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Let's Talk Money | Cost To Self Build a Barndo

We've never been shy about finances when it comes to this project. It's a huge subject in the "barndo" community. Budget is ALWAYS a concern when building, but we have found that this is especially front and center with a post or steel frame build.

Our first video about cost is actually what kicked off the growth of our YouTube channel. Clearly people want info! We released an updated cost video a couple months ago that took things through drywall.

In our opinion, up until this point you should anticipate these costs/square foot to be the same for you build, give or take a few thousand dollars. After this point, the costs will vary depending on the quality of finishes you use. We tend to use mid-range priced items, but look for things that error on the side of high quality.

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We also are in building zone 5A, which means we have to beef up some of the build elements because of climate. If you're following along you know we've had a hiccup related to some of those elements. Which should emphasize the importance!

The costs as an owner builder are going to be VERY different than having a turnkey build. It's not out of the question that the costs would double for turnkey.

While we consider ourselves self builders, there are a handful of things that we hired out:

  1. Concrete Slab

  2. This part is a numbers game. You need a lot of people that know what they're doing because concrete is all about timing (and skill). We definitely recommend the company we used if you're in the Des Moines area!

  3. You can check them out here:

  4. Spray Foam + Blow In Insulation-

  5. I won't go on about our current dilemma, but we made the decision to hire these parts out as well. Spray foam is entirely about the technical aspect of the job. It is NOT something that you can mess up on if you want it to be effective, and since this was something we'd never used in a build we got a reputable referral for this.

  6. We could have rented the equipment to do the blow in insulation, but there wasn't a huge cost difference, so it made sense to hire it out.

  7. Gutters

  8. This is another job that makes sense hiring out. We prefer seamless gutters, and so we had a company come and take care of it.

  9. Drywall

  10. It's been many a project since we've tackled drywall. Paul absolutely could do this part of the build, but oh it would take so so much longer. The crew we found was awesome. If you're in the Des Moines area let us know and we'll pass along their information.

We don't plan to hire out anything else for this build. We have ordered pre-made cabinetry, but will do the install ourselves. Tile, flooring, painting- all of it will be done by us. If I'm lucky though I'm absolutely going to hire someone to wash all of these windows!

There will be a final cost video once the house is complete, but our estimation is that we'll land around $75/square foot.

Now, let's chat financing. That's probably the number one question we have gotten aside from buying our house plans. We were able to easily secure a loan for the land purchase- lots of banks will do loans like that (terms aren't always ideal!). We used cash from the house flips/projects/savings we've done over the past 5-6 years to get our build started. We thought that was the only way until we met Dave from New Century Bank . This bank advertises being able to finance post frame home builds. It's actually not just them, they were just willing to do the research and come up with the requirements Fannie Mae has to consider this type of home as "traditional". We did an entire video on those requirements. Keep reading though about being an owner builder...

At the time of obtaining our loan, New Century was willing to let you live onsite and they would finance an owner build. There are some major things to consider though. They don't really want to finance something mid-project without good reason, and the construction loan terms are that the house has to be completed (think ready to sell) in 12 months. That will put a lot of owner builds in a bind. However, here are some things to consider.

  1. Be organized. You need to have a plan. You also need a good credit score. Don't bother if you don't have your personal finances in order yet.

  2. Communicate why you're qualified to be an owner builder.

  3. Do your homework and have a realistic timeline on how you're going to complete your build in 12 months. If it's going to take longer than 12 months, see the next point.

  4. If you have cash, and know your build will take longer than 12 months, have a plan on what stage of the build you could be at when you need to finance and talk it through with them!

Banks have to mitigate their risk, and they can't have a partly done project on their books indefinitely. That's why it needs to be finished- if you default on your loan- they need to be able to sell it. So that means rooms need trim, toilets need to be installed- it doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to be done.

Download this worksheet to start figuring what bids you need, materials you should price, etc.

Have more questions? Comment below or email us at

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