5 Alternative Housing Ideas

If you need cash from your current home or are simply looking to downsize, check out these inexpensive alternative housing ideas to buying a single-family home.

In the year leading up to April 2021, lumber prices tripled, causing a $35,872 increase in the cost of a new single-family home, according to the National Association of Homebuilders. High demand has driven up the cost of other materials as well, and prices are expected to remain elevated for another couple of years.

Selling your home might not afford you the opportunity to move into a smaller single-family home. But it could free up enough cash for you to explore some alternative housing options. Using the proceeds, here are some options you can consider.

Related: 5 Massive Real Estate Trends Created by the Pandemic

Container homes

While lumber may be in short supply, there are plenty of unused shipping containers out there, and some savvy adults are using them as homebuilding materials. Many companies even sell prefabricated homes made out of shipping containers, and these homes come together much faster than traditional houses — you can expect delivery and assembly in as little as 10 weeks.

You may be able to get a basic shipping container home for as little as $20,000, while larger homes built with several shipping containers can cost up to $200,000 or more. It’s possible to build a shipping container home for half the cost per square foot when compared to a traditional home. But you have to factor in shipping prices as well. To keep costs low, avoid unnecessary amenities — some luxury shipping container homes with all the bells and whistles can end up costing close to the same price as a framed home constructed on-site.


If you enjoy the rustic aesthetic of a barn and farmhouse style decor, converting a barn into a living space could be an inexpensive alternative to building a single-family home. Barndominiums, or barndos for short, are constructed of a durable metal shell with basic interior framing. They often have large windows and roll-up doors, which make them the perfect structures to complement a lush outdoor environment.

According to HomeAdvisor, building a barndominium from scratch costs about $30 to $40 per square foot just for assembly. That’s much less than the cost of building a traditional house, which would set you back between $100 and $200 per square foot. But you’ll also have sewer, plumbing, HVAC, and electrical expenses to get your barndo in liveable condition. The materials that you select for your siding, roofing, and interior furnishings will also impact the building cost. But if you keep things simple, you can expect to save a significant chunk of change when compared to building a traditional single-family house.

Tiny houses

Most tiny houses are built on trailers and are less than 600 square feet in size. They make an appealing option for people looking to simplify their lives. You can buy a pre-built tiny home or build one yourself with a range of different materials. The typical price range for a tiny house is $30,000 to $60,000, but some luxury tiny homes cost more than that. When compared to a traditional home built on a foundation, the savings are significant.

Tiny homes also cost less to maintain and result in lower utility bills. What’s more, they’re considered temporary, so your property taxes won’t be any higher than what you already pay for the plot of land. A tiny house can be just as durable as a traditional home, and given the popularity of the concept for vacation rentals, you can look forward to reselling a tiny home as well.

School bus houses

Used school buses are inexpensive and made from durable materials like steel, making them ripe for conversion into a living space. Plus, they’re already on wheels, and their engines can last a million miles or more. An old school bus can cost as little as $3,000, and outfitting the vehicle with a kitchen and bathroom generally costs $10,000 to $30,000. That makes skoolies a much cheaper option than building a traditional home.

It’s also possible to buy a partially converted school bus house, which means that some of the work is done for you. For example, you might be able to bypass the hassle of ripping out all the seats if you pay a little more for a bus that has already been partially converted.


A prefabricated building such as a storage shed can be converted into a small home with a foundation. They come in different sizes, are built using a variety of materials, and can be modified to meet your housing needs. Some companies sell outbuildings for as little as $10,000, but you’ll need to pay for shipping costs as well. You can even get a prefab cabin that already has a front porch and large windows to let the light in.

Read More: How to Sell Your House on Sundae’s Marketplace

If you sell your house through Sundae’s Marketplace, there’s a good chance you’ll receive a fair cash offer. And if you are eligible for a cash advance, you can put that toward your alternative housing purchase. Whether you’re having difficulty affording your home or just seeking a simpler lifestyle, selling through Sundae can help you achieve your goals. Check out our customer stories to learn more.

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