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We Bought a House…. !! Our Long Term RVing Plans at SKP Saguaro in Benson, AZ

Ok.. well, not technically.

First, we didn’t buy property. We purchased a lifetime lease.

Next, it’s not really a ‘house’ but an RV lot with a casita.

But still, we’re super excited to have finally reached this milestone that has been in the works for over two years and all part of our long term plans for splitting our time between RVing and boating.

We’re the Newest SKP Saguaro Park Leaseholders

So first, the big reveal – last weekend we purchase a lifetime lease to Lot #172 at the SKP Saguaro Co-Op in Benson, AZ.

From the SKP Saguaro website (even though they forget my last name 😉 ).

And we’re a wee bit excited about it!

What is SKP Saguaro? What is a Co-Op?

SKP Saguaro – From our Nov 2015 Visit (on the hiking trails behind the park)

Located in Benson, AZ just south of Tucson the SKP Suaguaro Co-Op RV Park is a vibrant community of fellow Escapee RV Club Members.

The Co-Op isn’t owned or operated by the Escapees RV Club, but by members of the co-op. There are several similar co-ops in the Escapee’s park system around the country.

Founded in the early 80s to embody the Escapee’s spirit of ‘sharing and caring’ and to be non-profit place for members to live in their RVs affordably and in comfort.

Leases start at a one time purchase of $10,674 – which gets you a basic 75′ x 52′ RV site, as well as access to the community amenities like a clubhouse, woodworking shop, gardens and more. Some lots have casitas or sheds, for which the actual cost of building & improvements is added to the lease cost.

When you’re ready to give up your lease, it becomes available for someone to take over at the actual cost of what you paid for your lease plus capital improvements (no profiting, no selling/marketing, no passing it on to an heir).

The multi-purpose clubhouse.

On top of the one time lease purchase, you pay an annual maintenance & operating fee (this year it’s around $1400) for upkeep of all of the community amenities, and property tax. Cable, Wi-Fi, sewer and water are covered, and you just pay for your actual electric use.

Your self contained RV must be the primary residence on the lot, the casita however can be an extended living room, storage and/or private bath.

When the leaseholder isn’t in the park, the lots can go into a rental pool to become available to others passing through (they have really affordable daily, weekly and monthly rates). Those in the rental pool earn credits towards their maintenance fees.

SKP Saguaro is registered as a 55+ up park to meet FHA regulations for exemptions, but they are welcoming of those under 55 but over 18. As long as they don’t exceed the 20% quota of residents under 55 – they’ll continue this policy.

(For more on 55+ up rules: Can You Stay in 55+ RV Parks if You’re Under 55?)


To become a leaseholder, you put your name one their Hot List (for a deposit of $500 – which gets credited towards your lease purchase) – and as leases become available you call in to express interest. If you’re the lowest number on the list, you get first dibs on the available lot of your choice.

The wait time is generally around 2-3 years.

So Why Did We Become Leaseholders?

A lot folks ask us long term nomads if we’ll ever settle down, or what happens when we feel called to be more stationary. Co-Ops like these were established for precisely that time in an RVing journey – for folks not ready to give up RVing, but not ready (or able) to move back to a sticks-n-bricks.

While we feel no call for either anytime soon – we did want a safe place to leave our RV while we’re cruising and a desert southwest winter launching pad. And maybe a place that eventually becomes a winter home-base.

We love spending our winters in Arizona – roaming around boondocking and engaging in the vast social opportunity with our community. So the location is perfect for us and still easily reachable from the east.

Thanksgiving dinner with Jil & Tom at SKP Saguaro (in our rented spot).

We first visited the park in November 2015 to hang out with our friends Jil & Tom – we shared Thanksgiving with them there. We were quite intrigued by the concept of the park and community – and in particular their lot with a spectacular back porch with an open view of the Dragoon Mountains.

We went back for a second visit in February 2016 on our way east – and decided before leaving to put our names on the Hot List and start the countdown. We could always remove our names at any point and get our deposit back.

Happy Hour in 2016 on Jil & Tom’s porch (both buddies Nina & Paul and JP).

