Efficient Modern Home Built for $70k

Simple-modern

JG covers all sorts of innovative homes, but to be entirely honest, we prefer the affordable.  So Caleb Schafer nabbed our interest when he emailed us about his efficient, modern home.  Four years ago, after graduating from architecture school, he and his wife moved to Texas and began building the home on a 1.5 acre site due north of San Antonio.  They built it for ~$70,000 — it's a 1400 square foot home — we're talking about $50 psf.  Not bad!  Here's how they did it:

Simple-modern-night

First, Caleb and his wife built and designed the entire home themselves.  They did pretty much all the labor themselves without subcontracting anything except the septic system.  Caleb said, "it was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get this home built!  It was an awesome experience to say the least."  Caleb tells us other students coming out of school can do the same if they're willing to work hard and get dirty. 

Second, the design is simple and the materials lack fuss.  The home was designed to 4-foot increments to minimize waste of materials.  The siding is commercial galvalume with yellow pine wood accents.  The exterior kind of reminds me of Rob Pyatt's Boxhouse.  In addition, the combination of SIPs and a Mitsubishi mini-split HVAC system provide an energy-efficient outcome. 

Caleb started his own company to market similar homes that are modern, affordable, and energy-efficient.  Simple Modern Homes has some handsome renderings of basic homes, which he'd like to sell in the price range of $50k-$150k (depending on the complexity and finishes).  Keep an eye on Simple Modern Homes

Simple-modern-side

The-view

Simple-mod-night

Photos credit: Caleb Schafer, Simple Modern Homes.


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  • http://handstandard.com Colin Hand

    This property is currently for sale:

    http://www.trulia.com/property/1074263849-495-Jaylee-Canyon-Lake-TX-78133

    I noticed the house a couple weeks ago (it was also on craigslist) and inquired with the realtor who the architect was but she was not forthcoming with information. Thanks for writing this up, Preston.

    • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

      Interesting … thanks for the link.

  • http://www.postgreenhomes.com Chad Ludeman

    This is a fantastic example of how anyone can get into the green building world with little money and a lot of hard work. We get the question from students and those just out of school of how to get into green building/development all the time. What Caleb and his wife have done is the perfect answer. Best of luck to Simple Modern Homes.

  • http://mportlandrealestate.com Portland Real Estate

    Good job man, I am impressed that he was able to do everything himself. That really takes some dedication. I like the idea of building in 4 foot increments, its such a logical choice that so many builders fail to include or recognize.

  • Justin Dubrow

    In many cities and towns you are required to have a licensed plumber and electrician. You can’t do all the work yourself unless you have both licenses. Of course there’s ways around but you gotta have some friends if you want to get your final inspection.

    • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

      Good point, Justin. I think there’s also the risk of butting heads with unions, which I believe Chad (above) said may become an issue with future projects they’re working on. One off projects may not get the attention of unions but hard to say …

  • http://www.simplemodernhomes.com Simple Modern Homes

    Thank for everyone’s comments and encouragement. My father-in-law is a licensed plumber and I did all the electrical myself. Now that I watch my dad do the plumbing I feel I could tackle that side of it as well. You are right, however, if you are in a city, you have to have a licensed plumber and electrician, one of the reasons we wanted to buy out in the boonies….so we could experiment without city officials breathing down our neck….

    • Anonymous

      Not living in America, at what age did the owner finish Architecture school and what price did he pay for the land?
      Over here in the UK, while i think it may be possible to build a house for such a low price, to get some land in an area like this would cost nearly half a million pounds.
      Great idea for using 4ft increments.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dena.stevens Dena L. Stevens

    Did the final price include that land and utilities?

  • http://www.facebook.com/dena.stevens Dena L. Stevens

    Did the final price include that land and utilities?

  • http://www.facebook.com/dena.stevens Dena L. Stevens

    Did the final price include that land and utilities?

  • http://twitter.com/bastroprealtor Deb Dahlberg Rowland

    The design and the layout is critical in helping keep the costs down speaking from experience.  Love what they did!

  • http://twitter.com/bastroprealtor Deb Dahlberg Rowland

    The design and the layout is critical in helping keep the costs down speaking from experience.  Love what they did!

  • Kyle

    $70k is apparently for the cost of materials…I build houses and have never compared a labor/material cost…but lets say it’s 50/50…so it’s then a 140k house, then soft costs for architects and “cities breathing down your neck’ another 25%…also the cost of sales and realtors another 6% and then the land?  maybe 175k plus land…maybe 20k and acre out there…this is north of 225k$ or 250k$ for a house with no permits or professional expertise or builders with a home-grown finish-out.

    please don’t post nonsense about this being a $70k house..I’m tired of explaining this to my clients….

  • Kyle


    Now that I watch my dad do the plumbing I feel I could tackle that side of it as well. You are right, however, if you are in a city, you have to have a licensed plumber and electrician, one of the reasons we wanted to buy out in the boonies….so we could experiment without city officials breathing down our neck….”..

    WOW..scary..just put your kids to sleep in that

    • Geoff

      not really scary at all… I would assume the appropriate inspections were obtained and the appropriate permits pulled. If it doesn’t pass inspection then no occupancy permit would be issued.

    • Peter Bridge

      Kyle, your comment about the true cost of the house is legitimate. On the other hand, your snipe at do-it-yourself MEP systems is a cheap shot. A smart and hard-working person can certainly plumb and wire their own house. Don’t feel so easily threatened.

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