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Woman’s Solar 484 Sq. Ft. Shipping Container Home

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This is the story of one woman’s solar-powered 484 sq. ft. shipping container home. You may remember her first shipping container tiny home that she lived in for about a year and a half. Now Brenda has upgraded to a larger container home!

Her new container home consists of a 20′ container and a 40′ container which gives her about 484 square feet of space inside. It features a rainwater collection system that delivers water to the flush toilet and washing machine. According to Living Big in a Tiny House, she was able to build it for about $84,000 in USD.

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Woman’s Solar 484 Sq. Ft. Shipping Container Home

Video Tour and Interview with Owner


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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 55 comments… add one }
  • Peter Piper
    May 10, 2016, 2:55 pm

    Nothing that a rich person couldn’t afford, I’m sure, but it concerns me that poor people no long have a place they can afford.

    • kristina nadreau
      May 10, 2016, 4:40 pm

      Poor people have never been able to afford housing. This is not something that has just occurred. Poor people have to make hard choices about sharing housing, because they can not afford to do a single wage earner house (or apartment). This is a harsh reality.

      • Anthonie
        May 10, 2016, 10:31 pm

        You must be very young. Prior to the Reagan administration the word “homeless” was not in our lexicon. Every urban center had their “bums” but you would never see a family with children living in a car or worse. In those days even the very poor had a roof over their head. How incredibly sad that we now have a generation who believe “Poor people have never been able to afford housing.” Do some reading, you are very, very, wrong.


        • Sharee
          August 30, 2016, 2:54 pm

          Anthonie…You are wrong. I was alive before the Reagan era. There were lots of homeless (yes, we called them homeless in the 50’s) in Los Angeles. Skid Row was known for its bums, but there were lots of homeless families, some living out of their cars. The YMCA and YWCA helped some, but staying there wasn’t free. I remember asking my parents why a car was filled up with junk. They explained it to me. I don’t remember seeing homeless people in my area in the 60’s. But I did when we visited the South. I saw families living by the side of the road and washing their clothes in the river. During the 70’s-present I worked in the Santa Ana Civic Center area. There were lots of homeless people. Today there are more. I got to know some of the homeless people and found out that some of them of down on their luck, some are lazy, some have mental problems, and some actually prefer to live outside wherever they are. Anthonie, I don’t have to read about it; I saw it first hand.

        • Julie Myers
          September 30, 2019, 9:58 pm

          You never heard of Hobos who rode the rail? Those were homeless men. sheesh.

    • Chas Wiggins
      May 10, 2016, 5:07 pm

      Hahaha! Where are you from Peter Piper? Rich people have cars that cost as much as this beautiful house. Shipping containers are a great and cheap alternative to conventional housing, and you don’t have to be rich to afford one. A basic container home could cost much less than this one, but you design to your personal taste and affordability. Poor people, like Kristina said, never could afford home ownership…because they are poor! However, with some government assistance, the thousands of empty, surplus containers in this country could be used to develop housing for the poor.
      Now that I have that out of the way, love this plan! I am currently looking at property on the Big Island of Hawaii so that I can return home after retirement. Because everything has to be shipped to the Islands, there are lots of containers available and I look forward to creating my own container home. I love the industrial look set in a natural environment.

      • Eric
        August 30, 2016, 8:24 pm

        Depends on your definition of cheap. Also depends on where you live. Used containers here in New Zealand (location of home in article) routinely cost between $NZ 8k to $NZ 25k. And those are generally what I would call dungers too. Dents galore. Rust, in the worst places as well. Quite frankly I don’t call $8k cheap let alone $25k. Mark Zuckerberg would probably disagree though.