We started getting serious about securing a lot late last year – as we intend to spend this upcoming winter in the southwest.

We had actually briefly fantasized about having a lot by March, and just getting Zephyr there after our visit to Texas.

As every basic lot came up – we called in. We really weren’t interested in one with a casita, we just wanted to get our wheels in the door. Current leaseholders actually get first dibs at any new lots that become available before Hot List members, so we can always upgrade later.

But alas every time we called in, we were told someone much lower on the list beat us to it. Every week, our names dropped further down the list to a point we felt confident that we’d have no problem getting a lot by the time we wanted one this winter.

We kept our eye on the available lots anyway. And we also learned that our friends Jil & Tom decided to move to Oregon recently.

When I saw their lot come up last week – we decided ‘what the heck’ and called in. Even though we were realistically 10-15 spots ‘too high’ to snag a spot.

Imagine our surprise when we were told Lot #172 was ours!

Not only had we checked ‘Get lot at Co-Op’ off our to-do list, serendipity aligned to get us THE spot that initially introduced us to the park (and one we already knew we’d love!).

Jil was of course the first person we told.


For those curious, our lease purchase price with a little pink casita with a living room, storage, porch and plumbing for an eventual bath was $28,392.54 (including this year’s maintenance and property taxes).

The casita (with porch) is 12′ x 24′ with an interior living room of 11′ x 15′, and the RV parking pad 14′ x 62′.

The Plans?

Sometime this fall we’ll store our boat and make our way back to Texas to get Zephyr out of storage. And then we’ll enjoy a leisurely trip to Lot #172 to get settled in (and apply to change the exterior color of the casita pronto), and mix in enjoying some exploring around the southwest.

Zephyr will stay in Benson during the summers while we’re RVing. Yes, it gets hot there, but this is actually the EXACT area of Arizona that Zephyr served her entire service life as a commercial intercity passenger bus. There’s little humidity to worry about, the park is actually at about 4200′ elevation (so  not as bad as other areas of AZ) and we’ll have access to power to run an AC.

When Zephyr isn’t there, we’ll be leaving the lot in the rental pool.  If you stop in SKP Saguaro to check it out – you can actually request our lot. Be sure to send us a picture enjoying the sunset there.

Ahhh… sunset at SKP Saguaro.

We also not-so-secretely hope that other Xscapers might be tempted by the idea of SKP Saguaro and join us in Benson?? Yes, please – get on the hot list and become our neighbors!

Current update

We’re unfortunately still in Ft. Pierce. The new generator was installed nearly 2 weeks ago and is working like a champ. It’s the cabinetry work that is lingering on. I won’t go into the frustrating details here quite yet.. but it’s coming together and looking awesome.

Please keep your fingers crossed the carpenter finishes it up and we can move along any day now!

We’re well aware hurricane season officially started at the beginning of this month and we’re anxious to get some miles north.

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65 Comments - Still Plenty of Room for Yours!

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  1. Greetings from Saguaro SKP park Benson lot 194:-) Was excited to hear you were a new leaseholder just a few lots from mine – but disappointing to hear you’re not coming to Benson this winter-:(

    I’ve followed your blogs/vlogs for several years now and thank you for sharing!

    Today I noticed a new YouTube video detailing your search for a van camper.

    I understand you’re searching for something short ( less than 20 feet ) but full featured. Personally I own an Airstream Westfalia – which I use as both a daily driver and for my summer travels to escape the desert heat!

    Only 250 of these unique van campers were imported into the USA in 2005/2006. The van is a Mercedes Sprinter model year 2004 and the camper conversion was done in 2005 in Germany by Westfalia. Airstream was the importer/distributor.

    On a rare occasion one of these comes up for sale. Last week I noticed one for sale in the Bay area. Here is a link to the for sale listing: https://sfbay.craigslist.org/sfc/cto/d/richmond-2005-airstream-sprinter-camper/6783905170.html

    If you want to find out more about the Airstream Westfalia here is a link to an owners forum: https://sprinter-source.com/forum/showthread.php?t=72410

    • That is a very cool and unique design! Thanks for the heads up on this – we’ll keep an eye out for a chance to see one in person if one pops up for sale on the east coast.

