What is a barndominium? - Home Nation

What is a barndominium?

Ever heard the phrase “raised in a barn.” It’s supposed to be insulting. But what if it wasn’t? What if the barn is actually a barndominium, a combination of a traditional barn and a condominium? Talk about reinventing the wheel.


The trend of building barndominiums has become the latest real estate rage featuring incredible designs. A barndominium, or barndo for short, can be anything from a high-end home to a very basic housing structure. A similarity between barndos being built today is that they are often sheeted with metal on the exterior, giving a classic-modern paradoxical vibe.


History of Barndominiums

Barndos have been rising in popularity in the past few years, but they first appeared on the real estate scene about a decade ago. The original barndo was a simple living space created inside a barn. The exterior maintained the traditional barn look, but the inside was tweaked into a house.


Newer designs are more elaborate and intricate with a complete steel structure overhaul of the exterior. Of course, to be considered a barndo, it has to maintain some of the original aesthetics of a barn, but these can be as few, or as many as the homeowner wants. While the first barndos on the real estate scene were existing barns, currently, people are opting to build new barndos from the ground up.


Related: Farmhouse Style Modulars


What to Consider Before Building a Barndo

There are three main questions to answer when considering a barndo:

  1. Is it a primary residence?

  2. Is it a rental or investment property?

  3. Is it a vacation home?


These questions inform the pertinent decisions one makes regarding the house, like how many bedrooms and bathrooms, furnishings, utilities, and maintenance. Once, the purpose of the barndo is determined it’s time to calculate the cost of building one.


The Cost of Building a Barndo

The cost of building a new barndo is higher since most everything is started from scratch. This includes verifying that a barndo is allowed by the zoning regulations of the locale the house is being built in. If it’s permitted, any permits or certifications involved need to be paid for in order for the construction to start.


Anticipated costs

Lot prep fees

In both cases, one needs to budget for lot prep fees, which is the money paid for the preparation of the land before it’s built upon. If the structure is constructed from the ground up, there is the clearance of the area, drainage of any nearby swamps that may interfere with the construction, and having the land graded if it isn’t flat, to begin with. Depending on the steepness of the terrain, one can spend between $3 and $15 per square foot to grade the land.


Permit fees


Regular building permits must be acquired before, during, and after the construction. The permits range from a building permit, an occupancy permit, septic permit to an electrical permit, and many others along the way depending on the nature of the construction.


In some cases, the owner may want to have their own general inspections of the site done to test the soil and water, amongst other things.


Utility costs


For the home to be fully functional, utilities like electricity, gas, and water must be hooked up to the structure. The concerned companies will charge for their installation. Even for owners who want the homesteading lifestyle, there’s the cost of drilling a well, building a septic tank, and installing solar panels.


Construction materials


The actual cost of construction materials is dependent on what the homeowner chooses. High-end materials like marble tend to drive up the cost, which can be mitigated by using granite or quartz instead. Ordering materials in bulk is cheaper than ordering in batches.




From the builder to the building assistants, this cost can be mitigated by negotiating a rate that takes into consideration that the construction work is a long-term project. Begin by finding a builder and assistants who are well versed in building barndominiums. Because of the intricacies of working with a steel shell, the project needs someone with the relevant expertise.

Financing Options for a barndominium

A construction loan


This is also known as a self-build loan, and it’s a short-term loan that covers the cost of build the house. The construction loan has a higher interest rate than a traditional loan. However, once the construction is completed, one can refinance it into a mortgage. Construction loans require a higher down payment compared to traditional loans because they are more high risk.


Related: Documents needed for a loan



Tap into savings or sell off some assets to personally finance the construction of the house. This may be hard to achieve, but in the long run, it’s the safest route since one doesn’t owe anyone upon completion of the construction. If this is the option one chooses, it’s crucial to begin the process of saving long before starting the construction.


Sell the existing house


Sell an existing home to cover the cost of the construction. One may have to move into a smaller or less expensive space for the duration of the construction, but once it’s completed move into the new house and back to comfort. It is crucial to ensure that there are no existing mortgages or financial issues attached to the older home to guarantee a smooth sale.



Barndominiums are an excellent way to explore a retirement home or a family home with a quirky but trendy twist. Whether you’re thinking of buying a barndo or a mobile home, we can help you step out into a new world of fun architectural design and structure.


To learn more about factory-direct mobile homes from organizing the shipping, to building the foundation check out Home Nation today!