I am so busy right now that I had to make a list of lists. Wish I were kidding. Now that I have an RV in my possession, which I managed to do in less than 2 weeks (and may have been a bad thing), I think its time for an update.
The first bump in the road was funding. How was I going to pay for this? What can I afford? Well, I knew that I’d most definitely need some type of loan. I had applied for both RV loans and personal loans. RV loans often have better terms (on both interest rates and length of loan in years), but many that I had looked at had the stipulation that you cannot use the RV as a full-time residence. One company did not have this stipulation, but the interest rate was outrageous. All the other RV loans without the stipulation flat-out denied me even though my credit was rated “Good”. Great. I figured trying to apply for a personal loan wasn’t going to be any better, so I nearly gave up as soon as I had started.
However, one sales-y loan officer suggested I have someone co-sign the loan with me. I thought convincing my father would be a task… but turns out I have his support 100%! We ended up getting a personal loan with a fantastic rate, half the rate of all the RV loans that I had looked at. I ended up with a budget of $10,000, which equates to about $200 per month for 5 years. That is manageable for me!
The next step was to look at some RV parks and their requirements. Many RV parks have strict rules about RVs, and some have a rule that your RV cannot be any older than 10 years, in some instances, 12. So, there goes the idea of flipping a vintage Airstream. No big deal though, because the newer RVs will be easier to work with in most cases, as long as I don’t pick up someone else’s mess.
I started to think about what I needed and what I wanted. I knew I didn’t want a motorhome because I wouldn’t be driving it around much, and all the extra maintenance for the engine and such was not really something I wanted to deal with. I didn’t really care for a fifth wheel, because it requires a special hitch installed into the bed of a pickup, and I didn’t want to ask anyone to modify their vehicle for me. I also don’t like the setup of fifth wheels, just personal preference. So, I looked at travel trailers.
After some browsing, I decided that I wanted as large of a travel trailer as I could find, knowing how small they will end up feeling. I knew that I wanted at least one slide-out, because they really do make a world of a difference, as it makes the trailer feel not so cramped. I looked at many different layouts, and ultimately decided that I wanted one with a bunkhouse.
Now why would I, a single person with no children, want a trailer with a bunkhouse? The answer is very simple: rip those bunks out!!! And suddenly, I have an entire ‘extra’ room! I decided that the bunkhouse might act as closet space, litter box, laundry, and a desk if I could fit it. So began my very specific search…
First, I looked on good ol’ craigslist, which proved to be encouraging. New RVs in my price and age range were popping up every day! Before I went diving in, I consulted with one of my friends whom works at an RV dealership. He gave me some really great tips on what to look for in a used RV, and what to definitely stay away from. He lives across the country, and allowed me bother him as often as I wanted to, with photos and ads, and he gave me his opinions. Shout out to Corey Clarke for being my virtual RV expert! I highly recommend that anyone doing this to make an inspection list and to consult someone like this, so that you aren’t clueless and buying the first pretty RV that you see.
The first one I wanted to go look at was a 2009 Jayco brand trailer. The photos made it seem really nice. However, the price was dropping not just every day, but every few hours. That was red flag number one. A little TOO eager to sell. When I arrived to the storage facility and saw the trailer’s exterior, it had huge bubbles on both ends where the fiberglass was separating from the walls. HUGE red flag – most likely some serious water damage. The inside was alright, not ideal with the bathroom next to the bedroom, but it could work. I started asking questions, and when I asked about the bubbling fiberglass, he said “Oh I am pretty sure that is just from the sun. You would just have to glue or tack it back down.” I thanked him and left. NOPE. If someone is going to very obviously lie to you about something so obvious, who knows what else is lurking!
So, I then went to go look at over 20 trailers at a consignment dealership. Most dealerships don’t even sell trailers below $15,000, so I was really excited to see what this place had. The dealership is called PPL Motorhomes, located in downtown Houston, TX. They were great! They are full disclosure, meaning any known repairs or issues are disclosed to the buyer.
When I walked in, the woman at the front desk had me sign in, gave me a map with details about the trailers, and told me to have at it! It was a smorgasbord of trailers, motorhomes, and pop-ups in a huge lot. This was really a lot of fun, because all of them were open, so I could just take my time to look around, take info sheets, and all without the pressure of a salesman or previous owner.
As I started to look at trailers, I quickly became discouraged. Nearly all of them had some sort of water damage that was very apparent on the ceiling and/or the walls. Some of them, all I had to do was touch the panel and water would start to drip out. Yikes! Looks like my budget might not be as generous as I had hoped. Many had been a little too “used” and smelled of mildew and dog food, had torn fabrics, and stained floors.
