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Ah, shipping container homes. They’re all the rage with DIY homeowners right now, with pictures and videos all over the internet showing off the glamorous customizations that turned them into truly enviable living spaces. And it sounds so simple, right? Just plunk one of those puppies down on your property, do some personalized renovations, and you’ve got yourself a cheap and unique home!

Well, there’s a bit more to it than that. The idea of using shipping containers in architecture goes back to the 1980s, but they only gained mainstream popularity within the last decade. They’re considered an eco-friendly housing option—by recycling a shipping container and converting it into a home, you cut down on other materials that would ordinarily be used in the construction of a standard house.

Cost

Depending on how decked out you want your home to be, like combining shipping containers to make a bigger living space or adding more elaborate amenities, it can range from an affordable option to a splurge that only someone making triple digits can handle. However, there are things you have to account for to make the space livable, such as insulation, interior walls, and utilities like electric and plumbing. There’s also the matter of labor, as you’ll likely need the help of a professional contractor to make sure the final product is shipshape. 

If you have experience with construction work and are content with a barebones shipping container home, you could possibly get away with building one for as low as $10,000. But if you want a multi-shipping container home with all the creature comforts, you could be looking at an average cost of $150,000 to $175,000.

Permits

Before you start construction, you’ll need to obtain the correct permits to comply with current building codes. What’s required varies depending on the area and what you plan to build. There are some local governments that don’t have anything firmly in place concerning shipping container homes, which can make the process of finding out what will keep you in compliance more complex than expected. Consult your attorney and contractor to see if building a shipping container home is feasible for you in your area.

Funding

If you don’t have the funds necessary to build a shipping container home, you’ll likely need to obtain a construction loan. However, it’s advisable to have an established contractor on board, along with completed construction plans to ease the minds of potential lenders, who could very well balk at the idea of funding something that can’t have it’s value estimated using traditional methods like comparing similar homes in the area.

Additionally, container homes aren’t always considered real estate. What this means is that if the container isn’t built on a permanent foundation or isn’t in compliance with standard building codes, it can’t be financed the same way as a true piece of ’real estate,’ which has to have a recorded title and, subsequently, property taxes.

If you’re looking to buy an already-established shipping container home, the same rules apply. It has to be taxable and have a recorded title in order for you to obtain a standard mortgage.

Takeaway

Shipping container homes have a lot of perks, but you have to be willing to do rigorous research and jump through the necessary hoops to realize your dream of a customized, unique, and potentially more affordable home. Fortunately, their growing popularity has resulted in more companies and contractors who specialize in building shipping container homes, so you don’t have to go into the venture blind.


At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.

In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: Title Insurance: Protected from the Unexpected

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