If you’re looking for a unique and cost-effective way to build your dream home in Alabama then you may want to consider a barndominium.
A barndominium is a type of home that combines a traditional barn or workshop with a living space. These structures have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their affordability and versatility.
Alabama is known to have more relaxed building codes and regulations making it a great state for building a home that’s less than conventional, especially for metal or steel homes. Alabama’s nature makes it an ideal location for those who want to enjoy a rural lifestyle.
If you’ve been contemplating buying or building a barndominium in Alabama then you’ve come to the right place. The guide below will step you through everything you need to know to make the right decisions. This guide was built on decades of our experience building homes and working with industry professionals.
Pros & Cons of Barndominiums in Alabama
If you are considering building or buying a barndominium in Alabama, it is important to weigh the pros and cons. Here are some advantages and disadvantages to help you make an informed decision.
- Affordability: Probably the most significant advantage to a barndominium for most is the lower cost to build than a traditional home, especially if you buy a barndominium kit.
- Floor Plan Customization: There are a ton of ready made floor plans available but the materials used in constructing a barndominium make it very easy to customize. If you’re working with a reputable barndominium contractor they can likely use design software to create your dream barndo.
- Low Maintenance: Barndominiums will require less maintenance over time compared to traditional homes. They are usually made entirely of metal which is more durable than wood and requires less upkeep.
- Energy Efficient: Barndominiums are very energy efficient and can save you money on your utility bills. They are well-insulated and can be designed to take in more natural light. It’s very easy to make other energy efficient improvements, such as adding solar panels, to your home because of the materials used.
- Financing: Financing a barndominium can be challenging, as many lenders are hesitant to finance non-traditional homes. This can limit your options when it comes to finding funding for your project.
- Limited Resale Value: Because barndominiums are a relatively new concept, they may have a smaller pool of potential buyers if you decide to sell. This can make it harder to recoup your investment.
- Permitting & Zoning: You may be required to obtain special permits or zoning depending on how you use your barndominium which can add more time to the build or increase costs.
- Finishing Customizations: The versatility of a barndo is the biggest appeal but that can come at a high cost. Typically, expenses on a barndominium will increase considerably after the build is complete and you start furnishing, buying appliances and putting in the finishing touches.
Barndominiums can be a great option for those looking for a versatile, energy-efficient, and durable home in Alabama. However, it is important to consider the potential drawbacks before making a final decision.
How Do Barndominiums Handle Alabama’s Weather?
Alabama has a humid subtropical climate which means hot summers and mild winters with relatively high humidity levels all year. The humidity can pose a threat to the metal structure of your barndominium, however, there are ways to protect your home during the build.
A barndominium, if built correctly, can handle the humidity levels of Alabama and the subtropical climate well.
A few things to keep in mind when shopping or building:
- Vapor Barriers: A vapor barrier is great at protecting metal buildings from condensation. The goal for these barriers is to keep condensation outside of the home and off the metal itself. The vapor barrier can also help as a heat barrier as well helping keep your home cooler in the hot summers.
- Insulation: Having an appropriate amount of insulation can help regulate the temperature inside your home and make your house a lot more energy efficient, saving you money on your utility bills and help protect your walls from building condensation.
- Ceiling/Attic: Make sure the ceiling and attic, if you have one, are well insulated and the insulation is not coming into contact with the metal. This can lead to moisture buildup and corrode the metal sheeting causing roof damage.
- Foundation: You will want to make sure that the foundation has a vapor barrier as well and any cracks or issues with the foundation are handled immediately.
- Roofing: Make sure you have enough runoffs and slant in your roof to avoid water sitting on top of the metal damaging it over time.
Planning For Your Barndominium in Alabama
Before you run out and buy or build a new barndominium there are a few things you’ll want to think about and prepare for. Due to the uniqueness and customizability of these homes it may be difficult to find many for sale online. Be prepared that you may have to find land and build your own barndominium.
It is essential no matter what type of home you’re buying to prepare and make sure you are budgeting effectively.
Best Areas for a Barndominium
The best area for building your dream home is going to be the one that matches your lifestyle the most. There are certain things you’ll have to account for, like zoning, but ultimately you should pick the area that best suits you or your family.
However, once you’ve narrowed down a few options it’s important to consider factors such as zoning laws, accessibility or proximity to amenities.
The best areas in Alabama for a barndominium are:
- Baldwin County: Baldwin County is one of the most popular areas for barndominiums in Alabama. It is a coastal area that is home to many beautiful beaches and has a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere. The cost of living is relatively low making it an attractive option to build your barndominium.
