As I sit here, toiling over Shipping Container Home plans, I’m reminded that things are getting tough all over…
As you know, we’re having a really hard time getting past all the bureaucrats that decided to stick their noses into our little project. So, we’re stalled out and our patience is wearing thin. So, I’m helping some other families achieve their housing goals, by lending them my considerable insights and insanity…
A build I’m working on in the Carolina’s is going up and down so fast you’d think that it was a roller-coaster.
In the beginning, we thought to build a rather contemporary home, that in my view was destined to come an ISBU landmark.
But “things happen” and budgets change, and rules have to be followed (damn those Planning and Zoning Nazi’s!) and at some point, it comes time to re-access, and try to figure how to get a house up, before the snow falls…
You start every build thinking about “Champagne and Bling…” but somewhere along the line, you’re reminded (usually by your significant other or your accountant) that you’d better aim for “Beer and Pretzels“.
So, I started thinking about how you could get a house up, in a time period of about 3 months, that had the potential to house a small family. Now, remember, according to “Ronin’s Rules“… that house has to be affordable, sustainable, and energy efficient.
It has to supply all of the primary needs;
- Shelter from storms
- Warmth and Cooling
- Nice traffic flow
- Energy Efficiency
- Potential for Power Production
- Low Maintenance
- Provide ample storage, and
- Provide the potential for expandability
Okay, we can do this…
Now, we need about 1,000 square feet, to start out. And, we’re not made of money, so let’s set the budget at around $50,000. That’s the price of a new car, if you can keep yourself from driving into the local Mercedes Benz Dealership.
According to a study I just read:
$50,000 is about a fourth of the cost of a new entry-level “starter home”, in today’s market, in most of America.
The goal here is to build a 2 bedroom, 1 bath home that will provide all of the goals we ‘ve noted, for under $300.00 a month.
Lemme see… $50,000.00 at 6%, over 30 years… is $299.78.
“But…” you say, you can’t get a loan. In fact, everyone in America seems to be in that boat.
You can if you have “equity.” Equity is the amount of money you already have invested in your property, based on it’s current appraisal. It’s the amount that you “don’t owe.”
And, we’re going to aim it so that this little beauty appraises out at about $109,000.00!
That’s about $115 a square foot, the national average for “appraisal footage”, in this category of homes.
So, the day you move in, you’ve made $59,000.00. Naturally, you’ll use that equity, to establish a $50,000 loan. Who’s laughing now? Huh?
Oh yeah, and we need a piece of ground to set it on.
Piece of ground acquired, and budget in mind, how can we do this? After all, what we’re building is a glorified “starter home.”
Here’s what I wanted:
I wanted the family to be able to build this home, out of pocket. It’s a young married couple, with one child, a little girl.
No, they didn’t have a bake sale! Can you imagine how many cupcakes you’d have to sell, to pay for a home-building project? Oy! 😉
They have about $35,000 in savings (after they sold off one of their cars). A relative died, and they got the car. So, their bank account gets a “Detroit Infusion“.
They have “In-Laws” who generously agreed to donate $15,000 each, to help them get the house going. And, they had a piece of ground with a nasty trailer sitting on it, just begging for demolition.
The property already has a good well.
So, we have an acre and a half of land with good south exposure, all the water we need, and $65,000.00 to build with.
It’s time to buy some boxes…
We found a trio of boxes for $1,500 each, plus shipping. They are 40′ High Cube Shipping Containers, and they’ve only been used twice, as near as we can tell. They hauled a load of fabric from China to the Eastern Seaboard the last time out. They’re located in Savannah, GA.
Through a fleet transport broker, we found a guy who has cargo to move from Savannah to Columbia. It’s a huge load of furniture. It’s enough that he can fill several boxes with his gear. The furniture guy will load the containers onto flatbeds and haul his crap north!
This is better still! The building site is nearby. Actually, it’s just outside a small town…
So, we get this guy to use our boxes to haul his stuff to Columbia and then we truck the boxes from Columbia to the building site, a distance of about 80 miles. These are empty boxes and we can actually pull them behind a big Ford F350 Diesel Pickup… which the family just happens to have access to…
So, we have (3) 40′ ISBUs, and no shipping costs, except gas… um…er… diesel. Okay, we’re gonna use some fuel, but it’s a far better cry, than paying over $700 each, to have them delivered to us, via tractor trailer.
But, can you actually build a home out of three ISBUs’ that will comfortably house a family?
We’ve all seen this Adam Kalkin – Quik House floorplan:
Now, I’m not bashing this plan at ALL.
In fact, I’d live in it, myself (with a few “twists”). But THIS HOUSE will cost you a lot more than $65,000. In fact, this house, as cool as it is, will cost you almost $200,000 before you’re through, in most marketplaces.
If I had $200,000 to build with, I might consider it… But, I don’t. I have $65,000 bucks. Remember?
