For many RVers planning to fulfill their dream of living in an RV full-time, one of the biggest challenges is figuring out what to do with the house. More than deciding which rig to buy or which truck will be the best towing machine or whether solar power is a necessity, downsizing and getting out from under the house can cause an awful lot of stress. Sometimes market conditions are ideal, and it’s possible to sell the house for a tidy profit in just a few days. But that isn’t always the case.
For us, the housing market was just tipping over the edge into one of its most horrific death spirals in seven decades during the very month that we decided to go full-time.
Although we initially sold our house in three days, our buyer backed out a few weeks later, leaving us high and dry with almost no possessions left to our names, a trailer waiting for us to move in, and echoes bouncing off the walls of our home because it was so empty.
We knew we could lease our house a whole lot faster than we could find another buyer, and time was of the essence, because we were halfway out the door and into our new lifestyle already!
So, we took the plunge and decided to hang onto our house and lease it while we traveled in our RV full-time.
A “For Rent” sign in the yard brought us a qualified tenant within a week, and off we went into our new lives still shouldering the burden of being homeowners.
Looking back at that crazy few weeks of transition, and the tears I shed over losing our buyer, I am so grateful that the gods were showering their fairy dust on us at the time and forcing us to keep a hand in the housing market.
Since then, house prices more than halved and then nearly doubled, but rents have steadily increased, and there has never been a shortage of good people looking to rent a nice home.
We have had five different sets of tenants ranging in age from recent college grads to folks long past retirement age. We’ve rented to people richer than us and poorer than us.
And perhaps most surprisingly, we’ve leased not just to people who’ve never owned a home of their own, but to folks who owned a home in the past, and even to folks who currently owned a home somewhere else (including a couple who owned a house three times the size of ours just one mile down the road!).
People have all kinds of reasons for needing to rent a home for a while!
The common assumption that tenants will destroy a house and skip out on the rent is only a small part of a much larger story about tenants and landlords. What we’ve found with this home, and what I found with previous homes I have leased out in earlier phases of my life, is that the bottom line in how well the home fares — and how well the landlord fares — is dependent on how good the relationship is between tenant and landlord.
If there is no relationship at all — that is, if the home is being leased by a property manager — then there is no chance for any kind of trust and respect to develop between the tenant and landlord.
However, if you do the work yourself of hand-picking your tenants and collecting rent and overseeing repairs, and if you are the one who transfers the care of your house — your kitchen, your bedroom, your garden and all the things you like about the house — to your tenants, then it is much more likely they will respect both you and the home, and pay their rent on time, and take good care of the house.
We have been back to our home a few times since we ran off in our trailer in 2007, and each time, within a week or two, we have brought the house back to a spit-and-polish condition and have even upgraded it a bit.
These days our home is much nicer than when we lived in it ourselves all those years ago because we’ve had the time — and the empty house between tenants — to do the upgrades we always wanted to do before!!
On the financial side of things, depending on how much equity you have in your house, the income stream can be very favorable.
If you multiply the rent you can get for your house times the number of months and years you think you might be traveling full-time, the total amount of rent you could receive is staggering.
Obviously, you have to take out property taxes, HOA fees and repairs, insurance and mortgage payments, but the net can still be a sizeable amount. It might even be more than you would get if you put that equity into some other kind of investment.
Certainly, if you keep the house, you don’t have to forfeit 6% of its total value (which is potentially a much larger percentage of your hard earned equity) to real estate agents.
We have published an article with some pointers we’ve picked up from our personal experience with leasing our house for the May/June 2016 issue of Escapees Magazine.
I am just one of many members who publishes articles in Escapees Magazine, and both Mark and I find that each issue (there are 6 issues a year) is chock full of interesting tid-bits that help us out in this crazy nomadic life we live on the road. It is a terrific member benefit!
Escapees is a very unusual RV club because they offer a wide variety of goodies besides the magazine that assist in every imagineable facet of the RV lifestyle.
Escapees has a special program called CARE for elderly RVers who are looking for an assisted living situation but don’t want to move out of their RV. They also offer discounted RV park stays for RVers that are actively traveling with their RV. For those who want a place to call “home,” they offer RV park site ownership, and for those who want to camp for free they offer the Day’s End Directory listing of boondocking sites all over North America.
