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Can I Afford A Shipping Container Home?

Posted By: December 2, 2015 In Featured

Want to build your own shipping container home? Start Here.

If you’re living in the US, you will know that over the last several years, prices for traditional homes have been on the rise, making it difficult for people to get into their own home. Read more about rising home prices.

This leaves people thinking they can’t afford to own their own home, and this certainly isn’t the case. We all know that shipping container homes are affordable and are ideal for many people.

Let’s take a look at what the primary expenses of shipping container buildings are, to show you just how affordable container homes can be.

Can I Afford A Shipping Container Home Container Home?

To answer this question you need to know two things: your budget and the expected cost of your new home.

Clearly, working out your budget is quite simple, since it’s normally just how much money you have in the bank!

Budgeting Shipping Container HomeBut, to work out the expected cost of your new home can be tricky, especially if you haven’t built a home before. Let’s break down the largest expenses when it comes to container homes.

When calculating the cost of your new home, make sure you really drill down into the detail, including the cost of the land, purchase fees and taxes, architect and structural engineer’s fees, etc.

Professional fees and purchasing your land are the two largest expenses you will have. Following this, purchasing your shipping containers and insulation will be the next largest expenditures.

You can find a list of typical shipping container prices here.

Once you’ve calculated the expected cost of your new home, it’s a good idea to set a contingency fund of at least 20%. It’s a sad reality of home building, but the majority of builds do have unexpected expenses and so cost more money than originally expected.

Real World Examples

Below we’ve chosen three well-known container homes. For each home we’ve also included the finished build price so you can see the value for money that container homes offer.

Example One: Containers of Hope ($40,000)

Containers of Hope was built for the Peralta family and was designed by Benjamin Garcia Saxe architects.

Initially the Peralta family approached the architects and explained that they wanted to live in the suburbs of San Jose. They didn’t want to take out a mortgage and get themselves into debt just to own a home. They wanted to live a debt free lifestyle, spend the majority of their time outdoors, grow their own food, and become self-sufficient.

Benjamin Garcia Saxe thought that they could give the Peralta family exactly what they wanted by utilizing shipping containers.

Two 40-foot containers were used. These were placed three feet apart to create a corridor which runs between the two containers. The corridor is covered with a steel roof and also provides passive cooling during the warm summer months!

Another interesting thing about the home is the large glass windows which run from floor to ceiling. These windows provide the Peraltas with stunning views over the San Jose countryside.

Their 1,000 square foot home cost them $40,000 in total. That is not bad for a two bedroom home with a lounge, kitchen, and separate bathroom.

Example Two: Shipping Container Cabin ($35,000)

Larry Wade decided to build this home back in 2010, during the height of the global recession. You can probably see from the photos that the Shipping Container Cabin is similar in appearance to Containers of Hope which is mentioned above.

The cabin was built using two 40-foot containers, which cost Larry $2,000 each. Not only did Larry want to build an affordable home, he also wanted to make the home off grid. Off grid means he wanted his home to be completely self-sufficient and generate its own electricity. To do this he installed solar panels on the roof of his containers. These panels were also used to heat the water for the home.

A noteworthy thing about this home is the creative use of the containers to make a large open plan living room. Larry has cut an arch out of the side wall of both containers to create a beautiful living area for him and his family. The home contains two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a separate bathroom.

You are probably wondering right now, what was the total cost of this home? The total was $35,000 and this price includes buying and delivering the containers!

Example Three: Joseph Dupuis’ Container Home ($20,000)

The final real world example is Joseph Dupuis’ Container Home.

Joseph, like the Peralta family, wanted to own his own home, but didn’t want to get into debt. He decided to construct a container home using three 20-foot containers in the woodland purchased from his parents. The home was built around 35 miles west of Ottawa and the containers were purchased from Toronto for $2,600 each.

Dupuis built the home himself and in total the home took ten weeks to build. At times, he worked fourteen hours per day. He comes from an engineering background and said that the experience was “like a giant science experiment”.

Like the Shipping Container Cabin mentioned above, this home is also off grid, which means it produces all of its own electric from solar panels. For the heating, Joseph uses a wood stove.

The open space in this home has been created by removing the internal walls of the containers. The home contains a kitchen, shower stall, and a dining area. There is an outside bathroom, but we think most people would find a way to build the bathroom indoors!

In total, the home cost $20,000 to build.

Two Great Cost Saving Tips

When you start constructing your own shipping container buildings, here are two excellent tips which will save you a buck or two!

The Smaller the Better

Now this tip is quite obvious when building any new home, but it’s even more true when considering shipping container homes.

You need to carefully design and plan your shipping container home before you even think about purchasing your shipping containers. Changing your mind about the overall design of your container building once you’ve started construction can become very expensive.

If the design of your home means that you aren’t fully utilizing a particular shipping container, ask yourself if you really need that extra bit of space. Containers are not inexpensive, so buying more space than you need can be a pricey mistake. You want to plan your home so you use just the right amount of shipping containers – not too many, not too few.

Make Good Use of Materials

When designing your container building, try to pay attention to the sizes of the materials which you are using. For example if you’re going to be using drywall to board over your insulation, then make sure to purchase it in 8-foot tall sheets so it fits perfectly inside your container.

Summary

Shipping container buildings are extremely affordable. When you take the appropriate measures and thoroughly plan the construction of your home, you can further reduce the costs!

We have shown you three examples of affordable shipping container homes. Use these as inspiration to jump start your own designs. Remember that while all the example homes were incredibly cheap, they were also built by the owner, which saves a lot of money. If you pay a contractor to build your container home for you, it will significantly raise the cost.


Let me know below how much you have budgeted for your own shipping container home.

Comments
  1. Michael

    Tom,
    We are really discouraged after buying a piece of property and now looking at a dumb modular home. After contacting an Oregon firm for SC plans, 8 40’s a top of each other
    utilizing the roof as a top deck, they wanted to charge $6-8 for engineering plans to be signed off on.

    One, does this sound right? If so, are there really only three engineers willing to sign off on affordable plans and holding the “so called affordable home movement” at gun point for high cost engineering plans?

    This sounds like robbery on the little guy.

    Your thoughts?

    Michael

    • Tom

      Sorry to hear things have been difficult. When you talk about using multiple containers and stacking, having an engineer involved is for the best, and usually required if you’re in an area that requires permitting. As far as a reasonable price, it’s hard to say. The complexity of your design dictates how much work is needed, and the experience your engineering firm has with previous container builds dictates how quickly they can finish that work. Not sure what you mean by the statement regarding three engineers. Engineers are licensed by the state they operate in, though most states will grant reciprocity from other states. You need an engineer licensed in Oregon (though they don’t have to have an office in Oregon), with training in the specific discipline (so, a licensed electrical engineer isn’t going to be much help). While we haven’t done a survey, surely there are more than three in Oregon. If you have more questions, feel free to email us via the “Contact Us” link at the top of the page.

  2. Amy Belhumeur

    Hi. I’m moving to Montréal, Québec, Canada and I’m contemplating buying a tiny lot and build my own thing. Any chance you deliver to this area? Where should I start?

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