Many people, when they decide to go full-time in an RV, sell their sticks-and-bricks home and become "forever renters" in terms of where they park it - but they still have to deal with how to manage their domicile for purposes of vehicle registration, driver licensing, voting, etc.. Others opt to get a dedicated RV lot somewhere to use as their permanent home-base, one that they can return to when not on the road, and establish their domicile there.
We wanted to do the latter. We felt was important for the family to know we always have a physical spot to come home to. One advantage of this is that it gives us a stake in things like local government and voting. It also offers a sense of "home" for the family, and it gives us a place to store the stuff we have that doesn't fit in the trailer, but that we don't want to get rid of.
At the time we made the decision to go full-time, my employer was promising that "work-from-home" or "working remotely" was coming. That's a must-have if you want to go full-time and aren't retired. They kept promising that it was coming over the last 4 years. I've personally put voice communications systems in place to allow for that.
Just this year they formally announced that it is never happening for our IT department - even though other departments in our company do it, and two other companies we acquired allow it for their IT people. I spoke with our CIO directly, and he readily admits it's based on his "feelings", not on empirical evidence. The evidence, in fact, from the "trials" that the company performed, indicated that it can be done with no issues. I'm in the process of looking for a job that will allow it now, since while he is with the company, it will never happen.
In the meantime, we kept working on our goals as a family.
Ready-to-use and properly zoned full-time RV lots with water, sewer, and power connections can be found in many places, with prices ranging from about $300,000 at the high end to about $20,000 on the low end. Ours was not far above that lower end. We paid more for the truck than we did for our deeded RV lot.
They will usually be located in an RV park or resort with an HOA. There will be monthly HOA fees. These usually cover things like water, sewer, and garbage services. Sometimes they also cover landscape maintenance and other services. Fees range from around $75/month at the low end to over $500/month at the upper end - yes, I have personally seen HOA fees as high as $550/month, and I'm sure there are places where they are even higher. Just this week someone stated they saw an RV lot with $1000/month HOA fees at a resort out-of-state. That's astonishing!
The hard part is in finding a lot that fits your situation. This can take a long time.
Some are designated for only Class A-type units, while others permit 5th wheels and travel trailers, and a few others will even allow pop-ups. They can be found all over the place, it just depends on where you want to be when not on the road.
We wanted something in the southern part of Utah. The weather is not as cold as the northern part of the state (meaning that propane use will be less in the winter), and it's a great jumping off point for a lot of adventures. We want to remain Utah residents for now, so that was a factor in our decision, although we looked at lots in other states too. We wanted to be surrounded by the beauty of mesa's and red rock.
The vast majority of full-time RV lots are located in "55+", "adult", or "retirement" communities. They prohibit anyone under 18, and at least one occupant must be 55 or older. If any occupant becomes pregnant, they are no longer eligible to live there. In general, the folks that buy into them either have retirement savings, or the proceeds from the sale of an existing primary residence, to use to buy such a lot. In our case, we didn't have either of these, and didn't want to be in that type of place.
Even if the resort/park is not formally "55+", there is another trick that they sometimes use in their CC&R's to keep families out. They will restrict RVs of any size to only two occupants - meaning that families with children are effectively kept out, while allowing the resort/park to sidestep the "55+" stigma. In many places this is becoming a stigma, since many younger people and families are going full-time in RVs and are being locked out of many of these places. There aren't a lot of new RV parks/resorts allowing you to buy a deeded lot being built, so the supply isn't endless. This is becoming even more of an issue for folks getting into the new trend of "tiny homes".
So-called "tiny homes" are usually built on a bumper-pulled chassis. They usually have hookups for water, sewer, and power much like an RV, may have propane tank hookups for heat and cooking like an RV, and may even use RV appliances, toilets, and even furniture. They usually don't have holding tanks, have less living space than an RV, and are not RVIA certified.
Keep in mind also that we were looking for a permanently deeded lot - meaning that we own it and it can be transferred to our daughter some day. A number of resorts and parks that offer lots for sale don't offer a true deed. They instead offer either a "lifetime lease" which expires on the death of the purchaser, or they offer things like "99-year" leases. That means that you lose any effort and money you put into the lot, and you have nothing to pass on when you aren't around any more - unless someone in your family renews that lease and gives the resort owner more money.
I've also seen resorts where you could buy a lot, but where the zoning permits "long-term" but not "permanent" living. Such places require you to move off of the lot for some period of time before returning. One example I found was that you have to be gone for at least 1 month out of every 6. If there is such a restriction in place, it is usually because it is a requirement of the local jurisdiction where the resort is, usually a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) law to keep out "trailer trash".
Many resorts and parks also have extremely restrictive CC&R's and HOA's. Some of them really show how much control people want over their fellow man. We researched many, and found some that have restrictions on things like what color your RV can be, what colors of chairs you can have on your patio, stipulate that your garbage can may not be visible from the street or from any other lot, and even things down to the color of window shades that you can have inside your RV. Others are quite reasonable, allowing even things like permanent site-built storage sheds, ATVs, and even extra cargo or ATV trailers on lots. Some are in between.
