Think a DIY house kit is for you?

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Hal Bun­drick

“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.

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