For RVers who love to travel but who want to see places they can’t drive their RV to, they offer group tours, from cruises to international destinations. And for newcomers to the RV lifestyle they offer Bootcamp programs to teach them everything they need to know. Every year there is a club-wide rally called Escapade, and individual chapters all across the continent have get-togethers of all kinds.
Join Escapees RV Club has reached out to younger RVers with the new Xscapers program (check out their a popular Facebook page), and there are interest-based groups that bring together like-minded RVers who share hobbies like beading, geo-caching, photography and more. Escapees has an active presence on the RV social site RVillage.com.
We visited the Escapees Headquarters in Livingston, Texas, last spring and saw the incredible mail sorting facility in action. Along with offering a mail forwarding service, they also offer all the assistance necessary to establish a legal domicile in Livingston, Texas.
Perhaps the most important service that Escapees provides, and something that benefits all RVers, no matter whether they are members or not, is the RV advocacy program. They stay on top of all legal and political wranglings that could affect the RV lifestyle, whether it’s a vacation lifestyle or full-time lifestyle. Most recently, they helped stave off proposed changes to the ability of South Dakota based full-time RVers to vote in elections (including the upcoming presidential election).
We became members a year after we started this crazy full-time traveling lifestyle. Over the years, as we have become more sensitive to what it means to be an RVer and to live the RV lifestyle full-time, our appreciation for the club’s many benefits has grown.
I have been recommending Escapees to our readers since I started this blog in 2008, because I believe in what they are doing and I believe they have something to offer to everyone who is interested in RVing.
Recently, Escapees let us know that if any of our readers decides to join and selects the Roads Less Traveled option in the “Referred by” box, they will put a little something in our tip jar. How nice! You can join here:
The editors of Escapees Magazine have kindly allowed me to share my article about leasing our house here:
Full-time RVer’s Guide to Leasing Your House
If you’ve been stressing out about finding a buyer for your house so you can run away to live your RV dreams, it’s possible that leasing it out would not be just a viable option but might even be a preferable way to go.
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We found renters for our home, too, instead of selling it when we took to the road three years ago. We have no plans to move back into it anytime soon (lots more years of travel ahead!), but as you said, it’s a great investment and we still love our community and home — so it’s there should we decide to return.
Leasing the house is not the most common route, but it does make financial and emotional sense for many people!
I was already renting out a house I bought before Annie and I got married and we wanted to camp out in the back yard the last five months while we were still working. Because of that special arrangement (and we did it again this summer for two months), we gave our new and awesome tenants a good deal — they pay just enough to make the payment. We don’t make any money on the deal but appreciation is going up again and our equity increases a little each month. It’s a peace of mind thing for Annie if anything ever happened to me. Our new tenants were afraid we’d decide we didn’t like the RV lifestyle and then we’d want our house back. I assured them that wouldn’t be happening for at least 10 to 15 years. They like us and we like them — three school-age daughters — we’re hoping they stay forever!
Great story, Jim! Let’s hope they do stay forever!! We had the same surprise as you did when our current tenants told us a few months ago they were really worried we might want our place back because they’d like to stay as long as they can. Yippeee!!!
I’m loving your blog and plan to sit down and read Everything!! 🙂 I have a question. My husband and I are in the “planning our choices” phase of life. We’re retired and own our home but aren’t sure just What we want to do. Since we are seriously considering the RV life, would it be beneficial for us to go ahead and join Escapees right now? We wouldn’t be ready to Do anything for at least another year or so, but I wonder if their magazine and info would be valuable at this stage. We’re very anal lol and tend to fully research our decisions but Also can act spontaneously 🙂 thanks for your advice and good luck to you as you travel those less traveled roads and waters!
Thank you for reading our blog and congrats on dreaming big and pondering the RV lifestyle! Joining Escapees now is a super idea because the magazine will give you lots of good info and insights as you consider your options for making such a big transformation in your lives. The $39 for a year’s membership (6 issues) is a tiny investment compared to the enormous changes you are contemplating. If you mention our blog when you sign up, they will give us a tip (full disclosure here), but that’s not why I recommend joining. The magazine is so high quality it has won awards, and it will get you inspired and will introduce you to things you may not have thought about before. Good luck in your planning and have fun in your travels!