|How to Get a Free (or Very Cheap House)
If you've ever watched an infomercial showing that great house, one the emcee proclaims was only $162.89 or thereabouts, and you've thought to
yourself that it had to be a ripoff - well, you might be right. But only partly.
I personally was present at a government auction where a house, on a piece of land, sold for $125. I'm just not telling you to go out and buy an
expensive real-estate-guru kit. You don't need it. All you need is a little savvy and some flexibility, and you can literally come away with a free home,
or something mighty close to it.
The Free House #1 - Not A House
There are a couple of free sites that offer almost anything you can name. Freecycle and Craigslist (and potentially others) provide average people
with the ability to give away anything they don't need. There's no dollar limit, up or down, which can mean as little as a single light bulb and as
much as a 3-bedroom mobile home.
That's right. A house - in this case, the kind on wheels - for free.
It's not an isolated case. About once every month or two, someone offers a trailer for free to anyone who will move it. I've even seen a travel trailer
offered without the need to move it from the park where it was already set up. Granted, this is in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Obviously those
opportunities will be more limited in smaller communities. A lot of times, though, finding a free home is a case of simply finding it and being able to
move it - whether you pay a mover or do it yourself.
The Free House #2 - Manage Your Home
If you're lucky enough that your job doesn't require a 9-to-5 commitment, you may be a candidate for housing management. For most types of
aggregate housing complexes, such as mobile home parks and apartments, the manager's housing is paid in exchange for their management skills.
That generally includes utilities, and may also include a small salary. Compensation varies according to the size of the complex and the specific
Most complexes require a couple, and ask that at least one half of the couple perform basic maintenance duties. Some mobile home parks require a
manager who will help with the process of moving in and setting up new residents' mobile homes. That's a dangerous process. If applying for the
job, make sure to check all the fine print.
The Free House #3 - House Sitting
It's a fact that some folks travel. Sometimes a lot, and/or for extended periods. If the traveler is someone with a nice home, pets and so on, they
need someone to mow the lawn, feed and walk the dog, and so on. That's where house sitting comes in.
An ideal house-sitter must be flexible. A house-sitter may live in Indianapolis for six months, then San Diego for three months, then New York for
seven weeks. A house sitter may also end up in Hawaii or Tahiti, or in Minneapolis in the dead of winter. House sitters go where the houses are. As
with apartment/mobile home park management, living space is almost always covered at 100 percent free in exchange for your services. Sometimes
utilities are paid, sometimes not. Occasionally there is a small stipend, but chances are with house sitting you'll need a separate income source,
such as writing, to cover food and miscellaneous. And of course house sitting doesn't guarantee a place to live - there can be months where no
house is available.
House sitting normally involves responsibility for landscaping, general cleaning, pet care, etc.
The Free House #3 - Transplant Your House
Move back a few paragraphs to the "Not A House" description on mobile homes. Once in a while the giveaway isn't a mobile home, but an
honest-to-goodness site-built house. In those cases, the house always has to be moved.
Maybe the land was condemned for a new highway. Maybe there's a shopping center moving in. Whatever the reason, an actual house is yours for
the taking, provided you can move it.
Moving costs can range from $10,000 or so upwards to $100,000 or more, depending on distance moved, permits required, and how much
construction is required at the new site. Often the homes offered for free are older homes, which can be good or bad. Sometimes the home is a
historic treasure. Other times it may be little more than a shell. But it's theoretically possible to have a respectable three- or four-bedroom home for
free, with total moving costs a tiny fraction of the market price.
The (Almost) Free House
There are other options for low-cost housing. Among them are auctions and foreclosure sales.
Government auctions really do sell houses for just pennies on the dollar. Specific pricing details vary greatly according to the local government.
Most of the time, the minimum bid is the amount of back taxes owed on the property, which can be as little as a few hundred dollars or as much as
tens of thousands of dollars. Maximum depends on the pockets of the bidders and how many bidders there are.
Houses generally have been abandoned and may not be structurally sound. Some properties sold may not even have legal ingress/egress. Many of
the properties at auction are non-viable land, sometimes strips only a foot or two wide, with no structures at all.
Before purchasing any property, go see it and be sure it's worth that $162.89.
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