A comprehensive guide about barndominiums: Everything you need to know

Are you thinking about buying a barndominium? These unique properties offer their residents the best of both worlds – a home’s comfortable living environment and a farm’s rural lifestyle. If you’re intrigued by the prospect of owning your farm but don’t have enough space or time to maintain one, read on to learn more about what they are and whether they might be right for you.

A barndominium, also called a barndo, is essentially a home built inside a barn, hence its other name as an urban farmhouse. They usually consist of two floors—the bottom floor is a traditional barn with plenty of equestrian-friendly features such as stalls, hay lofts, and high-ceilinged spaces for equipment storage. The upper floor is converted into living quarters in which every room has views of green pastures through large windows.

What is a barndominium?

Barndominiums were popularized in the 1990s. As the popularity of this type of home design grew, several architectural firms started offering custom-built barn conversions. Some homeowners, however, prefer to build their barndominiums by renovating an old barn or constructing a new one on their property. If you purchase a previously existing barn, ensure it is structurally sound before making a final decision. Some conversion specialists have expertise in preserving barns while still making them comfortable and usable for modern families. They can help you determine which renovations are needed to add living space and how they should be done.

How do you buy a Barndominium?

Upper Barn House

The barndominiums sold on the market are usually custom-built by architectural firms. If you decide to build it from scratch, you will have to follow a few steps along the way:

  • Browse through floor plans and decide on the one you like. You can choose a spacious one-story building with two apartments or a two-story one with multiple apartments. This can depend on your desired living arrangements and whether you want to use the space above the second floor, which may not be necessary if there are no stairs leading to the upper level. Consult an architect specializing in barn house designs if this is your main goal. Ask if they would be able to design an area bigger than what’s possible today.
  • Choose construction specialists who can build what you have in mind. For one thing, barn homes are built using completely different techniques compared to regular houses, especially regarding framing. Depending on where you live, there may be some contractors who have experience in barn construction. If not, you can hire a general contractor or locate someone specializing in “green” building; they will be familiar with the local building codes and requirements and know how to make your dream home a reality. The materials will vary depending on your location and the contractor you select. Some may also charge a premium for special finishes such as recycled roofing tiles or their earth-friendly products that are locally made.
  • Find out about local zoning ordinances for constructing buildings of certain heights and floors. If you are planning to build a two-story home, the local building department requires you to obtain a permit. Don’t forget that your contract with the contractor must include the specific requirements for what you want to build and how it will be constructed.

Pros and Cons of Living in a Barndominium

Pros Of Living in A Barndo

  • A barndominium provides the best of both worlds: the homey atmosphere of a traditional farmhouse and the green outlook of a rural landscape. The living space is mostly open and designed to take advantage of natural light, giving you a great deal of privacy when you want it.
  • Barndominiums are usually set in spacious country areas with lots of room to ride horses or enjoy nature. Despite the open feeling, some owners attest that they maintain complete privacy because they build their houses, so they don’t face each other. This also guarantees them peace when they want it most.

Cons Of Living in A Barndo

  • One major disadvantage of living in a barndominium is that you must only pay your property taxes on the barn portion. For example, the upper floor where the owners spend most of their time should be rented out to occupants whose yearly rental income exceeds the property taxes levied on its original value. Local governments allow for a pass-through taxation system that does not tax land and buildings separately.
  • The narrow spaces in many barns prohibit easy expansion for owners with modest requirements or small families who want to live there.
  • Barndominiums offer very little privacy for the owners. If you do not have a barn, you will have to lay tiles on the ground to keep out neighbors who may be interested in spying on you from their windows.
  • Locating close to other houses may be appealing if your property is large, as it doubles your home’s real estate value. But if the construction plans for your home do not match what is allowed by zoning laws, you may have to accept the loss of privacy and noise that comes with living in a residential area near others.
  • Though you may want to renovate and preserve an old barn that once housed livestock, if the framework is not sound, it will not be a viable option for building your home. Some owners who intend to preserve their barns have converted them into apartments or houses. Others have left their old barns standing and built new ones on site, but this usually entails tearing down the old ones.

Who can benefit from owning a Barndominium?

If you are interested in increasing the value of your land, building a barndominium can be a good investment. You will not have to pay for farmland or rental property if you build on an existing barn.

  • If you rent out your barndominium, you can keep up the costs and still get a very good income from your investment.
  • To some people, the advantage of living in a place where they are not disturbed by others who reside close by is well worth the added expenses and inconveniences of having to live 24 hours a day indoors.

Example Barndo Floor Plans


Of all the types of barndominiums, the barn home or two-story barn version is the most popular due to its versatility and adaptability to various living situations. It can be used for short- and long-term living and agricultural purposes. Because of its charm, it can also be a good investment since it will not depreciate quickly compared to other types of houses.

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