However, I am persistent! That next day, I went back to craigslist, checking every other hour for any updates. Then, I saw an RV type that I had never seen before. A toy hauler. A 2008 Keystone Springdale 290CT, 32′. Posted just a week and a half ago.
Immediately, I thought, “How perfect!” Not only would a giant door and ramp allow me to get furniture in and out easily, but toy haulers are also a bit heavier because they are built stronger in order to haul the extra weight of the “toy”. Also, the garage, being the same dimensions as the rear bedroom, will serve as the extra room I had wanted! It was slightly out of my price range, but not by much. With my new experience with inspecting RVs, i had the confidence going in to negotiate. Prior to the showing, I had researched on the internet for the exact same trailer for sale in other parts of the country, to get an idea of an average asking price. (For this one in particular, it was the lowest asking price I could find.)
I met with the sellers on a beautiful, hot Texas day. He had clearly just done some roof sealing because his ladder and the sealant were out, which made me a little nervous. When I approached it, it looked rather nice though. The inside appeared mostly clean and the AC was running on high and was cold. They said they only used it twice, owning for the last 5 years. All the appliances worked. The slide-out was deep. The layout was exactly what I had wanted. I did my usual pressing on the walls and ceiling, and couldn’t find any soft spots. I got up to look at the roof, down under to look at the frame, and opened all the cabinets and the fridge, looked at vents and wires. I really couldn’t find much wrong, some yellowed plastic and some ugly decor – It was perfect!
However, I had asked the sellers if they could open the awning. They didn’t know how, but then notice it is rotted out. I asked them to open one of the outside compartments. He had trouble doing that, and wasn’t even sure what the compartment was for (water heater). It was very clear that I knew more about the RV than they did. I asked them about any known issues. They pointed out a water damaged spot on the floor that I had missed, right next to the fridge. Apparently one of their sons left the fridge open and it leaked onto the floor. It isn’t very big, so I imagine (and hope) I can manage that repair. They also pointed out the rear mounted stabilizers were ripped off by the first owners, but I know this is not an expensive fix. All of this seemed like it fit the bill. I had a really good gut feeling about this.
They took my offer, only a little less than asking price, and I left feeling really confident I had found a great deal! The day came to pick it up… and this is where everything REALLY began…
This is my first real post and I will admit, I’ve been obsessing. From the inception of the idea, to deciding if it was a good idea, to deciding on the type of RV, to deciding on a budget, a layout, color schemes… yes, a lot has happened in a few days. And even with the challenges this lifestyle change will bring, I believe I am ready to take them on.
To be fair, I had thought of this idea before. Several years ago, my boyfriend and I broke up and therefore I decided my living situation was to change. I ultimately decided to buy a house instead, and never thought about the idea again. Until last week.
I was with a friend near his house, and while we were driving past the neighborhood grocery, he commented on the old rusty RV for sale parked on the corner lot. He had said something about renovating it, and essentially flipping and selling it. A light bulb had went off in my head. “I don’t use half of the space in my apartment. I hardly ever sit in my living room nor do I watch TV. I almost never cook… “ and the idea was born.
For me, the rationale was obvious: I’m single, I love being outdoors, I miss being a homeowner and being able to modify my own space as I see fit, I love to travel, I don’t need much in the way of “stuff” to be happy, and I am in some debt (I don’t need stuff, but I like having stuff). It was about my future. I wanted to be able to someday afford my own land, and to be able to build my own house, and this may be a good solution to saving the money I needed. It was about my happiness. Do you ever feel stuck, like you’re boring, like you need a change? Maybe this is the type of change that I need. Something to occupy my time, something to get me out of my comfort zone.
