Updated: Jul 28
Conflicting information on this topic is everywhere, but after talking to folks building barndominiums day-in, and day-out for years, Ive picked up some pointers that almost everyone agrees on.
W A I T
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Lets start by asking some questions.
1. Do you know where you want to build?
Every county treats construction differently. So where you choose to build will determine what the real first step is. Call the county's main office and ask for permitting or zoning. Figure out what inspections your county requires for residential builds.
Some places only require permits for septic systems, some require inspections and individual permits for every trade involved. If youre building within city limits, follow up with the city and see what their additional requirements there are.
2. Will you finance your build with a loan or cash flow the costs?
Understandably, cash flowed builds tend to take longer to complete…mine included.
Getting a loan is one of the most confusing parts of building any home, especially a barndominium. Throw on top of that being your own contractor or building the home with your own hands, and you've got a lot of work ahead of you. Start talking to all of your local banks and seeing what their input is.
TIP: try to find a bank that does all of their work in house. Appraisals, underwriting, the whole shebang. This could save you from getting stuck in a beurocratic nightmare with people you can't talk to face-to-face.
3. What’s your ideal all in budget, and what are you willing to do to balance it all out?
If youre an experienced DIYer, knocking out your own framing or drywall might not be out of the question. Being willing and able to tackle one or two of those big jobs makes a huge difference in the bottom line. By the end of your project, $20,000 in savings on one thing or another could be what keeps you within budget overall.
Some things you can take on with little to no experience (and rented tools/equipment) are
hanging doors & installing hardware
cleaning & sealing concrete floors
site clean up
I will warn you against making this mistake, please do not do this....
Get your heart set on a floor plan or size of home before you figure out who is going to build the house (you or a builder), and how you're going to pay for it (loan vs cash flow).
While it's important to have a good idea of what you want, who builds, and how it's paid for will have a ton of impact on your budget and how you can spend it. If you go into this journey thinking "I'm going to get a construction loan and build this thing myself.", that's great, but the lender available to you may not allow owner-builders, or they could require you to get tons of special licensing to allow an owner-builder situation.
If you owner-build (build it all yourself) you can get your cost per sqft down to $100 or less.
If you act as your own general contractor, you can get competitive bids and bargain shop for materials, keeping costs low.
If you hire a builder and do none of the work yourself, youre looking at a minimum of $150/sqft, and that's a bare bones finished product.
Let's say you fall in love with a 2,000 sqft floor plan.
At $100/sqft that's a $200,000.oo build
At $125/sqft, that's a $250,000.oo build
At $150/sqft that's a $300,000.oo build
Most barndominium builders I've talked to are building between $200 and $300/sqft.
When you look at floor plans, be mindful of the overall size, and remember how incredibly variable finished cost will be depending on the route you have to take.
There you have it, that's my initial advice for someone wanting to build.
I'll be covering the next possible steps in future articles, things like how a construction loan works, what to do if you can't find a builder, how to get bids from trades, and buying a building kit.
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