Facts and Figures: The Move

If you’ve been reading this blog a while, you know I have no money. I do, in fact, land very close to the poverty line every year–a little over or a little under–and have for a while.

So how did I manage to upgrade to a Prius, albeit five years old, and buy a place?

The answer is simple: I had no debt, a little in savings, and I inherited $17K when my mother died. The important thing to note is that I had no debt. None. Both credit cards are paid off promptly each month. If I can’t buy something and do that, I don’t get it.

First, the car: I was driving a 2009 Yaris. I bought it used a few years before I left WI. Toyota makes THE most dependable cars, or at least I’ve always had really good luck with them. I decided on the Prius for several reasons: it was from Toyota, it had a proven track record, and the hybrid engine impressed me as a great way to save money on gas (price at the pump may be low now, but it won’t stay that way). No way could I afford a new model, but used was fine. 

Prius has good trade-in value; there were several available in my area, and they weren’t as cheap as I’d hoped. I finally chose a 2013 Third Generation vehicle with low mileage (34K) and talked the salesman down as low as I could. I didn’t get an exceptional bargain, but I think I did well. Cars with mileage that low often go for much more than what I paid, which was $14,400. Plus they changed out the 12-V battery in the back (the Prius has two batteries). That ain’t cheap when you consider it came from the Toyota dealer down the road.

I considered buying a small house. R and I even looked at a couple, but there was always a problem, either with financing (mortgage companies mostly don’t offer loans for $40K and under, and even though I was making a 20% down payment, they asked for more) or the houses were in horrible shape. The last thing I want to do at my age and financial level was take on a fixer-upper. So I bought the car.

Then my landlord said he was raising my rent, and that shitty front door was not being replaced, and I got pissed.

I vowed to move, and after realizing the usual rentals were too expensive everywhere in my area unless I wanted a roommate, and I sure as hell did not, I’d have to look elsewhere, which is how I ended up discovering the used mobile home market.

A two bedroom, two-bathroom rental is currently going for $8-900+ a month in my area. But those same features in a trailer could be had for $330+ a month.

Here on the Gulf Coast, lot rents are outrageous and impossible, higher than the rent I pay now and going up to $900 and more. Lot rents in mobile home parks generally cover trash, lawnmowing, (sometimes) water, and maintenance for the amenities, e.g. pool, community center, etc. The more hoity-toity the place is, the higher the lot rent.

I couldn’t afford those places, so I started looking elsewhere, specifically central Florida, referred to as the heartland. I’d been wanting to move further inland, because hurricanes generally strike one coast or the other, and with climate change accelerating, I wanted to be farther away from the Everglades (salt water moving north and mixing with fresh) and the ocean.

I searched online incessantly for trailers in my price range, which was pretty damn low, given I’d just spent most of my money on a car. But they could be had! And that excited me.

The first place I saw in Lake Placid was terrible. The ceiling was water-strained and caving in, the floor rolled like it was an ocean wave, the inside stank from years of cigarette smoke, and the door was so warped, you couldn’t close it. It was for sale for $6K. I snorted and said, “No way. It needs to be completely gutted. Better yet, junk it.” I found out later it costs the park $6K to have it removed, hence the price.

When I turned that one down, they offered it to me for $2K and two months free lot rent.

Nope! Still not interested.

But then another unit became available on the other side of the park for $10,900, and I went back again to take a look. That was more than I had to spend, but I figured what the hell.

It had two bedrooms, two bathrooms (I was holding out for that because in future, if I need a roommate, this will make it possible), a screen room, and a large Florida room. But it was ugly inside. All the closets were in bad shape for some reason–missing wall panels, even had holes in the floor. No ceiling fans. The A/C was a rusty piece of shit. The carport cement was cracked and crumbling in several places. I didn’t like it at all.

The realtor said there was another unit available down the street for $8,900. Same setup, but minus the Florida room. I took a look and knew this was the place for me. New flooring, an A/C still under warranty, ceiling fans in every room… it was what I wanted.

And then the carport business started up. I told you about that already, so I won’t go into it again. Here’s the update, as of this morning: the owner is getting supplies and the build will happen! It looks like I’m going to be moving in on time. 🙂

After I decided I wanted the place, I offered $6K. It was pretty much all I had, considering I had to pay for the move, and then there’s state sales tax and a couple other expenses involved in buying it.

The realtor came back and said, “He wants at least seven.”

“And if I had it, I would give it to him,” I said. “But six is it. He can accept it or wait for another offer.”

He accepted it. I knew he would, because I convinced the park manager to dish, and she told me on the sly he owned three properties there, which meant he was paying three lot rents every single month and starting to get desperate. He needed to dump two of them fast, and apparently there are so many used trailers available in Florida, he was having a problem finding buyers.

Then I came along. 🙂 After dicking me around about the carport (which I also knew about in advance, thanks to my source, and making it a stipulation in the contract it be replaced before we closed), it looks like we’re finally past this.