- Cullman County: Cullman County is located in Northern Alabama and is known for its natural beauty. It’s a great area for those that love the outdoors and want to be closer to nature. This county, like Baldwin, has a lower cost of living making it a great option for those on a budget.
- Lee County: Lee County is located in Eastern Alabama and is home to Auburn University. IT’s a great area for those who want to be close to the university or enjoy living near a college town.
- Shelby County: Shelby County is located in Central Alabama and is known for its great schools and strong economy. It’s a great area for families who want to be in better school districts and closer to more jobs or the “corporate” lifestyle.
- St. Clair County: St. Clair County is located in Eastern Alabama and has a very “small-town” charm. It’s a great area for those that want more of a tight-knit community and has a lower cost of living.
Alabama is one of the lowest cost of living states in North America and is ranked 3rd in the country behind Kansas and Mississippi according to the World Population Review. No matter where you choose to build your barndominium you will likely find a great area with a low cost. The access to building materials in Alabama also makes it a great state for building. Take some time to explore different areas of the state and find the perfect location for your new home.
How to Find Barndominiums For Sale
Barndominiums are very unique compared to more traditional wood-built homes. This makes finding some for sale very difficult. Since these homes are customized exactly to what the person building it wants or needs they often are not sold once built.
You will likely need to work with a realtor in Alabama that can do the prospecting for you and reach out to potential homeowners to see if they are interested in selling.
You will likely not find many listings on popular sites like Zillow or Trulia. Since many of these homes combine a horse stable or workshop with the home you might have to look at less traditional websites.
For example, you may be able to find barndominiums on Land Search or Land.com.
Budgeting for a Barndominium
The average cost to build a barndominium in Alabama is around $75 to $150 per square foot which puts it well below the average across the United States to build a new home.
The cost to buy a barndominium has a much higher range due to the customization options, location and more. The average cost will be between $200,000 and $500,000 to buy a barndominium in Alabama since most homes sell for around $150 to $200 per square foot in the current market.
The factors that affect the cost of a barndominium in Alabama are:
- The current condition of the structure and if it was damaged in any severe storm.
- The overall size of the building.
- The materials used in the construction of the building.
- The complexity of the design and finishings.
- The location of the property and real estate market surrounding it.
Homeowner’s Insurance for Barndominiums
In Alabama, the average cost of homeowners insurance is around $1,400 making Alabama one of the least expensive states for home insurance.
It can be challenging to find affordable options and even insurance companies that will insure a barndominium. You may have to insure the livable space with homeowners and the non-livable space with a separate policy.
You’ll want to speak with an insurance provider to make sure they cover everything and your home is protected.
Property Taxes for Barndominiums
In Alabama, property taxes are very low compared to the rest of the United States. Alabama has one of the lowest average property tax rates in the country. The state has an average effective property tax of 0.33% making the annual property tax around $500 or less for most homes.
The property taxes do increase in areas, such as Shelby County, that are more desirable to live in. There are some constitutional protections in Alabama around property taxes, such as if you are over the age of 65 or disabled then you do not have to pay state property taxes.
Design Considerations for Your Barndominium
There aren’t many specific considerations you need to take into account for a barndominium in Alabama. The biggest advantage to a barndominium over a traditional home is the amount of customization you can have with your interior and exterior design.
Interior Design Considerations
- Open-concept living spaces are popular in barndominiums and other modern homes. These spaces typically combine the living room, dining room, and kitchen into one large area.
- High ceilings and exposed beams are also popular in these types of homes, as they create a sense of spaciousness and add to the rustic charm.
- Industrial-style lighting fixtures, such as pendant lights and chandeliers, are often used to complement the open-concept design and exposed beams.
- Rustic or reclaimed wood accents, such as barn doors or accent walls, can add to the overall aesthetic of the home.
- Modern appliances and fixtures can be incorporated into the design to provide a balance between the rustic and modern elements.
Exterior Design Considerations
- Barndominiums are often made out of metal or steel, which can give them a modern, industrial look. However, they can also be designed to look more traditional, with wood siding or other materials.
- Large windows are often used to let in natural light and provide views of the surrounding landscape.
- Porches, decks, and other outdoor living spaces can be incorporated into the design to provide additional space for entertaining and enjoying the outdoors.
- Landscaping can be used to complement the overall design of the home and create a cohesive look.
