General Question

laureth's avatar

What's the cheapest way to build a habitable dwelling on unimproved land?

Asked by laureth (27091 points ) July 11th, 2011

Let’s say you’ve been able to purchase a couple acres of unimproved land, but near enough to other houses that you’re not entirely off the grid. What’s the cheapest way to set a structure on it (of no less than 700–800 sq ft) that would serve as a dwelling? We’re open to the ideas of kit houses, yurts, whatever, just so long as it’s habitable and can be wired for electricity, plumbed, and the like. Thanks!

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27 Answers

LuckyGuy's avatar

Have you considered a used RV or trailer? The prices are really low now and they are quite comfortable. I bought a used Argosy trailer that is like a small house for about $2,000. It’s great.

I just noticed the “no less than 700 sq ft” Oops. I still like my Argosy.

laureth's avatar

We have considered a used mobile home. It’s sort of a last resort, though, as I grew up in one, and spent years trying to get out! :) It’s an idea we’re keeping open, though.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Dig a hole and make a roof with sod. That’s right just like the homesteaders.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Either get your hands on a used mobile home and rebuild it the way you want it [ which is what my wife and I did ]. or build a house from scratch [ which can get expensive if you don’t keep it very simple ].

BTW… you guys are very wise to be doing this just now.

laureth's avatar

Oh by the way. We also live where there is Big Winter.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Eeeek! Texas is the “Big Swelter!” Heh!

laureth's avatar

The point is to own it outright so one of us (me) can put in a garden, chickens, etc., and work outside of the money economy instead of making the high mortgage payments on what we already own, which is underwater. You know the funny thing, @CaptainHarley? You likely think it’s wise because my side is going to F up the economy, and we think it’s wise because your side is going to F up the economy. Ironic, eh?

throssog's avatar

Have you considered metal lumber replacement? Order in the exact sizes desired and use a screw-gun to assemble. Not the super-light interior studs but actual light-gauge steel. (18 – 20 gauge) Lovely and cheap.
If this isn’t to your tastes, perhaps the use of sprayed cement ( using a mortar sprayer not a shot-crete type) would be. Very easy to do and permits free form shapes.

Cruiser's avatar

Prefab kit homes or cabins would be my suggestion. Some come with wiring and plumbing already in the walls. To wire or plumb a home AFTER it is built IMO would be a huge PITA!

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
CWOTUS's avatar

“Cheapest” is not necessarily going to be “best for long term habitation”, so be clear about exactly what you really want.

For example, a yurt or tepee and a slit trench downstream from a water supply would be pretty darn cheap. But you wouldn’t want to live that way for long if you were accustomed to running water, electricity and central heating.

If you want those things, then I’m going to second the idea of a mobile home (after putting in the ground work of a septic tank and leach field down range from a well, unless you can pipe in “city water” and pipe out sewage to a municipal system).

Set up a concrete pad for the mobile home, with piping stubs set for the fresh water inlet and sewage drain, and you can put the cheapest mobile home you can find on it for now, and rotate it out later as finances improve… or build a shell around it and simply move it out and away later, finishing inside the shell for a new frame house (without a cellar).

Megan64's avatar

Pre-fab housing. Built offsite. Cheap(er) and attractive. Also shipping container buildings.

CWOTUS's avatar

Building with shipping containers is great in parts of the world where you can do that. Unfortunately, as structurally sound as they may be, they don’t meet most local (North American) building codes for “habitation”. (They’re still pretty good as temporary field construction offices, and wonderful for storage, of course.)

In Europe once I saw an amazing array of shipping containers arrayed in a multi-story arrangement of offices, conference rooms, etc. laid out around a central open area with plants and walkways, and all covered by a single roof. It was like an office condominium made of shipping containers.

Judi's avatar

Google tumbleweed tiny homes. I’m on my iPhone and in a hurry or I would give you a link. So cool.

shotbystitch's avatar

When building a home the key is thermal mass.

The cheapest and best way to suit your environment is to build with earth beneath your feet along with recycled materials. It takes work but is the most rewarding way. Cob building or other mudbrick methods work great to create thermal mass (look this up as well as earth ships, check out the film GARBAGE WARRIOR). A great method i have worked on and seen done well is to dig down a couple of metres (several feet), level out (ideal for slopes) and extract clay. Make a retaining wall by pounding the dirt into discarded tyres. create a greenhouse within and you can grow whatever you like- seriously! do some research into these methods and you will be set.

dabbler's avatar

I think a used RV would make a good bridge domicile while you work on a more permanent abode. And handy for overflow guests later.

That sure sound like a great target/goal, a lot of work but inspiring !

laureth's avatar

Thanks everyone for the answers. It’s a lot to keep in mind. We’re also considering property that already has a house on it, if it’s in our price range.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Just do yourself a favor and view your property as a place to live, not an investment.

laureth's avatar

Absolutely. We’re not looking to flip, we’re looking for somewhere to spend our lives. But we have to be able to afford it, or we can’t buy it, y’know?

CaptainHarley's avatar

Um… reeeeely? Wow! : P

incendiary_dan's avatar

I like earthbags.

Judi's avatar

Here’s the link to the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

filmfann's avatar

When we were looking for a retirement place, my wife was convinced that we should by a modular house from an outfit called Cousin Eddie. She knew the exact model.
A couple years later, we found that exact model on some property in a reposession. The home suffered its 5 years. The floors were pealing up, the cabinets were a mess. It was dreadful, and we were so glad that we didn’t go that way.

Megan64's avatar

Wow. @Judi those are great. I have some land. I could raze and rebuild.

laureth's avatar

Thanks! Those houses are tinier than we’re looking for, though.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I’m not sure I could live in such a small space. I’d be afraid of making myself pregnant! ; )

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