        • Claire
          August 30, 2016, 10:07 pm

          Eric, I don’t know where you’re looking at containers in New Zealand, but there are listed on TradeMe single trip 40ft containers for NZ$5K, high cube ones for $6K etc. It’s moving them onto site that can cost a significant amount extra if you’re a long way from the yard.
          Regardless, when even old do-up 2 bedroom homes in run-down areas of Auckland still cost over $450K, a container can be a much cheaper choice…

        • Susan Mason
          August 30, 2016, 10:08 pm

          Hi Eric. In the united states, 40 foot containers run anywhere from 1,200 to 2,500. So here they are pretty cheap. I lived in a tent once–on a small lot I bought cheap on E-bay. I bought a pretty cheap tent, because I didn’t have much money, and in a relatively short time, the tent began to rot and leak, and it kept getting worse and worse. A shipping container home does not need to be fancy, it only needs to keep you dry when it rains, and warm in the winter. I have a new and bigger lot now, but it was still pretty inexpensive. I may get 2 or 3 shipping containers and fix them up with free and salvaged materials as I can get them. In the meantime, though…it will be kind of like living in a metal tent which won’t leak. So, Even poor people can have a home, if they plan it right. Not easily, of course…but it can be done. My place is not going to cost me even close to $84,000. Not even remotely close to that. In a number of states in the U.S., you can buy a regular house for that. To my way of thinking–$84,000 is extremely expensive.

        • Sharril
          February 19, 2019, 11:31 pm

          We are in central Florida, We just got 2 20 footers and the cost was over 8k..they are no t cheap anymore like they were years back, now you cant go directly to the companies to buy , we have to go thru a dealer..so up goes the price. They used to be cheap til companies realized, I can buy and sell for more plus delivery..

  • Canyon Man
    May 10, 2016, 3:30 pm

    I believe a house like this is more affordable than the price shown if a person can do most or all of the work themselves. When I wanted new Pella windows in an old adobe house I was quoted almost $20,000 with a note the price might be higher once job was started. I ended up doing it myself with someone else’s help for part of them. By shopping around I was able to do the job for a little over $5,000. We had to make to new boxes in the wall which would have substantially increased the quote bid I was given.
    My 2ooo gallon rainwater catch system cost less than $1,000 once I found some free vinyl barrels and purchased a used 1200 gallon vinyl tank. I searched Habitat stores for the piping and used a free pump to disperse the water to various garden areas.
    For those without the ability to do all of the work costs go up. I think we all should keep this in mind when one see’s various prices on these house.
    Thank you for a forum to see and communicate on this evolving subject.

    • Suzanne meub
      May 10, 2016, 5:11 pm

      you are my kind of guy … my first stop is always Habitat !

      • Eric
        August 30, 2016, 8:27 pm

        Only one or two Habitat for Humanity shops in NZ. Never been to one, far too far away from where I live, but I hear they are ExPeNsIvE! Price nearly, and sometimes more, than new. That’s ludicrous. Unfortunately, that’s New Zealand.

    • Megan
      May 13, 2016, 12:24 am

      Free help is what the Amish call community and will have a house and or barn erected in a very short time.

      • Sonya
        October 1, 2019, 6:47 pm

        Megan, agreed. Wish this thread had a “like” button. 🙂

  • michelle
    May 10, 2016, 4:56 pm

    This was built in New Zealand, where construction of any kind is hideously expensive. It would be quite difficult to build tiny in this country on the budgets you have in the US. Reclamation is expensive as we’re still a fairly young country and old stuff costs a lot here. Exporting costs are huge too as we’re so far away. Just as well it’s such a gorgeous place to live!

    • Eric
      June 7, 2016, 3:57 am

      Yeah, exporting costs are so hideously expensive, that is why our produce (I’m a Kiwi living in Godzone btw) that we export half way around the world is sold cheaper than what we pay at home.

      Reality is, Kiwi businesses, to a big extent, make the Mafia look like kindergarten kids. They truly do make an offer you can’t refuse. And yes I love my country, just not the business practices that are rampant here.

      • Michelle
        March 24, 2017, 7:11 pm

        Got to love NZ councils, partly why we’ve built what we have 🙂 Hopefully photos of our solution will appear on these pages before too long. Can almost see the finish line! The only downside has been the slow broadband available to rural out of the way places, even though we’re still technically in Auckland… still we have it, and I’m grateful even if the teenagers are moaning.

