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Cheap, unconventional housing alternatives

Two years ago, stretching to buy an expensive home seemed like the smartest path to wealth.

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Today, you might argue that investing in real estate provides at best a roof over your head. At worst, it's the route to ruin.

Bob Stroh, director of the University of Florida's Shimberg Center for Affordable Housing, says, "A white picket fence and a walk-in closet are ingrained in the American psyche. It's hard to get away from that."

But some Americans look beyond the conventional house or condominium and 30-year mortgage to find comfort and satisfaction in unconventional homeownership. In the process, they can avoid a big price tag.

So before you commit to spending more than 25 percent of your gross income on a place to live (a conservative estimate of housing affordability), consider the alternatives. If you think creatively, it's possible to own a home for much less than what many people spend -- and like where you live.

Here are some possibilities.

Cheap living alternatives
These quirky habitats enable the adventurous to hit the highway, float along a waterway or just enjoy low-cost living.
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