And that’s how I bought a place for $6K and will save $150/month (lower lot rent than what I currently pay, and they provide free water).

So if you’re looking for an affordable place to live, check out used mobile homes. In Florida, they do not signify the residents are trash. Lots and lots of fine people live in them down here. The really cheap ones that aren’t wrecks don’t come up often, and when they appear, you have to jump on them. Talk to people who live in the park. Get the skinny if you can, because info is valuable. I used it to get a place I wanted at the price I could afford.

This is what it looked like in June, 2011. I screen-captured it from Google maps. I included the date because I sent it to the owner via the realtor, telling him if we went to arbitration, he was gonna lose. He’d told the realtor and park management there was only an awning there. This proves it was a carport. The screen room is behind the carport on the right. Behind that is a shed for the washer and dryer. Guest room and bathroom in front; master bedroom and bath in back. 

It’s been painted and fixed up some since that date, and in time, I’ll post pics of it. Notice all the trees behind the place? Private property. It’s quite possible there will never be any additional building go on there. Nice. 🙂

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About Fenraven

Fenraven happily lives in south Florida, where it is really hot most of the year. Find him on Twitter, Google +, and Facebook by searching on 'fenraven'.
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10 Responses to Facts and Figures: The Move

  1. W. Lotus says:

    Nice place! I’m glad things are moving forward in the way you want!

    • Fenraven says:

      Thanks! It’s even better on the inside, especially after being painted. I’m sure I will discover problems, because all places have them, but I’ll deal with it. The last few years, I’ve often felt out of control because I couldn’t live the way I’ve been used to living. I mean, I’ve never had difficulty finding an affordable place to rent and now that’s nearly impossible, given my limited income. Choice gets taken away from you when you’re old. To hang on to your autonomy, you have to be inventive and persistent.

      Is it my first choice to live in a trailer? After going through Irma, I can say without hesitation, I’d rather be in a place with concrete-block construction. But I can’t afford rentals built like that anymore, and I’ve always faced reality head on. I’ll be flat broke (the English say “skint,” meaning penniless) after the move, but I’m exercising control over my life–that’s important to me–and eventually I’ll save up money again, slowly but surely.

  2. Lindsaysf says:

    Your Prius is a 2013? I still have my 2007 and still love it. It’s 90k miles plus and still reliable. The mpg has dropped to 34. When new it was around 46, but dropped to 42 or so when they OK’d 10% ethanol. I think they’ve upped the % again.
    Back in Virginia nobody I knew lived in a trailer but it’s different here in New Mexico. Lots of my friends have had trailers, some delightfully individualized.

    • Fenraven says:

      I bet! There’s no reason you can’t make a trailer look cool. As time and money allow, I’ll be doing the same. My Prius is getting an average of 50 mpg right now. I love that! I’m still amazed at how far I can go on one tank.

  3. Linda says:

    I’m glad you got what you wanted, I was rooting for you.

  4. I lived in a mobile home when it was called a trailer. My ex-husband and I had two, and I lived in one for 10 years between the ages of 50-60. I only gave mine up when I lost my job and unemployment didn’t cover the lot rent.

    • Fenraven says:

      I still call them trailers. “Mobile home” and “manufactured home” are attempts to pretty it up. The reason why trailers, and those who live in them, are looked down on up north is because it’s cold up there, and trailers are poorly insulated. If you have to live in a trailer, obviously you’re poor, and we’ve had ample evidence people with low income are looked down on and considered lazy.

      In the south, trailers are a way of life for a huge population. It’s warm all the time, so minimal insulation is just fine. Trailers are cheap, so if you have limited money, no problem. Snowbirds like them, too, for the same reason, and if they get blown away in a hurricane, the loss is minimal.

      Everyone I know has lived in a trailer at one time or another. I lived in one for a year or more after I left R and was trying to work out where to go from there. Cheapest rent I ever had, and the place was okay, if small.

      At this time in my life, a trailer is fine. I don’t need a lot of space and it’s affordable, especially at a time when rents are going through the roof (creating another bubble, btw!). The 2008 housing crash made it really difficult for hard-working people to buy a house, and after corporations bought up so many rentals (the better to screw you with, my dear!), now people of modest means are having trouble finding a place to live. Enter the mobile home market! I wonder how long it’ll take for “them” to find a way to monteize that, too?

  5. Aniko says:

    My grandparents lived in a caravan for many, many years. They built a lean-to style addition on one side, which served as a good-sized living and dining room (it also doubled as guest space for family to stay when visiting), and my grandmother had created the most beautiful flower garden around the front end. It was a comfortable and practical solution for them.

    • Fenraven says:

      My new place is certainly practical, and it will be comfortable. If it’s at all affordable, I’d like to switch over to solar power in the next few years, and given that our veggies are no longer grown safely (e coli, anyone?), I’d like to find a way to grow them myself. A tropical climate demands concessions when it comes to produce, but it can be done, though some of the veggiese will be different from what I’m used to. I’m looking at this as an adventure!

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