Single dad escapes the rent trap by moving into a caravan

The caravan before the renovation

When single father Tom despaired of ever being able to afford a home of his own, he came up with a radical idea.

With savings of just £11,000, a bricks-and-mortar house was out of the question. Instead, Tom took the unusual step of buying a 32-foot long Airstream caravan from the US, and transforming it into a two-bedroom home for himself and nine-year-old daughter Katie.

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His initial budget for the conversion was just £15,000, with Tom doing all the building and decorating work himself. While he ended up overspending by £9,000, he still ended up with the home of his dreams - mortgage-free - for a total of just £35,000.

Given that he was previously paying £12,000 a year in rent and now spends half that for space on a caravan site in the West Midlands, it means that he could cover his costs in just six years.

"I don't like the idea of being tied down," he says. "Whether it's renting or mortgage, I want to be freer."

Sarah checks out the kitchen

Tom, featured on Channel 4's How to Live Mortgage Free, ripped out the tired 1980s interior and transformed it into a light, airy space. It now boasts a good-sized double bedroom - Katie's when she stays over - with a day bed in the living area.

"I want it to feel light and open," says Tom.

There's a tiny but fully-equipped kitchen area, with a fold-away breakfast bar, a dining table and working space. And there's even a luxurious wet room, thanks to a suggestion from presenter Damion Burrows.

The compact kitchen

"This is not a caravan as we know it at all, it feels so light and airy," says Damion. "It's almost like he's turned the whole thing inside out. This is such a nice social space."

How To Live Mortgage Free aims to inspire would-be home-owners with ways of escaping the mortgage trap. In the same episode, the team meets a Cotswold couple who created a home from a pair of former mobile offices for just £36,000, and a Shropshire couple who built and sold a second house to clear their debts on the first.

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