As the concept of “home” expands in America to include structures built from shipping containers and 3D-printed homes, one of the most common requests here in the midwest are for what’s called a “Barndominium”. A barndominium is a fully decked-out living quarters combined with workspace, all within a larger restored barn or barn-type metal building on acreage.
This year I seem to be getting a lot of calls from mostly younger twenty-somethings that want to buy land and build a barndominium in the country. In talking to them on the phone, they seem to believe it’s cheaper to build than a traditional home. Although there are certainly advantages to building a barndominium, lower cost is probably not one of them.
Just to be clear, the advantages may include flexible building space, the durability of a steel or metal structure, low maintenance costs, and in some cases it may take less time to build versus a more traditional home. As I said though, a lower construction cost is not one feature of building a barndominium. As a rule, here are some of the costs:
LAND: Purchasing land is often part of building a barndominium since building in developed residential areas can be difficult, due to zoning and permitting regulations by the county. Typically land in this area will run $15,000 to $20,000 per acre depending on features, location, and distance from the city. You’ll typically need cash as most lenders will not finance a loan for raw, undeveloped land.
UTILITIES: Unless the site already has power, you’ll need to pay the electric company to bring wire at a cost ranging from $25 to $50 per foot. For sites that are set a half-mile back on the properties, this can mean bills of $67,000 to $132,000—just for the power. Installing a septic tank typically runs between $20,000 and $30,000 depending on the type of system you choose. If the property does not have a municipal water supply, a well must be dug. The average cost of digging a well about 100 feet deep is $6,000, though low water tables can mean deeper wells and higher costs. Adding a water treatment and purification system, necessary for drinking water, will run between $1,000 and $3,000, not including labor.
EXTERIOR / INTERIOR: Although the exteriors are typically pretty utilitarian, basic barndominium exteriors rarely translate to plain interiors. Most barndominiums are all about interior living and are well-appointed with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, a fully-functioning kitchen, living areas, entertainment rooms, offices, and of course, large work sections. The costs can really add up. Even a standard 72 feet by 40 feet building can still run $153,000 to $182,000 for key elements:
- Building Shell – $45,000 to $65,000
- Foundation – $25,000 to $35,000
- Interior Framing – $10,000 to $20,000
- Electrical – $5,000 to $8,000
- Insulation – $6,000 to $9,000
- Plumbing – $6,000 to $9,000
- Basic Kitchen – $10,000 to $25,000
- HVAC – $8,000
- Flooring – $4,000 to $8,000
- Drywall – $8,000 to $16,000
- Bathrooms – $6,000 to $18,000
- Lighting – $3,000 to $5,000
You’re probably going to spend a minimum of $300,000 with purchasing blueprints, land, utilities, county fees, septic, structure, foundation, and build out of the interior and that’s on just a couple acres of land with a pretty basic build out. The sky is the limit depending on the size of the land, how big the structure is, and what you want to put in it.