Family Eschews Million-Dollar Debt for Small Dome Kit Home

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Jacki Rigoni, the author, and her family formerly lived in this large home on the San Francisco Peninsula.
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Wanting to model self-sufficiency for their children, Jacki Rigoni and Mauricio Escobar bought land and a kit home. Their kids have helped them put it together.
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The Rigoni-Escobar family climbs the walls of their soon-to-be home.
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Mauricio Escobar and his son work on the kit home’s construction.
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Though the dome is only 400 square feet, it sits on 9 acres of land, which the family considers part of their home.

About six months ago, our family sold our million-dollar home on the San Francisco Peninsula and used the small profit to buy 9 acres of land outside of San Jose. We plopped an RV on it, bought a geodesic dome kit with cash, and put it up together with our children, who are 6, 8 and 10 years old. We have been blogging about the experience at Post-Consumer Life.

It has been a major leap of faith and quite a transition, but the relief from the stress of debt has been totally liberating.

The hardest part about the whole thing was actually deciding that the whole mortgage-for-30-years track wasn’t for us. Funny, but it’s not so obvious when everyone around you takes for granted that being strapped to a mortgage is just what grown-ups do. After we made the decision to put our beautiful home on the market, the rest was not as hard. We committed to never being in debt, and to a pay-as-we-go process, whereby if we don’t have the money to build, then we halt until we do. Things have gone slower than we thought, and we still haven’t moved from our RV into our dome (we’re working on insulating it and building out the inside). But in the meantime, we’re surrounded by the beauty of nature and by default simply have to slow down. Not so bad.

Our geodesic dome was a kit. We built the platform ourselves with lumber we bought. The dome itself cost about $11,000. The platform was probably about $4,000. We may have $3,000 to $5,000 more to go in order to build out the dome and the outdoor “shouthouse” (the shower/outhouse we are building). We have also invested in improvements to the land, such as grading a road and putting in drainage pipes for a pond, which will probably come to $5,000. We bought a used RV with a $30,000 loan for temporary housing while we build, but will sell it in the next six months after we move into the dome.

The dome is about 400 square feet for a family of five. But we also consider the 9 acres part of our home, and that’s a lot of square footage!

We have done all the building ourselves. My husband is very handy as an electrician, and I, well, let’s just say I’m willing and a fast learner. We did pay a neighbor to grade the land for the dome platform and our shouthouse, which was about two days of work. Otherwise, we built it all ourselves. We’re both working and home schooling our kids, so we’ve done most of the work on weekends, holidays and occasional days off. We had plenty of offers for help from friends and family, but we really savored the opportunity to work together as a family and to model self-sufficiency for our kids.

It hasn’t been easy. You really have to adjust your expectations. We took so many things for granted in our former house — that you open a faucet and unlimited water flows out, that our garbage would just go away every week, that you flush a toilet and it disappears. That said, nothing could ever, ever make us go back to having million-dollar debt again.

Read other debt-free home reports like this one by perusing Debt-Free Living in Your Dream Home or visiting our Debt-Free Home Reports collection page.