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  • Writer's pictureMike Roberts

Enjoy Space, Style and Savings With Barn Living

Barns are no longer just spaces for livestock and farm equipment. Today, living in converted barns or brand-new, barn-like homes has become popular. Here’s what you need to know about the growing trend of barndominium living.

The rise of the barn living

It’s been common for people to convert barns into temporary places to live while building a traditional house on the same property. But now the barn conversion is becoming the primary home. HGTV began featuring barndominium living around 2016. Since then Texas has been the hotspot for “barndo” living, but the popularity of these homes is also rising in surrounding states and the Midwest.

Characteristics of a barndominium

The simplest description of a barndominium is a metal barn structure within which you build out an apartment. Plans can vary, but generally barndominiums have a two-story-high peaked roof in the center with widened one-story spaces on each side. Where once the second floor of the center section would be the barn’s hay loft, today this section of a barndominium could be home to bedrooms and a big family room.

Barndominium interiors are spacious and completely flexible for framing out living quarters and storage space. You can even drive vehicles into the center section through a garage door if you wish.


A tiny exterior metal shell built on a slab costs about $40 per square foot before any interior conversion work. Oversee the hiring and paying of subcontractors yourself to finish out the interior and you may be able to complete the barndominium at less than $100 per square foot. Hiring a general contractor for a turnkey job pushes the price per square foot to $150 or more. Adding touches like high-end counters and fashionable floors will raise the price.


Mortgage lenders are cautious about risk, so thorough preparation is key when applying for a mortgage to build a barndominium.

Your lender will want to see blueprints of the barndominium, not just rough sketches, plus detailed materials lists, precise costs for materials and labor on each phase, cost bids from contractors and a timeline from start to finish. Search online for sites that offer barndominium designs and blueprints you can purchase. There are also forums of barndo owners where you can learn from the experiences of others.

Hiring an experienced general contractor will help assure the lender your project will succeed. If you plan to serve as your own GC, obtaining financing will be easier if you have successfully overseen your own home’s construction before.

Mortgage details

Because barndominiums are such an unusual type of home, not all mortgage lenders will finance them. Traditional large corporate banks and credit unions will probably decline. Local and privately owned banks, or rural lending specialists such as ones with “farm credit” in their name, will be more likely to finance your project. You could also work with a mortgage broker who shops lenders for you instead of approaching individual lenders yourself.

You will be required to put 20 percent cash down for your loan. Like any other loan application, your credit history, credit bureau score and loan-to-value ratio will be important. Your building plans will be scrutinized by an appraiser. The property will be appraised again upon completion of the project.

A loan for constructing a barndominium has two parts. The construction loan pays throughout the building phase. Once construction is complete, the lender will roll together both the payoff of the construction loan and the purchase of the land itself into one mortgage to be paid over the agreed-upon term.

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