  2. This is really funny. I’ve read your writings occasionally for the last year but not this article. In November, we stayed at SKP and amazingly they gave us lot 172 for two weeks. Nice spot!

    We are now on the hot list.

  3. Thanks for the follow up. That’s what it seemed like to us but they were so insistent (two different people making comments that we overheard) and I know that train noise can “sneak up” in the middle of the night.

  4. Staying in Tucson now, we had to drive to Benson to check it out. Impressive location and view! I have a question though. When we stayed at Dreamcatcher in Deming, a couple of people commented on how noisy it is there from the train and the highway. They claimed it was worse than Deming where we noticed train & highway. It looked as if “in town” Benson could be bad but didn’t really hear much from the Co-op park. How have you found it to be?

  5. Thanks for explaining how the program works. Would you provide some more detail on the workings of the rental pool? I suspect most leaseholders are there in the winter so their lot is not available for the pool when the demand should be the highest. Then when they are gone in the summer, there is near as much of a demand from visitors wanting to get a spot. How much credit do they give a leaseholder and what is a realistic expectation for annual credits? Thanks.

    • We’ll try to remember to follow-up once we’ve had ours for a while and have numbers to share. Our lot is currently in the rental pool for summer, and will be in for most of the winter as we roam around. Our understanding is that based on the amount of time you have your lot in the pool, you get a portion of the total proceeds of rental income. We shall see.

      • Thanks for the reply and I will look forward to your update later on. So it looks like the revenues go in one big pool rather than allocated back to specific lots. That may be the most fair way to do things. The average January low temp in Benson is 28 F so I can see where heading out to Yuma or Quartzsite is a good idea when the average January low in Yuma is 46 F. You can enjoy some warmer weather and get some savings in the process!

      • Well.. our goal is having a place to store the bus while we’re boating.. and having it nearby as a basecamp where we want to winter, which is roaming around the desert. But who knows, in time, we may find we’ll enjoy being still in Benson for bits of time.

  6. This is appealing. I didn’t know that there was anything like this. You mentioned there are others around the country that this coop has. Where can I find out more?

  7. Hi Neighbors!!!!
    Chris and Cherie, we were so excited to see your post.
    Linda and I got our lot (#270) at SKP Saguaro CO-OP about two years ago and after waiting for almost three years. It’s a wonderful place; so much to do and see. We have much to tell you…
    Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
    We’ll look forward to visiting this winter. (I’ll set aside a special bottle of wine for a proper greeting)
    Safe travels,

  8. Hi Cherie – I have thought about joining an SKP outside of Florida (I am domiciled in FL,) but wondered how the lease/purchase would affect my FL domicile? Is the requirement simply to not spend more than 6 months in a single location outside of FL?

    • There’s no such requirement to spend anytime in Florida to retain your domicile claim. However, you do need to look at the states you stay in for when they might consider you a resident. In AZ, you can be there 6 months out of the year before needing to legally move there – as long as you’re not taking local employment, enrolling in school, etc. One reason SKP Saguaro was appealing for us.

      • Got it – yes; I knew I didn’t have to spend time in FL, but I thought there was something in the paperwork about spending 6 or more months in another state. Now that I think about it, I may be thinking about some detail associated with health insurance… I can’t recall now. Anyway, thanks! And congratulations! I recently stayed in the Benson Co-op and really enjoyed my time exploring there.

  9. Oops I missed this announcement when it was new, I must has fallen off the subscription list again…

    Wait, where’s the TJ’s? Tucson?


    I’ve visited 3 SKP Co-ops this past year and really liked the location of SKP Saguaro, too — in that less crowded corner of Arizona — but that will probably change now 😉

    And the folks there are very, very active — I had a hard time getting any work done! I was in lot #106 — too much inside-road traffic on a corner like that. I see you can walk to the laundry, that’s great! Funny that the showers are in the office building, though, instead of at the clubhouse/laundry building.