I need to build a house to shelter a small family, that may (and most probably will) grow larger.
Hey, I just had another child… and I’m 50 years old. It CAN happen!
No, smarty-pants, it didn’t involve a mailman, or an appliance repair guy… At least I don’t think so… Hmmm…
Not only do we need to get this house up fast, we need to provide the owners with the potential for expansion.
I’m thinking something like this:
I know, it’s not as pretty as Adam’s plans… Sheesh, everybody’s a critic!
Here’s the deal;
We lay three 40′ ISBU’s side-by-side. We haven’t decided on a foundation yet, but I suspect it will simply be three “footed” walls 24′ wide, 1′ wide, and 5′ high, spaced 20′ apart, on center.
Now, those walls will start below grade, so we’re only lifting the boxes up a foot or two.
Oh yeah, by doing this, we don’t have to do a massive site prep plan. And, if we want a taller crawlspace underneath, we just pour the walls a foot or two higher.
Boxes in place, we have a 24′ x 40′ x 9.5 shelter. Almost 1,000 square feet. 960, to be exact. Now comes the fun part. We gut the interior walls out. Practically all of them will go. Depending on final design, the bathroom and the kitchen may still have a partial corrugated steel wall. But, you won’t see them.
The drawing is pretty self-explanatory. What it doesn’t show is the ability to add access to a second floor, if necessary. For instance, you could add a “loft ladder” to the bathroom hallway, opposite the bathroom door.
You see, later, I’m thinking that they’ll build UP, onto the “roof terrace”, and take that entire back section, to build a nice Master bedroom, right over the two lower bedrooms.
The lower bedroom closets will have to be reworked, but that’s not that hard to do.
“What? No tub in the only bathroom? Ronin, are you crazy?”
Relax… keep reading.
Our family got a Steam Shower as a gift from a relative who installed it, and then hated it.
Whaa? How in the world can you hate a steam shower? He must be nuts!:)
And, showers take less water than a tub bath, x the number of occupants. We’re fetching our own water via that well outside, so we’re going to conserve it.
Anyway, because the family stressed that they only take showers, we can put a hot tub up on the roof, for those times when Mom and Dad need to soak under the stars.
It’ll be “quality time”.
The roof (planned to be accessed by a “u-shaped” wooden staircase outside) will be large enough for our “solar farm” (solar and photovoltaic panels), a nice terraced space, plus a cool little landscaped area used to get away from the kid(s).
We’re talking about a “parental oasis” possibly.
And Later… that new Master bedroom won’t interfere too much – they’ll just have a cool deck outside their bedroom, with a hot tub on it. The solar and photovoltaic panels will re-mount to the awning roof.
And here’s the cool part;
Remember, they started with $65,000.00. $35,000 was theirs… and $30,000 came from the “In-Laws”.
You build the house for $50,000.00.
Yes… $50 Grand. How? Well… we’re gonna use some volunteer labor. It’s nice to have relatives that are construction workers, plumbers, and electricians.
That means that you still have $15,000.000 left over.
Hey, as Billy Mays used to say… “But wait… there’s more!”
- We’ll use government programs to help offset the cost of the solar and photovoltaic systems.
- We’ll use that new Cash for Clunkers Appliance package, to help pay for appliances.
- We’ll apply for a Government grant to actually help build the house.
That’ll bring in about $28,000.00 to go back in the bank.
We found a grant that will help families build a home, to the tune of about $15,000.00. It’s a grant. No pay back. ZERO! That, plus the existing energy and appliances packages available will yield at LEAST $28,000.00.
That means that you have $43,000.00 in your hot little hands. But, it’s a good idea to pay back “you know who” or you’ll never hear the end of it… trust me.
There goes $30,000.00!
You’re back to $13,000.00. So, you’re only out of pocket $22,000.00 so far… IF you stuck to the budget as closely as you could.
I’m betting that you only have about $5,000 left over.
After they get their appraisal and their certificate of occupancy, they can take a loan out on that house, that equals any equity they created. I’m betting it will be way over $50,000.00. That means that they’ve immediately paid back the “In-Laws” and they still have money for decorating.
They have a brand new house, brand new appliances, enough power production to offset the majority of their power bills, and money in the bank.
They apply for, and get that $50,000 Home Equity loan. The payment is $299.78. Remember?
So, cash in hand, we pay some bills. In fact, we pay ALL of them. This way… “Nervous Nellie Nana” can just shut the heck up about carrying a bunch of debt…
This family is going to make a mortgage payment now, but it’s only $300.00. That’s far less than rent for a comparable space.
And, they can add on, later.
Is America great , or what?
After we ‘final’ the designs, I’ll talk about exactly how we’re going to accomplish this.
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And… Stay tuned for another exciting episode of:
“What’s that ‘Container idiot ‘ up to, NOW?”