Low-Cost Homes: Ideas For Building Nice Homes For $20,000 Or Less

Low-cost homes are an idea that has come into focus more in this decade than ever in modern history. Finally, people are starting to realize that there is no earthly reason why a house should have to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. A home can be quite inexpensive and still be beautiful, and meet the needs of the family it shelters.

Building low-cost homes has always been fairly easy. As with any project, an ounce of creativity can save more than its weight in cash. Thinking outside the box is the key. The only problem is that in most areas, building codes tend to keep creative people inside the box and away from unique low-cost home construction ideas.

Low-cost homes, inventively designed, are often superior in strength, durability, and safety to tract housing, but the code just isn't written to accommodate different materials than lumber or brick. Increasingly, though, building permits are being given to homes that use new ideas. Codes are becoming more flexible in light of new interest in the nontraditional home building movement. Some persistent people are successfully challenging those old ideas and getting their permits.

Tiny Houses

he MoonDragon tiny house. Designed and build by Zyl Vardos Shutterstock c
The MoonDragon tiny house. Designed and build by Zyl Vardos [Image by Zyl Vardos/Shutterstock]Tiny houses are stirring a lot of interest these days. A tiny house is defined as any house that is less than 600-square feet, but some are a lot smaller than that. Some tiny homes are built on wheels, both to make them portable and to avoid building codes in some areas. There are thousands of ways to design a tiny house, and more are being created every day.

Tiny low-cost homes are perfect for singles, and couples who want to take on a minimalist philosophy. Some families with children even take on the tiny house concept. Smaller homes are easy on the utilities and are perfect for off-the-grid applications because they use so much less electricity.

Rural Studios Uses Common Farm Building Materials To Build Homes

Low-cost homes are considered social justice architecture, according to Sam Mockbee the founder of Rural Studios. Their concept is to build homes that don't look out of place in most neighborhoods. Yet they are built with unconventional low-cost ideas that make them perform better than traditional housing according to Treehugger. Rudy Smith, the associate director of Rural Studios, explains the principles at play in their construction.
"The houses are designed to appear to be sort of normative, but they're really high-performance little machines in every way. They're built more like airplanes than houses, which allows us to have them far exceed structural requirements.... We're using material much more efficiently. But the problem is your local code official doesn't understand that. They look at the documents, and the house is immediately denied a permit simply because the code officials didn't understand it."
Rural Studios uses low-cost corrugated metal as siding. They build homes the old fashioned way, on pillars rather than a foundation. The homes have minimal, but well-placed windows for energy efficiency and low-cost. A typical cottage costs about $14,000 in materials, but the cost of labor can bring that price up to over $20,000.

Hajjar Gibran's Domegaia Dome Buildings Look Like Hobbit Houses

Low-cost homes don't have to look any certain way, and they don't have to be boring boxes. Hajjar Gibran prefers dome-shaped structures that are very reminiscent of the Hobbit houses from Lord of the Rings according to Home Designing. His building medium is cement block covered by red clay pressed bricks which he makes himself. He also incorporates huge, custom glass windows and even oval doors.

Adding to the economy is the simplicity of labor, according to Gibran, who says he is able to build one of the domes with just one helper. He can build one of his homes in Thailand for around $9,000, but conceded it might cost a bit more in the United States.

Steve Kornher's Flying Concrete Because Concrete Doesn't Have To Be Boring

Flying concrete by Steve Kornher
Flying concrete [Photos by Steve Kornher]Low-cost homes can be very beautiful, and so can concrete. Steve Kornher is an amazing builder who builds mainly for the joy of it, plus keeping up his most basic expenses. He is a real artist with concrete as one can easily see from these photos. He has developed a new lightweight, yet very strong version of concrete that he uses for construction. Steve says on his Flying Concrete website that the use of concrete is only limited by the imagination.
"Concrete is a plastic medium and has incredible potential for creating fluid, sculptural forms. I will admit that some of the dullest structures around are made of concrete but dullness isn't a limitation inherent in the material. As the accompanying photographs demonstrate, the builder's imagination may be the greatest limitation of its use as a sculptural medium."
A huge fan of low-cost homes, Steve Kornher is a really nice guy, who loves to help people get beautiful affordable homes they can be proud of. He lives south of the border in Mexico now, to avoid those pesky building codes, but he will go anywhere in the world to consult on a build for only $40 an hour. He can create virtually any structure for about $25 a square foot. He predicts that his structures will last for thousands of years.

Underground Is Really Cool

Underground is Cool by Joe Raedle c
Underground is Cool [Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]Low-cost homes underground are gaining in popularity as well. They are energy efficient and cost effective to build. The temperature below ground is very consistent in both summer and winter and is normally relatively comfortable even without heating or air conditioning. Underground housing was popular in the post-World War II era, when people built bomb shelters, and lived in them until they could afford to build a house over the underground part. A resurgence in below ground structures at least has some history and might not be that hard to get a permit for in some areas.

Low-cost homes, made affordable by the ingenuity of creative minds, are quite beautiful, very comfortable and designed to heat and cool economically.

[Imaage by Andrea Obzerova/Shutterstock]