November 14, 2014 by Leave a comment

Bad news: we’re probably not going to give you a mortgage for any of these.

The good news? They’re still pretty cool. Whether you’re seriously interested yurts or just procrastinating, here are 4 interesting housing alternatives.

Shipping container houses

Thanks to both the tiny house movement and a gradual shift to greener ways of living, many have started to look at shipping containers in a new way. They’re strong, durable, readily available, and cheap. Plus, if one is too small, they’re easy to combine and stack into whatever shape you need.

These advantages have made them popular in for other uses, too. They make great sheds and emergency housing and moveable public spaces. There are a couple disadvantages, though. Because metal conducts heat so well, they’ll need to be more carefully insulated than traditional building materials if you plan to live in one. You also may run into some building code issues if you plan to make this your primary residence.


Yurts have been used by nomads in central Asia since the fourth century B.C., and are still in use by many today.  This is especially true in Mongolia, where their circular structure and folding, lattice-like inner wall makes them easy to transport for nomadic herders.

More recently, Yurts have made their way to parts of the US—the west coast in particular. Like shipping containers, they’re popular for temporary structures and extra spaces, like a home office or gym. Oregon state parks even use them as camping structures, allowing visitors the comforts of a cabin in a building that’s much easier to maintain.

Tree houses

If the eight-year-old in you is still yearning for that perfect tree house, you’re not alone. Tree houses are popular enough to warrant their own reality show. Treehouse Masters on Animal Planet follows Pete Nelson, a man who has created a business that caters to the sort of people who want 800 square feet and a full bathroom hoisted up into the trees.

I can guess what the responsible adult in you is thinking: how is that legal?

Well, in many places it isn’t—the key is that it isn’t illegal, either. Many towns and counties don’t have laws and regulations on the books for tree houses, meaning that they fall into a grey area, building code-wise.


Houseboats have been in use all around the world for years. In India, they were once used to transport goods and now attract tourists. In the Netherlands, families still live along Amsterdam’s canals, sharing space with the world’s only floating flower market. They also remain popular on many US lakes, it’s easy to see why. The ability to pick up your home and float it to a new place with a new view is hard to say no to.

Because the demand for houseboats tends to outstrip the supply, a houseboat will cost you. How much depends largely on where, but even after purchase, you still have to factor in mooring fees and specialized equipment and repairs.

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