Our Next Life series: Part 3 – Picking our next home

Published September 9, 2015   Posted in How to Retire

In Our Next Life part 2, my wife and I have decided to sell or give away nearly all of our possessions, including our home, buy an RV, and live for years traveling the country and enjoying life on the road with our two rescued dogs.

Our full time jobs will be done by the end of 2016.  The process of getting rid of stuff will continue through most of 2016 with Craigslist ads and repeated trips to Goodwill.  We are getting our affairs in order to make a dramatic lifestyle change and significantly downsize our living arrangements.

Now, add in the fairly important task of finding the RV (trailer, not a motorhome) that we want to call home for under $60k, with truck, all in.  But yeah, no pressure.

Picking out our new home

The biggest factor: size.  We want to get out into the middle of nowhere, not be stuck in overcrowded campgrounds and RV resorts listening to the frustratingly omni-present hum of cars, generators and people.  This means we won’t have neatly cleared slabs of pavement on which to park our RV.

We want to be out here, not in a campground!

We want to be out here, not in a campground!

So it needs to be small-ish.  Certainly less than 35 feet.

And we want one that is well built with very little maintenance.  This means very few moving parts, and definitely no slide-outs.  While slide-outs can increase your living space to the point of rivaling a San Francisco studio apartment, they also come with maintenance.  Things break.  Slide-outs can inadvertently come loose as you’re barreling down the highway at 60 MPH.  Plus, we don’t need that extra space.  More to clean,  More to heat and cool.  Nah, we’re good.

And I want an RV that sails through the air and is easy to tow.  Gas mileage will be one of our major concerns as we begin this new lifestyle, and anything that we can do to make our rig easier to pull will be money in the bank for us as we travel from beautiful place to beautiful place.

Oh, my wife and I also want a queen sized bed, so we can’t go too small.  No pop-up camper for us.  No cheap $5k 1960’s fixer-upper, either.  We’re gonna live in this thing right off the bat, so it needs to be 100% move-in ready.

I need to be able to walk into the RV for the first time and make a pot of coffee, sit on the “pot” and clear some space for dinner, then grab a beer out of the working refrigerator, maybe take a nap on the bed before heating up my now-cold cup of coffee in the perfectly functional microwave.  Phew, I’m demanding!

But really, I’m not asking for anything special.  Things just need to work.  We will upgrade as we go, like a back splash behind the kitchen sink, new flooring, refinishing the cabinets – whatever.  Those things we can do on the road.  But the basics?  Yeah, we need those ready to go.

Let’s recap.  We need an RV that’s move-in ready and less than 35 feet but not too small so it comfortably holds a queen sized bed.  It needs to be low on maintenance, no slide-outs and fairly aerodynamic as we drive down the highway to maximize our gas mileage.

What we seem to be looking for is an Airstream, probably in the neighborhood of 28 to 34 feet.  Ideally, we’ll find a 30 or 31 footer in our home state of Arizona built in the late 90’s era with all working appliances, no carpet, queen bed and a solar charging system (optional, but a big plus) for under $40k.

Our research online has been fairly encouraging.  Not many in the state of Arizona, but there are plenty of available Airstream trailers in good shape and well within our targeted budget.  Most, however, do not have solar, so that would be an upgrade that my wife and I would need to undertake.

Almost every day the wife and I are looking through airstreamclassifieds.com and sending each other links to Airstream listings through chat.  “Wow, that’s a nice one!  Exactly what we are looking for”.  “If only we were looking to buy right now, we’d jump on this one!”

While the outside of Airstreams all pretty much look the same, the interiors come in all different varieties and configurations.  Some models have full sized beds while others have queens.  Some have the bathroom situated in the very back and two double beds on either side of the unit, while other models have the bedroom in the very back.

Airstreams offer all different finishes to cabinetry, flooring and appliances.  And because we are buying used, there are any number of upgrades and customizations that might enhance (or detract) that trailer’s fitness to become our next home.

