Containers for houses

13 Replies

I dont think this requires alot of money to get started. I bought quite a few lots of land in October last year at a tax deed sale. Like Karen says having a home developed by an architect wont increase value. I bought this one lot for $5K and I used google sketchup to design my first container home or rather office as this is a light commercial area. My hope is to errect this at a cost of $15K to $20K after which I can lease it out or sell. I dont expect to make anything less than a 60% yield when it is done. However I have to say that I am very inexperienced at what I am doing as I have never built a property from scratch. I am keen on exploring subterranean home designs as well as alot of my lots are hillside.

Thanks for the tips Jon the city planning and zoning departments have been very helpful. My lot is very small hence the reason to extend upwards. Maximum height I can go is 75ft so I have stopped at 24ft. I also need at least 1 parking space for every 500ft. The key thing the building dept have told me is that my structure has to be fixed in order to be permitted. Im new to construction but I see better margins to be found here at the moment despite my lack of experience.

@Annunciata R. I applaud your enthusiasm and creativity. I've seen container houses featured on some of the HGTV shows, or unique houses. There's far more containers coming into America than going out (does that tell you about the imbalance of trade?) The design you have shown may even work. Of course, you'd have to have a structural engineer, civil engineer, and an architect sign off on it. Hence where the issues come in. All of the plans would need to meet the local building codes, and go through plan inspections, etc. It may be doable, but I don't think it would end up being economically feasible, in earthquake country. Keep us posted though! You might even be able to get some financial backing from a crowdfunding site dedicated to saving resources, recycling, etc. Good luck!

Karen Margrave

Thank you Karen, you mention getting financial backing and Jon mentions finance. Since I have already secured the lot please can any of you give a ball park figure of this concept. My current estimate is about $20K since the lot is flat and I aim at project managing the build. I am keen to know if I am way of the mark as as I have a number of other lots that I would like to develop at the same time. Pam, I hope you don't mind asking this question on your thread. Thank you

My buddy and I looked into this heavily a few years ago. Our idea at the time was to buy large lots out in the desert and put small spec built homes using shipping containers. They are termite resistant, easily moved, wind proof, basically earthquake proof, and can create really cool structures.

Markets change all the time for goods, but when we looked, there was an over abundance of shipping containers that could be had from the Port of Long Beach due to the lopsided trade this country is involved in. Even then though, the cheapest delivered container was maybe $4-5K. That doesn't include anything more than a steel shipping container being dropped on your lot. I suspect your high estimate of $20K is probably extremely on the low side, or not even possible side. I truly hope I'm wrong because these are such cool structures and I'm all for any building that is done using existing materials. They are very popular in Europe and they even construct large apartment buildings out of them. I know there is a spec home in Redondo Beach that was built a few years ago out of shipping containers and there are lots of website developed to these types of properties. Good luck and if you build it in the SoCal area, please invite me to the open house. I'd love to check it out.

Originally posted by @Annunciata R. :
Thank you Karen, you mention getting financial backing and Jon mentions finance. Since I have already secured the lot please can any of you give a ball park figure of this concept. My current estimate is about $20K since the lot is flat and I aim at project managing the build. I am keen to know if I am way of the mark as as I have a number of other lots that I would like to develop at the same time. Pam, I hope you don't mind asking this question on your thread. Thank you

I've never built a house out of shipping containers but my guess is you're going to spend the $20k before you ever break ground. Talk to a GC and get some estimates but I'm guessing by the time you pay for all of your engineering and plans, permits, impact fees, utility connections, etc your money will be gone. Also if you're talking about building it in So Cal I don't know if that structure will ever meet earthquake codes and to make that happen.

I think the only place you could do that for $20k would be a rural area with no building codes that happened to have a supply of empty shipping containers laying around.

@Aaron Mazzrillo Thank you for your feedback, you will most certainly be welcome at the house warming although this lot is zoned light commercial. The prices may have come down a little since you and your freind last looked into this though. I cant remember the long beach supplier that gave me a formal estimate but I have just done a random search on ebay for a guide price. Im after 20ft used. I am going to budget that very $5K for the delivery of the 3 containers.

I will send my concept to a structural engineer who can give me a quote for his calculations and ask the city for an estimate of the cost of permits and establishing utilities at the site. Without a true estimate I am not able to chose whether this route will offer the cheaper build.

Find the nearest school of Architecture (Cal Poly comes to mind as my son in law graduated from there) and see if you can have some students address your project for a Senior project. I'm sure you would still need a liscensed architect to sign off on the project but would save a lot on costs for this having the project essentially done when you bring it to them.

Thank you Ginger that is a good idea. I have had it on my mind to do just that for quite some time! I just dont know where I should begin ie do you call the head of department, make an appointment to see them or just find out from the secretary if there is a notice board where I post my requirements. Ill give them a call and see if they can point me in the right direction.

OMG. I just heard that Rick Harrison (owner of the Pawn Shop in Las Vegas and the "Pawn Stars" cable show) is building a "container-style" mini mall on one of his Las Vegas lots.  But the biggest news to me is what he said during a live CNBC interview... The container-style construction is in the mobile home category thus making them a personal property, not a residential improvement.  He said he is allowed the faster 5-year depreciation on the personal property instead of the 27-year real estate depreciation!!  AND, he only pays property tax on the land value !!  Read about his "container" style construction.  If you learn more about it and the tax benefits please post or reply to me directly!!

[email protected]

http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/las-vegas/pawn-s...

I have a contact who builds these in Texas, he says the average cost for 1200 sq ft duplexes is about $65,000 to build. So I would think $20,000 is just obtaining the land and containers.  

He does build these in NEZ areas which reduce permit costs and requirements. Realistically, in California I would estimate cost to be about 30%-50% higher than here in Texas. You may want to check and see if there are similar programs in California since the NEZ areas are federal designated areas for redevelopment. 

@Annunciata R. that looks like a great project!  I too have thought about using those shipping containers for something.  They sell them here in Tucson for about 2,000$  I have not done the research that you or some of the other responders have done, but I believe there is potential there.  I think you could build some pretty cool stuff with their Lego-like appearance and capabilities.  Good luck! Ill be following this topic for sure!

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