Building a Barndominium in Alabama
Barndominiums have become increasingly popular in Alabama due to their affordability, durability and versatility. If you are planning to build a barndominium in Alabama there are a few things you need to know before you get started.
Foundations and Basements
The foundation of your barndominium is one of the most important aspects of the construction process. The most common foundation for a barndominium is a concrete slab and is the most supportive foundation compared to a basement.
Alabama has a high water table and the ground is very difficult to dig into since it’s filled with clay, limestone and other bedrock. This is why you typically see more homes in Alabama not having basements and instead building up (multistory) or out.
Framing and Walls
You’ll have a variety of options when it comes to framing materials and each material has its own advantages and disadvantages.
The three main materials used in framing are wood, steel and concrete.
A wood-framed barndominium will typically come at a lower cost than concrete or steel when it comes to material pricing. The actual cost rises and can be much higher than steel with labor since most components will need to be cut and assembled onsite. Wood has less durability and is susceptible to other things such as shrinkage, mold or warping where concrete and steel is not.
A concrete-framed barndominium has very high ratings when it comes to soundproofing and fire resistance. It is very durable and maintenance free and the weight of concrete alone makes it great to go up against the high winds from a possible tornado. Even though concrete is fairly durable it does have some disadvantages. Concrete can only be used or set in certain times of year making the build time quite long for a barndominium.
A steel-framed barndominium is the most common type you’ll see since many barndominiums are built with a prefabricated kit. Steel is lightweight and has some of the highest ductility when it comes to earthquakes and tornadoes and is fire resistant. Steel is just as good as concrete with soundproofing is a great energy efficient choice.
Your options for walls are pretty straightforward. You can use traditional drywall or go for a more industrial approach and use corrugated metal, exposed brick or insulated concrete forms (ICF). Each material has its own aesthetic appeal and can help create a specific look and feel for your barndominium.
The most popular roofing materials for barndominiums include metal, asphalt shingles and clay tiles. There is no major preference over roof material for Alabama’s weather so we suggest you pick what looks aesthetically pleasing to you.
Most of the barndominiums built have a metal roof built due to the durability compared to other roof types. A metal roof will also likely cost you less than an asphalt shingle or clay roof. A metal roof also makes it easier to install things like solar panels, if you want to make your home more energy efficient.
Windows and Doors
When choosing windows and doors for your barndominium you will need to consider factors such as energy efficiency, durability, and security.
Some popular window and door options for barndominiums in Alabama include double-paned windows, sliding glass doors, and steel entry doors. The double-pane will help keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter saving you money on utility costs.
How Long Does It Take to Build a Barndominium in Alabama?
The time it takes to build a barndominium can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the complexity of the design or availability of materials. In most cases, a barndominium can be built in about 6 months if done correctly compared to 9-12 months for a traditional wood-built home.
A barndominium build can be sped up even faster by using a barndominium kit. A barndominium kit is a prefabricated package of materials that match a specific floor plan. The benefit of using a kit like this is that it simplifies the build process tremendously.
It’s important to keep in mind that the actual time it takes to build a barndominium can vary depending on many factors. It’s best to work with a qualified builder or contractor who can provide a more accurate estimate based on your needs and requirements.
Zoning regulations will dictate how land can be used. How you plan to use your barndominium and the regulations required for that use may impact the construction of your barndominium or force you to adjust your plans.
It’s crucial for a successful build to understand all of the zoning requirements in the area you want to build. The zoning requirements will vary by county. It’s important to check with your local building department to find out more information. Some counties may require that your barndominium be located on a certain amount of acreage or that it be set back a certain distance from the property line.
If you’re working with a reputable barndominium builder they should also be able to help you navigate the zoning requirements.
In Alabama, if you are going to use your barndominium for agricultural use then you’ll likely need to be zoned for AG. If you are going to only use your barndominium as a residence then you’ll likely need to be zoned for R-1, R-2 or R-3.
You can find a full list of zoning definitions for each county on a digital resource such as Municode from Civic Plus.
In addition to zoning regulations, there are also permit requirements that must be met when building a barndominium in Alabama. These requirements may vary depending on the county in which you are building, but typically include building permits, electrical permits, and plumbing permits.
To obtain a building permit, you will need to submit detailed plans and specifications for your barndominium to the local building department. The plans must comply with all local building codes and regulations. The building department will review your plans and issue a permit if everything is in order.
Electrical and plumbing permits are typically required for any work that involves electrical or plumbing systems. These permits must be obtained separately from the building permit and may require inspections to ensure that the work is done correctly.
