Why You May End Up Living in a Shipping Container
Money + Markets

Why You May End Up Living in a Shipping Container

An increasing number of real estate developers in the U.S. are exploring ways to make homes out of the shipping containers used to move goods around the world.

There are certainly plenty of shipping containers to work with. In June alone, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, together the largest in the U.S., imported 669,149 shipping containers. But they exported only 268,660 containers, or 40 percent of the number that came in.

Slideshow: 18 Stunning Homes and Offices Made From Shipping Containers

In Houston, home builder Jeff Hartless is turning them into homes. He just put a 1,280-square-foot ranch-style house made from two 40-foot shipping containers on the market for $189,995, which is more than twice the median home price for that zip code. Hartless says that for him shipping container homes don’t cost less to build than traditional ones, but the upkeep is easier and less costly.

“You don’t have to replace the roof or the siding,” Hartless told the Houston Business Journal. “And no termites.” He’s planning to build a rental community made up of 42 shipping container duplexes in the same neighborhood, renting for $1,000 to $1,200 a month.

Developer Rick Kueber in Louisville, Kentucky, plans to make a similar rental community from the corrugated steel boxes. He has proposed eight to nine homes made from 8-foot by 20-foot shipping containers. The finished homes would be 640 square feet and have roof decks. Kueber still must get zoning approval, but hopes the homes will be built by the end of the year, with rents between $800 and $1,200.

Related: 3 Awesome Tiny Homes That Cost Less Than $45,000​

In San Diego, two entrepreneurs are trying to find a way to build cheaper homes from shipping containers. Matt Jakstis and Jonathan Sanders, who fix up old homes for resale, recently put a three-bedroom, three-bath house made from six shipping containers on the market for $799,000 in San Diego. They say it cost about $100,000 less to develop than a traditional house.

One drawback to shipping container homes is running afoul of local building regulations. “It’s a matter of creating whatever you can dream up,” Sanders was quoted saying in The Los Angeles Times, “and what the city will accept.” 

Click here to see 18 unique homes and other structures made from shipping containers.