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I've recently seen a TV series called Container Homes, where folks work with local contractors to turn 40 foot containers into homes. They seem quite durable, made to last multiple ocean crossings while stacked quite tall on container ships. I was wondering, assuming a local municipality allowed them even, if making a home from say 6 containers, making the equivalent of a 24 ft by 40 ft home, 3 wide and 2 stories tall, on a cement foundation and with city water and septic connection, would hold its value in comparison to a standard wood built house?

The containers would be mounted/secured to a standard foundation (or as needed to support their weight), welded to each other, connected to standard water/septic/electric/gas like a regular house. Internally insulated, painted externally, fitted with standard doors & windows, etc. The main difference is that instead of 2x4, 2x6, 2x8 walls, rafters, etc, all the structural support comes from the containers.

I'm assuming it would be taxed just like any other residential property, with a title, deed, insurance, etc. just like any other house.

  • It may help to make this question a little more answerable if you can give some more context - can we assume that your 24 x 50 ft home is built to standard residential code, attached to a permanent foundation (not just sitting on a pad), with permanent utilities, is on your jurisdiction's tax roll, and is titled? Many "container homes" can't really have an assessed value because they don't meet these criteria and don't essentially count as a home in the legal sense. – dwizum Dec 12 '19 at 18:22
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    Maybe two months ago I read an article about a man who is in the process of turning 8 shipping containers into a home. What struck me was that in addition to a lot of sweat equity, the construction cost was going to be about $250k. Given what comparable size homes are selling for in the neighborhood, it didn't seem like a great savings and perhaps it was more of a novelty idea. – Bob Baerker Dec 12 '19 at 19:00
  • The show made it seem like more of a deal, with a lot of the metal work done off site, then trucked in and dropped into place by crane, where it took the local crew something like 6-8 weeks to do all the finish type work. No time spent putting up exterior walls, sheathing, etc. Just spray in insulation and frame out rooms as would normally be done. – CrossRoads Dec 12 '19 at 19:05
  • They didn't go into a lot of details re: plumbing for kitchen, bathrooms, wiring, etc. yet it was all in place for the homeowners when done. – CrossRoads Dec 12 '19 at 19:07
  • The off-site metal work, crane, crew, etc isn't cheap. – RonJohn Dec 12 '19 at 23:54
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This may end up getting closed as too opinion based but I'll take a crack at it.

You'd probably have problems with appraisals because it would be difficult to find comparable properties. At a minimum, you'd expect to have a larger than normal variance in appraised values which would make getting a mortgage (either initially or for a new buyer) harder. That's going to impact the value at least in terms of a hassle discount but it probably doesn't impact a subsequent purchase any more than an initial finance if that's how you want to define "holding value".

Beyond that, any time you have an unusual/ unique product, you're going to be more exposed than normal to the whims of the market. If the small number of people interested in container homes grows, your home would likely do very well. If that number shrinks, your home value would get clobbered. In either case, it would probably take longer to sell than an average home just because you're targeting a very niche market.

Personally, I'd expect a container home to be a poor investment that you'd struggle to get a bank to write a loan on and that you'd struggle to find someone in the future that wanted to buy it. But that's very opinion-based and quickly gets into the realm of "is this stock/ sector going to outperform the market".

  • I hope it doesn't get closed as opinion based because there's arguably a fact-based way to answer. I think your answer is pretty good, +1 from me. – dwizum Dec 12 '19 at 18:18
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As a designer I wouldn't recommend a container house so I am not impressed with the value created.

The container must be framed inside so that insulation can be put behind paneling. The container will probably be sided and roofed on the outside to avoid the development of rust. The third problem is that each module of the house is only 8' wide unless one module is cut open to another.

Then I'm inclined to suggest an alternative but I edited the first post because there are several different purposes of house:

For someone to build their own house I recommend a crawl-space house which can fit any land contour. Also systems of a crawl-space house can be added or changed at any time. Finally, a crawl-space foundation is easy to build. Basically, stick a piece of 304L in a wet-pour concrete footing and bolt a floor-joist to it with an 18-8 bolt.

For more example, consider a bird-eyes-view of a 304L channel section, with legs pointing north, set in a wet-pour concrete footing, and reaching a few inches higher than the top elevation of a floor-joist. Beside the first channel is a second 304L channel section in the wet-pour concrete footing but this one with legs pointing East. However, the second channel is bolted to the first channel and the second channel is cut to the bottom elevation of a floor-joist. The floor-joist sits on the second channel and bolts to the first channel. Compare to a concrete-block foundation built by a contractor and costing 20% of the total cost of the house.

But, for example, build the house on up with double lumber wall-studs to make a completely bolted-together house. One wall-stud sits on the floor-joist while another wall-stud sits beside the floor-joist with everything bolted to the first channel. Then one wall-stud is cut to the bottom elevation of the ceiling-joist while the other wall-stud rises slightly above it such that the ceiling-joist sits on one wall stud and bolts to the other. If the ceiling-joist is part of a bolted truss then the entire house is bolted together. Well, a bolted blocking, using brackets, is needed between wall-stud stations and near the tops of the studs because there is no header.

  • This answer seems to provide a lot of detail that's not related to Personal Finance. – RonJohn Dec 12 '19 at 23:55
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    I might agree but if the subject is building-your-own house then that is personal and expensive and concerned about the value added. – S Spring Dec 13 '19 at 0:03
  • Well, think of the shipping container as an outline of a rectangle where it has 4 columns and 8 beams. That's the structure and if hit by a tornado that might be all that is left but hopefully left sitting on the slab foundation. The construction that I suggested can use the first metal channel as a full height wall stud, use metal channels for rafters, and make a surrounding metal enclosure every 16" and that is bolted to the foundation. A channel just has to be fitted between floor joist and ceiling joist and bolted in place. The floor joists and ceiling joists most likely remain as lumber. – S Spring Dec 13 '19 at 8:14
  • My point is that home buyers are influenced by how the house is build. A container house can be a good house but not an appealing situation. Also, regular steel is not just kept painted to avoid rust but sand-blasted to bare metal, re-primed, and re-painted. – S Spring Dec 16 '19 at 19:16

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