We’re over four years living in our alternative dwelling and during this time I’ve been asked a lot of questions about what it’s really like to live in a mobile home.
We were forced out of the rental market by extortionate rent prices so we decided to challenge the norm and move into a mobile home to save for our house.
Here are all the questions I’ve been asked, and all the answers. Feel free to send me questions and I’ll add them to the list.
Here’s our mobile home—named the Millennial Falcon for these reasons—on the day it was delivered.
1. Is it cold?
Quick answer: In winter, it’s extremely cold unless you make modifications. It’s perfect in summer.
Mobile homes are built for summers in coastal holiday parks so even winterised ones (winterised ones have insulation and double glazing) are colder than regular houses.
We’ve made a lot of modifications to ours, like installing a stove (read about installing a stove in a mobile home here), putting down insulated floor underlay, buying a stove top fan, and hanging thermal-lined curtains, and as result it’s nice and cosy. In the coldest months (Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb, March), when I wake up in the morning and the fire has gone out, it is extremely cold. But, once the fire is lit, it’s cosy again. If we were to have children in this home, I’d install central heating first because I think some early mornings, before the fire is lit, it could be dangerously cold for a newborn baby.
2. Do you have running water?
Yes, of course.
When one friend asked me this, I burst out laughing. Of course we have running water. We have two toilets, three sinks and a shower, and father-in-law made water magically run through them all.
3. Do you have a flush toilet?
We have two! We have a main bathroom and an ensuite. Our toilets are regular porcelain flush toilets, just like everyone else’s.
Oddly enough, even the sewage pipe being delivered was an exciting sight for me – it meant we were one step closer to moving in
4. Do you have electricity?
Many people regularly tell us that they’d love to do what we’re doing and live an ‘off-grid’ life. I hate to to spoil these romantic notions of our lifestyle that people have somehow conjured up, but we are in fact hooked up to the mains electricity supply through an armoured cable that runs underground from the main house.
5. How much are your electricity bills?
We overestimate because we choose to pay for more than what we use.
When we were moving in, we offered to get a pay-as-you go meter installed but our relative said it wasn’t necessary and trusted us to calculate a fair amount. So to get the average monthly figure we added up how much electricity we were paying every month in our previous 3-bedroom rented house (which was a lot more than what our mobile costs because our rented house had a huge American fridge, an electric heater running all day long in my home office, an electric shower, non energy efficient light bulbs, and more). We then divided this figure by 12 to get the average monthly figure.
We make sure to give our relative almost triple this figure every month so as to ensure that we are paying way more than what we are costing them in electricity – this way there is no fear of us being a burden to them.
6. Do you have WiFi?
I couldn’t live (or work) without it.
We actually have very good internet because it’s satellite broadband. The main house already had satellite broadband. The signal is received by a mast on the roof of the main house and bounces off it onto a tiny satellite dish (it’s about the size of a dinner plate) mounted on the side of the mobile. We didn’t want to affect our relative’s download speed so we pay €10 a month to add additional mpbs onto the existing package.
7. How do you do your laundry?
We bring it to the launderette or we do it in our relative’s house.
8. How do you heat your water?
The water is heated with a gas boiler. A large propane gas can (much bigger than the gas cans you get for BBQs) is hooked up out the back. The gas heats the water instantly, which means we always have hot water. No waiting for immersions! It costs about €90 for one can and a can lasts for about 3 months.
Two tips if you’re moving into a mobile:
- Set your preferred shower temperature at the boiler and do not use the taps to adjust the temperature. When you get in the shower just turn the hot tap on and turn it on full, never touch the cold tap. A boiler guy told us this and it was one of the most life-changing pieces of advice because we always get really good pressure hot showers.
- Keep two gas cans, one hooked up and one spare. That way, if you’re in the shower with conditioner in your hair and the gas goes, you just have to change the gas can, you don’t have to go buy a refill there and then. We know this from experience!
9. Where do you put your trash?
In the bins under the sink, which are then emptied to the wheelie bins.
We have wheelie bins and the waste collection company collects them like everyone else. We pay €300 a year for a recycling bin and a general waste bin to be collected every two weeks.
10. Is your fridge big enough?
Yes, because we got a bigger one.
