing all 68 seats to create as much space as possible. Then you can do what you like to the insides!
Timescale: After one year Rick had to stop building until he could afford more materials, but he had converted the basics and installed all the mobility designs except the ramp. He had built solid wood worktops for the kitchen, installed a hob and built a homework/arts and crafts counter next to the drivers cabin. Rick worked at night because of his day job, sometimes until sunrise.
The savings: It would have cost Rick and Amanda £390000 to buy their rental or £300000 to buy a three bed if they had been allowed a mortgage.
Electricity was going to be solar and their heat was going to come from bottled gas.
Total costs: £20k budget, but they spent only £10k before Sarah visited for the final time to see it half-finished, so they hadn’t saved up all of the £20000 before starting. They still planned to spend £10000 maximum on the rest. They bought the bus online for £3600.
If you want an idea of what it’s like to live in a bus, you can try it out on Airbnb.
Mobile Homes…Round #3
The producers obviously loved the idea of temporary dwellings. Or else there are a lot of people in mobile homes who wanted to appear on the show.
Joiner Phil and teacher Poppy built The Hub from a disused mobile home.The outside still needed cladding in wood (for aesthetics mostly).
The savings: Phil rents the land from his mother, but a one bed flat locally would have been £143000 (no location given).
To buy a plot of land the same size would cost £20000; they want to save to buy their own land and build again. Since they are mortgage free, they think this will “only” take five years to save.
They made the bathroom from carpentry offcuts and the kitchen from scaffold boards. The bedroom is only 10 feet by seven feet, so one way to limit what you spend is to have less space to decorate!
Total costs: £2880. The mobile home cost nothing except £380 for haulage. A friend said if they removed it, they could have it for free.
It cost £2500 to do inside. The land rent figure wasn’t specified.
Nial and Helen built an 800 square feet barn in flexible modular units. This means the kitchen and bathroom can move in future. They also partitioned one room into two so their kids could have a room. The modern build has traditional touches too; local milking parlours use the same screed flooring and they sourced the timber beams locally.
The savings: They lived in a dilapidated farmhouse for seven years to save for the conversion. By going mortgage free, they have saved so they can build a five bed farmhouse. The barn will then become a holiday home.
The loophole: The couple moved out of a one bed in London about 12 years ago to buy 35 acres for £275000 and build a home in Carmarthenshire first.
The lesson here is move to the back of beyond.
Total costs: £90k. £80k for the barn and £5-10k on alterations.
At the time of filming, property was £11321 per square metre in London, or £1036 per square metre in Scunthorpe, so it pays to get out of London where possible.
Agricultural Land Without Planning Permission
Stop laughing (or crying). Agricultural land without planning permission costs 250000 times less than land with permission. So even a first-time buyer can theoretically get an acre for £10000 that isn’t brownfields. (But as per the first episode, you can also look into brownfield sites).
Janta and his wife built a 300 square foot eco house in Shropshire. The land had no trees/property, so they planted 10000 trees. The floor is earthen using clay from the foundation and straw bale walls give natural insulation. Actually, the only walls are for an adjoining bedroom, otherwise it’s a big round open plan home. Perfect for hobbits!
The savings: Because it’s an eco house, power comes from solar/wind. Sedum grows on the roof and a wood burner provides heat. They turned offcuts from the beams for the frame into parts of the walls and floors.
It also took five years to get planning permission, so the couple lived in a caravan i.e. a temporary dwelling like several other examples on the show. After five years there is usually the option to apply to prove you need a more permanent dwelling.They got permission ultimately because their plan was for an “affordable” home that would conserve and protect nature. The allowance for affordable housing had come about because local prices had become extortionate.
Total costs: £130000 including 18 acres of farmland snapped up at auction 10 years ago and £65000 to build. Janta restored and sold a cottage in Wales first…
Episode Five Winner For First-time Buyers
The disused mobile home if you can find somewhere to haul it to, otherwise we’re all going back to school in a double decker bus.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments if you fancy a bus, a barn or something in between. How would you achieve these on a smaller budget?
Regards the last couple, 18 acres is a lot of land, so it should be possible to buy a smaller parcel for less. The more patience you have and the more flexible you are about your location, the easier it is to find a bargain. If like me you want to be a specific radius from family then it narrows down the possibilities.
If you’ve read the whole series so far, then make sure to read the episode six recap too very soon. Hop on the mailing list at the bottom of this post for blog updates.
This blog bends time as well as maths
If you want to go back, part one of my recap featured the following ideas:
Moored Shipping Containers
In part two I recapped:
Shipping Containers (on land)
Garages (change of use)
Ex-council Homes For £1
Episode three‘s adventures included:
If you missed episode four‘s recap, you’ll find:
Green Belt Land
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.