What are Barndominiums and should you buy one?

The lack of existing homes and/or affordable housing has led potential buyers to consider non-traditional ways to buy a home. For example, there has been an increase in the number of parents and grandparents helping their offspring buy homes, either to provide a financial boost or to enter into a multi-generational living arrangement. Other people pay cash for a house and enter into bidding wars against other buyers. Perhaps the most unexpected trend: people are buying barns, or, in this context, “barndominiums”.


“A barndominium is a type of architectural style in which a barn is converted into living space,” says Tyler Forte, CEO of New builds, a general contractor specializing in interior renovation. He adds that barndominiums are typically constructed of corrugated iron with spray foam insulation, and an important feature of these homes is large open spaces (think “open concept” in the extreme). In fact, he says, some are even big enough to store an RV.


But is it really a trend? Home and real estate experts say yes. Learn more about barndominiums, why they’re gaining popularity right now, and the pros and cons of joining the trend.





Why are barndominiums fashionable?

vanessa famulener, president of homes at real estate technology company HomeLight, explains that there are several reasons why the barndominium trend makes sense. “Interest rates continue to rise, causing buyer confidence to plummet, and the cost and time to build a single-family home is unprecedented.” As a result, she says, buyers without cash or the ability to outbid the competition are starting to get creative.


In fact, according to Famulener, new data from HomeLight shows that 16% of real estate agents surveyed say they have seen an increase in buyer interest in bardominiums over the past 12 to 24 months. “Another 16% of agents we surveyed say barndominiums are available in their area,” she says. “Among these agents, the top three characteristics of this housing style include a rural lifestyle (68%), lower cost (52%) and less maintenance (36%).”


Amanda Gunawan, founding partner of an architecture and design firm OWIU, has another take on the barndominium trend. “I think adaptive reuse has grown in popularity because the focus is now on sustainability,” she says.


In the spirit of sustainability, Gunawan strongly believes that older structures can and should be repurposed – part of the reasoning behind a barn renovation project she is currently working on in Woodstock, NY “The barn will be transformed into a dedicated musical retreat to the exploration and study of sound through nature,” she says.The two-story, 1,200-square-foot building will also house a production studio.


Renderings of a barn renovation project in Woodstock, NY by OWIU.
OWIU

However, the barndominium trend doesn’t just include people remodeling existing barns. Some people also choose to build their own barn-style homes from scratch, and they create them just to live in.


Leigh Spicher, interior designer and national director of Ashton Woods Design Studios, tells us that her dad had a head start by building a house out of a barn when she was growing up. Spicher says it’s normal for barndominiums to be on the rise. “The ‘interior sister’ of the farmhouse style has been with us for a decade, so the simplicity of the exterior and the floor plan had to come together,” she says.


Whether you’re a farmhouse style buff or not so sure about the barn-inspired look, here are the pros and cons of buying or building a barndominium.



Benefits of a barndominium

One of the most obvious advantages of this style of home is the abundance of open space. “If you’re tired of limits and labels on space, then this is the style to go,” says Spicher. She notes that open space concepts can help create a sense of inclusion and shared living experiences. “A wide-open floor plan could be a dream to create, because you can divide the space with soft furnishings, like a large sofa or dining table, without cutting off the energy with a wall.” She also recommends building a loft-style second story to separate the sleeping space.


If your home’s design style leans towards farmhouse chic, that’s an added bonus. “If you like the rawness of wood floors, or even concrete, balanced with large windows, this might be the style for you,” says Spicher. “This style often mixes that of farmhouse interiors with a more industrial finish.”


If you plan to build rather than buy, barndominiums can also be a more affordable option, due to the cheaper materials and often shorter construction time. According HomeAdvisora barndominium typically costs between $94 and $120 per square foot, depending on the finishes you choose and the cost of labor in your area, while building a traditional home typically costs between $100 and $200. $ per square foot.


Bardominiums can also be less expensive to own over time, thanks to lower maintenance costs.


“Traditional houses are built with wood, asphalt on the roofs and wooden siding or other porous materials”, Marc Mestaz, realtor at Keller Williams Realty in Bakersfield, Calif., says. But since barndominiums are constructed primarily of metal, he says they’re not subject to weathering like conventional construction.


It can also increase the security of a barndominium compared to a traditional house. “The structure is built with steel beams and cross sections creating total rigidity,” he says. Conventional homes, on the other hand, are more flexible, and Mestaz says they can warp or come apart with sedimentation or seismic activity.


Jason Gelios, real estate agent at Realty Community Pick in Detroit, adds that metal roofing and siding can also make barndominiums more energy efficient. “During the summer months, you can expect the barndominium to be easier to cool down,” he says. That’s thanks to the raised ceilings and open floor plan, he explains, adding that the design “provides a more energy-efficient living space because you don’t have to push air into larger rooms. away or in the corners”.


You can also save on electricity costs by turning off your lights during the day. According to Gunaway, the high volume and high ceilings let in more natural light.



Disadvantages of a barndominium

There are also several downsides to this style of home, some of which are the same as the upsides, just looked at from another angle. For example, Spicher sees the open layout as an important benefit, but admits that after pandemic shutdowns, some people may grow tired of family inclusivity and prefer to have boundaries and private space. “While we love a good open floor plan, barndominiums can lack privacy and even security,” she says.


Another advantage that can turn into a disadvantage: while a barndominium is designed to last longer, Mestaz warns that there is a risk of corrosion. “While the construction is durable and virtually fireproof, the property will require ongoing treatment and weatherization to ensure the elements do not rot the structure,” he says.


Plus, while those high ceilings make it easier to cool the living space during the warmer months, Gelios admits it might be difficult to heat the house in the winter and your heating bills might be higher than if you were in a traditional house.


Funding can also be an issue. “While finding financing for a traditional home is fairly straightforward, financing a barndominium-style home is more difficult,” says Gelios. Even if you find a lender, he warns that there will likely be stricter guidelines and you may need a larger down payment.


A lender may not be the only hard-to-get person. You may also have trouble finding a buyer if you ever decide to move. Mestaz warns that not everyone likes this style of home, so expect your pool of buyers to be much smaller.


And finally, Gunawan highlights the love-or-hate factor: “The outer structure is very easily distinguished by its shape, and people often associate that shape immediately with a barn,” she says. So even if you call it a barndominium, which sounds pretty hip, be prepared for your friends and family members to say you live in a barn.

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