18 Incredible House Alternatives You Can Explore

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Last Updated on November 6, 2022 by Chris Panteli

House Alternatives

Are you looking for cheap housing alternatives? Trust me; you aren’t the only one!

Housing is a necessity, but for some of us, it can be a luxury. It comes as no surprise that houses don’t come cheap, leaving several people unable to purchase their own homes. Plus, it takes quite a long time to save money for a house that’s exactly how you pictured it. This is why many of us live in our first starter houses for just a couple of years. 

What is the cheapest type of house to build?

The cheapest type of house to build is a shipping container house. A shipping container house, also known as a shipping container home, is a home built from a steel cargo shipping container. These homes are mostly used for recreational purposes but are being used more often to house the homeless. They are also used to create temporary housing for disaster victims. Shipping container housing can range from a small, floating vacation home to a large multi-room structure that can fit the needs of a family.

Sometimes, it’s not even about the money. With an increasing number of Americans working remotely, there’s less reason than ever to restrict yourself to a single location. 

18 House Alternatives

18 House Alternatives

Whether you’re finding it difficult to afford a conventional home, want to save money, embrace a more nomadic lifestyle, or just live a little differently, then there are plenty of cheap alternative housing ideas. These different kinds of housing are significantly cheaper than your traditional housing options.

Recommended: 11+ Incredible Cheapest Ways To Live 

Option #1 – House Boat 

What floats some homeowners’ boat is, well, a boat. Even though houseboats aren’t a completely new concept, some people have taken an innovative approach to them, treating them as permanent, stationary buildings on the water. 

In some parts of the world, people have escaped the skyrocketing rental and housing costs by going on the water. That’s the case in Toronto, where there are nearly 150 families who call themselves “liveaboard” and reside permanently in their boats. 

These floating homes often feature additions like elaborate interiors, shingled roofs, or decks converted into outdoor patios. 

You can either rent or purchase a boat. If you are interested in houseboat shopping, you should definitely check out Boat Trader

Moreover, the Money Wizard also detailed the advantages of a houseboat, from mobility to cost to an upgrade in view and scenery. 

Option #2 –Earth Houses

There’s nothing more earth-friendly than the earth itself! Earth houses made with earth are an ideal example of sustainable construction. In fact, some of the longest-lasting buildings still standing are actually earth houses. 

Earth Houses


Earthbags is simply a fancy term for sandbags – a staple of flood prevention and emergency situations. However, they can be put to even better use as a raw material in home construction. 

Given their durability and flexibility, it’s quite possible to use earthbags to build an entire home. You can stack them vertically to make curved or straight walls or into a dome-shaped building that doesn’t require any extra framing in order to make a roof. 

Earthbags can be filled with a number of earthy materials other than sand. For instance, you can use crushed volcanic rock, which also works as insulation. This type of construction is quite cheap and environmentally friendly. However, it might not be visually appealing to some. 

Cob House

In green construction, “cob” refers to a material that is a combination of earth and straw. 

Houses constructed with cob generally appear as if they were made with clay. That’s probably because they, more often than not, are! And don’t be deceived- these buildings can last for many years. 


An Earthship sounds like something right out of a sci-fi TV show or novel. This incredibly fantastical and futuristic design is highly sustainable and extremely eco-friendly. 

An Earthship is essentially constructed with materials that have been majorly recycled, and it fuels itself using renewable and eco-friendly energy sources. From solar panels for electricity to rainwater harvesting, an Earthship is tailored for those who wish to live off the grid. 

Earthships aren’t really cheap to purchase or construct. However, you will definitely save money in the long run because you won’t need to pay electricity bills

All in all, Earthships are quite cheap to operate and one of the most effective kinds of green alternative homes. This article is about a couple who constructed a 2,900-square-foot Earthship for $55,000. 

Earth Berm

Earth berms are better known as “hobbit holes” for those of you who are Lord of the Rings fans. 

They are homes that are built underground. Thus, your front entrance is the only part that can actually be seen by the outside world. 

The best thing about an earth berm is that your home can easily be off-grid, and you can keep a comfortable level of temperature at all times!

Log House

A log house is structurally similar to a log cabin. Nevertheless, because the term log cabins refer to small, rustic hunting cabins, it isn’t used by many contemporary builders. Log houses are generally built with logs that haven’t been milled into regular lumber. 

Option #3 – RV

What comes to your mind when you think of an RV? If you think of an old rickety beige trailer bus from the ’70s, you need to think again!

Modern RVs have more in common with luxury homes than trailers. Many of them feature huge “slides” – rooms that slide out of the main section to create a spacious, multi-room home when parked. 

From queen-sized beds, jacuzzi tubs, comfortable bathrooms, and fully-equipped kitchens to any other amenity you can ask for, RV living is everything you want it to be! 

Obviously, the entire car console is upfront but what’s great about living in an RV is that you can park it at an RV park or camp. 

So, whether you earn $10,000 per month or $1,000 per month, consider a mobile and fun RV lifestyle you can afford. It’s surely better than overpaying for a small dingy apartment. In fact, if you like traveling and wish to do so from the comfort of your home, you will definitely enjoy living in an RV.