The mobile came with an old, under-counter fridge that had one of those miniature freezer compartments at the top. It was too small and the ice cream never froze completely in the “freezer” compartment. We were replacing the counter tops anyway, so we bought a taller Belling fridge freezer and father-in-law built the kitchen around it, as you can see in the photo below.
You can see the old and new fridges in these photos – taken before we tiled the kitchen
11. How did you prepare the ground?
We cut up all the grass where the mobile was going. Then we spent €200 (read what to budget for when buying a mobile home) on mixed stone (I think we got around 20 tonnes of the blue stuff because it’s the cheapest) and spread it out and levelled it. You need to put the mobile onto stone because otherwise it will sink into the ground. The mobile sits on concrete blocks on top of the stone. The people who deliver the mobile will adjust the blocks for you, but you have to prepare the stone in advance of the delivery.
The mobile being delivered
12. How did you paint over the vinyl coated wallpaper?
The trick is to prime the walls first.
If you apply paint directly onto mobile home walls it can peel because most mobile home walls are covered with a vinyl coating. So we primed the walls first (Read about how we primed the mobile home walls here) with Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer and then we painted them with two coats of Dulux paint.
13. How did you take out the factory-installed furniture?
With great difficulty!
Mobile home furniture is designed not to move when the structure is in transit, which means that many items are attached to the wall from the other side, using heavy duty nails and staples, making it extremely difficult to get them out. Read how we took out our mobile home furniture here.
14. What are the biggest challenges?
The only big challenge is getting used to, and trying to prevent, the cold.
The rest are not big challenges, just minor inconveniences such as:
- The narrow doors – your elbows and shoulders will learn the hard way.
- Not being able to easily hang shelving on the walls because they are made with thin hardboard so can hold very little weight.
- Having 28 centimeters between the wall and my bed – do you know how difficult it is to find a bedside locker that will fit in that space?
15. What are the best things about it?
- The sense of liberation: I love the liberation that comes with knowing that I’m not confined to one physical location – I can, in theory, move my home somewhere else, or put it up for sale and someone can come along on a flatbed truck and take it away.
- The feeling of having my own home. Knowing that I’m not confined by a 12 month lease or worrying if my landlord is going to decide to sell gives me a sense of permanency.
- The unexpected impact its had on my relationship with my possessions. Living in a small space has made me completely rethink the relationship that I have with possessions – learning to live with less has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life.
- Living near relatives. Living on the same site as relatives has been a completely unexpected blessing. We all wondered would it feel like we are living in each other’s pockets but we have lots of space.
- The dining booth – we love this so much that we want to build one into our forever house.
- The dressing room – we’re also going to build this idea into a our forever house.
This is my favourite place I’ve ever lived, because it’s mine. Nothing beats that feeling.
16. Are you embarrassed to live in a mobile home?
Not in the slightest.
I talk about it openly, with everyone and anyone, even in meetings with clients. Millennials are forced to live in small spaces, and many who embrace it are creating spaces worthy of design magazines. The #tinyhouse movement in the USA is also confronting people’s perceptions of living in small spaces, and encouraging people of all ages to embrace the more liberating lifestyle that comes with it.
Far from embarrassed, I’m wholeheartedly proud of my home, for what I’ve done to it, for how I’ve modified it and designed it and shaped it to be an expression of me and Peter’s personalities. But I was raised in a middle class suburb with all the comforts of an economic boom so to do this, I first had to shed society’s (and my own) misrepresented negative associations of mobile home living. I talk about it in this article: How I feel about living in a mobile home
17. How much did it all cost?
Thousands and thousands of euro.
Mobile homes cost anywhere from €1,500 to €100,000 depending on age, quality, size and finishes. You’ll be lucky to find a double glazed mobile home for less than €10k.
With regards to the groundworks, building works and interior decorating, I stopped counting after the first €5000. We spent a lot, but at the end of the day I got a beautiful place to live, finished to an extremely high standard, that is MINE for an amazing price. And, I can move it or sell it, leaving very little impact on the land that it occupied.
18. Would you do it again if you had your time back?
A resounding YES.
Hands down, I would recommend this experience to everyone.