Create a Tiny House With A Shipping Container

Trista - August 15, 2020
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Not All Shipping Containers Are Equal 

One of the first things you need to know when you begin thinking about purchasing and building a shipping container into a tiny home is that all shipping containers are not the same. There are a variety of types of containers that you can purchase. The most common types used to transform into buildings are standard, high cube, and refrigerated. In addition to determining the shipping container’s condition, you have to decide which type is the best for you. Many people are unaware that there are multiple types and, therefore, may not be choosing the one that is the best suited.

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A group of shipping container homeowners was asked what they hoped they had known before starting construction. The overwhelming majority identified that they wished they would have known about the high cube containers. These unique containers are essentially the same dimensions as the standard ones. The difference is that they are an additional foot taller. Who doesn’t want a little more space? However, it is essential to keep in mind that the high cube shipping containers are roughly 50% more expensive than standard containers. Many would argue that the extra food of space is more than worth the extra money. 

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Understand Your Financing Options

If you are seriously interested in purchasing a shipping container to transform, you should know your financing options. These generally include getting a mortgage or a personal loan. If the home is built in compliance with building codes for single-family homes, it can be financed just like any other single-family home. However, you should keep in mind that shipping containers might not be considered real estate. To be regarded as real estate, there have to be property taxes on the asset. There are no property taxes without a recorded title, and it is not regarded as real estate.

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It is also important to note that a shipping container must be connected to a permanent foundation with utility hookups. If the shipping container does not have a permanent function, you won’t get a mortgage. On the other hand, when building a shipping container home, you might be able to get a construction loan. Be aware that some lenders might be nervous about offering a loan since shipping containers are not everyday living. Before diving in and planning to build a tiny home, you might want to consult with a lender to see your specific options. 

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Budgeting for Contractors

Since shipping container homes are unique projects, and many contractors are not familiar with the process, you should be prepared to work with 10 percent of the project’s price upfront. The remaining 90 percent will come into play once the shipping container home has been constructed. Contractors also may be hesitant to take on the job for a fixed price. Instead, they may be willing to work on a time and materials agreement. This agreement typically entails paying for all of the materials and then paying the contractor at an hourly rate. That is why it is vital that when you create a budget for materials.

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Not only do you need to ensure that you create the budget at the beginning of the project, but you also need to make sure that you stick with it throughout the process. It would mean that the responsibility would fall on you to get the estimates, the materials and then pay extra if the project requires it. You might have to purchase more materials or additional items that you didn’t realize you would need initially. Lastly, if the project takes longer than anticipated, it would be on you to continue paying the contractor by their hourly rate until the task was accomplished. 

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Don’t Purchase Anything Before Viewing It 

Like any other large purchase and investment, you should never purchase a shipping container without seeing it first. There are many reasons for this. First off, pictures can be extremely deceiving. Online listings can also cover up shortcomings or hide any defects. The last thing you would want is to purchase a shipping container online only to arrive damaged. If you are working to save money, make sure your shipping container’s quality is not where you decide to cut corners. If you do not want to purchase a brand new shipping container, you might think buying a dented container will save you some money.

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While this may be true, and you might be able to save a few bucks by purchasing a used container, you will not want to buy a dented one. The shipping container is the foundation of your home, and it is crucial to purchase one that is sufficient, solid, and not full of toxic chemicals. You want to do your research and ensure that you are careful about buying a container that isn’t damaged, dented, or has been full of harsh chemicals. All of these things can be extremely damaging to your home and even your health if you are not careful. 

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Plan, Plan, Plan

While this has been briefly mentioned throughout this article, it deserves to be mentioned again because it is critical. It has long been said that failing to plan is planning to fail. Building a tiny home out of a shipping container is no different. The best shipping container homes have been thoroughly prepared for months. The planning stage allows for identifying mistakes in advance of the build and allows for a change of ideas. The more errors that can be placed before the construction begins, the better for you. Why? It is much easier and less costly to catch a mistake and correct it in the planning stages.

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Like any other large project, the number of details and decisions to be made can be overwhelming. Commonly, you might change the house layout a few times throughout the process to find the perfect fit for you and your family. Another key tip is to allow yourself plenty of time during the planning process. This extra time will ensure you can thoroughly think through your design, sleep on it, talk it through, and change it before genuinely committing. It is easier to change your thinking and plans during the planning stage. Doing so during the construction stage can be costly and cause time delays.