I have to agree on a lot of accounts, as for getting the herp communities involved, it is almost like pulling teeth, just try to get volunteers for a reptile show!! LOL
As for the living arrangements, look for an assumable mortgage that requires no or low down payment and no bank qualifying. I only pay $408 a month for my mortgage and since it is mine no one can tell me what i can own. Way back when I lived in apartments and had to find a place I just said I had a tank and they very seldom asked what was in the tank. My house by the way is small but if I were to sell it now I would be up 18K or so for paying less than I would have for rent somewhere else for the last 4 yrs.
So my final word. Don't waste your money renting, just buy something.