  • BB
    May 10, 2016, 5:18 pm

    Nicely done! I beg to differ with Peter Piper. This is thoroughly affordable for a home of that size in this city. This build is priced SUBSTANTIALLY LESS than a stick built house of comparable size. I know this because I am from Auckland and am familiar with the ridiculously inflated housing market in New Zealand. If I still lived there, I would be calling this company for a quote right now! Another example of kiwi ingenuity at work!

  • Rue
    May 10, 2016, 5:25 pm

    Whatever the price of a tiny house, I like seeing it for the ideas it can contribute. There’s no cost to looking.

  • Porcsha
    May 10, 2016, 8:11 pm

    A sublime design that fits her just fine! I love the color of the exterior. The furniture in the home is perfect and the hidden storage really makes the home look clean and neat. I want that couch, it’s awesome!

    It seems to me that going tiny is a lengthy process when trying to understand what you do and don’t need not just in the size of the home but in the amenities. Tiny homes are so tailored to each person or family which may be a trend for many if they aren’t committed to tiny house living as a better way of life. I see this home as an example of what we should consider when getting a tiny home specifically water catchment systems and solar power.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • May 11, 2016, 10:36 am

    A little confused as to where it was built whether in New Zealand or Australia, either way it is not USA and the prices I believe are much more expensive. And how feasible is it for us in the United States regarding regulations by HUD? But getting the the main subject, I love the design and the thought of living in a home where expenses are cut down by more than half and having extra financial freedom. I’ve done some research on this new lifestyle of downsizing, as I myself am thinking about this alternative this year. Visit my blog found at Tight Space Furniture dot com and don’t forget to leave your comments. Also space saving furniture with storage found on this website for great options.

    • Eric
      June 7, 2016, 3:59 am

      Built in New Zealand.

      • Rev
        June 8, 2016, 12:38 pm

        Reply to Lopez:
        Avoid tanglements with HUD or building codes by not building a permanent structure. RVs have no such restrictions.

  • May 12, 2016, 3:46 am

    Wow! I just love your home!! Awesome color for the exterior and I like how you have bushes in the front of your home it gives it a more finished look. When you tour the inside it’s amazing at how much room & storage you have. I can’t believe how many things you have to turn into beds. I love the storage cabinet with all the cubbies for your belongings. What I really love is your deck in the back it’s awesome! Your pretty smart to have a water catchment set up that helps the environment & keeps costs down. Thank you so much for sharing and giving us ideas to living out of containers. Enjoy your home it’s really beautiful!! Carol???

  • Rev
    June 8, 2016, 12:49 pm

    A couple points:

    a) 400sf! Yikes! That nearly qualifies as a tiny mansion. I’m content with my 7×12 THOW, less than 100sf.

    b) I’m concerned about the ‘dead-end’ office. Blue light from the computer (and maybe LEDs in this solar-powered property) needs natural light for balance.

    • Eric
      August 30, 2016, 8:33 pm

      400 sq ft nearly qualifies as a tiny mansion? Geddoff! Over 2500 sq ft would qualify as a tiny mansion… gee, only about 2100 sq ft out Rev. Only!

      • Rozz
        March 24, 2017, 2:15 am

        Uh, I think he meant a tiny “mansion”…

  • Sharee
    August 30, 2016, 3:00 pm

    I like the covered patio area. Looks very peaceful. I didn’t see very many windows. Is it difficult to put windows in a container home?

    August 30, 2016, 3:17 pm

    That poor woman …! $84,000.00 is a lot of money for a home that was built from a container, that should have cost next to nothing….!

    • Eric
      August 30, 2016, 8:43 pm

      Zachary, everything costs more in New Zealand. For a whole host of reasons. Those 2 containers probably cost her, given the really good condition they appear to be in, around $30k. Yeah, major rip offs happen ALL the time over here.