A mountain of questions swelled up. But what about my stuff?! How do I get mail? Where can I park it on a long term basis? What about dumping? Towing? Will my pets be comfortable? Will my parents accept this idea? How will I pay for the RV? and the questions go on…
For my particular situation, most of the answers were very clear to me. I’m single – the only obligation I have is to myself, my dog, and my cat. I don’t have any children or husbands to worry about. I grew up in a family that went RVing often in the summertime for “camping”, and I had always looked forward to our vacations. We even used to bring our cats, so I knew having a cat would not be an issue. I love the outdoors, and RVing definitely brings you closer to nature. I complain often about my debt and spending habits — Living in an RV is cheaper than a house, or even an apartment. I also complain about not having a yard, or enough windows (I live in a luxury apartment). RVs have tons of windows, and some parks provide small yard areas. I miss being able to paint my hallway, change fixtures, install landscape lighting, or have a fire. I can do any of those things with an RV. I may not know how to install new cabinetry, but I have learned a valuable lesson already:
So, I’m obviously a great candidate for full-time RV living. But before I could commit, there were criteria that needed to be met, and questions to be answered. Some of these questions were as follows:
Where would I park it? I’m not sure about other parts of the country, but Montgomery County, Texas has an impressive number of RV parks that offer monthly lot rentals. After some extensive research, an average lot rent is about $500 for a basic grassy lot, sometimes with concrete pads but sometimes not. These RV parks have full hookups (meaning city water and sewer – so no dumping or filling required! Yay!), and many have amenities such as pools, high speed internet, free cable, free mailboxes (yes, you get your mail with a real address!) gyms, laundry rooms, showers, dog play areas, fishing, boat launch access, and some even allow you to build decks with approval. The only thing you have to pay when you arrive is your rent, and an electric deposit which is typically under $200.
There are advantages to being mobile but in an RV park. For instance, you don’t need to give much notice if you decide to leave, you can switch lots easily if you don’t like your neighbors, and you can even get a waterfront site right on Lake Conroe and tie up a boat. That is some premium real estate there, folks. There are million dollar houses on the shores of Lake Conroe.
What will you do with all your stuff? I decided that for now, I am just going to put what I cannot take with me, into storage. I want to be sure that if I absolutely hate the lifestyle, that I can go back to apartment fixed-location-style living fairly easily. If I learn that I like RV living, I can always sell my things.
What about the black and gray water? Isn’t that going to be difficult or disgusting? I read on several forums and heard from a few friends that dumping is really very simple. Fortunately I won’t have to do any dumping at an RV park. But when the time comes, I will read the manual on how to do it, and maybe practice before the dumping is necessary.
How do you plan on towing it? As far as towing goes, I plan to eventually get a truck of my own. For now, I have asked the help of a friend who tows RVs regularly as a side job. If for whatever reason that should fall through, there are several local companies that will tow an RV for a cost.
Where will I put it before my lease is over? There are RV storage places, just like if you were to store a boat. Some are 24 hours, and some even let you work on your trailer at the storage facility. So, if I find the right RV, the sooner would be better so that I can renovate while not living in it. That type of pressure is not fun, folks. People tell you that you shouldn’t rush, and you shouldn’t. But in a few short months, an RV is going to be the only place I am able to live, and so I have to be as decisive and confident as possible.
You have a cat. Where does his litter box go? Most RVs have basement storage, so I will simply make a pet door leading to one of the compartments. That way, the stink is contained and cleaning it from outside is easy.
How will you renovate a trailer if you don’t know how? Fortunately, I am very lucky in that I have many intelligent and hard-working friends across the world, who are willing to share their talents. I am very lucky. One of my friends is an electrician. One , another is a cabinet maker, and another is a plumber. I even have a friend across the country who works at an RV dealership. You get my drift. Being resourceful is key.
Do other people do this? Actually, way more people than you think! Some of these people are my friends , friends of friends, friends’ moms, friends’ grandmas, local neighbors, and random internet strangers. And not a single one of these people have told me they regret it. I’ve mainly heard positive things!
What do your loved ones think? They think its a good idea too! I have their support 100%. They want to see me succeed and be happy. I was a little nervous about my parents, but they are with me every step of the way.
So many of you have offered your help, offered advice, given me virtual high fives and “hell yeah!”s. Let me just say, that kind of support is really VERY important in life. It makes one feel encouraged, uplifted, and confident, and is sometimes the extra push that is needed. It is definitely something I needed, so thank you!!!
Upcoming: How I decided on a budget, how I secured funds, how I decided on what my perfect RV would be, and what I have found during the beginning stages of my search!
This is a story of what happens when a wild idea becomes reality, driven by dreams, motivation, resourcefulness, and a lot of support. I am a single woman living in an upscale apartment in The Woodlands, Texas with a career, a dog and a cat, and a lot of imagination. Many of my ideas always remain “what-ifs”, but this time I am setting a radical idea into motion, one I did not think would gain the support of so many. I have decided to abandon my plush, luxurious style of living, buy an old RV, completely renovate it, and move into it full-time. I hardly know how to hang a picture on the wall, so I have a lot of learning to do! Follow my journey, my successes, and my struggles on my blog, Nomad of Tomorrow.