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What is the Most Affordable House to Build in 2023

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

Affordable House

With the cost of living and interest rates skyrocketing in recent years, affordable housing has never been as important as it is in 2023. Whether your dream has always been to build your own house to your exact specifications, or you’re looking at the cost to build a home for the first time, building a house can be a more affordable–and satisfying–investment than buying resale.

However, building your own home can still be a major cost in 2023. Even in the most affordable major city to construct a stick-built home, Halifax, the lowest estimated cost starts at $105,000–without including land. Yet the cost to build an alternative housing model anywhere in the country can be as affordable as $10k. Let’s explore what is the most affordable house to build in 2023.

Exploring the Tiny Home Trend:

If you’ve been looking at affordable housing alternatives, chances are high that you’ve come across the tiny home trend. From a cost perspective, these homes with a smaller footprint are less expensive to construct and maintain than a traditional home. The exact construction costs vary drastically depending on whether you build the home with your own hands, contract builders, or purchase a model from a tiny home specialist company. For example, Loans Canada says that you could build a tiny home for as low as $10K, yet some of the most popular, tiny-home-specific Canadian companies have models that are regularly over $200,000. This doesn’t include the cost of land.

The range in investment among tiny home companies varies significantly, so it’s important to explore your options and the service and results you value. There are also price differences depending on the dimensions, finishes, and transportation to your final destination. There may be areas where you’re willing to compromise for a better price and others where it’s not worth the risk, especially when it comes to heating, cooling, and safety. Most importantly, don’t cheap out at the risk of not meeting building codes or bylaws.

Prefabricated Houses:

Thanks to their efficient design and building process, prefabricated homes are a popular, affordable housing option in 2023. The final investment depends heavily on the square footage and how luxurious a home you want. Home Guide suggests that the average finished pre-fabricated home is $120,000 to $240,000 USD without land–that’s about $150,000 to $314,000 CAD at the time of writing. That’s certainly a savings on the average cost to build a home (like a traditional stick-built home), but it remains potentially hundreds of thousands more than other housing alternatives on this list.

Prefabricated homes are also likely to have more maintenance and utility costs than other alternative housing options due to their size–generally similar to that of a stick-built home. To combat this, consider a smaller footprint and whether you can choose an eco-friendly pre-fabricated house with off-grid or sustainable energy options.

The Soaring Popularity of Shipping Container Homes as A Modern Solution to Affordable and Sustainable Living:

In 2023, an affordable house isn’t the only priority; a sustainable one is often just as important to people–and interconnected.

Container homes start by repurposing shipping containers–11 million of which are estimated to sit unused around the world. Recycling like this is eco-friendly, and it also means lower initial material and labour costs. Like our other alternative housing options on this list, container homes are generally built in the construction company’s warehouse, so there are significantly fewer labour costs than sending a crew and materials on-site to a rural property in particular. At DSS Container Designs, the complete cost to build, finish, and place the container home–only electrical and water hookups excluded–is between just $39-100K.

Shipping container homes have steel substructures that are inherently durable since they’re built to withstand constant transportation, seawater, and even hurricanes. In extreme weather conditions and wet climates, shipping container homes are physically strong and resistant to mould. This level of durability significantly decreases the maintenance needed on the property compared to stick-built homes. This is a cost-savings over time.

Sustainable, off-grid options, including solar panels and incinerator toilets, reduce or remove utility costs, making a container home affordable long-term. In addition, shipping container homes built to Passive House standards–all DSS Container Designs meet the criteria–are 70-80% more energy efficient than other homes, savings thousands of dollars per year in heating and cooling costs.

Shipping container homes offer many other benefits you can explore beyond being both eco-friendly and affordable, making them desirable options for building a house.

Financing Options and Government Initiatives:

Building an affordable house isn’t just a matter of choosing the right model but also using accessible financing and government support. Here’s a sample of what may be available to you:

First-Time Homebuyers Incentive

This government program offers qualifying first-time homeowners what is essentially a second, interest-free, shared equity mortgage of 5 or 10 percent of the price of a newly constructed home. It can also be paid back at any time without penalties. Due to the shared equity element, qualifications, and limitations on the home's total price, you’ll want to investigate whether this incentive is a good fit for you.


The provinces of BC, Ontario, and PEI offer land transfer tax rebates for first-time home buyers. The City of Toronto offers its own program. Other relevant rebates may be available depending on your province or city, such as Quebec’s QST Refund on Newly Built or Renovated Homes.

Local Programs

Depending on where you plan to live, you can research whether there are local homeownership programs. Municipalities may have incentive programs that help with the downpayment of a home in the area, such as Ontario’s Simcoe County or Waterloo.

Speak with Professionals

Your best option, apart from doing your own research, is to consult professionals in your area, such as a real estate agent, mortgage broker, or financial planner, to get the most detailed information about what you qualify for in terms of financing, incentives, and rebates. They can also help you understand the unique loans (and mortgages) for alternative housing types, such as tiny homes and container homes.

Tips for Minimizing The Costs of Building a House:

The cost to build a house can be reduced even further by carefully planning the project before starting (to minimize change orders and unexpected “surprises” and maximize your funding sources). It’s best to work with experienced, reputable professionals to further prevent unexpected changes. Ask for referrals from people you trust or people who have built a home with them in the past. The builders should also be able to transparently share their end-to-end process with you and make recommendations on efficient design options (meaning both for a timely build and long-term efficiency of the structure). They should also be able to advise on more cost-effective materials and ways to optimize the construction process.

There are also some generally-held principles for reducing the cost of building a house, no matter which type. You can investigate and weigh the pros and cons of each:

  • Reducing square footage

  • Partial DIY or self-managed project

  • A stock design versus custom

  • Modest finishings and appliances

  • Cheaper (e.g. more rural) land

Summarizing the Most Affordable Houses to Build in 2023

Compared to traditional stick-built homes, alternative housing options like pre-fabricated homes, tiny homes, and shipping container homes are far more affordable options. The investment range varies significantly within each category depending on factors like square footage and finishings, but we can attest to the fact that even the most comfortable, quality shipping container homes come in under $100,000. You’ll want to take into account your lifestyle, local bylaws, and the price of land where you plan to build a house to make the decision that’s best for you. Explore your options and consider clever alternative housing models, financing, and cost-saving measures to build your dream home.


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