Can You Build a Barndominium in California? Cost, Financing, Regulations

Can You Build a Barndominium in California
Can You Build a Barndominium in California

Texas is often considered the birthplace of custom steel homes like barndominiums. But now, these cozy, affordable, and durable structures are popping up elsewhere across the country. It’s becoming more popular to build one in states like Washington, Virginia, and California.

You can build a barndominium in California. Based on the cost of labor, delivery, and the shell kit, barndominiums will cost over $273,000 in the state. You’ll need a construction loan and to be sure that you’re following local regulations. That includes abiding by California’s seismic codes.

Are you a resident of California and wondering if a barndominium is a good choice for you? Then, keep reading to find out how much these new steel homes cost, how you can finance one, and what regulations you’ll have to abide by in the state of California!

The Cost of a Barndominium in California

By now, you know that the cost to build a brand new home (or even buy an existing home) in California is unusually high. In fact, the average conventional home in California is valued at well over $500,000

These high home prices tend to stem from high costs of materials, pricey land values, and a growing demand to live in the State. Fortunately, barndominiums are a bit of a different story.

A Breakdown in Pricing

Purchasing a barndominium shell kit will likely get you the most affordable barndominium in the State of California. The price tag will depend on the current price of steel (which is the same nationwide), the cost of labor to erect the barndominium, and possible delivery costs.

So, let’s total these values up to see what a barndominium costs in California:

  • Shell Kit: $25,000 to $60,000 (price will depend on the square footage)
  • Labor: $243 to $253 per square foot (based on labor costs to build homes in CA)
  • Delivery: $5,000 to $15,000 (will vary depending on how far you live from distributor)

In regards to size, barndominiums can range from 1,000 square feet (about the size of an apartment) to 4,000 square feet (about twice the size of the average American home).

A 1,000 square foot barndominium in California will likely be on the low end of all costs, so about $273,000. A 4,000 square foot option could be $1,000,000 or more in California!

However, it is possible to spend significantly less by cutting costs along the way. You can do that by putting in some DIY work, ordering your shell kit from a local manufacturer, or choosing a low-cost shell kit.

Either way, it’s still more affordable than a conventional home!

Additional Costs to Consider

Building a new home for less than $300,000 in California seems like a steal, but there are a few other costs that you’ll need to consider before deciding that this is the right home for you.

So, what are these additional costs and fees? Take a look:

  • Land: The exact cost will depend on where in California you decide to build. For example, a single acre of land in California will probably run you a bill over $10,000. 
  • Finishing It Out: There’s the chance that you want to invest in a fireplace, extra bedrooms, a high-end kitchen, or premium wood flooring. To completely finish out a barndominium to your standards, you could be spending an extra $80,000 or more.
  • Permits: There are plenty of permits that you’ll need to get in order to fully construct your new steel home in California. This can be a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, sometimes up to 18% of the total cost to build.
  • Leveling Land: To lay down a cement slab, you need to have your land leveled by a contractor first. Larger barndominiums that take up more land space may cost an additional $6,000 or more on this feature alone.

It’s important to crunch these numbers and fees first before deciding to build a barndominium in California. Otherwise, you may end up over your head financially. Understanding the fees along the way can also help you to get a more accurate construction loan for the project.

Is a barndominium worth the money? Well, take a look at this video that’ll give you an up-close and personal tour of a two-story barndo:

How to Finance a Barndominium in California

Since barndominiums are considered “unconventional” housing options, it’ll be difficult to get a typical mortgage for the structure right off the bat. In most cases, new barndominiums will be approved for a construction loan instead.

Here’s what you need to know.

Construction loans tend to last about a year (or about the time it takes to build a barndominium or a house). When the one-year period is up, you’ll be able to turn your construction loan into a mortgage unless you can pay off the construction loan by that time.

This is sometimes known as construction-to-permanent.

Like a mortgage, you’ll likely have to put down at least 20% of the loan value in order to be approved for a construction loan by a lender. There are also a few other limitations, such as needing a credit score of 680+, spending less than 45% of your income on debt, and clarification on how you plan to pay the loan back.

Keep in mind that these tend to be high-interest loans.

Regulations for Barndominiums in California

The regulations for building a brand new barndominium in California will vary from one town to the next. Some cities, like South El Monte, do not permit any new metal structures to be built within city limits at all. So, check with your local government first and get the appropriate permits prior to getting started with construction.

Possible Guidelines

There doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between building a conventional home and a barndominium in California. But, there are a few guidelines you’ll probably have to follow when it comes to coding and the construction process, like:

  • Hours construction is permitted (8 AM to 6 PM, banned on Sundays and holidays)
  • Metal shipping containers may not be used as a home
  • Windows and doors in all bedrooms and basement areas
  • Ventilation in 1/50 of the attic space
  • A heating system that can keep indoor temperatures at 68 degrees
  • All exterior surfaces must be weatherproofed
  • At least ½ ich of drywall between your barn and living space
  • Smoke alarms in (and right outside of) all bedrooms
  • Roofing must be fire-resistant

The best way to be sure that your barndominium in California meets local and state regulations is by hiring a contractor and having the home inspected throughout the building process.

There’s one more thing to think about: Earthquakes.

Since California is within a seismic zone and experiences earthquakes quite frequently, you need to make sure that your barndominium is up to the seismic codes set in California. These guidelines will help to reduce damage and injury if an earthquake were to occur.

There are also wind and snow loads that you’ll have to abide by.


Building a barndominium in California is a bit like building in other states in America. The problem is that barndos aren’t as widespread in the state, meaning finding specific guidelines and regulations is a little more complicated (as compared to Texas, for example). Before you even purchase the land or hire a construction crew, be sure to get in contact with your local government officials to get a closer look at the requirements for the building.