Alternative housing options have popped up more and more over the past decade. Tiny homes and converted campers or school buses have made plenty of people comfortable and happy. Flipped garage space or shipping containers have risen in popularity too. Why? Several reasons.
Firstly, the housing prices in the United States are high across the board. Even in states that used to be considered relatively inexpensive, the average price of traditional homes has climbed steeply over the past few years. This makes basic housing less affordable for the average American.
Rent prices have also risen dramatically. Less than three years ago, we rented an apartment in Phoenix for sixteen hundred dollars a month. Today, that same small apartment rents out for well over two thousand dollars.
Lifestyles have also shifted in the US over the past decade, the internet giving people more freedom to work from home (or on the road). This increased flexibility has also led to an increased demand for the home to double as office space for many people.
And if you need an office in your house, that’s more square footage, which can get expensive.
So due to the rising cost of housing, the decrease in traditional housing options in many places, and the increased ability to move around and work remotely, creativity and ingenuity have birthed more alternative housing options—one of these being the barndominium.
What Is a Barndominium?
A barndominium is a combination of a barn and a living space. Now, you might be thinking of a classical red barn tucked out in the rural United States somewhere, but that's not typically what a barndominium is made from these days.
Barndominiums seek to combine living space with functional space. They're a good option for people who need a lot of square footage but don't have the financial resources to build a house large enough to accommodate all of their needs.
Many barndominiums have living space on the top floor while the bottom floor stays open and functions as parking or a woodshop or a hobby area.
Not all barndominions work that way, though. If you're looking for a smaller barndominium that is purely living space, you might only have one floor in your barndominium that's divided up like a typical home. These models can be hard to spot because they blend in so well.
Barndominium homes are typically cheaper to build than traditional homes, but creating a barndominium is definitely not your typical build, and does require some special skills or a trained contractor to get the project done.
Is It Cheaper to Build a House or a Barndominum?
Square foot per square foot? It is cheaper to build a barndominium than a house in the vast majority of cases. Cheaper, though, does not mean free, or even inexpensive.
Barndominium construction can still cost, on average, anywhere from ninety to a hundred and fifty dollars a square foot depending on where you live. And that cost does not take into account the customizations that many people want.
Cost of Building a Barndominium
Here are a few basic costs associated with building your own barndominium. Firstly, you're going to need to purchase the land. Depending on which area of the country you live in, land can be very cheap or very expensive.
You also need to make sure the land you buy can be zoned for this kind of housing. That may require you to spend a little time with your town council or down at City Hall learning about the rules and regulations of the area that you live in.
If you have your heart set on building a barndominium and it's not allowed in your area, take heart, and keep up the good fight. If you present a budget and a plan to your city council, more often than not, you can persuade the policymakers to make an exception for your project.
We find that people are usually resistant to new builds like this because they don't understand them, so giving the council lots of information and setting out a strong timeline will help your case.
Another cost associated with building a barndominium is the cement slab foundation. Cement isn't expensive, but it's not free either.
If you need to pour a really large pad, you're going to need to pay for the cement company to come out and pour, you'll need to pay somebody to level the land, and before any of that can happen, you’ll probably need to pay a surveyor to come and help you pick a place for your pad of cement.
Photo: Western States Metal Roofing
The next big cost is the metal framing and exterior of your barndominium, and that cost can range quite a bit. Like an old-school cabin kit, you can purchase barndominium-type kits, or you can construct them from the ground up following a plan (which you will need to buy).
Another cost associated with building a barndominium is the cost of building out the interior and finishing it off. You can't just live in a metal barn on a cement pad. The barn needs to be insulated.
Rooms need to be built. If you're going to divide the barn between two floors, that needs to happen as well. Many barndominium building kits come with the roof and walls, but you're responsible for taking care of everything on the inside and making it a livable space.
You also need to consider the cost of running water and plumbing out to your barndominium. It's more than likely that you'll be building your barndominium outside of a traditional neighborhood and maybe even outside of city limits.
In that case, you're going to want to look at the cost of installing your own septic tank and your own well. If those costs aren't feasible, you're going to need to find a way to connect to city power, water, and sewer.
