Barndominiums are becoming more and more popular, but when we first started researching them for our house, we did not find a lot of information on the internet about them. I’m hoping this series will help anyone who is considering building one of your very own.
I have so much information on building a Barndominium that one post would not nearly cover it all. I will be breaking this into several series to cover a wide variety of topics including how to finance your barndominium, how to lower your mortgage payments, DIY projects, and much, much more.
Custom home building is not for the faint of heart. We started our house building journey back in 2009 and didn’t move in until 2013. That’s not to say we broke ground in 2009, but we started our research at that time. In those four years we went through 6 builders and several renditions of our plans. No, we are not those crazy people who drive builders away. It was just always something. Like #5 who up and changed careers all together after given us a quote and a start date. Or #3 whose company was mainly a metal supplier, but they also sometimes acted as general contractors. One day our contact stopped communicating with me all together. After about two months, I finally got an email saying they were shifting their business to only focus on the metal and no more general contracting. Unfortunately, he still had my gate key to the land and would not return emails or calls so we were forced to change the locks. But all things happen for a reason and they all led us to our final contractor who was not only experienced in what we were doing but also a wealth of information and very helpful.
Tips to Building a Barndominium
1. Research local metal building manufacturers and suppliers.
We found several big companies in our area such as Mueller and Morton Buildings, but ultimately we went with a local metal supplier that happen to be in our town. The bigger companies are great too, and can provide a lot of helpful information.
2. Vet your contractor.
As I mentioned, we went through several contractors. Most of them were eliminated in the early rounds of discussion, but a few were out after quoting and planning had already started. It can take a real emotional toll on you when one falls through and you have to start the process all over. Vetting your contractor will really help prevent a lot of potential heartache. Don’t be afraid to ask for references and then actually call those people. There’s nothing more reassuring than talking a to contractor’s past customers and hearing glowing reviews. Also, keep a running list of other people’s suggested contractors in case you need a backup. I wrote down every single contact someone gave me along the way. In fact, that’s how we got our contractor, through a suggestion from one of my husband’s customers.
3. Get to know your neighbors.
Our neighbors were so helpful throughout the whole process. We’ve had this land for years so fortunately we already knew most of them. In fact, one neighbor had built a barndominium and his wife lent me her very well organized binder from when they went through the process. She also warned me what contractors and companies NOT to use based on their experience. Through our neighbors we learned about the different companies we could use from digging our well to what internet providers were available. In fact, the owner of the company that installed and maintains our septic is actually one of the few neighbors we hadn’t met. I pass him on the road all the time now.
4. Talk to several different banks.
Financing a barndominium is quite different from financing a standard home. A lot of banks don’t consider barndominiums a dwelling and you can’t get the same loans you can for standard houses. I believe we spoke with 3 different banks, one we personally bank through, one that employs another neighbor as VP, and the one our contractor recommended. We went with our contractors bank. He had been through this process with them before and had a great relationship with them. We learned that if we used the bank he suggested we would not need CAD drawings would saved us a couple thousand dollars. They gave us a great interest rate considering the type of loan we chose. We chose to only have one closing so we did not have to pay two close fees (one for the initial and one after the building is complete). They gave us a 9 month building time frame in which we only paid interest on the draws that our contractor made. After 9 months (whether the building had been finished or not), we rolled over to our normal full mortgage payment.
*Another bank tip, talk to them about draw inspections. Contractors must list what each draw covers. Then, most banks will send an inspector to ensure that your contractor is using the money they way he stated. This helps protect your investment. It can be a pain for your contractor, but I highly recommend it.
5. ALWAYS TAKE NOTES AND PICTURES.
For months, if not years, I made sure I had pen and paper handy anywhere we went. Once you tell someone you are building a house, they have several suggestions for you. Many of the are crap, but a few are priceless jewels. I received several tips from strangers at antique stores, grocery stores, friend of a friend of a friend at a party who I would never remember the name. If you don’t write those tips down at the time, you may never remember them or have a way of contact the person to follow-up. Now with our handy cell phones we have great apps as simple as Notes to use as well. I had so much information on my cell phone under Notes. As well as writing things down, I constantly took pictures of anything and everything I thought was interesting along the way. Ooo, that rug might look pretty in our house one day, *click.* Or OMG, I love that farm table, but we have no where to store it now, *click.” I just recently went through and delete some that I know we will never use. But I do still have quite a few “someday” pictures handy.
And by the way, I encourage several people to take pictures of our house. One day, Brad and I were working outside a few months after moving in. Our electric company sent a few trucks out to check on one of our poles. As they were leaving, one truck stopped and a guy got our to talk to us. Apparently, he and his wife were thinking about building a barndominium. We invited him in, gave him a tour, and lots of advise. He ended up arranging to come back later that night with his wife after she got home. They took several pictures along the way. I also passed on a few names and numbers to help. Lesson – It never hurts to ask.
6. Don’t take your Contractors NO for an answer.
Even though our contractor had built several barndominiums and custom homes in the past, our house is very unique. We asked for several different things that he had never done before. Sometimes he said no. We answered with “Yes, just figure it out.” And you know what, he did! If we hadn’t pushed back on a few things, then we wouldn’t have got them. Now on the flip side, there were some things we wanted that he agreed to without saying a word. Then when something went wrong, he would say, “Well, that’s why I really didn’t want to do that in the first place.” But he had never given us his opinion to begin with. We learned that we had to ask him very specific questions on our unusual items so that he would give us his expert, experienced opinion and then we could make a decision.
See what I mean? First post in this series and I’m already over 1300 words. Stay tuned for more awesome Barndominium and House Building tips.