When it comes to creating a home, there is an incredible amount of options. A traditional house in a suburb is just one of them.

Nowadays, with the possibility of working online and advancements in technology, you can pretty much live anywhere you want to without sacrificing the comforts of modern technology and freeing yourself from the disadvantages of living in cities. You can have your shipping container home in the middle of the forest or sail away in a boat. In this Q&A with the experts, you’ll find housing alternatives that will surprise you, you can check out the RV Edition here.

The sky is the limit when it comes to housing.

In today’s expensive housing market, alternative housing also opens possibilities that are more accessible to tight budgets. Even those who already live in a great city can find exciting alternatives for extra space in these structures, such as a guest room or backyard office space, and the list is endless.

We’ve reached out to professionals to know everything there is to know about these fun structures you can call home or have extra space.

Please keep reading to discover what they have to say.

Shipping containers

Why are more people opting for shipping container homes?

While there are certainly opportunities to save money and increase your eco-friendliness with container homes, most people are primarily attracted to them because of their style and flexibility. Shipping containers can be easily oriented, cut, and stacked into creative new shapes and positions that are difficult to achieve with traditional construction. They allow innovative homeowners to quickly build strong, resilient houses with a captivating, modern aesthetic.
Aaron | Discover Containers 

What are the benefits of creating a home in a shipping container?

The benefit of having a home in a shipping container is not only that you’ll have the most unique home on the block but it’s extremely durable given the corten steel outer shell and it may be able to move with you if you ever need to relocate cities.
Other benefits of a shipping container home include its durability, portability, and affordability. Constructed from corten steel, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a home that could withstand natural disasters better.
Tony Lopez | Alternative Living Spaces

What are the highest costs involved when it comes to turning a shipping container into a home? And what are some tips to lower these costs?

We find there are a few areas you do not want to try to save if you are serious about container home living.  The main one is the actual shipping container for sale that you might purchase.   We always recommend buying a new container for residential living.   Yes, it has the biggest ticket price for your project but you are truly buying blind when you go the used route for shipping containers.   We have seen entire budgets get blown on repairs for repurposed containers.
For buyers, the potential cost savings can be very alluring to buy used.  They do offer savings of up to 60% versus buying new.  But in my experience, it is not worth the risk for your main residence.
If you can inspect the used container prior to buying, that might work out.  If your plan is a guest house or ADU, then maybe a used one-trip container makes better sense.  Otherwise, prioritize your budget to start with a new container.
With that said, there are some unique ways to stretch your overall budget and help you afford those brand-new containers for your build.
The main area to find some hidden savings is your foundation choice.  If you live in an area with stable ground you can save roughly $4,000 on your foundation costs if you use a raised pier foundation versus a traditional slab foundation.   This works best with single or double container builds.   The savings for a small build can make a big difference for your bottom line.
Other potential places to save would be with your site preparation, interior framing, and utility connections.   If you are an experienced DIYer, you can do much of the site prep and framing yourself.  We do not recommend this for those not experienced with home construction.  Another outside-the-box way to save is by using a professional construction advisor.  For a flat fee, these advisors use their industry experience and contacts to price out sub-contractors, materials and make sure to keep the schedule moving forward in a timely manner.   In some situations the price to hire a construction advisor more than pays for itself in budget savings and time.
Ian Hart | MB Metal Buildings

Which is the best type of shipping container to turn into a living space?

There are several different configurations that can be made when using shipping containers for your livable space. The most common selection is a 20′ or 40′ HC. When making your choice about the condition of the container you’d like to purchase that really comes down to your personal preference. Some people like to know that the containers they’ve used for their home have a history and are now being recycled to build their home. Others prefer a newer container that allows for a cleaner appearance on the final product.
Greg Miner | Conexwest 

What are the different types of shipping containers that can be adapter into a living space, and which are important characteristics to make the most out of a shipping container?

Shipping containers can make great living spaces that are functional and simplified compared to a traditional stick and frame home. The most limiting factor in a shipping container living space is size, and more specifically the width of a shipping container. As these units are 8 ft wide, you have to be judicious about the spaces that are most important to you.
In most cases, we are taking space away from the bedroom and bathroom to optimize the space for the living room and kitchen. These areas are the most frequented and can make the space feel much larger if it is built out properly. 20 and 40 ft containers are by far the most popular sizes in the shipping industry, so sticking to these dimensions will limit your cost of acquiring the unit.
You can also upgrade to a taller (high cube) container to open up the space a bit more. We often see folks putting 2 or more containers together, called a multi-unit build, to maximize space within the confines of architecture and engineering to make up for the limited width of each unit.
Jared Powers | Bob’s Containers


What are some important aspects people should consider when living in a boat?