Luckily, as detailed above, we only have a few major requirements.  The rest, well, we can play by ear and just see what we like.

But our rental home has gotta go first.

When my wife and I got married last year, we began renting out the home that I lived in south of town.  We completely freaking lucked out with these renters – they are exceptionally nice people, clean and actually enjoy doing house work and repairs.  I let them.  I give them discounts on rent.  It works out nicely for the both of us.  They also signed a two-year lease.

I know, landlords don’t often get these kinds of renters, and we know that we’re lucky.  Thus, we ain’t pushing our luck by keeping the house.  The rental contract is up next summer, and we’re officially putting the house on the market then.  We will have around $112k left on the mortgage at that point, and if the housing value holds steady for another year, we stand to make around $40k on the house over the remaining mortgage, conservatively.  Sadly, I will still lose quite a bit of money on the house overall. Real estate isn’t always a wise investment.

But still, that $40k over the remaining mortgage can go straight into the purchase of the truck and/or Airstream trailer.

And at this point the real fun begins.

Finish out the series with Our Next Life, Part 4!

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23 responses to “Our Next Life series: Part 3 – Picking our next home”

  1. The Airstream trailers are quite beautiful to see on the road and at camping sites. I am curious about the gas mileage improvements often attributed to their smooth shape and surfaces. How much greater gas mileage do you expect to get with an Airstream? In addition, are you planning on going with gas or diesel for your F350 or 3500HD truck?

    You and Courtney’s journey is so closely related to ours – it is eerie. We are keeping a close watch on your progress and learning from your experiences and examples. I am looking forward to the next addition of the “Our Next Life Series: Part 4”!

    • Steve says:

      Hey Bryan,

      We haven’t personally tested the gas mileage difference, but we’ve heard a consistent 15% to 20% MPG increases by those who have Airstreams. Though I personally can’t vouch for those numbers, it does make sense that a trailer as aerodynamic as Airstreams would make it a pretty easy tow.

      Definitely diesel in the truck, no doubt about it.

      Honestly, I am looking forward to learning from our experience as much as you are! I’m sure we will make plenty of mistakes along the way, but hey, that’s part of the fun of choosing this different of a lifestyle. 🙂

  2. Jason says:

    Good luck in finding them. What about other 5th wheels? Are they too big? What kind of car are you going to tow this with? Truck?

    • Steve says:

      Hey Jason,

      We looked at 5th wheels, but the Airstreams have a very low maintenance requirement and are about the easiest trailer possible to tow – especially one that is 30 or so feet long. My folks spent a lot of time in a 5th wheel – they are nice, but they don’t tend to hold their value.

      And yup, a diesel truck will be what we will tow our rig with – probably in the neighborhood of 250/2500HD or 350/3500HD.

  3. Maggie says:

    My goodness! I’m loving it. When your Airstream hits Alaska, be sure to let me know! We’re not “there” yet as far as living in an RV. 🙂

    • Steve says:

      Hi Maggie!

      Chances are we will eventually be up in Alaska – not sure when yet, but it’s bound to happen. Beautiful place up there for sure! I’ll be sure to let ya know.

  4. Mr. SSC says:

    Mrs. SSC and I do the same thing with houses in our “retirement area”. They’ll pop up and I’ll send it to her with the same type of message, “This would be perfect, too bad we can’t buy it today…” Fortunately, there have been enough of those “perfect” houses pop up that make me think it won’t be a problem finding something similar when we do get to the buying point.

    An Airstream sounds like a great choice and I love the look of them. Good luck in your search, and I can’t wait to read more about it!

    • Steve says:

      Hey Mr. SSC,

      Yup, we’re thinking the same thing – though it sucks not being in the position to actually execute this plan yet, it is nice to know that there will probably be a good deal of options available to us when we are ready to begin. If things are available now, similar options will probably be available later. 🙂

  5. Added this comment in your last post, but check out Reno Craigslist. It seems to have a steady stream of Airstreams listed for less than in other areas.

