Flat or House or... Caravan?
As the UK dives into the worst recession ever recorded, you’re forgiven for not seeing the bright side. It has left nothing in your life unchanged, and our survey (mentioned later here) has shown that your living choices are no exception. In the good old flat or house debate, many of you have opted for houses with more space further away from the city. But, for one adventurous duo, a third option was too tempting to ignore.
Our respondents Andrew and Chloe (names altered to protect identity) in Yorkshire, saw the March 2020 lockdown as an opportunity to start working towards their dream. For them to buy a plot of land and build their own fully self-sustaining eco home fuelled by solar and hydroelectric power.
The project could take years and tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of pounds and was out of their reach for now. Andy, part time music producer, part time courier and full time charmer was ready to get his hands dirty earlier. Using his gift of the gab he took the first step towards their dream and snagged a bargain Citroen Relay van worth £5-6,000 for £3,000.
His idea was simple – live on the road in a caravan to save money and keep in touch with nature. All while delivering some parcels on the way and spending some quality time with his partner, Chloe.
It would take some work to get the un-kitted van ready to double as a moving home. So, with woodworking at school as his only previous experience, Andy rolled up his sleeves and started working in July.
The Journey Begins.
Andy started with the van parked on an inclined surface, leaving him an up-hill battle from the start. He had the electrical wiring, a cupboard, a toilet, a kitchen and a bed to build into the van. He was a natural, breezing through the first steps of building the wooden base into the van as a frame.
But, it was only when he started installing the cupboards that he realised the frame was lopsided! Yet, as a man on a mission he soldiered on. Andy found some flat ground and parked the van there to adjust the frame into its perfect position. At this point he knew that he would need backup for the more difficult tasks ahead. So Andy called in the family Sparky: Chloe’s dad. With professional guidance, he learned quickly and, impressively, it wasn’t before long that he finished the wiring alone.
With Andy’s newfound skills, Chloe’s assistance and flat ground below their feet, things started to come together quickly. Their shiny new portable home was ready in only 3 months. This was around the time that Chloe’s tenancy was coming to an end which meant it was time for an adventure.
Caravan Life: The Perks
The camper-van had all the couple needed: a kitchenette, large bed, cupboards, an incredibly efficient heater and internet. That is everything, except a shower which they use their gym memberships to access. But the road lifestyle’s main attraction was the perk.
Van life is cheap, with less than £350 overall monthly expenses. Money is usually short on a PhD budget. However, Chloe is saving at least 2/3rds of her monthly doctoral loan and, like many, continuing her research remotely. In other words, she has an extremely sweet deal considering the ever-changing scenery.
Andy and Chloe’s days are packed with both inner and outer journeys. Podcasts such as Sh***ed Married Annoyed and The Astral Hustle play while they travel to their newest destination. That is, as restrictions allow, of course. Some Northern hot spots that have satisfied the duo’s wanderlust are Whitby, Formby, Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales.
At a time when many people are feeling trapped on this island, the homely couple have grown to love their country more. The last time Chloe exited British borders was when she was 4, riding the Euro-tunnel.
But, not all of van life has been so pleasant. The biggest shock they had was the sheer volume of rubbish they produced. Initially, the caravan only held 1 bin which was quickly filled with general waste, cardboard and plastic. Knowing the huge impact that plastic pollution has on the environment, they needed a solution.
The nature-friendly solutions for now are extra bins and installing solar panels as a renewable energy source. However, ultimately, the urgency is rising to build that green home for themselves from sustainable materials. The DIY home will be made from cob – a natural mixture which keeps a home warm in the winter.
The Road Ahead
So, the big question on everyone’s lips is would they do it again? Their answer is a resounding yes. They’re arguing less than expected, saving money and all while they wind down to nature.
Chloe and Andy’s experience has changed their perspective forever. Chloe says there is no way they will go back to living in a traditional home. The next steps are finding a studio for Andy to develop his music and saving for their dream home. Chloe tells me that even when the home is built, the caravan will never be sold. It remains a memento for their children to experience when telling them about this bold chapter of their lives.
Flat or House Survey Results
But it isn’t just Andy and Chloe who have found their living environments to drastically change during the pandemic. As such, we wanted to discover how you have all been impacted and surveyed 107 of you across the UK. 68% of you have moved home since the dawn of the pandemic.
The household income of the group we studied was comparable to that of the UK population.
Flat or House? The Responses
The type of flat or house people occupied prior to moving during the pandemic is as below.
Now look at the flat or house living situations after the move.
Interestingly, you can see that in the population surveyed the largest change (14%) is in those who are moving to flats. In following, we performed a subgroup analysis and noted that people with household income <£25k were most affected by this.
Flat or House Survey: £25k Household Income Group
The reasons for moving in this group related around 3 separate topic areas which are summarised below.
Flat or House Survey: £100k Household Income Group
Taking a closer look at the £100k+ household income subgroup, the reasons for the move were as below:
Our responses were more balanced than expected, likely because some participants wanted to be closer to work to prevent long commutes. One participant quoted a compelling reason for moving further away from the centre.
What Did We Learn?
This survey supports the findings that your housing preferences have changed since lockdown. It has helped us to get a feeling of the challenges that you have faced during these difficult times. But, if there is something that this country is known for, it is banding together in times of crisis. We can learn a valuable lesson from this survey, Chloe, Andy, and our respondent searching for community. It is that even in the most difficult times, there is beauty to be found if one simply looks for it.
Please note – a more detailed breakdown is available to those who request it via firstname.lastname@example.org.
About The Authors
This article was written by Dr Sermed Mezher MbChB (Hons) MRes, experienced property investor, published author in Global Paediatric Health and The Journal of Medical Ethics, and medical doctor. He is the founder of cashhouse.co.uk.
It was co-authored by Sara Badri BA in Graphic Design, MA in Media and Cultural Studies. Community Researcher at Shabaka Social Enterprise.
Sermed has a special interest in educating people on how to improve their situation. He believes that physical and financial health are intimately linked.