The North Texas housing market continues to serve up challenges for many families, with low inventory driving demand for homebuyers and rent prices up roughly 19% over last year in some areas.
Two families told NBC 5 they're downsizing drastically to improve their chances of owning their dream home in the future.
COST OF LIVING IN NORTH TEXAS
Lorne and Lacie Washington have a large blended family with six children and two dogs. They've been enjoying their 1,800-square-foot townhouse for more than a year, but said that despite trying their best to balance family and working several jobs, with inflation pushing up prices for gas, food and other necessities, they're forced to make tough choices almost daily.
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"I stay at home, I'm a health coach," said Lacie Washington.
"I do everything under the sun. Literally everything. I'm a roofer; life insurance agent. I do carpet cleaning; restoration. And then I work at night at Whataburger, too," said Lorne Washington.
The couple described the daily frustrations they face trying to make ends meet as prices rise.
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"Groceries or clothes for my kids? Groceries or electricity?" Lacie said.
"Pay on the car note or pay on rent. Or pay rent, pay the utilities," Lorne added.
"The fact that he's never home, and we're still on a hamster wheel, like just paying bills, just paying bills. So it's very frustrating," Lacie said.
The couple said it's all so frustrating, that they've decided to sell everything they own and move out of their townhouse to buy an RV to live in full time.
MAKING THE DECISION
"Because it's one more step closer to our goal. We have everything going into savings so that we can pay for the RV down payment," Lacie said.
It may sound somewhat extreme, but they've seen it done before.
"Welcome guys, this is my husband and I's home, we've got 200 square feet," Christina Carter said, showing off her RV.
Lacie's brother and sister-in-law, Bo Dean and Christina Carter, took the leap into full-time RV living in February. The veterans spent years trying to buy a home and were outbid every time. Christina said they had a deal fall through three days before closing in late 2021 and that experience forced them to go back to the drawing board to figure out a new plan for their housing and future.
"We've been put up against multiple people who have money and they're putting it down and paying way over asking price. How do we compete with people like that? Simple. Do a different step. Look at an option for an RV, less than your bills, cut things out of your life that you do not need," Christina said.
The manager at the Carters' RV park said that the demand for housing in Denton County is so strong they're adding 100 more lots.
After spending $5,000 for the RV and $2,500 for renovations, mostly completed on their own, the Carters said they've slashed their monthly bills in half.
"I'm like glowing from ear to ear," she said.
Carter said there are challenges to living full-time in an RV. She said adjusting to the space and lack of privacy has been the hardest, but in many ways, has also helped to strengthen their communication and increased the amount of quality time she and her husband spend together.
Like several other families at their park, they're growing their own food to ease the burden of rising food costs. Christina is also building a community garden for the entire park.
All of these steps are helping them get out of debt, something they were unable to do while paying their previous apartment rent.
"By January, we'll have our truck paid off because we chose to do RV life," Christina said. "To express it in one word is freedom. The freedom of having financial relief."
RESEARCH AND REFLECTION
The Washingtons are following their footsteps by researching RVs large enough for their family and selling everything in their home to afford it. Lacie said the hardest part was selling a custom dining room table large enough for their family of eight, with their name engraved on the side.
"I cried. But it's all just things. And that's also what we're going to be teaching our kids is things are not that important. It's the family inside of the home. It's the freedom that we're going to gain from that," she said.
Lacie said days after they made their decision, they came home to a letter saying their apartment's rent is going up.
"It's going from $1,488 to $1,679 with a $110 amenity fee," Lacie said. Adding that the new amenity fee is for a pool that they've always had but have not been charged separately for, until now.
Lacie said that under new ownership, they would have to reapply to stay in their apartment and show that they make three times the rent. They do not make three times the rent.
Lacie said the letter was confirmation that they were making the right move.
"We're basically just trapped ... I'm so tired of saying no and we can't, and we can't, and we can't. It's going to be nice to take them shopping for clothes and not have to worry about getting them from somebody else," she said.
The family is sacrificing space and getting rid of their belongings today, so they can one day afford to buy land and build a home and a brighter future.
"The main goal is to buy land you can pass that down for generations," Lorne said.
The Washingtons found a 37-foot travel trailer with a bunkhouse that has enough space for everyone to sleep.
WHAT DOES RV LIFE COST?
NBC 5 called RV managers across North Texas from Denton, Aubrey and Mansfield. They all mentioned they are seeing higher demand. Two said they are expanding to make more spaces available. Another mentioned they've tried to expand but could not get approval from city leaders.
If someone is interested in learning more about full-time RV living, managers say that it's important to remember that many lots have 3- to 4-month waiting lists and age requirements for RVs. For most long-term stays, many ask for recreational vehicles that are no older than 10 years old.
The monthly rates average between $550 and $700 each month. Many families see a big drop in their electricity bills while living in an RV. You can also ask about other amenities including a pool, security and internet access.