Financing Options for a Barndominium in Alabama
If you’re building or buying a barndominium then financing is likely one of the biggest concerns you have. Fortunately, there are several financing options available to help you make your dream home a reality.
Types of Loan Financing
There are multiple financing options available:
- Conventional Mortgages: A conventional, or traditional, mortgage is your standard 15 or 30-year mortgage offered by banks and credit unions. These will typically require a down payment of 20% or more of the barndominium’s value.
- FHA Loans: An FHA loan is a government backed loan that is designed to help people with lower credit scores and savings to get into a home. These loans have lesser requirements, such as a 3.5% down payment and lower credit requirements making it easier for buyers to get into a home.
- VA Loans: A VA loan is backed by the government and is available for veterans or active-duty military to help them and their families with housing. There is no down payment requirement and often very flexible credit requirements for these loans.
- USDA Loans: A USDA loan is designed to help people buy homes in rural areas and are a great option for a barndominium. A USDA loan operates similar to an FHA or VA loan but has strict requirements on income and location of the barndominium.
- Construction Loans: A construction loan will be used if you are building a barndominium from scratch. These loans are short-term and are designed to cover the cost of building a home. These loans will turn into a more conventional mortgage once the barndominium is built.
Learn more about the rest of your financing options for a barndominium. You should speak with a mortgage lender near you for more information on requirements and restrictions on lending in Alabama.
Home Building & Buying Grants and Incentives
Nearly every state offers some form of financial or housing assistance to make more people homeowners in their state as it benefits them greatly from a tax perspective.
The Alabama Housing Finance Authority (AHFA) offers several programs that provide home building grants to eligible applicants.
These programs include:
- Step Up: This program provides down payment assistance of up to 3% of the home’s purchase price. You must meet income and credit score requirements to qualify.
- Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC): This program allows you to claim a federal tax credit of up to 20% of the mortgage interest you pay each year. You must meet income and purchase price limits to qualify.
- Affordable Income Subsidy Grant: This program provides closing cost assistance. You must meet income requirements to qualify.
To get some tax relief you can take advantage of the state and federal tax credit around renewable energy. For example, you can get 30% of the installation cost to install solar panels as a tax credit until 2030.
The state of Alabama, and even the cities themselves, offer additional tax credits around home energy use, rewriting panels and just making minor improvements to your home like installing impact-resistant doors.
Top Mortgage Lenders in Alabama
There are several top mortgage lenders in Alabama that specialize in loans for barndominiums.
Here are a few to consider:
- Alabama Farm Credit: This financial cooperative was founded in the early 1900s and focuses on rural borrowers (farms, ranchers, agriculture, etc.).
- Alabama AG Credit: This mortgage financing company has been around for over 100 years serving rural Alabama. This is another cooperative that focuses on farmers, ranchers and other agricultural type businesses or homes.
- HomeTown Bank: This bank is relatively new compared to others only being in business about 20 years. They are a smaller community bank but looking to grow so they will offer competitive rates.
- First Bank of Alabama: This bank has been serving Alabama for over 150 years and offers a multitude of services to get you in your next home.
- People’s Bank of Alabama: This bank was founded in the 1970s and has all the same amenities of the major financial chains such as Chase, US Bank and others.
You should do your own research on mortgage lenders in Alabama and even look at your local area for a small business. In many cases, a small business will offer you a better deal than some of the larger lenders in the state.
Before selecting a lender to work with you should speak with at least 3-4 and get quotes or pre approvals from each. You can use the pre approvals against each other to get the best deal possible. Make sure you’re reading the fine print and understand the breakdown of your payment structure.
There are lenders that will estimate lower taxes or homeowner’s insurance making your initial monthly payment lower and then it will significantly increase after your first year.
Be sure to talk to friends, family or do online research and read reviews before deciding. You’ll likely be locked into this financial commitment for 15 years or more so you will want to make sure to protect yourself.
Support Finding a Builder or Kit Provider
It doesn’t matter if you’re building a barndominium or a traditional home, finding a reputable contractor or kit provider is key to a successful build.
An experienced builder will be able to guide you every step of the way through your build and will make it as seamless as possible. You will want to search forums, directories and search engines to find a list of builders or kit providers.
After you’ve generated your list you will want to vet each one. Keep in mind, this is likely a 15 to 30 year or longer commitment you’re making so it’s worth it to spend the extra time to find the right builder that will respect your wants and requirements.
A few notable barndominium builders in Alabama are: