Surviving the Build: Temporary Living Arrangements

You don’t have to be of great means to build a home. However, if you aren’t dripping with excess cash, you may not be able to afford to own the home you’re living in while construction on the new home is underway.


One of your top priorities will be flexibility. Your build could take five to nine months, but how long will it take you to find a lot, close the sale, and secure permits? The easiest option is to take out a year long lease in an apartment somewhere and break or sublet the lease when your build is complete. Many facilities and rental homes also offer month-to-month leases at a higher cost if you just ask. Breaking a lease isn’t a big deal in most areas. Your lease may have a clearly laid out early termination fee, or you may be able to get one written into your lease. If you bail early, you might end up paying rent until the apartment leases out again (within reasonable limit, up to the contract end date). This will all be spelled out in the lease.

You can also take over someone else’s lease or sublease. Craigslist has many ads from people who want to leave town before their lease is up. Just be sure the lease can be assigned and you get all of the utilities transfered.

If you are selling a home, one option is to request a leaseback as part of the terms of the agreement. You might request six, nine, or even twelve months from the new owner at a decreased rate. In today’s market, you might just get a taker! However, a leaseback of that length may be stretching things (or even prohibited on the buyer’s end).

Other options such as extended stay hotels or long-term vacation rentals may be an option, but they can get very spendy and are only cost effective for shorter stays.

Be prepared

Many homeowners simply aren’t prepared to be apartment dwellers again. Sure, you can find an apartment that will let you have cats, but what about that Irish wolfhound or those chickens? Long term boarding is not a good idea for many reasons and it is inadvisable to sneak a banned pet into a rental. Your best choice would be to plan ahead and not get those chickens if you think you might be building a house in the next few years. Find a rental house that is dog friendly or check out a dog fostering service like Craigslist can help you find a loving, temporary home for your pets as well if needed.

Ask for what you need

At the time that we sold our house, we weren’t sure if we would be building or buying yet. We casted about for over a month looking for a decent home that could handle four people and two cats on a month-to-month lease. In the end, we got exactly what we were hoping for simply by asking for it.

Month to Month for 2adults, 2babies while house shopping

Our Craigslist ad was straightforward and laid out a reasonable request. It described our need for flexibility and illustrated what great tenants we could be. Over the next few days, we got a handful of responses including one from the owners of the lovely little house we are staying in right now.

A new trend

This home is part of what I call the boutique rental market. These landlords own a very small number of units and prefer to hand-pick their tenants. They have a more personal relationship with their live-ins and may well be more flexible and understanding of unique situations. This is as close as one might come to the ideal home builder’s rental. A savvy landlord could easily capitalize on the demand for both home builders and buyers during their critical transition period.

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