You also face additional plumbing and electric costs that might be slightly higher than in a traditional build because you may be jumping through more than one hoop to make sure that you have toilets that flush, pipes that drain, and lights that turn on.
We recommend that when possible, you work with an electrician and a plumber that have experience with barndominiums.
What Are the Pros of a Barndominum?
Photo: Summertown Metals
The pros of a barndominium start with the cost. It costs less per square foot to build a barndominium than it does to build a traditional home of the exact same size and layout.
Another big advantage to building a barndominium is that you have the ability to really customize your space and build something really big that can encapsulate not only your living space but also your workspace or hobby space.
Because barndominium homes are rising in popularity, you have more options available for customer dominium plans and even custom barndominium kits. Both of these things make the building process a lot easier than it was five years ago.
This also makes the building process more affordable because it speeds up the process and gives you the advantage of still using less expensive materials than in a traditional home build.
Barndominiums are also practical. They can be styled on the inside to look just like traditional homes but have the added benefit of extra open space.
If you already have a barn on your property, you might be able to save a ton of money by just renovating that structure. This is a huge pro for people who want added living space on their property and are sitting on an unused or rarely-used barn.
What Are the Cons of a Barndominium?
There are a few drawbacks associated with building a barndominium. Firstly, it's going to be hard to find experienced contractors and subcontractors who are familiar with what it takes to build a barndominium.
If you live in an area where there are several barndominiums already, you might be in luck, but if yours will be the first, you're going to have more hurdles to jump over than the person who comes after you.
Because you don't have a lot of contractors and subcontractors to choose from who are equipped to take on a specialized job, you may end up paying more for a specialized contractor, or the process may take longer because you decide to wear with a contractor who has never built something like this before.
Photo: Our Barndominium Life
Another drawback of a barndominium is resale potential. There's less demand for barndominium homes than for traditional homes, so if you ever decide to move, you may have a more difficult time selling your home. More difficult, but not impossible.
While barndominiums are very durable, they are susceptible to the elements just like any traditional metal barn, and that means that your barn could experience rust and corrosion. It's a lot of upkeep to make sure that your living space isn't compromised when the elements start taking their toll on your barndominium
Another drawback to barndominium is that you run the risk of a fabrication error. While it would be no fault of your own if a fabrication error were to occur, it would still be a large cost that you would be forced to incur if you wanted to continue to live in your barndominium.
While no living structure is without risks, a barndominium comes with a few more.
Do Barndominiums Hold Their Value?
Photo: Midsouth Barndominiums
Do barndominiums hold their value? The complicated answer is both yes and no. A well-kept barndominium in an area with demand for barndominiums will almost certainly hold its value.
But if you choose to build a barndominium in an area where there is little demand, you'll have a harder time selling and potentially even getting back what you invested.
It's hard to determine just how well barndominiums hold their value because they are relatively new to the market, and they haven't been around for fifty years for us to watch trends and to see how well they hold up over time.
Barndominiums may feel like a risk to potential buyers who aren't appraised on the ins and outs of living in a barndominium, and because barndominiums have a few added risks as opposed to a traditional housing option, future buyers may be wary.
That doesn't mean that you can't educate future buyers on your home and work very hard to keep the barndominium in great shape so that it has high resale value.
If you live in an area of the country where this option is a popular one, you shouldn't have any problem selling a barndominium down the road, or up keeping the barndominium so that it holds its value for a long time.
How Much Would It Cost to Build a 2000 Sq Ft Barndominium?
Photo: Morton Buildings
Currently, if you were to build a 2,000-square-foot barndominium, given the average price in the United States, you would be looking at roughly $100,000 to start. This cost does not include your finishing costs, and is just a national average, so your total could be a little more or a little less.
If you're doing the math, you're recognizing that traditional housing is much more expensive than a barndominium for 2,000 square feet.
For the most accurate quote on the cost to build a barndominium in your area, check to see the cost of land, the cost of contractors and subcontractors in your area, and the cost of a barn building kit.
Barndominium kits can be purchased online, and in some places, they can be purchased locally. There are dozens of companies out there who offer these services, so take a little time to research reputable barndominium companies, and make sure to read the reviews.
Once you round up a few rough estimates, you can begin budgeting and start getting serious about planning your construction.