Forget Tiny Homes – It’s all about Barndominiums now

  • Barndominiums are popping up all over the United States.
  • These farm-style houses combine living space and a garage or work area under a single roof.
  • Economic factors and a renewed interest in farm households are contributing to the trend.

A couple of years ago, Colleen Roberts and her husband Mitch celebrated the 4th of July at a friend’s childhood home in northwest Missouri. Soon after, her husband decided he wanted a barndominium—a barn-style steel house—of his own.

“I said, ‘Absolutely not,'” Roberts told Insider. “After touring inside, I realized how nice they could be.”

Two children later, they got their chance. They had outgrown their home and were looking for an alternative that was spacious, affordable and required minimal maintenance.

When they compared the price of a Barndominium to that of a traditional home, it was easy.

Colleen Roberts and her family in their bedroom

Colleen Roberts and her family in their bedroom.

Robert’s Farmstead



“We were under $400,000, not including the land since we already owned it,” Roberts, a civil engineer, told Insider about construction costs. Like many childhood bardominium lovers, the couple took on the role of general contractor and oversaw the construction process.

In the two years since they moved in, their childhood home has turned out to be everything they had hoped for. Their attached garage gives them space to host parties and do DIY projects without leaving the house. There is even room for their two daughters to ride their bikes.

“I could never go back to a small garage. Our previous home was all brick and about a third of the size, and our utility bills are the same or less,” Roberts said. “It wasn’t easy, but I’d do it all over again.”

The interior of Colleen Roberts' children's domain

The interior of Colleen Roberts’ children’s domain.

Robert’s Farmstead



A peak in childhood interest

The term “barndominium” is often used to refer to large steel buildings that combine living quarters and a garage or work area under one roof. From the outside, they often look like traditional barns. But on the inside they tend to have an open floor plan and all the trappings and decorations of a normal home.

“They started as a practical and affordable solution — to take a prefabricated structure and then use it as a rustic living room and workspace,” Eric Gunther, senior editor at real estate platform Realtor.com, told Insider. “For homeowners with a lot of acreage, equipment and even horses, the idea of ​​having everything under one roof is appealing.”

He attributes part of the popularity of childhood diniums to HGTV’s home renovation hit “Fixer Upper.”

“While the idea of ​​taking a pole barn and converting it into a living space existed before the show, the show helped mainstream the farmhouse idea,” Gunther said.

The interior of Colleen Roberts' children's domain.

The interior of Colleen Roberts’ children’s domain.

Robert’s Farmstead



Interest in the housing type began to increase when the pandemic hit: Google Trends data shows that search interest in the term “children’s condominium” has been increasing since the beginning of 2020.

“There’s certainly been an increase in interest around barndominiums, especially since COVID started,” said Don Howe, who runs the Barndominium Life website, a directory of barndominium-related resources.

There are also more listings on Realtor.com that mention “child ownership” in 2022 than there were in 2020, based on data the site’s research team sent to Insider. For the week of July 9, 1875 entries mentioned the word “children’s domain”. In contrast to the week of July 11, 2020, there were only 774 entries that mentioned the word. Many of these homes are located in Central America, and of all listings from the week of July 9, 58% are in Texas.

Howe said the trend has evolved over time: While some barndominiums are converted from barns, they are increasingly being built from scratch.

Building metal houses in the countryside

The first time Stacee Lynn Bell and her husband Oliver tried to build a wooden pole house, they couldn’t finish it. 25 years later, they decided to try again.

“We’ve always wanted to do this, so we thought we’d go ahead and do it this time,” Bell told Insider. This time they decided to use steel instead of wood. “My husband said, ‘You should just be the builder,’ and the next morning I woke up and I was Stacee Lynn, the barndo builder.”

Bell is sitting on her front porch.

Bell is sitting on her front porch.

Our Barndominium life



Bell took charge as designer and general contractor, and the couple spent the next year building their metal-frame home.

After sharing photos of their Texas childhood home on social media, people started asking if they designed for others. In 2020, they launched a design business called Our Barndominium Life, where they offer construction consulting and interior design consulting services.

The exterior of the Creek House.

The exterior of the Creek House.

Our Barndominium life



“Covid hit and people were trying to get a little more elbow room, a little more space between them,” Bell said. Communications companies also began to improve high-speed Internet and cell phone coverage in rural areas, enabling people to work remotely, she said: “You have this whole movement of people out of the city and into the country.”

She expected most of her customers to be in their fifties or sixties, but found that in practice much of the market skewed younger.

“I would say, between the ages of 28 and 35, that’s probably 25% of our market,” Bell said. “It’s pretty amazing how many young up-and-coming professionals really want to change their lifestyle and have a little more country to enjoy the outdoors with their kids.”

The interior of the Creek House

The interior of the Creek House.

Our Barndominium life



While some barndominium owners are pandemic converts, for others the housing style is nothing new.

“For us, I guess we never knew they were trendy because we’ve both been around them for 35 years,” Holly Angel, an administrative assistant from southern Missouri, told Insider. “As a young girl, my parents’ friends had childhood diniums, but back then of course they were just referred to as barn houses, and I’ve always loved them.”

Angel and her family stand outside their childhood home.

Angel and her family stand outside their childhood home.

Holly Angel



Angel and her husband sold their home in 2020 to build a three-bedroom, two-bathroom family home on the family lot. They hired subcontractors to build the frame of the house and complete the electrical and plumbing work.

“Everything else we did ourselves, including all the trim work, painting, tiling, hanging doors and light fixtures,” Angel said. She estimates they saved between $75,000 to $100,000 by doing most of the work themselves, with a total cost of about $215,000 for their childhood home.

A collage showing the interior of Angel's childhood home.

A collage showing the interior of Angel’s childhood home.

Holly Angel



Saves money on the outside

Aside from pandemic-driven factors, the increased interest in barndominium is the result of several trends converging, George Ratiu, senior economist and head of economic research at Realtor.com, told Insider.

“On the one hand, buyers have been looking for more space, especially in the last couple of years,” Ratiu said. “On the other hand, high housing prices have pushed many Americans toward more affordable options.”

The cost of building a barndominium from scratch, or converting an existing barn into living quarters, is generally lower than that of a new house, Ratiu said.

But with supply chain issues and labor shortages, that difference may not be as big as it used to be, Bell said: “Now with the popularity of barndominiums and what’s happening with the pandemic, you can save money on the outside of the barndominium, but once you gets inside, it pretty much rivals what you’d do in a traditional home.”

The interior of the Creek House

The interior of the Creek House.

Our Barndominium life



More than anything, Bell of Our Barndominium Life says the housing style is about a shift in how people want to live.

People are looking for a more relaxed way of life, and barndominium living provides space to start a garden and raise chickens, she said: “It’s not just about the type of construction, it’s about the lifestyle.”

That said, for Bell, part of it is about the materials. “I just think steel is sexy,” she said.

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