My teenager recently left for college, and my wife and I began to talk about downsizing our home to live simpler and with less clutter now that we don’t need as much space. We started looking into container home living and did quite a bit of research to decide if we were ready to downsize that much. It’s a decision that should be researched well and thought out before making the jump.
Are You Ready For Container Home Living? Container home living is a commitment that should be made after careful thought and research. A 3 bedroom 2 bath home is on average anywhere from 1200 to 1600 square feet. A shipping container is 160 to 320 square feet, so it can be a major downsizing from traditional homes. Going from having a lot of space to space being a commodity is the biggest thing that takes some adjusting.
Container home living is also a rewarding way to live. Reducing clutter from one’s life can also help reduce stress. Taking it off grid and minimizing one’s carbon footprint can feel liberating. But since it is a home, there may be steps you have to go through just like when building a traditional home.
What is the Best Way to Prepare for Container Home Living?
The best way to decide if tiny or container home living is something you can handle is to test it out first.
Our method was to rent a camp trailer for a month to see if we could even stand being in tight quarters for long periods of time.
There are places that rent out container homes on Airbnb which would give you the perfect example of container home living.
Even if it’s to go out to the mountains and glamp for a week, you really should find a way to experience tiny living first before spending time and money on a house that in the end doesn’t fit your needs.
Once you’ve decided to move forward with container living, the next thing is to begin deciding what you can get rid of as far as belongings and what is a must have or keepsake. Space will be limited, and careful consideration should be placed on what is important, and what is not.
Where’s the Best Place to Buy Land?
The great thing about container homes is that they are so versatile in where they can be used. They’re used as cabins in the mountains. Beach houses on prime beach front. Town or city living.
Whether you plan on living on or off the grid can play a big part in where to get land. The further away from cities and towns you are the more difficult it may be to get power and water run to your home.
I’ve Bought Land, What’s Next?
Next comes the planning phase of your new home. Here you want to come up with a detailed plan, especially if working within a tight budget. Without planning, costs can add up quickly and sour your mood from the very beginning.
Two things to take into consideration here is what is your budget, and what do you want to build? Often people get excited about what they want to build and start right away without realizing the overall cost of building.
If you are working within a budget, decide what is critical and important - the things that must happen and be built before you can move in - and take care of those first. Anything else, like fixtures, painting, and flooring can all be easily upgraded later.
Once you’ve set your budget, a good rule of thumb is to set aside at least twenty percent more for any unforeseen events or emergencies that come up during construction.
How Do I Find a Shipping Container?
Unless you live in a port city and know exactly where to go to buy used shipping containers, this first step can seem daunting. Local ads, Craigslist, or even eBay are places to start looking.
With the demand of container homes going up there are some companies online that specialize in procuring and distributing shipping containers all over the country.
Companies will deliver containers just about anywhere. There are always caveats though, like places the trucks and trailers can’t get to, in which case additional transportation is required. It is usually the responsibility of the purchaser to arrange further delivery or any specialty transportation and placement.
One thing to keep in mind: shipping containers aren’t all made of the same quality of steel. The ones that are used for container homes are made of COR-TEN steel which is incredibly durable and weather resistant.
The most helpful tip that you should never forget if you are buying a “USED” container is make sure you know what was shipped in the container and to see the container before you purchase it.
You want to ensure that you are getting a container that hasn’t had any radioactive material or other hazardous items shipped in it, as well as making sure the container is structurally sound.
What is the Cost Going to Be?
Shipping containers can range in cost from $1000 to $5000 depending on size and condition. A shipping container is usually in service for 10 years and will be more on the cheap end of the price range. One Trip containers, like the name suggests, are used once then sold.
Labor is one of those costs that will fluctuate depending on location, but plan on $50 to $150 an hour. Plan on about $10,000 to $15,000 on labor.
This is one area where DIY can save you some money, but make sure if you do decide to go this way that you know and understand the local building codes, if applicable.
There is always the option to buy a ready to live in container home. These can run anywhere from $15,000 and up depending on size, materials used in construction, and location. There are even container homes that cost as much as a stick framed house.
Will I Need Permits?
Each county, city, and town will have different building codes, and it would be impossible for us to answer this with a simple yes or no. This is one of the areas that hiring a local builder or contractor would be a good idea as they would know what the codes are for their city and surrounding areas. If you are doing it yourself, though, be sure to consult your local zoning, building, and/or planning department, and - take it from my experience - confirm their advice and instructions again, maybe even in writing!