We’re helping several families build small ISBU (shipping container) based cabins in rural areas. These cabins are being used for everything from “Vacation Retreats” (hunting, fishing, hiking, etc…) and Guest Houses to rural 24/7 “Tiny House Living”.
Some readers are forwarding this little house to me thinking that there might be a lot of value here for a little more than $17k:
Let’s take a look at this, shall we?
First, it’s 12 feet wide. Try getting that on a trailer to haul across the country. It could prove expensive to move it farther than across the county in the dark…
And, it’s not a “whole” house. It needs to be completed. It’s just a shell.
Okay, but still, it’s $17k, right? But is it a good deal?
How big is it? 400 square feet?
Um… nope. The math doesn’t work.
First, the most glaring pothole is that the claimed square footage is about DOUBLE the real square footage. This cottage is 192ft² on the main floor with a low-ceiling “sleeping loft” (which you cannot legally count) plus an open porch.
NOW do the math, again…
That’s over $90 a square foot, before you get it to a trailer to move it.
It’s going to cost you a few bucks a mile to move it, if you strong-arm your Uncle Ed and his Semi, or rent a big farm truck and flatbed trailer. Don’t forget “oversize” permits.
And then, once you have it moved, you still have to figure in completion costs. You’re easily going to be in $125 – $130 a square foot territory in no time.
For that kind of money, you can do better.
Not convinced? Let’s look a bit deeper;
It’s important to regain that lost square footage if you’re going to live in this house for any extended period of time.
If you’re leaning this direction, here’s some observations;
Enclose that covered porch.
It wouldn’t be terribly difficult to do this and you’d gain living space/”sunspace”. Remember that it has to be “conditioned space” to count. So, use a mini-split AC/heat unit (like the Fujitsu) and now it actually qualifies as “living space”.
Now, you’re up to 288ft².
It’s time to address that”loft”. The loft (as depicted) isn’t really 96ft². It can’t possibly be.
Here is why:
First, we’re thinking the property tax assessor did the measurements. ;)
Half stories (inside the roof) are NEVER measured from the outside of the ground level. These spaces are only measured for their –>interior<– space.
It gets more complicated, due to that roof pitch. Only space that has greater than 5ft headroom can be counted in the floor area and a minimum of half the counted floor area must have at least 7ft head room. So, if the ceiling only rises to 8ft at the ridge, then only the areas with a 6ft or greater ceiling height can be counted. It looks like that house has no ceiling even as high as 7ft.
To be counted in the habitable floor area, the space being discussed (the loft) would need a standard (approved) stairway to gain access to it.
Did you know that ladders, ship’s ladders, Jefferson stairs, narrow spirals, bookcases you can climb, while perfectly appropriate to put in a house, cannot be used to allow you to calculate additional square footage?
The rules are very specific. If there is no standard staircase installed to allow access to a space, it CANNOT be counted in the habitable square footage floor area. Period.
It should also be noted that the people selling this “Little House” shell are not only counting the space outdoors (unenclosed on the porch) and the loft where the ceiling was less than five feet above the floor, they were also counting the area inside the ceiling between the rafters that is unusable (the narrow areas where the roof pitch reaches the floor) , as habitable living space.
This is deceptive, bordering on dishonest.
You can build one heck of a small ISBU cabin for that kind of money and get usable, livable space pretty easily. And if you do it right, you]ll have money left over for Photovoltaic panels and groceries.