Some "encourage" owners to place park models, manufactured homes, or even small site-built homes on lots. This eliminates the ability to park an RV on them. Others prohibit permanent structures, site-built structures, manufactured homes, and even park models. The former becomes very common. Many parks start out as RV parks and "gentrify" over time into manufactured home/trailer parks.
Go on Google Earth and look at some of the "mobile home parks" in your area. You may be able to see that many of them started out as RV parks, and converted into park-model and manufactured home parks. You may even find one with a handful of RV pads still present.
We found it interesting that most parks and resorts, even including most that encourage more "permanent" structures, still prohibit "tiny homes". Tiny homes are becoming a popular option with a lot of younger people, but they are finding it very difficult to find places to legally put them. Most RV parks and resorts require that everything there must be RVIA certified - which is primarily intended to keep out home-built RVs, bus conversions, and converted U-Haul trucks. We also found that some expressly prohibit "tiny homes" by name. It's a conundrum faced by everyone in the tiny home movement - they buy them (or want to), but then can't find a place to legally put them. Just like with RVs, a lot of communities are NIMBY on tiny homes too.
Another issue is that IF you find a lot that fits your needs, you may find yourself competing against buyers that don't even plan to use the lot themselves, and have cash available. Many folks buy them to use as rental income - when parks/resorts even permit such uses in their CC&R's. Some prohibit renting of lots, or severely restrict it.
We also found one bulk-buyer of lots that was from China. They were re-selling RV lots to people in China under an "own a piece of the American West" sales program.
There was also a corporation that was buying up individual lots as fast as they came available, to add to their rental portfolio. One even had agents visiting RV resorts and parks on a daily basis to find newly listed lots with new signs out front. They would make an offer as soon as they found out about it.
We found a resort in 2013 that met our requirements, and the resort owner still had a number of lots for sale. They offered permanently-deeded lots (recorded with the county), very reasonable CC&R's, a low monthly HOA fee that covered water, sewer, garbage services, etc., low property taxes, and had no age or limit restrictions on residents. The HOA was also good to deal with.
Because of some complications in the birth of our daughter, we had some medical bills that took an extended time to pay off, and could not afford a lot at that time. The kicker was that when we could finally afford the payments for a loan on a lot a couple of years later, we found that the owner had sold all of them! A couple of bulk-buyers (including that corporation) had come in and bought many of them at once, a few months before we were were ready!
We finally managed to get a lot there earlier this year. Since there were none listed for sale, I started looking for potential sellers in the resort using county recorder records. I was looking for owners of multiple lots.
I contacted one owner of several lots, and they were living off of the rental income for them, and had no desire to sell any of them.
I then contacted a man who was the owner of 51 lots in the resort. I let him know we'd like to buy one. It turned out that he got them in a legal settlement with their original owner (they had a financial deal of some sort that went bad), He didn't even want them in the first place, and wanted to get rid of them, but would not sell any individual lots until he had buyers lined up and ready for all 51. In the meantime, he was renting them out.
His entire reason for not wanting to sell individual lots without buyers lined up for all of them, was because he was simply too lazy to go to a notary and sign paperwork more than one time. It wasn't about preparing closing documents or dealing with all of that, it was just that he didn't want to go to a notary and sign papers more than once.
We worked out a deal. I setup a web site for him to help find him buyers for 50 of his lots - in exchange for a deal on the lot we wanted. I promoted the website and got it out there in front of people ready to buy. In just over 4 months that website helped him find buyers for 50 sites at a profit over the value he accepted for them when he obtained them. He had agreed to the deal, and was getting more money than he expected.
In the end he went back on every promise he made to us and to the folks that contacted him via the website. He kept changing his terms, and then the day after the website brought him a buyer for the remaining sites he had available, he decided to sell everything listed on the website to another party that came in at the last minute and offered him even more money for all 50 of them, They wanted the lot we wanted too.
He finally agreed to sell us the lot we wanted, but the final ripoff was in changing his terms yet again, charging us all of the closing costs, and charging us far more for the lot than he said he would.
We still got it, but it was a roller-coaster ride to get it with a lot of headache and heartache involved.
Most banks won't do a "mortgage" on a property unless there is a habitable structure (a house) fixed on the lot. With an RV lot, there's isn't one. A concrete pad with water/sewer/power doesn't meet that qualification.
Getting a personal or signature loan is an option - but most RV lots far exceed what you can get on such a loan. Most banks won't do personal signature loans for more than $15,000 with interest rates above 6% (advertised rates at the time we were looking, advertised rates have since gone up). They also have 3 to 5 year repayment terms. I had no problem qualifying, but the lot would have required two such loans. The interest rates were also going up. We wanted to find another option.
There are very few banks, mostly in resort areas like Florida, for example, that will loan specifically on RV lots. They generally want at least 25% down, with a 3 year repayment term, for somewhere over 7% interest (which, again, has been going up this year). A few I've since checked on have upped their down payment terms to 30%.
Keeping your credit score high is very important if you are planning to do anything like this.
