Can you build a Barndominium in Iowa?

Yes, you can absolutely build a barndominium in Iowa. In fact, Iowa offers the would-be barndominium builder a handful of benefits above and beyond many other states.

Iowa is largely an agricultural state. That means you have access to a lot of perfectly useful land at lower prices than, for instance, commercial or residential zoned land in some other, more metropolitan states.

According to an annual survey by students from the University of Iowa (naturally) in November 2020, although there had been a slight price rise, you could still get an acre of Iowa farmland for just $7,559. How much real estate would that buy you in New York or New Hampshire?

That’s a big factor in terms of the size and scale of the barndominium you can build. They’re traditionally cheaper than building or buying most other forms of housing in the 21st century – doing it in Iowa just sweetens the deal.

It also sweetens the deal for a whole lot more people. Building your own home is a thing that’s come back into vogue in the 21st century, especially among millennials whose prospects of owning their own home in the traditional ways their parents and grandparents could afford to do have been squished like a bug on a windscreen.

Doing it in Iowa, where land is both cheaper than you might expect, plentiful, and, if you want it to be, relatively distant from the claustrophobia of city life, gives more people access to the American Dream.

It’s another advantage that Iowa is less precious about its building codes than some states, where you have to ensure whatever you build fits in with hundreds of years of an established aesthetic. Iowa cares less about that sort of thing, and more about building codes that keep you safe and make you happy.

Are there particular codes you need to know?

Sure – it’s not as though you can just put up anything in Iowa. Check out these resources to get your head around the codes you need to know.

  1. 1.    The Iowa State Building Codes
  2. 2.    Iowa Building Code Official's Handbook

It’s worth remembering that the Iowa State building codes will be a basic framework, and that individual counties may well amend or add to those codes with their own requirements.

Generally though, the spirit of the barndominium build, which is usually rapid compared to most standard house builds – roughly six months from start to finish – is alive and well in Iowa, with less hassle and fewer hoops overall to jump through to make your barndominium dream come true. 

How much does it cost to build a Barndominium in Iowa?

When budgeting for a new build home, you usually calculate the cost per square foot, and then multiply that by the number of square feet in your floorplan.

That gives you your initial ballpark figure to get a project off the ground – before adding in the likes of electricity, water, sewage, insulation, AC, and any new furnishings you need to buy.

In fact, that initial budget probably helps you draw up your floorplan, because you can have exactly as many bathrooms as you can afford!

A traditional house in Iowa, to build from scratch, would cost you between $100-$155 per square foot all told – including everything in the initial construction that you need to get the project up and running (but doesn’t include those elements like electricity, cabinetry, furniture, etc).

Building a barndominium in Iowa costs considerably less than that. It works out roughly at between $90-$155 per square foot. Up to $50 per square foot less than a traditional build. That translates several ways – more square footage for your money on the one hand, more available money to spend on the interior elements on the other, but perhaps most crucially, more opportunity for more people to build their own home in the first place.

It can end up being a full 20% less expensive to build a barndominium in Iowa than it can to build a standard home. If you want to look at it that way, that means barndominiums mean 20% more people can get on the property ladder by building barndominiums in Iowa.

You can also save money by building a barndominium because they are relatively fast and easy to construct. That means cutting down on the time you’re paying for labor, which is one of the most crippling costs in traditional housebuilding. With most barndominiums taking around 6 months to build from start to finish, compared to the years you can often spend on building a traditional house, that means a bleeding hole in your budget is plugged as fast as possible by going the barndominium route.

And it’s not as though there’s a shortage of barndominium builders in Iowa. It’s an established practice in the state, and there are several pages of specialty barndominium builders listed across the state, who can help you navigate the building codes, help you agree on your budget and your available floorplan options, and then go right ahead and turn your dream into the reality you’re hoping for.

There are also lots of standard builders of course and the way you go about finding the barndominium builder that’s right for you is largely your own business But certainly, check their experience in building the type of project you’re aiming to construct before you go with them. There are those pages of barndominium specialists – a simple Google search should give you at least a couple of handfuls to start checking out.

Experience with steel buildings and metal pole structures will be a green flag phrase to look for. If a builder describes themselves as specializing in barndominiums, and has previous experience in steel buildings, the chances are high you’ve found someone worth talking to about building your dream Iowa barndominium and getting your feet on the property ladder in spite of economic pressures, a pandemic and the gradual price inflation of traditional houses.

Iowa, more than many states, wants you to make that dream a reality. Its available land and lower costs help you every step of the way to build your barndominium in the state and contribute to life there.