Option #4 – Wood Pallets 

This is probably something you might have never actually thought of doing. A house built with pallets? Yes, I know!

You might have heard of a pallet swing, a pallet bench, a pallet spice rack, or even a pallet bed frame. But a house? As it turns out, you can actually build one! Even though it’s not really a fancy affair, it’s definitely one of the best cheap housing alternatives. Plus, you can fuel it with solar energy, making it even more cost-effective. 

Wood pallets are readily available and incredibly cheap to purchase. The material is easy to recycle, reusable, and easy to combine to create a modern, unique, and energy-efficient house. 

Option #5 – Micro Apartments

Also known as capsule apartments, these small living spaces are viewed by some people as a solution to the lack of urban apartments. However, others denounce this ultra-concentrated way of living. 

Since they’re very small, many micro-apartments make use of stacking and levels for space-saving. Even then, you will have to adopt minimalism to live in a micro-apartment, as most don’t have more than one room. 

Option #6 – Unfinished Spaces

Have you watched the Princess Diaries or Ghostbusters? These movies had one thing in common, the characters lived and worked in a fire station.

I’m not asking you to go and search for abandoned fire stations to reside in. However, you can search for unfinished spaces that you can buy for a fraction of the price of a traditional home.

Moving into an unfinished space and converting it into a home can be an amazing and affordable housing option. You can look for a space or home in your area that’s selling for around $15,000. This way, you can have a reasonable budget to renovate the place until you buy your dream home. 

Why are unfinished spaces so cheap? Well, mostly, they can be in odd areas, the building process was left unfinished, or it simply stayed uninhabited. Generally, the owners of these spaces want to get their hands off the property, and they’re willing to accept a low price. 

Option #7 – Manufactured Home

Sometimes you simply wish to purchase a full-fledged house. However, constructing one entirely from scratch is surely going to cost a lot! The cost of materials and labor will be quite high. 

Thus, if you have a large family and want to live in a bigger house, you can consider a manufactured house. You even get the option to choose the precise amount of square footage you actually need to live in, so you can select which house to reside in. The most common type of manufactured housing option is a mobile home or trailer. 

The average cost of a manufactured house on the lower side is roughly around $10,000 to $15,000. However, if you want something more luxurious, you can expect to pay anywhere between $40,000 and $60,000. 

Option #8 – Shipping Container Home

Shipping Container Home

Searching for cost-effective alternative housing ideas to impress your friends? Well, shipping containers as alternative housing options are becoming increasingly popular. 

A shipping container home can cost anywhere between $1,500 and $5,000. If you’re fortunate, you can even get one for $800 each. 

Nevertheless, if you don’t want to take up the hassle of renovating a shipping container, you can buy prefabricated and designed shipping container homes for $15,000 and higher. A simple Google search for “prefabricated shipping container homes” will yield several useful results. 

Important Tip – Make sure to find out what was inside the shipping container before you buy it. Certain shipping containers are used to transport dangerous and toxic chemicals. You really don’t want to make a home in such a shipping container!

Option #9 – Tiny Home

Tiny houses have become immensely popular in the past couple of years. It’s not its own movement with people who are tired of paying exorbitant sums of money for huge, conventional housing opting to downsize and live a happier, simpler, and cheaper life. 

A tiny home has one major advantage – they are incredibly environmentally friendly and lovely! You can build a tiny house with recycled supplies or green building materials. These compact homes are so small that they don’t need complex cooling and heating solutions. Plus, you can also easily move them to a new location. 

You can either rent or purchase your tiny home. However, with the tiny house movement swiftly becoming a trend, a new tiny home can cost you up to $60,000. 

Option #10 – Nomadic Options – Housesitting, Airbnb & Beyond

There’s no need to purchase a house when you can simply live in other people’s homes! In exchange for a fee, of course. 

Depending on your destination, it’s highly possible to live incredibly affordable in other people’s homes using Airbnb or other similar temporary listing services. As a matter of fact, long-term stay hotels are a cost-effective option, and in some states, they’re pretty cheap. 

However, they all cost money. Thus, if you wish to live for free in other people’s homes, you can offer to housesit! TrustedHousesitters.com is a free matchmaking service for housesitters that you can check out. Other options include Facebook groups, Craigslist, and local real estate agents. 

Option #11 – Teach Abroad and Live for Free

Many international schools like those in Abu Dhabi and Brazil offer their staff housing options as part of the benefits. 

What’s even better is that you don’t need to pay US income taxes on your $108,700 earned abroad (for the tax year 2021). 

Housing is the largest expense for almost everyone across the globe. Hence, if you can eliminate or reduce that cost, you can free up more of your income to invest in income-generating assets like dividend-paying stocks and rental properties.

Option #12 –Become a Live-In Caretaker

Do you have experience in caretaking or perhaps nursing? If yes, becoming a live-in caretaker is an economical alternative housing solution you can consider. 

