Should I buy? Should I continue renting? If I lived in a city where there was a clear choice, this wouldn’t be such a dilemma. However, living in a suburb of Los Angeles makes it a distressing, hair-pulling decision. Over the past 18-months, rent has soared in the entire county of LA making it one of the least affordable areas in the US. And of course housing prices have been on an upward climb as well.

Want a basic 2 to 3-bedroom starter home in a somewhat safe neighborhood (some tagging, but no real drive-by’s)? Just sign your name on a $400,000 loan. Yikes! I just can’t do it!

A house not far from me selling for $430,000.
A house not far from me selling for $430,000.

Obviously, renting for the next 12-24 months is in my future. Saving for a down payment is also on my goal list and I’m making some headway. It’s hard to predict what the housing market will do over the next year or two, but if it continues to climb I might be priced out of the market for another 5-10 year period. If it drops by 15-20%, I’ll be right on target and able to buy something very modest. On a side note, I’d be grateful for an earthquake next year, as long as no one gets injured, just shaken up enough to leave! The 1994 earthquake sent people fleeing California, too bad I was still in college and not thinking about property!

Yet, if I get priced out of the market for many years to come, there are some alternatives that I’ve been looking into such as buying a vacation home somewhere or a plot of land where I can plop a cabin. (Funny thing is, I could probably swing an affordable vacation home along with the rent I’m paying before buying a home in my area.) I recently came across three additional cabin/pre-fab models that are reasonably priced, functional and beautiful.

One such model is the MorHAUS 1216 reasonably priced at $17,000. Of course, this doesn’t include a foundation, plumbing, or electrical. To make this model a true home, options will need to be added (such as wall insulation, finished walls and floors) for another $6,000. Even with the additional options, the basic price is under $25,000 which is very reasonable. I’m guessing if you add another $10,000 – $15,000 onto this price for a foundation, plumbing, electrical, and other possible options, it’s still a very good price.

MorHAUS cabin out of North Carolina.
MorHAUS cabin out of North Carolina.

A more finished product is the Summerwood cabin line. Similar to Tuffshed cabins, Summerwood products range from garden sheds to pool houses to cabins, yet there are more choices in cabin design and size. The prices are a little more expensive than tradition pre-fab cabins, but you can add options onto your cabin using their design center.

Summerwood product cabin model
Summerwood product cabin model

For blokes that live across the pond, another option is Bespoke Cabins and Summerhouses. The finished cabins on their site are quite beautiful. The two downsides to this company are a.) they are in England and b.) they don’t list prices which always makes me think they might lean towards expensive.

Bespoke cabin and summer houses out of England
Bespoke cabin and summer houses out of England

This time next year, I’m hoping to be a little closer to buying something – whether that be a house in my area or a cabin in the woods.

Anyone out there in a similar dilemma? Can you afford a vacation home, but not an actual home?


  1. Jon @ Money Smart Guides Reply

    I can afford a home in my area, the only issue is that I don’t want to pay the price! I too live in a moderately high cost of living area. I could easily buy some land in the mountains and put a house up there for cheaper than buying a house here. I’ve toyed with the idea, but am not leaning one way or the other.

    • @Jon – I have this fantasy of living in the forest but being a bike ride away from a busy little city. I don’t think it exists! So, for now I stay put and hope that prices either fall back down to reasonable levels or wait it out.

  2. Money Beagle Reply

    Housing prices in California boggle my mind. For $400,000 here in Michigan you can live in a 4,000 square foot, close to being a mansion house with a 3 car garage and big lot. I can’t imagine paying that for a postage size house on a tiny lot with no garage, basement, or anything else. Good luck!

  3. Yeah, it’s pretty crazy down there. The housing price is increasing in the Pacific NW too. I think Seattle area is getting unaffordable. Even Portland is getting much more expensive now. We’re looking for a house in a nice area with good schools and I’m seeing $600,000+. That’s pretty pricey for the income we make up here.

    • Well Heeled Blog Reply

      $600K will get you a townhouse in LA and half a shack in SF. 😉

    • @Joe – Maybe we’re headed back towards a bit of a housing bubble. Both coasts are expensive, so maybe it’s just location that’s driving prices.

  4. Well Heeled Blog Reply

    My hope is that the interest rates will rise and so housing prices will fall (or at least, stop increasing so rapidly) over the next 2-3 years. Then by that time I’d be ready, hopefully, to buy. My parents recently purchased a 1,700 sq ft townhouse for $600K, in LA. Their HOA community sold out in less than a couple of months, all units were under contract even before the construction was completely done. The demand is very much there. It’s not just the single family houses that are expensive – even the traditionally “1st-time buyer properties” such as townhouses and condos are selling really well.

    My mom tells me to be patient… but it’s hard!

    • @Well Heeled Blog – It’s definitely a supply and demand issue which drive housing up. I’m really hoping that this is a bubble and it will burst in the next year or so. I’m not so sure I’ll be able to purchase property if it doesn’t drop!

      • @Well Heeled Blog – Looking at other alternatives is definitely something I’m constantly doing and others should too if they just can’t afford the crazy prices. Moving some place less expensive is also a great option and one I’m always contemplating. Of course, an earthquake on the west coast would solve some of these problems 😉

  5. Mortgage Free Mike Reply

    Those cabins are too cute! I’m in a similar position. In my new city, I can afford a home– just not one like I had in my old town. I’m giving myself a few months to feel out the real estate market and see where it takes me. In the meantime, renting it is…

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