Think a DIY house kit is for you?
“I wanted to build something,” Jennifer Buck says. So she’s building a two-story, 2,000-square-foot home in Sharon, Conn. — from a kit.
“I’m going to be 48. Before I get any older, I’m doing it,” Buck adds.
Though she admits to one important weakness: “I’m awful at measuring.”
You’d think that might be a deal breaker. Apparently not.
❚ Half the cost of contractor bids: Buck’s project is a sizable two-story house. Dave Kimball of New Hampshire-based Shelter-Kit, which sold Buck her home, says most of the kits his company sells are custom-designed; it’s not a one-size-fits-all business.
“The size seems to vary year-by-year,” Kimball says.
Buck says her motivation was having an affordable home. Average wage earners couldn’t afford a median-priced home in 68% of 446 U.S. counties analyzed in an ATTOM Data Solutions report released in March. The counties included in the study represent nearly 70% of the U.S. population.
Labor costs are one reason. Though Buck wanted a simple design, contractors were submitting quotes of
$400,000, she says. Buck’s DIY “home in a box,” built on 3 acres she has owned for years, is nearly completed and will cost about half that. And that includes a new $25,000 septic system.
Kimball says Shelter-Kit homes qualify for financing by a typical mortgage lender. However, home-kit plans and providers vary widely, with prices ranging from $20 per square foot to more than $400. Lender enthusiasm also may vary.
❚ The “OMG” moment: When two 18-wheeler flat- bed trailers delivered 30 pallets of building materials — and a 35-page step-by-step instruction manual — Buck had an “OMG” moment. “There’s a house on my lawn!” she thought. “I just have to put it together.” So Buck took a hiatus from her full-time marketing job and jumped in.
Each piece of the kit was numbered and cut to the proper length, and the kit included everything she needed, even nails. She has spent nearly all of six months building the house. Her brother Kyle — a carpenter — helps on Sundays.
Buck contracted out the construction of the foundation but built the first-floor decking and walls herself. She estimates there’s about a month’s worth of work remaining.
“I’d do it over again, five times,” she says. “More women should do it. They shouldn’t be intimidated.”
She concedes there were setbacks. “The one time when something was off, it turned out that I had measured it wrong.”
Jennifer Buck is building a two-story, 2,000-square-foot home on 3 acres in Sharon, Conn., from a kit sold by Shelter-Kit.
An example of a finished home, built with ShelterKit materials.