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Got a small house? Need a new guest room? Buy a motor home or trailer!

We live in an older community, where our home is 70 years old and those south are mostly 50-60 years old. Back in those days, they didn’t have the concept of McMansions, and most of the home are about 1000-1500 square feet.

So, I generally classify our community (including the largest collection of homes, not just the few streets around us) as either “starter homes”, “downsize homes” or “rental homes”. But on one of our walks recently, we passed a home we’ve passed many times, but something new struck me. You see, this home is average size for the neighborhood, has a garage, but also has a very large driveway. In that driveway is parked one of those “bus motorhomes” (i.e. they’re the same size as a bus). Plus it has a trailer hitched in the back. Kudos to the owner for being able to park the thing, but my focus here is on the following:

Why would someone own a mobile home as big as their house?

But then another thought came to mind (no, not talking about the jealousy one): For all these people with small homes, why not buy a motor home or trailer for the extra room?

I’m no expert on the hookups needed for electricity or water, or even zoning laws for your city, etc., so I’m mostly ignoring those technicalities here, but think about it. Instead of spending $40-100k or more on an addition just so you can get another bed for someone to sleep in once a year, buy a small camper. On the hot or cold days, it’s prepared in some way, whether running from its engine, a generator or hooked into your outdoor outlet to heat or cool the interior. Your guests would basically have their own living space and wouldn’t need to “invade” your home!

And in the economy of the past few years, mobile homes (trailers and campers, not the single-wide type) have taken a pounding and dealers are begging buyers to take them off their hands. Even better, you can get a used one for even less. I have a truck and would just need a hitch and not only would I have that special addition already furnished that we’ve been wanting, but also our own vacation lodging when we want it!

I know I can’t be the first person to think of this. Let me know if you’ve done something similar (e.g. put up your in-laws in your camper for the week), or have an informed opinion on the matter. Remember, rules and laws change by neighborhood and municipality so what goes in rural Arkansas might not be allowed in downtown D.C.

Photo courtesy of Philandthehounds

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Clever Dude


  • I have a small home with only one extra bedroom (used as an office). When my family comes to town, I put one sibling in the bed, two on the couch, and a third on an air mattress (fortunately, my siblings are still in their teens) and I pay for a nearby hotel room for my parents. I know it’s not the “same” as having family stay in your home, but it didn’t make sense for me to spend another 50k on a house, whereas I could toss a few hundred a year to the local Marriott for an extra bed.

  • I agree with Walnut. Hotel it is for those who can’t hack it on the couch or floor at our place. I’d bet that many small homes are in dense areas where trailers or campers wouldn’t fly like major cities. For those people, hotels might be the best option.

  • My husband and I attended a wedding far away from home, and we actually chose to stay in our hosts’ RV. Since everyone (but us) was drunk and loud in the house, we got a nice, quiet, and cool rest away from it all.

  • When I go to stay with my parnts who snowbird in Florida, I sleep in their RV which is in the driveway of their park model one bedroom home. This gives me my own bed, bathroom, TV and small kitchen.

  • Another option — depending on your locality’s laws — is to build a freestanding little “guest cottage” in your backyard. In parts of Colorado, you don’t need a permit for this as long as the space is less than 120 sq. ft. (10 by 12) — which is enough for a bed, a small nightstand and table and a small dresser, especially if you create built-in shelves. Getting plumbing into it would be tough (your guests would need to come inside your home for a bathroom), but wiring it for electricity and heat is simple enough, and you can easily install a window A/C. In all, the project would be less than $10K.

  • We have a camping trailer for camping but have used it as a guest room in the past. We have a guest room which it the first space occupied, but when friends with older kids/teens visit the adulst take the guest room and we put the kids in the trailer in the yard. To keep an eye (ear) on them we put our old baby monitor out there. If they need to be calmed down or told once more to go to sleep we either walk out or call them on the walkie talkie from the house. We live in a couple of acres in the country – I don’t know if I’d let the 12+ kids stay alone in the city.

    When our AC failed one summer during a heat wave we even moved into the trailer ourselves for a few days until it was repaired. It’s great having that bit of flex housing sitting in the yard. Since we own and insure it, any extra usage we get from it is a bonus.

  • That’s a pretty cool idea. You can also take the camper out on trips. They are still quite expensive aren’t they? Many HOA won’t allow campers in the drive ways these days.

  • I like what Gary said – tent or yurt or something. Would be considerably cheaper. Still, using an RV as a guest room is an interesting concept.

  • I wouldn’t buy a camper to adjust some guests just because my house is small. I’d rather tell them to cramp in or get out 🙂
    and besides…its not like they’ll be stayin at ur place forever 😉

  • I love this idea.. We have company a lot and can’t afford to add on to our home. I don’t mind getting them a hotel, but I would much rather have them stay here at the house.. Now I am looking for a good deal on a travel trailer and what upkeep they need..

  • This post was the first one I read on this idea of an rv as an extra bed and breakfast. Our daughter lived in northern Mn. and we want to spent a month with them in the summer or fall so we are buying a used 2002 30 ft pull rv. They have so little room and everytime we come to see them the oldest grandson gives up his bed for us. Which is why we started thinking along this line. WE bought one about half hour from where our daughter lives so they were able to check it out which was so helpful. My daughter knows her Mom and how Mom needs a place to read away from the bedroom. I have insomnia so I wanted one big enough that Dad could be asleep in the bed and I could have a couch or recliner to read in. WE got both. Thanks for this post…helped solid ate what we chose to do. Means more time with our kids.

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