You’ll Want to Be Raised in These Barns!
- A barndominium is a metal structure that’s combined with traditional barn space and are called “barndos” for short
- Homeowners can make their barndominium as customized and elaborate as traditional stick-built homes or they can choose a simple design
- When building a barndo, make sure you find a builder who’s experienced with metal construction
- Barndominiums may be financed by small, local banks
If you thought that barns are only home to horses and cows and such, think again. Barndominiums, metal structures that combine traditional barn space with living quarters, have become a popular option for homebuyers looking for an alternative to traditional stick-built new homes.
What is a Barndominium?
The term “barndo” has been around perhaps a decade, but the definition has changed dramatically from the early years.
“In the beginning, they were simply living quarters built inside of a barn,” says Trent Tyson, vice president of lending with Plains Land Bank in the Texas Panhandle. “Barndos today can range from very basic to very intricate builds.
“Some barndos remain true to the original design of having a barn-looking exterior with simple living quarters inside that are a small portion of the square footage. In these designs, the living space shares space with oversized garages, shops, or even livestock sheds and stables, all under the same roof,” explains Tyson. “Other barndo designs are more of a metal-framed home with a barn outer façade, with most of the interior space devoted to living space.”
Flexible Plans & Design Options
In fact, that freedom of design is precisely what makes barndos highly attractive to buyers like Katie and Jeff Brinkman of Austin, Texas. “We opted for a barndo for the flexibility in building exactly what we wanted — and knowing as our family grows, and life changes, we could always add on easily inside if needed,” says Jeff Brinkman.
Their home, due for completion this spring, features his and her offices, four bedrooms and large living spaces in a two-story floor plan, with plenty of parking for RV and vehicles under the same roof.
Barndos today can range from very basic to very intricate builds. — Trent Tyson, vice president of lending with Plains Land BankOnce an owner decides on the desired square footage, the options for designing the inside structure are virtually unlimited. Central Texas residents Kerry and Barry Walker built a two-bedroom, two-bath barndominium that adjoins a covered riding arena with shared roof. “We knew what we wanted, but worked with an architect to spruce up our plan,” says Barry Walker.
Amarillo homebuilder Shane Ward said a barndo was a “practical, efficient, low-maintenance” option for his family’s weekend hunting retreat. The 40-foot-by-70-foot building encompasses four bedrooms, two baths and large living spaces, with plenty of room for an oversized garage for the family’s toys. And in Wenasoga, Miss., barndo owner Kari Beth Nash opted for a single-story open design with a gourmet cook’s kitchen, connected to a 1,500-square-foot gym space.
Barndominium Construction Costs
Initially, lower construction costs also were a draw for buyers.
“However, with the increase in building supply costs, most builders are telling me that a barndo build now is more of a personal preference than it is a financial decision,” says Tyson.
The cost for a barndominium can range from $90 per sq. ft. up to more than $150 per sq. ft., depending on what is included in the home. “You can have custom cabinetry, granite countertops, marble bathrooms, custom floor finishings — the list goes on. Or you can have the very basic of builds, at a lower cost,” Tyson notes.
Before You Start Building…
Think a barndo might be right for you? First, decide who will be involved in the construction. Look for a builder with experience in metal construction or consider what you can do on your own. Some buyers, like the Brinkmans and Walkers, acted as their own general contractors. Another option is to hire a metal building company, a help-you-build contractor, or a custom builder with metal building experience.
Check Pinterest for design ideas or better yet, tour other barndominiums to get design and finish out ideas. “Make sure you hire somebody that is familiar with building houses or other finish outs inside of steel building, and do lots of research,” advises Brinkman. “Try to visit a few and pay close attention to how the framing and steel shell interact.”
Financing Your Barndominium
And research financing options. If you don’t plan to pay cash, look for lenders who are open to financing non-traditional construction. Generally, that will be those that keep their mortgages in house.
“Financing is available for barndo builds, although financing is sometimes limited to Farm Credit lenders and some small, local banks,” notes Tyson, who has financed two dozen-plus barndos in recent years. ”Larger commercial banks aren’t interested in barndos, as they are seen as unconventional builds and are not able to be sold to the secondary mortgage market.”
Freelance writer and marketer Sue Durio has been writing about construction, design and related products for more than 18 years.