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The Cheapest Way to Build a House: 4 Tips from the Experienced Builder

When the time for a new house comes, it seems like the building budget is everything. Especially if you live in an area where affordable housing isn't available! Your dream home doesn't necessarily need to cost a fortune — it is totally possible to build a house cheaply with the right approach. Some of our clients only had $100,000-$150,000 and got themselves perfect homes. With home prices rising each year, building your own home might be a super reasonable solution.

I've been working for Fortress Home for 18 years. In this little guide, I will tell you how to build a cheap house —based on my own experience. By the way, my advice often doesn't match the ones you find on the Internet… For a reason. Let's get started!

1. Choose the right project

A simple, clean, and not overly complicated floor plan is very important when you are asking yourself “How to build a cheap house?”. Do the preliminary research yourself: cruise architectural and design profiles on Instagram and Pinterest. Find a perfect existing home that has most likely been built the cheapest way!

Ask yourself a few questions - Does it really suit me? Do I see myself living in a house like this or would it be a compromise?


Don't go for a compromise! You can find the templates online — and later discuss it with the home builder.

Opt for clean shapes

Choose a square or a rectangular ("box") shape of the house. Avoid complicated structures, round windows, sliding doors, etc. Get inspired by Tuscany villas — their classic shape is a simple rectangular.

Use proper house layout

Understand that the layout is very important (water supply system runs through logically situated spaces (kitchen, bathroom laundry room, etc.). Rooms are easily accessible. Balconies and verandas are situated correctly (sunny side of the building).

Go traditional

Imagine a conventional house: regular windows, doors, flat roof, cost effective wall panels, etc. Clean shapes of the rooms and design elements are cheaper than complicated ones.

Compensate on the interior

Have you noticed how creative and cozy spacious lofts can be? But they are just brick walls and windows! Think through your future interior design: color accents, furniture, plants, lighting. These are inexpensive but very effective ways to create interesting interior solutions.

2. Check out unconventional houses

The cheapest way to build a house often lies in the interesting solutions that become more and more popular every day. And you don't need to purchase land in some remote location for that! Here are a few ideas that can help you significantly save on the building process.

Shipping containers

This is the only way that we would recommend you become your own builder / your own contractor. Order shipping containers, get them delivered and placed on your plot of land — and design the interior spaces of this already existing house.

The average price of container homes is around $30,000 for a 40 square foot — and all you need to do is to combine containers together, insulate, install roofing, and the utilities. For doing this you will need a building permit and a site plan. Is it possible to build a house made of containers for less than $100,000? Yes, it is definitely one of the cheapest ways to build a house!

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House kits

A house kit is also known as a prefabricated, or a modular house. This option is more expensive than container home building. Prefab houses are manufactured off-site, then delivered on the building plot, and combined there in about 2-3 months. You can really save money choosing this option, but you might need to sacrifice square footage.

The average price of house kits in the US is $50-250 per square foot. Let's take the average price of $100 per square foot — that means that you can get yourself a 600 sq. ft house for $60,000 and spend the rest on necessary works, utilities, and decoration.

Tiny homes

In fact, not so tiny! Every US home with a square footage of less than 400 sq. ft is officially considered a tiny house. Do you want an energy efficient building that will cost you less? Join the tiny home movement.

With the average building price of $200 per square foot, you can build yourself a 350 sq. ft house for $70,000. This home building process will take much less time — you can become an owner of your tiny home in about 6 months (building a conventional house, on the contrary, might take up to a year).

Tiny houses are super cozy and are a perfect solution for large metropolitan areas with expensive land.


For example, Chicago, IL. If you want to live in a developed city center and are not planning to buy raw land somewhere in the woods, talk to your local real estate agent — one of the cost savings, offered by him, would definitely be tiny homes.

3. Explore energy efficient solutions

You have to save money wisely. A modern construction process, even for the cheapest houses, does not just include discounted materials or sacrificed square footage. You can definitely live without hardwood floors but you have to think in advance — what will help you to save money in the long term. And it is definitely an energy efficient approach to any new real estate. It includes:

  • Proper location of the house on the land
  • Airtight construction
  • Air sealing
  • Modern building materials
  • Energy efficient windows and doors
  • LED lighting solutions
  • Good insulation
  • Modern heating and water supply equipment
  • Modern energy saving appliances
  • Solar panels
  • Wind energy

These solutions will need some investment, but they will pay you off long term. To choose the right set for your own house, it is recommended to take a consultation from a professional.


You only have to choose a licensed general contractor.

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4. Find experienced home builders

Get the experienced home builders aboard! The advice to become your own contractor, which you often find online, might cost you a lot of cash. If you never worked in the building industry, trying to build a house without professional help might turn into unexpected expenses and an extra layer of worry.

Experienced builders will not just construct your residence on budget— they will provide you with valuable tips that only they know. It might be a really long list: from creating an energy efficient house by the correct positioning of it on your land to using the wind energy, high efficiency windows, or a simple roof. Could you guess it all yourself?

The value of professional help in the building process lies in:

  • Rejection of unnecessary ideas
  • Explanation of the building process to a ti
  • Offering of the optimal, most likely smaller square footage for the future house
  • Helping with understanding what a simple but sound design project is
  • Purchasing quality but affordable or reclaimed materials
  • Providing solutions that will lower labor costs
  • Getting all the needed permits from the local government (including approval of the design project)
  • Offering partnered lending services that will quicken loans decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the cheapest house to build?

The cheapest way to build a house is to buy a kit home (aka prefabricated house); design a simple project; order a shipping container or construct a tiny house.

Real help in saving money would be inviting an experienced builder or a contractor to help you plan and build your dream home. If you don't have relevant experience, don't try to make it yourself!


Give us a call at Fortress Home at 773-770-8607 and get a free consultation on your budget options.

How can I build a low cost house?

First of all, if you don't have relevant experience — don't! There are many ways of saving money by referring to conventional solutions — building a simple, cleanly designed house; ordering a kit house; using an energy efficient approach that will save you loads in the future. And it doesn't necessarily have to be a tiny space or a real estate where you have sacrificed something. If you know your approximate budget, give a call to one of your local builders or contractors and they will let you know your options!

Can you build a house for less than 100k?

You definitely can! You can build a good house for $60,000. And there are many solutions out there on the market! You don't need to become your own builder to own a house. First, choose the area, compare the costs and possible solutions — from building smaller but custom (choose a very simple project) to getting a prefab or a container home. The cheapest way to build a house is totally up to you!

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