When MOTHER EARTH NEWS asked readers for reports about how they built or bought their homes debt-free, their responses were enthusiastic, and each story was unique. From small dome homes to spacious cabins to shelters ten years in the making, these homeowners avoided a mortgage in myriad ways. Many respondents favored stamina over skill, saying that anyone can do what they did with patience and persistence.
We included some of the stories in an article titled Debt-Free Living in Your Dream Home. You can find those full reports, as well as others we received, on this page. Peruse the articles below and let your debt-free dream develop — the respondents’ collective reports are a great starting point for inspiration and advice.
A Solar Cabin in Two Weeks for $2,000
After finding himself without a home, LaMar Alexander moved onto inherited land and built a 400-square-foot cabin in two weeks for $2,000.
Machine Shed Conversion Helps Family Achieve Debt-Free Dream
The Breitenbach family achieved their dream of self-sufficiency by converting a machine shed into a mortgage-free dwelling.
Home Schooling Community Helps Family Raise Their Roof
The Burggraf family relied on their community to help them raise their home, in the style of an old-fashioned barn raising.
Couple Evades Mortgage by Renovating Vacant Residence
Anne Denton’s daughter and her daughter’s family located a low-cost, vacant residence that required some renovation, so they rolled up their sleeves and worked side by side to turn the house into a home. The home has a walk-out basement, a sunroom, and a detached shop and garage.
For a Debt-Free Home, Take your Time
Cheryl and Don Ficker’s two-story, passive solar house rose slowly, as the Fickers had time and money to work on it. This allowed them to dodge building debt.
Man Saves Up, Keeps It Simple for Debt-Free Home Building
Eric Guldenstein incorporated energy-saving and passive solar features when building his home, so it’s efficient as well as debt-free.
An Inexpensive, Earth-Sheltered, Passive Solar Abode
The Kalmers’ earth-sheltered, passive solar house is made out of many free and inexpensive materials, and cost less than $10 per square foot.
Our Green, Mortgage-Free Home in Costa Rica
The Kemsleys’ stunning debt-free house is located in a tropical rainforest environment in Costa Rica. They’re completing the project piecemeal, paying for it as it’s built over the course of four years.
Older-Model Manufactured Home Leads to Mortgage-Free Living
The Lacefields purchased an older-model manufactured home to save money and lessen their environmental impact.
Reclaimed Materials Form Family’s Debt-Free Home
At only $300, the Meads’ mortgage-free shelter is formed out of reclaimed materials.
Hard Work Turns Historic Property Into Weekend Haven
A historic property that boasts a creek and grist mill is where the Mechlings decide to build a debt-free weekend home.
Mortgage-Free Living On a Mountain
Betsy and Larry Mehaffey built an off-grid home on a mountain in Idaho. Their beautiful cabin is comfortable and economic.
Burned-Out Abode Becomes Couple’s Homey, Debt-Free Bungalow
A burned out kit home became the Pfister’s bungalow after they took on its cleanup and construction. After just a year, they turned the scorched insides into a mortgage-free dwelling.
Building Two Debt-Free Abodes With One Leg
With only one good leg, Bill Poupore built two debt-free homes, a log cabin and a straw bale abode.
Family Eschews Million-Dollar Debt for Small Dome Kit Home
The Rigoni-Escobar family put their million-dollar home behind them to move into smaller quarters. They paid for a dome kit home with cash and have constructed it together as a family.
Renewable Energy Expert Builds Off-Grid, Debt-Free Home
Paul Scheckel took his time building his house, and thus avoided taking out a mortgage. His off-grid home is powered by sun and wind.
You’re Never Too Old to Be Debt-Free
The Smiths’ cabin, which they built in rural Alaska, started as a shell that the Smiths moved into as they worked. They took their time building so they could save money, and their journey has led them to a debt-free existence.
Large Log Home Built Debt-Free by Hand
Not only has Roy Trembath built a debt-free home that’s larger than most — he also teaches others how they can do the same. Here is some of his advice.
Living the Good Life in a Mortgage-Free Cabin
The Wagners worked for several summers to complete their log house, which they now live in. They spend a lot of time on the property with family pressing apples for cider, hunting mushrooms, and tapping maple trees for syrup.
Amanda Sorell is an Associate Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine.