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More people in Central Texas are turning to shipping containers to build homes

The Bearicks used to stay in a trailer on visits to their Bastrop property. Now, they have containers. They wanted something more sustainable and affordable.

BASTROP, Texas — Ellen and Gary Bearicks live in Sugarland, but they are frequently at their property in Bastrop, where they stay in their two shipping containers.

Isn't that a weird idea?” Ellen Bearicks said with a smile.

They used to stay in their trailer but found that the containers were safer, more sustainable in the weather, kept rodents out and were an affordable option. They have found times when they had to be innovative in a small living space. 

“We needed that six extra inches at the end of the bed, you know, to be able to move around the room. So, I mean, we took an electric knife and sawed our mattress down to be a queen short because it's hard to find a queen short mattress,” Bearicks said with a laugh.

She said the containers are easy to take care of and come with electricity, plumbing, air conditioning and heating. Her kids and grandkids like to visit the property, so they decided to get a second shipping container to have another room.

She bought one container that is 320 square feet from a private builder in 2018 and a second container home that is 160 square feet in 2020. Each container home cost them about $20,000.  

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Bearicks said she knows of people who have built their own shipping container homes for an even more affordable price. 

“I see what people are building on the Facebook group sites, and they're beautiful, beautiful designs,” Bearicks said.

She recommends that when people get a container home, they make sure it has high ceilings and windows, as she did. She said this makes the container feel more spacious.

She bought one of her container homes from Bob’s Containers in Del Valle. The company started making container offices in 2019 but saw a huge demand for container homes starting in 2020. They said during the pandemic, many people wanted backyard houses for kids to do virtual school or as a work-from-home office space.

“We kept getting increased requests for things that made the container more like a home – windows, brighter paint jobs, you know. We saw that the demand was there for housing,” said Bob Balderas, the CEO of Bob’s Containers.

Balderas said that now about 90% of all of their containers are for housing purposes. He said the main reasons people pick container homes are speed and durability. Rather than waiting months for a new home, Bob’s Containers can get one to customers in just weeks. When it comes to durability, Balderas said the containers can last 50 to 75 years and can withstand a lot.

He said some people use them for Airbnbs, backyard apartments or, in his case, permanent housing.

I've been living in a shipping container home for about two, two and a half years now,” Balderas said. I actually live with my partner and a great Dane, and we have a pet pig.”

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He said they all live comfortably in the container home and said container homes can be an affordable option, depending on your situation. 

If you have any open land and are fine with living in a small space, a container home could be an affordable option for you. Balderas said the cheapest container home is $35,000 and if people get larger homes and add all the bells and whistles, they can be up to $100,000. 

But he said he works with each customer to figure out their needs, budget and what they are looking for.

“We advise them on, ‘Hey, this is really practical and we can do this, but it might be really expensive,'” Balderas said. “It depends on their goals, if they're looking for something in a price range or if it's affordable housing type of like solutions.”

He hopes his company will soon get more investors so they can help with affordability on a larger scale. He sees a lot of opportunities with shipping container housing.

“Maybe one day we'll own land and open communities,” Balderas said. “That's part of our vision, to really help with the housing need with this specific focus on affordability.”

As Balderas’ business evolves, the Bearicks’ lives are evolving too.

Retirement is looming for me, end of the year,” Bearicks said.

Once that time comes, the couple hopes to spend more time in the containers they call home.

“We really love it since we got these. It’s so much easier," Bearicks said.

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