Shipping Container Home May Be the First of Many in Houston

Shipping container homes -- modern, utilitarian, industrial chic -- may be all over the design blogs and shelter magazines, but in Houston? Not so much.

But if one fledgling developer has his way, there will be a whole community of little shipping container homes in the city's Fifth Ward neighborhood. His first home made of shipping containers just hit the market.

"It is like a prototype. It's like a model," listing agent Trent Draper says. He adds that the developer, Build a Box Homes founder Jerry Hartless, "purchased that piece of property there just as a way to see if it's a great idea. The whole idea is to make the home affordable but yet efficient and, in turn, better for the environment." This first home is available for $189,995.

The hope is that the model home will spur interest for more. "If he gets more orders to build them, he'll build them," Draper says. "He's bought entire blocks in the Fifth Ward of Houston."

Hartless got the idea while working in the Middle East, where he saw shipping container homes being built, the agent notes. When he returned to Texas, the idea hadn't quite caught on. Draper is hoping that will change with this portable pioneer.

"I'm finding out that it is very rare," Draper says of the prefab homes. "This is the first one I've ever seen in Houston."

And unlike more modern-looking shipping container homes, this little listing blends in with its more traditional neighbors. If you imagine living inside, say, a FedEx box, think again. At first glance, the home looks like a cozy cottage, with a front porch, peaked roof, and cheery blue hue.

On closer inspection, its industrial roots are evident. Still, "it catches you by surprise," Draper says.

The contemporary home is just as surprising inside. The two- bedroom, two-bathroom space makes the most of its 1,228-square-foot layout. The open kitchen comes with stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops; it looks out to a light-filled living area. There is laminate flooring throughout. Decorative stacked stones cover the connections between the two containers. And for your barbecues, there's a covered deck out back. (Hey, it's Texas.)

Draper delicately notes that the older neighborhood, just minutes to downtown Houston, is "in transition." That's one of the reasons that buyers may be hesitant to move there. So it's also being marketed as an office.

"In order for the other houses to be around, it's going to take a while. It could serve as a workspace," Draper says.

Because as we've seen, shipping containers are nothing if not versatile.