When living onboard, you have serious space and power limitations – you will have to use a French press. Other big habit changers are water use, waste management, and provisioning.

Often overlooked when choosing the liveaboard lifestyle: you will need to know how to sail and navigate safely between ports.

Many people think living onboard is cheaper than living onshore. While extended periods at sea will significantly reduce your cost, living aboard in a marina is nearly as expensive as living onshore.

People that will do well living on a boat are independent and self-reliant, low maintenance (dinghy hair is a thing), and minimalist.

Shawn Buckles | Improve Sailing

What are some overlooked benefits of living in a boat that a lot of people miss?

Your house can move. If you’re not too keen on the area or neighborhood you’re in, you can always untie the lines and try someplace else.Watersports are always available. A quick paddle, kayak, or swim is literally a few steps away.Hosting a party is always better on a boat. Be the host with the most cuz, hey you live on a boat!
Brandon Williams | Boatsetter

Tinny House

What are some big benefits of living in a tiny house that a lot of people overlook?

People are attracted to the idea of living in a tiny house whether on wheels or on a permanent foundation for a variety of reasons. For some people, it’s a cumulation of benefits that they see, for others it’s just one primary reason, but in general, it is a trade-off where “Less is More”. When you look at the economic impact of living in a smaller house, there are many reasons that living tiny can improve your life overall:

  1. Economics/ Quality of Life: Living without a mortgage or rent, or only having a very small monthly payment frees up money for hobbies, starting a business, travel, theater tickets, etc.

  2. Economics/ Lighter Footprint on the Planet: A small house means less utility use, resulting in smaller monthly utility bills (or none for the people that are off-grid), again freeing up monthly cash. It makes it easy to live an environmentally conscious life.

  3. Economics/ Maintenance: A small house is less expensive and time-consuming to maintain. Rather than spending precious time off cleaning a large house, you can be done in a snap.

  4. Economics/ Freedom: Some people are stuck in jobs they hate, but can’t afford to quit, or have jobs they love that doesn’t pay enough to buy a large house. Not being tethered to a big mortgage can free up options to follow your vocational dreams. For people that choose a nomadic tiny house on wheels life, the options can be even greater.

  5. Less Materialistic/ Simpler Lifestyle: People that downsize often say that having less stuff is very freeing mentally.

  6. Jo-Anne Peck | Historic Shed


What is the most important factor you should consider when buying land for alternative housing?

In 2020, the Citrus County Commissioners brought a code compliance case against a landowner (we’ll call him Mr. S) for allowing three families to live in illegal trailers on his 10-acre property.

Mr. S initially fought the case, claiming he was simply continuing the prior owner’s practice of housing homeless families on the land. Unfortunately for this property owner, using an RV (or shed or trailer or tiny home) as a dwelling unit is against the Citrus County Building Code.

Thus, the hearing officer for the case eventually ordered Mr. S to remove the offending structures. A situation that is by no means unique.

In that same year, Citrus County alone received 81 complaints against land owners living on vacant land in illegal sheds, tiny homes and RVs.

Ultimately, most of these structures will face the same fate.

It may surprise you to learn that just because you own a parcel of land doesn’t mean you are allowed to do whatever you would like with it. Which is why zoning is the single most important factor you should consider when buying land for alternative housing.

Before you begin your property search, make sure you are looking for land in a jurisdiction whose zoning code allows the kind of structure you wish to build. Of course, this is only the start of proper land buying due diligence.

When developing a property you must also consider access, environmental issues, utility availability, and soil conditions (to name just a few other considerations). So take some time to educate yourself properly about the perils and pitfalls of land development.

Erika Benson |  Gokce Capital

Alternative housing is a way to break away from the ordinary, as well as live with a different mindset than what is considered traditional. In many cases, the alternative house that you choose can allow for more freedom. Being like a turtle who can take their home wherever you go, it gives room to break free from the chuckles of tradition and set foot into the unknown.

From storage to utilities, alternative housing can involve a different twist that can be exciting, and in many cases, it is also eco-friendly and minimalistic.

If, on the other hand, you don’t wish to make it a full-time living space, you can use it as a get-away vehicle or vacation home (depending on where you place it), or you can use it as an extra room in your home.

The sky is the limit, but what’s true is that these structures offer alternatives and give way for creativity and expansion.