When the Usual Housing Choice is Not an Option…


The Resolution Foundation think tank recently found that up to a third of millennials are facing living in rented accommodation all their lives. So what other options are there?

You could try and co-own with a friend or two (or three). Between you, you may be able to raise a sufficient deposit and borrow enough under a mortgage to purchase a property between you. Property can be legally held in the names of up to four people – if a group of four friends or colleagues pooled their savings together they may find that they could obtain a mortgage and afford a reasonable start on the housing ladder. Based on the premise that property prices generally will go up over time, after a few years, everyone has built up more equity in the property and has a larger deposit with which to go off and fund a purchase in their own name if they want to. 

However, what happens if we fall out or someone wants to move on but others don’t want to sell the property? All the property owners can enter into an agreement known as a Declaration of Trust. This agreement sits alongside the ownership and sets out who put how much in, how any sale proceeds are to be divided in the event of a sale and you can set down how matters are to be dealt with if one party wants out of the arrangement but others want to retain ownership of the property. This agreement should be set up as part of the house buying process and terms can be agreed before the exchange.

Can’t stand the thought of living with others? Then consider the humble houseboat, not the most spacious – but an imaginative alternative.  This is a seemingly more affordable option. In the five years to 2015 official figures suggest London waterways alone have seen a 50% increase in boat numbers. There are static or roving houseboats. Static houseboats having a permanent mooring site and roving houseboats which move from site to site but can remain in almost any location for up to two weeks.

Running a houseboat is not without costs or disadvantages. You would need to consider mooring fees, insurance, boating waterway licences, safety certificates and fuel & maintenance costs. This is in addition to the cost of either purchasing the boat outright or monthly renting. Don’t forget the day to day jobs also such as emptying the lavatory. It is not a lifestyle for everyone.

Another alternative is flat pack housing, for the flat pack generation. This can be a relatively cheap alternative. Renato Vidal, from Italy, has created an affordable flat pack folding home which could be yours for just £24,800 and takes less than a day to install once on site. Providers will often offer a delivery only service where you construct the property yourself, a bare-bones option where they will deliver and make weather-proof but it is up to you to finish off or a full build where the property is built, fitted and connected by the provider. You can then build according to your budget. The main issue here for most will be locating and acquiring the site on which to build along with the associated costs of connecting the property to services and utilities. That alone may put the price of a flat pack property out of reach. Mortgages are also harder to come by on such properties.

You do however get more house for your money, a truly individual property often built specifically to your requirements, and some properties can be de-constructed, packed up and moved to a new location once you’re bored of the view!

Static caravans or moving ones may be an accommodation option worth considering. Most static caravans can be bought for a fraction of the price of a traditional home, although ongoing costs must be considered such as park fees and winter heating bills. Also, consider where you’ll be staying as unless the caravan is located in a residential park you cannot inhabit a static caravan continuously all year round. There must be a six-week break during the winter.

The downsides of non-static caravans are clearly the need to keep moving on and the associated difficulties this may bring in terms proving a fixed abode for credit purposes etc. On the upside many caravan parks are located near to cities and popular tourist areas so can lovely areas of the UK to live in.

A more extreme solution for consideration – Bristol teenager Tom Bates made a big lifestyle choice when he bought a van to live in even though he can’t yet drive in order to combat the high house prices and a shortage of rental properties in Bristol. Tom’s story was featured on Inside Out West on Monday 12th February 2018 and can be seen again on the BBC iPlayer.

There are many alternative housing options, each more imaginative than the last (converted double-decker bus perhaps?)  but each comes with its own good and bad points. Costs vary and can turn out to be no cheaper than house buying by the time you’ve adapted the plan to suit your needs. It also depends on whether you are looking for a short-term alternative while saving for a more traditional house-based purchase or a long-term change in lifestyle. Most alternative accommodation options require an alternative lifestyle choice in order for them to fully succeed.


For more information on residential property, how to get on the housing ladder and Declarations of Trust, please contact a member of our Residential Property team for impartial legal advice. Call on 01708 229444 or email us using our contact form.This article was written by Lexie Jacobs, Associate at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of May 2018.


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