A couple of years back I was able to get a fixed-rate Personal Line-Of-Credit (PLOC) with a very high limit (higher than most banks will go on a personal loan) with a highly reputable bank. The interest rate is a little higher on PLOC's than on lower-limit, secured personal loans, although they are still less than regular credit card rates. The benefit of a PLOC is that they can be accessed for anything at all, at any time, by simply writing a check. The one we got has a very long repayment term, allowing for a lower monthly payment. PLOC's aren't based on creating a lean on a specific item, and they are always available to you once you have it.
We didn't touch it after we got it because we knew it might come in handy for this goal, and we were playing the long game. You don't have any payments or interest until you use it, so setting one up in advance is a good idea. It was not a big hit to our credit score to get it, and after two years the inquiry on the credit score dropped off.
Having that high credit score also allowed me to get a couple of credit cards that offer high limits, great benefits, low interest rates, and no annual fees. Again, get but don't use.
One of these opened up the opportunity to buy this lot at an even better rate. It offered checks that could be used for a balance transfer or any other purpose (including a cash advance), and had a fixed rate of 5.99% for the life of the balance - as long as it takes. Most banks that offer "checks" like that on credit card accounts restrict them to only balance transfers.
When this deal came to fruition, we were able to put almost all of the cost of the lot onto that card using that offer - but without maxing out the card. That was important because using a card to the maximum credit limit creates a bigger hit on your credit score. We put the rest onto the PLOC, again, without coming anywhere near maxing it out.
It does mean we have two loans on the lot, but the rates are not bad overall. Since it's our permanent home lot, it was worth it to us to do it this way. We look at it as our mortgage. Given how hard it was to find the lot, it's not a bad trade-off.
The plan is to payoff the smaller amount on the PLOC within 1 year, then payoff what is on the 5.99% card balance. Once that's done, our only debt will be the trailer.
NOTE: I later transferred the balance from the PLOC to an unused credit card we had that offered 0 interest until mid-2020 and a flat fee of just over $300. That was less than the interest would have been by payoff time on the PLOC, so will save us a bit of money. We have budgeted to pay it off prior to the 0 interest expiration.
Once we don't have to also pay rent on a lot in Salt Lake City, that second loan will drop like a rock, then we will focus on the 5.99% loan. In the meantime, it does mean that our finances are pretty tight - paying two loans on the RV lot, rent in SLC, and the loan on our trailer. Once we don't have to pay rent up here, the rest will be easy. Once the second loan on the lot is paid off, things won't be tight at all.
One major plus to how we financed this is that there is no bank lean against the property. That means that we got the deed up front.
There is another option to consider as well. There is a lot of empty land for sale, and some of it can be found very cheap. The problem is making it ready to use full-time.
Local zoning is often the biggest problem here. Most places are NIMBY on RVs, and they won't let you live in one full-time. You need to find a place that is either specifically zoned to allow it, or is located such that no one cares. There is land out there like it, but it's often too remote for utilities.
Sites like LandWatch,com or LandAndFarm.com have listings for 20+ acres in places like Box Elder County, Utah, for example, for as low as $2000. That's not a bad price, but drive out there sometime. You will find that you can't even get to it with a trailer in tow, because there are no roads near it and the land isn't flat. Much of it is covered in sagebrush and gopher holes, and you may find unexpected ravines. Sometimes you can't even reach it with a 4WD truck not towing anything - and there is not a snowballs chance of getting any utilities out there. Much of it is even beyond cellular phone signal range.
So, why are plots of land like that for sale? It's because back in the 70's, some entrepreneurs bought the land REALLY cheap and put ad's out in Hawaii, Japan, and other places about owning land in Utah. Folks bought it up because they expected that developers would someday want it, but they had never actually seen it.
Over time, many realized that no developers are going to be interested in the land - especially once Google Earth became a thing and they could see exactly where their 20+ acres were. Many stopped paying property taxes on the land because they couldn't sell it, and the counties put the land up for auction after 5 years.
New entrepreneurs decided to buy it cheap at those tax auction sales, and list it for sale again for about 4 to 6 times what they paid for it. The cycle repeats.
If you want to cut out the middle-man, you can look at the tax sale lists for many of these rural counties, usually starting in February or March. Tax sales usually happen in April or May. You need to be at the auction in person with cash or verified funds. The auctions are usually held at a county courthouse. Just be aware that you may be bidding against the guys planning on listing the plots of land on LandWatch and LandAndFarm. The good thing is that they want to re-sell it, so they have their limits on what they will pay. If you really want it, it may be worth it to you.
Even if you find a good deal on land that you can get to with your trailer, and that has utilities available or where you can get a permit for a well - after the expenses of getting the permit for that well, getting it drilled, getting a septic system installed or sewer and other utilities to the land, you will find that you will put a LOT into making a place like that into something you can live on.
There ARE some good deals out there, but you need to do your research and actually visit the land - doing your "due diligence". Google Earth sometimes doesn't even give you a good idea of how difficult it may be to get there. We checked out a lot of these, and some were unreachable. Others could be reached by a truck, but there was no way to get a trailer there. That's very common.
Some folks are content to just rent wherever they are, and there isn't anything wrong with that. For us, finding a permanent lot that we could always return to when not on the road made more sense. If you are considering that course, I hope this has been helpful to you.
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