    Are you planning to do a generator, or will you do a high wattage solar array with an inverter, to power your microwave and AC? We’ve been learning more about all of that stuff as we start to contemplate our trailer travel! In our case, we’ll have solar, but will probably choose to skip the inverter for now and go without microwave and a/c when we’re boondocking.

    • Steve says:

      Hey ONL!

      We are planning on getting a Yamaha 2400 generator that will completely power our A/C. We have no plans to use any microwave in the trailer at all and, quite frankly, don’t even want one installed. 🙂

      We were originally going to go the inverter route, but we are starting to reconsider that to be honest. Our 120ac needs will probably be pretty darn light, just charging some of our electronics. No TV will be used, either. So, we are thinking that we might be able to get away with just a converter and a 450w solar system along with the generator. No inverter necessary with solar power – that energy goes straight into the 12v DC batteries that we will upgrade soon after purchasing the trailer.

      That’s our thought, anyway. We’ll see how close we get to all that! 🙂

  6. […] Oh crap, here we go.  By now, we should have our rental home sold.  Both my wife and I are nearing the end of our working careers.  It’s the fall of 2016 and everything is coming together.  Hopefully we’ve found our new home on wheels, detailed in part 3. […]

  7. I didn’t run across too many Airstreams when I worked at the campground, probably because of their price tag I’m assuming. Most people were just weekenders and spent as little as possible on their 25′ travel trailers. I’m intrigued though and will check them out.

    • Steve says:

      Hey Fervent!

      Yeah, I bet the price tag was one of the primary reasons why you didn’t find too many Airstreams. That, and some of the other cheaper “box” trailers do offer additional space via slide outs, but we aren’t looking for those anyway. For full time living, I wouldn’t consider anything other than an Airstream, unless it was a higher-end RV, which can easily get more expensive than the Streams…

  8. […] readers, this will set you back about one week of your total household income. For people like Steve and Courtney  it makes perfect sense to spend the money on a system. They plan on going with a solar […]

  9. Even Steven says:

    I have seen some pretty amazing Airstreams, so I think it will fit the criteria you layed out. One thing that keeps popping up in my head is are you sure that you don’t want to travel for a couple years to get it out of your system and then settle down? I know this can happen after a couple years, I guess I don’t know anyone who just travels/live in an RV, even the mention of your Dad caught me by surprise.

    Curious to hear your thoughts.

    • Steve says:

      There is no real way to guarantee that we’ll want to continue traveling after a couple of years, but we also can’t let that stop us from pursuing it. We know that when we decide to stop traveling and buy a house, the Airstream’s value will probably still be there, so we sell it, along with our truck, and buy a small house or condo somewhere. No big deal.

      There are a LOT of people who live full time in their RVs. But if my parents didn’t do it, then I probably wouldn’t have even thought about this possibility either. 🙂

  10. Stop in Ventura on your way up the PCH coast, several places to set up and hook up.

  11. […] coming years, especially after my wife and I pick up shop and move to beautiful Sedona, Arizona travel the country in an RV.  For now, I am using this as a learning experience that will prepare me to step forward into the […]

  12. […] they want a 200 sqft tiny home on wheels (mobile living is catching on!), but the logistics didn’t quite work out due to zoning ordinances regarding dwelling size in […]

  13. […] We do not put very much into our “fun money”, and we also do not let any unused money roll over from month to month in an effort to keep us from making expensive purchases, even if they are technically budgeted for within our “fun money” pot of cash.  Instead, any unused fun money at month’s end goes straight into our savings account for the Sedona, AZ townhouse that we plan to invest in.  The Sedona investment property is more important to both of us than buying new jackets Airstream that we intend to buy. […]

  14. […] plan to do this by selling the large majority of what we have, including both of our homes, and moving into an RV – perhaps an […]

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