Why are Barndominiums Cheap — And Are they Actually Worth It?

A home with a metal steel roof.
Getty Images

The “barndominium” may sound like a real estate concept concocted by the infamous HGTV. That’s because, well, it sort of is. In recent years, the idea of a home with a barn-esque exterior but an interior suited to the after shot of a home improvement show has become more and more of a reality. Regardless of the impressive decorating, there are pros and cons of a barndominium.

Sixteen percent of real estate agents surveyed in a summer 2022 HomeLight report said barndominiums were available in their market. They also said interest in the structures increased over the past year or two. HomeLight defines barndominiums as “typically single-family structures made of metal with vaulted ceilings.” They are often cheaper to construct than a standard home and take less time. (Think, on average, around $130,000 to $320,000 for a 2,000-sq.-ft. barndominium versus as much as almost $485,000 for many homeowners.)

Are There Pros and Cons of a Barndominium? 

The ease and affordability obviously attract buyers. Per surveys of real estate agents, the desirability of a barndominium comes down to a few factors, including a “rural lifestyle” and “less maintenance.”

“Barndominiums appeal to people who live in rural areas because they fit with the lifestyle and are a unique way for them to express themselves,” said Jon Ellen Snyder, a Livingston, Montana, real estate agent, in the Home Light report. “They also provide a practical way to store equipment and other vehicles necessary for self-sufficiency.”

Despite their growing popularity, barndominiums present some pretty clear obstacles. Firstly, they don’t work well in extremely cold areas or parts of the country that get frequent hurricanes — we’re looking at you, Florida. Some of the top cities with barndominiums include Knoxville, Tennessee, Gilbert, Arizona, Boise, Idaho, and Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, among others.

But the word is not fully out yet. HomeLight’s surveys showed that 36% of realtors had never heard of barndominiums while 26% knew what they were but didn’t have any in their market. The structures, according to HomeLight’s data, appear to be most prevalent in the Midwest and south Central states and least in the Pacific and the Northeast.

What Exactly Are Barndominiums?

Realtor.com describes them as “a residential building that combines the best architectural elements of a barn and a condominium.” They are generally framed with metal or steel and feature high ceilings and open floor plans — one of the pluses of the flexible internal structure of the barn.

Prices vary depending on how ornate you want to make it and whether you use wood or steel. General Steel Buildings, a Littleton, Colorado-based construction project company, puts the price for materials per square foot for a steel barndominium at between $20 and $31 versus $95 and $125 for one made of wood.

It estimates a two-bedroom barndominium kit would cost between $92,000 and around $260,000. That includes the building system, concrete slab, the build and interior finishes. (A three-bedroom, for reference, would cost between $230,000 and $654,000, per General Steel.) Building a standard house, for comparison, costs on average of around $150 per square foot. It sounds great, but we’re going to talk about the pros and cons of a barndominium to consider.


1. Low cost

As we already established, barndominiums are substantially less expensive on average than the construction of a standard single-family home. Part of the reason for that is their steel exterior. Metal sidewalls and roofs can last more than 50 years because of their durability, according to The Barndominium Company. And while it is not completely maintenance free, what barndo owners need to do often costs less.

2. Environmentally sustainable

People sometimes consider barndominiums more environmentally friendly than the average single-family home. This is largely because of their building materials. Steel is the most recyclable material in construction, per JJ’s Custom Builders, a Pennsylvania-based building company. Buyers also can add certain features to a barndominium to make them even more sustainable, like spraying with foam insulation to reduce energy consumption.

3. Customizable and more expansive

Often affectionately referred to as a “barndo,” these buildings are appealing for their simple customizability. Barns traditionally have high ceilings, giving aspiring barndo-owners ample opportunity to really embrace the barn life with a vaulted, loft-esque ceiling.

4. They often take less time to construct

Barndominiums can take as little as half as much time to be constructed as a standard single-family home. In 2022, it took on average about eight months to construct a single-family home in the United States, per U.S. Census Bureau information. On the other hand, barndominiums can take as little as three months or up to six months to be built, according to Western States Metal Roofing, headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona.

5. They can be safer than traditional homes

Barndominiums are traditionally made out of steel, which is considered a fire-resistant material. Steel can also withstand strong winds, per website Barndominium Life, as high as 150 miles per hour. Steel also has a lower electrical resistance than other building materials, so it should hold up well on the off chance your barndominium is struck by lightning.

The Cons of a Barndominium 

1. Barndominiums don’t do well in every climate

There’s a reason barndominiums are more popular in certain parts of the country, namely the Midwest and Southwest. These structures tend to require more insulation than the average home. So, they’re not the best fit for northern states that experience extreme cold in winter. They’re also not a great match for states that see hurricanes, although this finding is up for debate. (Steel manufacturer Worldwide Steel Buildings claims that barndominiums hold up to a Category 3 hurricane better than a standard home.)

2. They’re not legal everywhere

Not all municipalities and towns allow people to build barndominiums. This can also depend on your individual neighborhood — an Idaho real estate agent in the Homelight report notes that many neighborhoods with homeowner’s associations or covenants, conditions and restrictions have banned barndominiums. Cities like Arnold, Missouri, cited safety concerns.

“These metal structures can look fancier, but we do not feel they are consistent with our current housing stock,” said Arnold city administrator Bryan Richison, to Leader publications in 2021. “We have concerns they will not comply with the building code as far as safety and structural integrity because they are not built to the construction standard of a house.”

3. Utilities can be difficult

The fact that some cities have restrictions on barndominiums has led aspiring barndo owners to try the rural lifestyle. This can lead to some challenges, like incorporating utilities like water, waste management and gas, according to Extra Space Storage. Of course, this is not an unsolvable problem You’ll have to consider a septic tank for water and sewer and a propane tank for gas. But it does come with added nuances.

4. You may have trouble getting a mortgage

Just as municipalities are wary of permitting barndominiums they are not sure are structurally sound, mortgage companies may be reluctant to loan out money for something that doesn’t seem to be a done deal. Extra Space Storage points out the fact that barndominiums are not categorized as a manufactured home, which is more of a known quantity to prospective mortgage companies. But even lenders like Freddie Mac mention barndominiums by name, meaning it may be more difficult but certainly not impossible.

There are plenty of pros and cons of a barndominium. You will have to decide if it’s a path to home buying worth taking (unless the regulations in your area have already decided for you). While yes, it is often cheaper, you may have to overcome hurdles that don’t come with traditional home buying.

Writer Elizabeth Djinis is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder, often writing about selling goods online through social platforms. Her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Smithsonian Magazine and the Tampa Bay Times.