    Will they let you paint the casita purple? 😉

    Tomorrow’s my one-year anniversary on the road already, I can hardly believe it. I’ve working hard on getting my blog ready to open it to the public. (Was inspired to do this by meeting fellow bloggers at the Xscapers bash this winter). Thanks to all your ongoing work over at the Mobile Internet Resource Center, I was able to set myself up to be able to work from all the remote boondocking locations I prefer to “live” in! I’m definitely not ready to stop moving around, probably not for many years…

    Looking forward to meeting you at this winter’s bash!

  10. We’ve had our eye on that place for quite some time. Seems to be one of the better managed SKP Coop parks in the SW and it’s filled with friendly folks! At 4200 feet it’s a bit chilly in January and February, but then that givers you an excuse to hit the road and find warmer places during those months. Having you based there in the winter will also likely give us a chance to meet up again IRL which would be nice. Now you just need to drag Nina and Paul out of that paradise called “Europe” and the Fab Four will be reunited!

    Make sure to check out Mi Casa Restaurant in Benson, it’s NOT “your typical Mexican place!”



  11. Will see if my comment loads this time 🙂 Congrats on adding another big chapter to your story. We love the Benson to Bisbee area and Sonoita is on our list of places we could live. The climate is so temperate and the views are wonderful. Enjoy making it your own!

  12. Congratulations Chris and Cherie! Welcome to the world of SKP Co-ops!

    Let me put in a plug for the Co-op I bought into a couple of years ago, Pair-A-Dice in Pahrump, NV. It’s similar to the Benson co-op but has lower entry and maintenance costs.

    Pahrump is an interesting town. It’s the largest unincorporated community in the country (about 30,000 people), 60 miles from Las Vegas. It takes about an hour to get to the Las Vegas airport.

    Here’s our web site: http://www.skppairadice.com/

  13. Welcome to the co-op! We are in the process of trading lots at the end of your street. See you in the fall when we and you get back. I’ll be calling you to officially welcome you on behalf of the orientation committee. Enjoy your summer.

  14. We love, love the Benson to Bisbee area and have Sonoita on our short list of “we could live there” locations. So maybe not neighbors, but someday we could be in your neighorhood :-))) Looks like a great lot!

  15. How exciting! We have friends at the Jojoba SKP in California. We are considering getting our name on the list there, very cool concept. Congratulations, Chris and Cheri!

    • We’ve heard great things about Jojoba – unfortunately, they’re not open to residents under 55. And we’d have to take into consideration the extra income tax burdens of working while in the state of CA (they’re very aggressive about that.)

  16. Benson is a great place spring and fall. I have relatives in Tucson. I stay in the Valley Vista park which is one of my “free” parks with Thousand Trails. Winter is cold by my standards. Lots of people winter over in the Benson area. Summer is just plain hot. I hope you enjoy your site and the addition of the Casita makes it much more flexible.

    • More than likely we’ll be wintering by roaming around the SW and leaving the lot in the rental pool – perhaps returning for bits of time ‘at home’ especially at the end/beginning of our RVing season.

  17. This is so insanely cool. We’re still on the hot list there, so we may well join you one day 🙂


  18. Congratulations on getting a casita! We spent a few winters there recently and were on the list. Then, this last fall, we had an opportunity to buy a place next door at the San Pedro RV Resort. It will soon become our new home base. Love it there in Benson! We made some great friends at SKP. They are casita owners as well…so will look forward to meeting you there at some point this coming winter! 🙂
    I am a Natural Health Consultant for Pets and Their People and will hopefully be holding some seminars/classes in Benson next winter.

  19. Welcome to Saguaro
    Linda Coughenower Lot 200
    We are in the cool Olympic peninsula in Washington state on our lot in the Evergreen SKP coop park lot 632 until Sept.
    See you in the fall.

  20. Congratulations on securing a lot at the Benson Co-Op. We’ve been there on several occasions and added our name to the hot list about 5 years ago. We haven’t activity been seeking a lot at the Co-Op, but you never know in the future. We winter over in Casa Grande and the weather in the summer is definitely nicer in Benson than the Casa Grande/Phoenix area. Way to go guys!

