Boxabl Homes: Are These Tiny Houses Worth the Hype?

36 shares Boxabl homes? Boxable homes?  If you’ve been on the hunt for affordable housing, chances are you’ve encountered a company called Boxabl. And yes,…

boxabl casita

Boxabl homes? Boxable homes? 

If you’ve been on the hunt for affordable housing, chances are you’ve encountered a company called Boxabl. And yes, that’s Boxabl, not ‘Boxable.’ 

These studio apartment-like homes are made of structurally laminated panels that arrive flat and can be assembled in less than two hours. Their high r-value insulation makes them energy efficient, they are capable of withstanding the worst wind conditions in North America.

They are also made of non-combustible material, which means they’ve been designed with fire resistance in mind. And here’s the best part:

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The company’s mission is to create the fastest and most affordable housing in the world.

But while it’s true that the Boxabl casitas are wowing would-be customers, are these affordable homes actually worth the hype? Let’s dive in and find out.

What are Boxabl homes?

At first glance, it’s easy to see why consumers are interested in these factory-made living units. They have a modern feel, come with state modular approval, feature led lighting, and can be paired with traditional utilities or off-grid options like solar panels. In short, they seem to be the ultimate tiny home of the future.

Like many tiny homes, a Boxabl casita has a bedroom, a living space, a full-size bathroom, and a full-size kitchen that can be outfitted with appliances. And once built, they can be placed on a property- perhaps in your backyard.

If you’ve been following the tiny home movement for a while, you might have noticed that Boxabl homes are a little different than other types of tiny homes. And that difference lies mostly in the construction.

Boxabl homes are currently based on a single model that is pre-fabricated in a factory. And once created, Boxabl will ship the home to your site, where it can be unpacked and constructed quickly. Thanks to pre-fabrication, and the ease of installation on site, the company can produce these units faster and more affordably than homes built by other housing competitors. 

And this is a good thing because speed and affordability are the key factors we need to address to end the housing crisis.

What materials are Boxabl tiny homes made of, exactly?

The short answer is that Boxabl units are constructed using concrete, steel, and EPS foam. EPS foam is shorthand for expanded polystyrene, a type of closed-cell insulation. Closed-cell insulation is often used in tiny homes because of its effectiveness in preventing thermal bridging (heat transfer).

Once features like heating, plumbing, and insulation have been installed, the walls are vacuum laminated with a paint-like coating to create a finished look. Doors and windows are then cut out using a CNC machine, and voila! Just like that, you have all the pieces needed to create a model home.

So how much do they cost, and how does one obtain a Boxabl home?

Both of these are excellent questions. Unfortunately, that’s where this is where this promising housing option starts to look a little murkier.

The website doesn’t say how much a Boxabl unit costs. In fact, the company straight up admits that they are unable to give pricing due to the magnitude of variables.

[…]Due to record-setting inflation and a very long waitlist for Casitas, we can no longer promise a fixed price on our website[…]

There is also currently no place to buy a Boxabl Casita, but you can put your name on the waitlist for free– if you want to wait at the end of what is currently a 1,000+ person line. $200 will bump you up to some degree, and a 5k deposit will buy you “early access,” but neither option gives any indication of where you will stand in the queue.

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So are Boxabl homes worth the hype?

Though the company refers to these houses as “casitas,” their exteriors are more reminiscent of post-apocalyptic buildings. Still, in light of the housing crisis, I’d invest in one of these models in a heartbeat if I knew it could help me create a life of stability.

The Boxabl home promises a comforting bedroom, a bathroom with a deep shower, and even a full-sized kitchen. But while the Boxabl casita is tempting, I can’t say I am without concerns.

After all, what good is a full-sized kitchen if you have to build your own pitched roof?

Yup, you read that right. Boxabl notes on their website that though their houses come with flat roofs, most municipalities will require that a pitched roof be installed. Boxabl will provide the plans, but you will have to hire someone to construct a roof that meets local requirements once the home arrives at your site.

You will also have to obtain permits, put in utilities, and prep the ground for your home’s arrival. So while the construction of a Boxabl casita might be faster than that of a traditional house, you’re still likely to incur significant auxiliary expenses on the way to getting your house up and running.

My main concern about Boxabl Homes

But while the utilities are a valid point of contention, here’s my main concern: 

I’m not convinced that individuals putting down deposits are actually getting a house. 

At least not one that will be delivered any time soon.

boxabl casita
Photo: Boxabl

I know the housing industry needs to turn a corner, but for as much promise as a Boxabl home holds, the company’s vision is ambitious. Extremely ambitious.

According to one of their YouTube videos, the Boxabl founders have secured over one-hundred-million dollars of startup capital courtesy of fifteen-thousand investors. They have also recently exchanged their original ten-thousand-square-foot warehouse for one in Las Vegas, Nevada, that’s roughly six-and-a-half acres. And they say that realizing their vision will require a facility ten times that size.

All this expansion before the units are even available to the public.

So while the idea of a Boxabl house is alluring, when a company expands that fast, I have to wonder when my model would ship out. It’s true that Boxabl fulfilled a government order of one-hundred-and-fifty-six units recently, and yes, Elon Musk owns one, but could I really be next in line?

Is Boxabl more focused on expansion than actual production?

The world is a strange place right now, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for anyone out there shooting their shot and trying to solve the housing crisis. Still, as a consumer, it’s important to read the fine print carefully, and so here is a statement from the Frequently Asked Questions section of the Boxabl website. My concerns are in bold.

Due to massive interest in the Casita, we have a long waitlist, and it’s possible that new customers might have to wait at least a year. We are a new company and just finished setting up Factory 1, and [are] beginning setup of Factory 2 in Las Vegas. These factories should be able to produce thousands of Casitas per year… but we aren’t stopping there. We have big plans to expand our manufacturing capacity by setting up larger and more automated factories, and we hope that will enable us to eventually keep up with demand. The Boxabl vision is to solve world housing issues by mass-producing buildings faster and at a lower cost than anyone has done before, but unfortunately, that can’t happen overnight. Thanks for bearing with us as we get up to speed. 

I admire the vision, but phrases like ‘new company’ and ‘eventually keep up with demand’ are red flags for me. All signs point to the fact that Boxabl is a highly speculative endeavor. Maybe their plan will work, but unfortunately, we won’t know until thousands of people have risked their resources.

Should you take on the risk of a Boxabl tiny home?

Well, if you’re a government entity or high-powered investor who is prepared to buy in bulk and is capable of handling the financial perils, maybe. After all, if this goes well, these units could be the most efficient route to creating fast and affordable housing.

For individuals, though, I’d strongly recommend you save your deposit. Fire up that internet browser and start looking at other options because Boxabl is scaling fast. It’s true that we all need a roof over our heads, but at present, this one comes with considerable risk. And I’d hate to see you lose your nest egg in pursuit of a space to call your own.

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