Buying Land and Building Shipping Container homes in Los Angeles,

33 Replies

Hi everyone,

My hubby and I are looking to buy land and build a container multi-family home in Los Angeles county next year. Does anyone have any container building companies they recommend? We've been bombarded with  options and they all claim to be the best. Also, does anyone recommend any particular banks for construction perm loans?


My cousin and I were considering this process as well. From what he's gathered, as long as the property is above ground (similar to a trailer) you can avoid most of the LA regs. It appears that the guidelines are very vague and non-descript. Our strategy is more focused on finding an existing property with an expansive back yard that has enough land to build. You would need to look into the local zoning laws for the area before considering this a viable option. Finding vacant land in LA will be tough and you will still need access to water and power once you get it.

Zoning is potentially an issue but building code is the bigger issue.  The vagueness is demonstrating that the completed product meets all of the building code requirements - the original intent of these was of course not habitation so the local agency (LA County in this case) needs to be provided the evidence to approve these as structures meeting building code requirements.

Hi Guys,

To answer your questions @Alon L. yes LA does permit container homes, the city actually has a green housing program that will even give you free shipping containers. I will look up the name of it and post when I find what I did with it. We won't however be going that route. 

@Scott Rose You are correct, we are planning on building above. We would prefer a property that we can tear down but we've found properties to be way over priced at this time. We have found a few that were in development but never completed is a better option thus far. 

@Matt K. We will actually be house hacking and eventually move out once we get our next property.

@Randy Chapman Thanks Randy! I appreciate that.

Brittney - just out of curiosity are you looking at LA County or City of LA?  Completely different processes hence my asking.  If county, general area is going to impact how easy of a time you'll have getting through the process (i.e. Lancaster is easier than Malibu).

Even city, your mileage will vary depending on which district you're in.

Giving this thread a bump... I'm considering the same strategy as @Brittney Wilson-Murray in the City of LA and am curious if anyone has knowledge of the costs of all the surveys, geological reports, permits, city fees, etc. that are required to build.  Obviously there will be a range based on the planned construction, but I wonder if anyone can give me guidelines?  (I'm looking in a hilly area so would need to deal with building on a slope)

Hi Guys,

Sorry I've been gone for so long! @Chris You @Julie McCoy @Stanley J Okazaki

I believe the info can be found at also check out the Port of Los Angeles.

They revamped the site so I don't see the article I originally found. But it was my understanding that you much submit a proposal and talk about the Green benefits of the project you are trying to and the specs you need. 

-Locations that are approved are hilly areas (I'm looking in canyon areas and deeper valley spots)

-Soild testing I was quoted  about $3k but can range

-Even the cost of the build ranges depending on how easy it is to get water to your plot of land.

Hope this is what you were looking for.

Stay awesome!

Hey Brittney ,

I have bonded together multiple containers making them into a Mutli Family. 

Depending on City & State you may have a long trail of paperwork ahead.

I mainly focus on cities that give you leeway to be creative. 

Some States will be  fine with them  while other  Building Dept's don't understand the product  and consider them UFO like. 

When you go Big & Wide like mine you need some expertise and creativity .

Send me a private message if you want more info .. I'd be glad to share

You can see a sample MultiFamily under construction here  .

@Brittney Wilson-Murray I've been off the forums quite a bit as well and just revisited this post.  One thing to be careful with, hilly areas come with their own challenges.  LA City and LA County both restrict your building based on how steep the slopes are on the property, you will have to satisfy all of the hillside ordinances, and then of course you have fire danger (which you will pay a high property insurance rate for).

That said, the hillside projects make for beautiful homes and fun designs.  Just anticipate more regulations and higher costs across the board.

Hi All,

Just giving an update, this project has been on hold thanks to the fires we were dealing with and now the floods.

SInce all this has been an issue we are thinking we may sell this land and start again elsewhere. We've had a crazy amount of delays due to zoning, water distro. ect.

Will touch back if we are able to get it all worked out.