      But, on the plus side we don’t “have” to buy medical insurance. You can if you want to go private but they still sting you megabucks over and above your premiums. And there are other benefits as well. Subsidised medicines, most only cost $5 per prescription up to a max 20 prescriptions in a calendar year. Relatively clean environment, no Pittsburgh type cities here. Thank goodness. Maximum 120 miles as the crow flies to a beach anywhere in the country. On the downside, contrary to popular beliefs, no hobbits here at all. Just bad habits. lqtm

        August 30, 2016, 11:58 pm

        Here in some areas they give them away… I only live 15 min. from the beach, And I have insurance that pays for almost every thing except $10.00 USD for Doctors visits, and I only pay $ 5.oo USD co-pay on most prescriptions… And no hobbits here either…! But I didn’t realize she had lived in New Zealand.. And I guess seeing how New Zealand is an island, I can understand how she would have to pay for the containers.. There they must have a law making shippers take them back, where here you can find them piled up in almost any port and you can strike a bargain with the port authority to haul them away at your own expense, and only paying tax for roadway transport of the trailer over so many pounds but being empty only a few dollars if any money at all…! And you could not pay me to live in Pittsburgh for all the money you could carry in one of those trailers….!

        • Larry B.
          October 1, 2019, 3:31 am

          You are the exception most people don’t live anywhere near a beach, I too live near a beach, but the U.S. isn’t an Island like NZ. Most people except seniors pay a lot for health insurance, so it really depends on your age in the U.S. and don’t even get me started on prescriptions. As far as cost of anything if varies greatly in the U.S. West Coast has some of the highest gas prices, home prices, and wages, but the south mid west has some of the lowest including wages. 60K in the South will get you a nice house, 60k in Puget Sound area won’t even get you a postage stamp size lot.

  • DonnaC
    August 30, 2016, 3:50 pm

    I think the use of space is a bit of concern – for me personally – but if it suits her – more power to her for doing this. I like the idea of two containers in an L – it gives you much more room and even some storage if you want and if you have the area to seat the home. I went with a Park Model home – and absolutely love it – big kitchen, bedroom on ground floor – just suits my lifestyle

  • Kitty
    August 30, 2016, 4:18 pm

    Here in the USA, I was raised a long time ago to realize that a “fair” price for anything, is what a buyer and a seller – or perhaps in this case the homeowner and the builder – can agree upon. Perhaps this homeowner thought that the price was fair – or perhaps it went way over budget. Who knows? People build and buy container homes of all sizes, with prices across the spectrum. Just today I read of a boat builder who built himself a single container home for $18,000. Here in America labor generally accounts for about 50% of the total build price. Obviously, any smaller home of any type can be built for much less if the owner is willing to do all the labor, as well as source materials from Craigslist, Habitat, and the like. I read not long ago of one THOW owner who built her tiny home for about $3,000 total, and I have seen other who have built tiny homes for as little as $300. I have also seen tiny homes and THOWs that cost over $300,000 USD.

    • Eric
      August 30, 2016, 8:51 pm

      To put things in perspective here, in New Zealand, specifically the Auckland area that this container home is located, an average house (nothing special mind you… just average) has now just broken $NZ 1 million barrier. Not just one specific house, but house prices across the board for an average house. That is just over 12 times the average “family’s” annual income. That’s pre tax and no money spent on food, electric etc. Insane? Doesn’t even begin to describe it.

      • Susan Mason
        August 30, 2016, 10:33 pm

        In the U.S., housing prices depend upon which state you are in. In States like California, especially in certain areas…people who get a home for less than a million think they got a real bargain. But, in states like Nevada, a home costing $84,000 would be really nice and over a thousand square feet.

  • Dick
    August 30, 2016, 4:48 pm

    @Zachary, that $84,000 is New Zealand dollars, which comes to about $60,810 in US dollars. And from what the pictures tell me, that’s an L-shaped two-container home. Plus take a look at the interior furnishings and finishes. I can see where the expense came from.

    For currency conversion, see http://www.countrycurrencyrates.com.

    • Debz
      February 5, 2018, 8:22 am

      I’m replying long after this comment was posted, as I’m just seeing it today. I feel it is pertinent enough to point this out, for anyone who happens along as I did.

