If you’ve ever seen reruns of 1950s era sitcoms, they look funny by today’s standards. Dad worked, mom stayed home and everybody smoked. Back in those days you could enjoy a middle class lifestyle on one income. That gave way to dual income families in the 1970s and 1980s, to the point that today both partners working is not even a question. If that wasn’t depressing enough, today we get word that 11 million Americans spend half their paycheck on rent. Where does the insanity stop?
RV living inevitably becomes wrapped up with alternative housing precisely because, if structured properly, it’s far less expensive than living in a house or renting. So, yeah, RV living is a cheap way to keep a roof over your head.
Pick Your Level of Comfort
One of the really unique aspects of RV living is you can pick your level of amenities. You can pay very little to stay in undeveloped or minimally developed camping areas. On the flip side you can pay nearly the price of rent for a one bedroom apartment and get some really first class amenities in places with million dollar views.
The Money Logic Works Both Ways
RV living is unique in that it’s a good deal for people on both sides of the transaction. Being a tenant in an apartment is not a good deal. Being a landlord is a better deal. The logic in that transaction works really well for one side, not so good for the other. But RV resorts are competitive outside the most popular markets. If park owners raise rates too high or too fast, their guests can pack up and move. Moving, even in an apartment, is a lot of work. It’s all the work of moving a house and you’re right back in another apartment where you have the same lopsided relationship as the last apartment. The only thing that changes is the address. A mortgage on a house is even worse. Mortgages are the most lopsided business arrangement since indentured servants.
Not So In Your RV
If you’re a full-time RV park guest, liked by your neighbors and decent to the staff. If you pay on time and keep your campsite relatively neat, you’re a valuable commodity. Long term RV renters bring in more money, even at a lower monthly rent, than seasonal renters. Renting an RV space for 3 months at $900 a month is $2,700. Renting the same RV space for $500 a month for 8 months is $4,000. That exact same piece of concrete renting for $400 for 12 months brings in $4,800, nearly twice as much than the three month rental price.
Those numbers give you an idea of the money logic of your relationship with the RV park owner. During the off season, a small but loyal band of full-timers can, literally, keep the lights on. Where that relationship breaks down is high traffic areas when the park owner can rent the spaces out for much higher daily and weekly rates.
A friend of mine who buys RV parks and rehabs them says that getting the right mix of full-time RVers turns even parks in remote areas into a machine that prints money. He’s so good at it that banks call him in to rescue financially insecure RV parks. Certainly, not all RV parks are profitable and many go out of business. But once the infrastructure is in place, a well-run RV park can be wildly successful.
That’s why anything non-traditional that you can do to keep a roof over your head is a better deal that apartments and a way better deal than a mortgage. It’s sad testimony to our housing market that our most common choices are so easy to beat.