Barndominium vs. Modular Home: 7 Key Differences


Barndominiums and modular homes seem similar at first glance. However, when it comes to building your dream home, finding the right solution is paramount. 

The main difference between a barndominium and a modular home is the construction type.

Barndos are custom houses that can be repurposed barns or built from scratch. New constructions are built on-site, and ready-made modules are rarely employed.

Modular homes come ready-made and all you have to do is to assemble them.

Each construction type comes with its own pros and cons.

The table below shows a quick comparison between barndominiums vs. modular homes: 

FactorsBarndominiumsModular Homes
Design flexibilityMore flexibleLess flexible
Construction Built on-siteAssembled on-site
DurabilityMore durableLess durable
Energy efficiency GoodGood
CostsMore expensiveLess expensive
Curb appealLowerHigher
Financing optionsFewer financing optionsMore financing options

What Is A Barndominium?

A barndominium is a type of residential structure that combines living quarters with a barn, workshop, or storage space.

The term is derived from the combination of the words “barn” and “condominium.”

These homes are typically built with a steel frame and a metal exterior, giving them a barn-like appearance but with modern amenities and comforts.

The main advantage is the high degree of flexibility in terms of design and layout that these structures offer.

Barndos often feature open-concept living spaces and can easily accommodate both residential and commercial functions, such as workshops, garages, or stables for horses and livestock. 

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Barndominiums have gained popularity in recent years due to their durability, energy efficiency, and versatile usage options.

They can be customized to suit various needs and preferences, making them an attractive option for homeowners who want a unique and functional living space.

That said, barndos are not exactly attractive. They are mostly seen in rural rather than urban areas.

Due to their barn-like appearance, one of the main disadvantages is securing a permit to build one, especially in zones with strict architectural rules.

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What Is A Modular Home?

A modular home is a type of prefabricated residence that is built off-site in a factory setting.

It is constructed in sections or modules, which are then transported to the building site and assembled on a permanent foundation. 

Modular homes are designed to meet or exceed local building codes and are often indistinguishable from traditional stick-built homes in terms of appearance, quality, and functionality.

These homes can easily integrate into an urban décor, and are cheaper to build than traditional homes.

Style-wise, you can choose from traditional, colonial, Victorian, or modern architectures, to name just a few.

However, modular homes are often smaller than barndos and traditional houses.

Large modular homes are also available, but they are usually extremely expensive. They also lack the functionality of barndos.

7 Differences Between Barndominium vs. Modular Home

As you may have noticed, barndominiums are hybrid homes that combine comfortable living with utility. Modular homes are an alternative to traditional houses.

If you don’t know which to pick, this head-to-head comparison might help you out. 

1. Design Flexibility

Barndos and modular homes both impress with their design flexibility, but in different ways. 

As their name suggests, barndos look like the lovechild of a barn and a condominium. The exterior aesthetic is somewhat lacking, but the interior design flexibility is impressive.

Since these structures are one big open space at the core, you are free to customize the interior to your liking.

You can add as many partitions as you want, divide the spaces in any way you see fit, and plan one- or multiple-story layouts.

On the outside, modular homes bring all the design flexibility you could imagine.

You can pick from different styles and materials, including metal, brick, wood, or classic drywall and wood planks panels. Things change on the inside.

Like traditional homes, modular homes are already divided into different rooms. There is little that you can customize. When customization options are included, the price typically soars. 

2. Construction 

Another difference between barndominiums and modular homes is the way each house type is built.

Barndominiums are typically custom-built on-site, using steel framing and metal exterior.

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The space resembles a traditional barn with modern amenities, and the construction usually takes several months to complete.

Modular homes are manufactured in factories and only assembled on-site.

They are built in sections or modules, which are then transported to the building site and put together on a foundation.

This method generally leads to a faster construction process.

3. Durability

When building a home, one of the most important aspects is durability. Barndominiums win this round with their robust structures.

In fact, barndos are typically built using steel frames and metal exteriors.

They are highly durable and resistant to weather, pests, and fire. They often require less maintenance compared to traditional and modular homes.

Modular homes can be made of wood, steel, or concrete, depending on the manufacturer.

While they are designed to meet or exceed local building codes, their durability may vary depending on the materials used and quality of construction.

They typically require more maintenance compared to barndos. However, the situation may change in the case of repurposed barns. 

In fact, some barndos are not new, but they are renovated barns transformed into homes.

These barndominiums typically require more maintenance than modular homes, and, based on the material they’re made of, may be less durable than modular homes.

4. Energy Efficiency

A draw between barndos and modular homes is seen in terms of energy efficiency.

Both structures are developed to meet or exceed current regulations, so you can rest assured they are energy efficient.

The quality of construction and materials used can affect the energy efficiency of both barndos and modular homes.

This is why you should pay attention to the material used by your contractor or the factory that built the modular home.

5. Costs 

Compared to traditional homes, both barndominiums and modular homes are affordable. When compared side-by-side, barndos tend to be more expensive than modular homes, though.

The difference in price is given by the construction type.

To build a barndo, you have to pay an architect to design your home, then a contractor to erect the barndo for you. Since construction is done on-site, additional expenses might come up.

Erecting a modular home is a lot simpler. You don’t have to pay an architect, since these homes are pre-projected.

Most modular home sellers or constructors also include assembly in the purchase price. You’ll need a team to pour the foundation, but that’s about it.

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For both home types, you’ll have to include the cost of utilities if you’re building them on an empty plot.

6. Curb Appeal

While barndominiums come with a host of advantages compared to modular homes, their appeal drops in terms of aesthetics.

Sure, these constructions fit perfectly into a modern or rural décor, but they are seldom considered beautiful.

In most urban areas, getting a permit to build a barndo is next to impossible. Since the building itself doesn’t stand out, its resale value also drops. 

You won’t have these issues with a modular home. 

Modular homes come in most architectural styles and can easily blend into an urban landscape. Getting a permit to build a modular home is as easy as getting one for a traditional house.

Once erected, there is little difference – if any – between the modular home and a traditional house, a factor that boosts curb appeal.

With more people interested in purchasing the house should you want to sell it, modular homes have higher curb appeal and resale value.

7. Financing Options

Unless you have the money to finance the entire construction project, securing financing is another aspect you might want to consider. Modular homes gain another point in this department.

Most banks and financial institutions approve mortgages for homes that are in demand.

As explained, barndos are not as popular as other housing options. Hence, getting a mortgage to build one might be tricky.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t secure financing at all.

Check with your local banks, especially if you live in a rural area. This would improve your chances of a loan being approved.


Deciding between a barndominium and a modular home often comes down to your long-term objectives and needs.

Do you want to build your forever home and don’t really care about resale value and curb appeal?

If you live in a rural area, a barndo definitely has its charm. You can customize it as you want and play with the interior design to create the home of your dreams. 

If you live in the suburbs or the city, a modular home might be a better choice.

Not because it’s more aesthetically appealing, but because you might not be able to get the necessary permits for a barndo.

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