      According to the description at the beginning, the $84,000 cost figure was in US Dollars, so this conversion posted by Dick was inappropriate.

      So…in NZ Dollars, at the exchange rate in place today (February 5, 2018), that would be $115040.52.

      Just for clarity’s sake…

      • Dick
        February 5, 2018, 11:40 am

        As I used to tell my students–READ EVERY WORD! All I can say is OOPS! Many of these articles give the price in the currency of the country they’re in, so I didn’t read and made an assumption…

        • Debz
          February 5, 2018, 12:47 pm

          Hey, Dick — I’ll let you in on a little secret. I initially thought the same thing you did, and was about to post the conversion myself. But then I saw you had done so.

          A bit later, I watched the video, in which the conversion was put up on the screen in great big, noticeable print. That’s when I reread the description here and saw that it agreed about the currency being reported.

          All that to say, no worries, Dick. I didn’t mean to get on your case. I just wanted to make sure others reading about this TH got the accurate info. 😉

  • vickie
    August 30, 2016, 6:03 pm

    i have a questions for all you that know more than i do..if rvs dont have restrictions for building..codes, etc. does that mean if you put a container on a trailer with wheels, that you could park it, live there, and not have building codes to worry about? ty muches

    • Eric
      August 30, 2016, 8:45 pm

      Probably some pen pushing bureaucrat would find some way of confounding you. Unfortunately.

  • Kris
    September 1, 2016, 5:38 pm

    Hey, forget the cost of the container home itself, what about the cost of the land to put it on? Depending on where in the USA one lives, a container home for many (especially those of us who can’t do the work ourselves and thus the cost of the home itself would be on the high end) would be prohibitive. And then there’s the issue of where you would be allowed to “build” it even if you could afford the land.

  • Elle
    March 23, 2017, 3:05 pm

    When this site first ran the tiny house featured again today I though what a lovely home she’d created for herself. It is beautiful, smart and accommodating.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      March 27, 2017, 9:03 am

      It absolutely is!

    March 24, 2017, 6:57 pm

    I still find containers here at a cost that would floor this poor woman, and I understand that things cost more there in New Zealand… But just to give you an idea as to how cheep these trailers are here, you should google them and just see what the cost of a shipping container is now and this is if you go thru a broker like a used car dealer… It’s insane to think that she had to pay so much, but I would think in comparison to the cost of a regular house to be built she has still saved money..! And sorry still no Hobbits here in Florida either …! LoL…!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      March 27, 2017, 8:35 am

      Haha no Hobbits 🙂

  • Gail
    April 10, 2017, 11:53 am

    Wow, love it all; it does need a sink in the bathroom for sanitary purposes, but I love how she managed storage everywhere and the sofas being turned into beds and the wall unit being able to move to make it like two bedrooms. Really love that outdoor space too. And to go solar is wonderful. Wish I had this in Canada.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      April 11, 2017, 7:26 am

      It’s a great spot!

  • keepyourpower
    June 27, 2017, 8:12 pm

    She is a smart little cookie, isn’t she…with the help of her Dad.

  • Joe
    June 28, 2017, 1:29 pm

    Super job on this place and what a view!

  • Kitty
    August 5, 2019, 5:30 pm

    The 20K House Project. From Auburn University in the Southeast US, they have been designing and building nice homes for years for low-income types; with the objective always being a total cost of $20,000 USD for the home! You can check them out by searching for “20K Home Product Line” or by visiting http://www.ruralstudio.org/initiatives/20k-house I would be contended to live in any home they have already built.

  • Mary Barber
    February 15, 2020, 2:20 pm

    What is the largest single one-story shipping container home? Pls. show us that on your website. (I hope I get an answer to this question – I have posted several others w/ no replies. ☹️)

  • May 1, 2020, 3:58 pm

    I actually liked the house so much but what ruined it was the ugly blue wall in the kitchen. Also, I didn’t see a sink in the bathroom.

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