  21. Congrats. It looks great and what a neat idea. We are 5 months into our new life as full timers. Currently in AZ heading to CA to hang with family. After that, we are looking for a place to winter. I’ll check out Benson (BTW, if you have any other suggestions for winter locations, we would love to hear them.
    Once again, congratulations and wishing you all the best and safe journeys
    Ray, Leslie and the cattle dogs
    (no website yet, in the meantime check us out at namasteinmyrv on Facebook)

  22. I just want to be you when I grow up! (My hubby and I are just winding down our sticks and bricks and ready to move to RVing FT in a year… it has been a long road securing our dream) I just found you and have been following. You are an amazing couple. A big fan!~Kim

  23. Welcome to Benson. I am just up the road from you at Butterfield RV park. After following you while I was RVing perhaps we’ll meet one day.

  24. Wow! You are really far south. Further south (and east) than Yuma. The summer heat is extreme in that area. Hope you don’t wear you’re A/C out keeping the inside of Zephyr from melting. The winter temperatures are wonderful down there. The company for whom I worked had facilities in the Phoenix/Mesa area. They never sent me down there in winter. It was always in the heat of summer. The last time they sent me down there was late August. The coldest day was 112 degrees F. The hottest day was 117 degrees F. The worst part was that the hotel maid would turn my A/C off when they did my room. I would come back after a day of work and find the room stifling. I would quickly turn the A/C back on, change clothes, and head out to dinner. I would tell myself that it will be cooler in the morning. I would get up in the morning and find that the cool off got it down into the nineties. I hope Zephyr tolerates that kind of heat without burning out the A/C compressor or other major problems! Wishing you the best!!

    • The park is actually at 4200′ elevation, so there is some relief from the extreme heat that areas like Tucson get. When we bought Zephyr, she was in Yuma in June… we saw 127 that year (and we mostly survived). We would have considered anything below 115 a cool breezy spring day 🙂

    • Carl it’s a very temperate area around Benson and Tombstone with much higher elevations than Tucson and Phoenix. Triple digit days are more rare than snow in January.

  25. Hi Guys, we visited Tom and Jill and saw their (now your) casita a few years back. I agree that they had a great view from their lot.

    Enjoy and Congrats!,

    Mark & Patsi

  26. Congratulations, in our third year of full time life un a 37 foot motorhome (have seen zephyr on I75 going North in Manatee county while we were heading South to Sarasota to see family). We are full time Florida (Have not been able to transition the job to allow mobile life), so we purchased as small RV Port in an owner owned RV Resort in Zephyrhills. Keeping the coach under cover will keep it cooler in the summer heat. Thus will be our base station, and the port gives us a place for storage and extra room to enjoy (And extra facilities). We have a lot if full time year round friends here also.

  27. We were on that list but then decided to change to Jojoba in California because of their emphasis on art studios and the giant outdoor pool and hot tubs! We have some friends at Saguaro so that is disappointing we won’t be neighbors but I think you’ll like it there.

    • We’ve heard fabulous things about Jojoba – we would have considered it except our understanding is that they’re not as receptive to under 55+ members. And, as we’re still income earning – we’d have to deal with income tax issues (CA is extremely aggressive about that.)

  28. Thanks for giving us all the info. I wondered how those parks worked and what the costs were. I would love to do that someday.

  29. Congratulations!!! Now you don’t have to lock Zephyr away when you are off playing with Ynot. We love the location too. Even owned property in the area in the past when we thought we would build. Wish we had signed on sooner at SKP Sagauro as our number is still too high on the list to nab one of the basic lots. Things happen when the time is right though – as your experience demonstrates. So happy for you.

    • For sure.. you just never know! Do keep trying – we hear over the summer, less folks call in and it’s been known to happen that those lower on the list snag a site.

  30. Well dang it, WE wanted that lot! ! We are still around 203 on tge hotlist though 🙁
    Nice to know we might finally get to meet you this winter, after following your blog for several years and learning so much from you guys 🙂

    • Oooops.. sorry we took your lot 🙂 (Ok, not really.) Do keep trying – we hear over the summer, less folks call in and it’s been known to happen that those lower on the list snag a site.

  31. Congrats! We like The SKP Park in Benson as well. It’s a good group of people and a good location for relatively short trips in southern Arizona. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it !

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