For nearly two years, one Google employee and his wife lived in a small RV in the lot of the tech giant’s Mountain View, California headquarters.
Pete D’Andrea, 33, has been at Google for five years, transitioning from a temp to a program manager for the research-and-development team.
A chunk of that time — January 2012 to October 2013 — was spent living in the company parking lot with his wife, Kara, 28.
They had no electricity or water during their parking-lot stint — but it allowed them to save 80% of their take-home pay, which eventually covered the down payment for their $530,000 house in the Santa Cruz mountains.
The house has four separate units, one of which they live in. They rent out the other units to subsidise their mortgage, and “have actually paid very little for our home besides the down payment,” they explain.
Living unconventionally to save money was never for the sole purpose of buying a dream home, they say. Having been down to their last $50 before Pete landed his job with Google, they never wanted to be in that position again — hence the frugal RV life.
In fact, when the couple first purchased the home in June 2013, they didn’t plan on living in it. They bought it purely as a rental investment, but in October of the same year, they submitted to the conveniences of running water, electricity, and heat.
Plus, “Kara had been a trooper through all of this,” Pete explains of their Winnebago era. “Life was 10 times harder for her because she didn’t have immediate access to Google amenities.”
A big perk of house life has been heat.
“We used to wear layers to bed to stay warm,” Pete recalls. “One week, the inner walls of the van had ice on them when we woke up. We thought about getting a hotel room but we were too cheap, so Kara decided to put up insulation.”
Of course, heat and other conveniences that the house offers come with a price tag.
“Our transition to a real home was quite an adjustment,” Pete and Kara explain. “We watched our entertainment expenses drop and housing, food, and utilities spike overnight. These were expected and anticipated, but it still didn’t make it easy to pay the bills.”
They also miss aspects of the Winnie life.
“It keeps you humble,” they say. “It’s a small space to maintain and clean. Your whole life is mobile. It’s financially liberating. Tailgating is next level. The campus life was fun, too. You see and know things that nobody else knows.”