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  • Allen Czermak

Shipping Containers Excess & Housing Shortage Solutions

Soaring inflation has put a lid on the normal flow of businesses today be it shipping or housing, both are affected by this spiraling economic trend. Yet, there are always those innovative individuals who will make lemonade out of lemons no matter what the crisis. When COVID-19 tests were the rage, serious entrepreneurs opened up mobile testing sights and had lines forming around the block. Because of the terrible pandemic, businessmen have been raking it in with chain urgent care centers propping up like spring flowers. What could a shipping container possibly have in common with the throttling housing market? Some creative innovators have made the very problem that they were hit with become the very solution.

As we are seeing on the news, there is a twofold difficulty with shipping containers for the past year or so. First this crisis was blamed on the pandemic and the very fact that manufacturing in China and other exporting nations were limited in manpower and therefore product manufacturing was threatened.

Even with the pandemic impediment lessened to a great degree there is still an empty container crisis. We are importing at a greater amount but exporting at a lesser degree causing a buildup of empty containers sitting idly in the ports of the United States. Innovators are coming up with original ideas such as using the containers as walls to block illegals from entering our country. Although this is not the true purpose of those huge and expensive crates, at least they are not taking up useless space in warehouses and parking lots.

Talented architects are consistently trying to make the most living space from the least amount of inches, feet, and yards. What if talented individuals succeeded in using shipping containers as the base for what experts call, “tinies”? Tinies are homes that are built to fit into the smallest areas possible and still consist of the regular requirements of a home or apartment such as two bedrooms, two baths, a kitchen, and living area with a bonus of a beautiful deck area surrounding the entire home. If you think this is a fantasy, look again at The Helm, advertised as cargo homes made from a specific type of shipping container called, “one-trippers”. These containers are shipped from China with a limited amount of cargo and not shipped back at all either empty or full. Something practical must be done with these containers since they will not be reused for shipping.

The owner known simply as Kenneth has placed his flagship home in the town of Waco, Texas.

The Helm is made of two stacked shipping containers. On the bottom is a larger forty-foot container and the second floor is made up of a twenty-foot container. The flagship unit which Kenneth named the Helm is not for sale, but the owner has registered it with Airbnb as a rental. This particular model is not movable since it has a splendid cedar deck that surrounds the entire unit. In fact, the shipping containers are camouflaged by cedar wood as well making it look like a regular home. The doors of the container which are at the end of the longer side of it are transformed into two gorgeous glass doors that open outwards from the deck to the inside of the home.

A typical container home is from recycled steel shipping crates and is considered to be environmentally friendly because of its size. Even with the additional costs of permits and the purchase of a piece of property they can be much more affordable than conventional homes. Unfortunately for millennials their wages are not keeping up with their cost of living and this may be the only way for this age group to be able to own their own residence.

Many cargo homes are portable and well-priced which are their main advantages. With the thirty-year mortgage rate average rising by three points this week to 5.60%, it's no wonder that these mini homes are gaining in popularity and practicality. Prices of homes in this country are skyrocketing and the forecast this year is that although many analysts were hoping that home prices would go down the opposite is happening. There are approximately 52% less home listings this year on Zillow than before the pandemic began.

The most frightening words, housing bubble, are being thrown around as of this week. Although, In an article penned by George Ratiu, a housing economist from Realtor.com skates away from calling the rising prices by this dreaded name, it seems inevitable that we are headed in that direction. When the demand for housing exceeds the supply causing the average rate for sales to rise at an alarming pace it is called a housing bubble. This means that there are more than one potential purchaser vying for the same house. This could easily cause a bidding war between two or more parties who are desperate to buy a house. This carries over as well into the rental market especially in popular neighborhoods. With the inflation rate steadily rising prices are inflated as well.

The Tiny Living Movement

Between 2020 and 2024 the world market for tiny homes is expected to grow by almost six billion dollars. Acknowledging that affordable housing is presently difficult to obtain, economic researchers such as Dr. Luis Torres of the Texas A&M Real Estate Center are finally recognizing this negative trend. With the increased popularity of tiny homes, the option of container living has become a viable alternative.

Practical Guidelines for the Building of a Shipping Container Home

One of the first decisions that a potential shipping container homeowner needs to ask themselves is who will build this home? Companies such as Stackhouse Container Homes of Texas can build you a home from a twenty-foot container for about $50,000 and a beautiful two-bedroom two story home with a roof deck for $200,000 and up. You also have the option of searching and buying your own containers and then hiring a contractor to work on the actual project. You need to figure that the cost of turning each container into a home will cost between$15,000 and $25,000 per container. A forty-foot container which has an extra foot of height goes for between $3,800 and $5,000 each depending on the size and condition of the piece. For example, shipping containers that have been through many storms in lively oceans may have leaking issues so these will need more repairs and therefore cost less money.

Generally, shipping containers are quite durable and if you buy those in good condition there is a very good chance that they will last a long time. Remember, shipping containers are built to accommodate extreme weather conditions such as 180 mph winds (faster than most hurricanes). You also must calculate in the delivery cost to the building site as well.

Final Words

With the housing market almost reaching “bubble” proportions it is extremely difficult for most millennials today to purchase their own home in traditional settings. A young couple with one or two children are perfect candidates for the new phenomena of shipping container homes. Although their size might be called, “tiny” they are generously jam packed with everything a young family needs to live comfortably. There are emerging companies out there bursting with energy and ideas to help you get on the bandwagon and building a container home can be quite cost sensible.

When a container reaches its fifteen-year-old birthday they are available to purchase for homes since they are no longer viable for transporting cargo. Yet they are still strong and durable for normal living. Don’t forget the abuse that these crates get on the ocean is much more tortuous than the worst weather conditions on land. The reality is that these intelligently designed homes are eco-friendly and that’s always a plus in these green crazy times. Although the homes we discussed are stay in one place types there are others that can move from one location to another giving them the practicality of a mobile home with a much more upscale look. Since these homes have been built very recently, they are equipped with the most modern amenities. From energy efficient windows, doors, and appliances to the latest electric money savers these homes are the answer to a millennial who wants his cake and to eat it too.

It’s amazing how every tragedy has a silver lining if only we could see it from a longer perspective. Who would have thought that the terrible container crisis could help the very same people who were suffering from waiting for essentials to arrive from China? Now these very same people are benefiting from the depressing fact that these containers had nowhere to go since there were not enough supplies to send back to China. True the United Stated GDP would appreciate sending back containers full of natural resources back to Asia but there is a comforting prospect knowing that these large hulks of steel are not just sitting around. Where there is life there is hope and let’s hope that the shipping container crisis ends soon but not before those who need homes are taken care of.

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