Live-in caretakers generally get free housing and meals in return for their service. You can search for caretaking or nursing jobs on websites such as Care.com

Option #13–Tree House

Tree House

Many of us dreamed of having a treehouse as our safe haven when we were kids. Some of us still do. 

Fortunately, the treehouse is no more a kid’s clubhouse away from parents and annoying siblings. If you can purchase some cheap land or find a friend who is willing to let you use their land, you can bring your childhood treehouse dream to life. 

You can use recycled materials where possible to keep costs low. Remember, a treehouse can get costly if you go for the more luxurious ones. However, you can build simpler ones that cost much less. 

Option #14 – Free Spirit Spheres

The free spirit sphere house adds a whole new meaning to a tiny house. Essentially, it is a round treehouse that swings from the trees. It might give you the feeling of living inside a futuristic rocket in the midst of a jungle. 

There isn’t sufficient space for an entire family to live in a free spirit sphere. However, it is good enough for a couple or a single person to live in. The décor inside a free spirit sphere is always a wonderful challenge. 

Option #15 – Yurt

If you like camping, a yurt should definitely be on your list of alternative housing options. 

Yurts are native to the people of Mongolia, Turkey, and Siberia. They are basically collapsible tent houses made with refurbished material like felt, skin, or, if purchased commercially, a sturdy cloth. 

A yurt is an incredibly affordable home, and you can experiment with the interior to have lovely décor. Even though yurts are quite strong, you can pad them up for extra insulation. Not to forget, you can easily collapse it, wrap it, stuff it, and carry it away with you if you wish to relocate. 

Option #16 – Silo Home 

What’s crazier than living inside a recreational vehicle or a house built with a shipping container? Well, have you ever imagined living in a silo? Yes, a silo! Of all places you can think of, a silo is a great idea to go with!

A silo house has an incredibly distinctive perspective for you. A silo is primarily used to store agricultural produce. However, you can use it to make a house for yourself. 

What I personally like about this idea is the fact that a silo is round. Thus, when you get to refacing, tweaking, decorating, and remodeling inside it, you’re doing so inside an incredibly different space. You’re doing so in a space with a round wall that doesn’t end. 

Having no corners can be weird initially, but it’s actually quite soothing. It’s very different for a change and creates equal space everywhere. Plus, you can even decorate and paint and reface the exterior to your liking. 

Option #17 – Straw Bale House

Strawbale houses look distinctly Mediterranean and something that’s straight out of 16th century Iberia. The most amazing thing about straw bale is that it’s a great insulator. Thus, if you’re in a place that’s vulnerable to a colder climate, this is a terrific option to opt for. You can even reinforce the house by following some simple steps, and voila! You have a unique and lovely thermal mass that will protect you from the harsh winter. 

The preliminary building of the house can be costly. However, according to StrawBale.com, people who salvage materials, like their doors and windows, have completed their house for lower than $15 per square foot. Using your own labor and making wise material-related decisions also reduces the building cost. 

Additionally, once the house is complete, it’s quite energy-efficient, saving you money in the long run. 

Option #18 – Hemp Concrete House

Before you raise your brows, let me tell you that hemp concrete is an actual thing, and it’s a useful building material. 

Hemp concrete is a mixture of water, limestone, and hemp that’s surprisingly more durable than ordinary concrete. Walls built with this material are said to be resistant to mold, insects, and fire. 

However, hemp concrete might be pricier than ordinary concrete as it’s illegal to grow hemp.


From living in an RV to building a house that’s suspended from trees, there are various affordable housing alternatives that you can look into. 

Don’t be afraid to take a little risk; hop onto the road less traveled, and who knows, you might come out of it with a new living situation that you never considered to be a possibility. 


Which is the cheapest state or town to live in the US?

According to the World Population Review, Mississippi is the cheapest state to reside in in the US. On the other hand, Toledo, Ohio, is the most affordable city in the US to rent a house in. The average rental cost in Toledo is $550. This makes it one of the top three most affordable cities in the Midwest. 

Are traditional homes a good building material?

Bricks are popular building materials as they are durable and affordable. Plus, they’re also resistant to water and fire. 
Bricks also make for a very quiet and calm home. Oh, and the exposed brick walls add a very rustic touch to the homes. So, they’re definitely worth it!

Is it safe to build homes using earthbags?

When you plan to build a home, cloth isn’t the first material that you think of – unless you’re making a blanket fort. 
Earthbags are basically rice, feed, or cement bags that are filled with dirt, soil, earth, or rocks. They are very popular because of the low cost. You can make homes for $1,000 to $5,000 and have a beautiful home that will last longer than traditional wood-framed houses.

What is a green roof home?

A green roof is known as an amazing architectural feature. However, it offers more advantages than just visual elements. A green roof can help manage stormwater runoff and reduce the urban heat-island cost. It reflects heat instead of absorbing it like an ordinary roof and also lowers a building’s cooling costs. They’re also excellent insulators while requiring very little maintenance. Not to mention it looks amazing!

Recommended: Buying Land for Glamping: Everything You Need to Know

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