Claim your

Free 15-Min consult

And Uncover the Path to Saving $10,000’s on your granny flat build.

As Seen On ...

Budget Granny Flats – All The Cheap Options

If you’re looking to build a granny flat on the cheap, you’ve come to the right place – so, what are the budget granny flat options?


  • Prefabricated (flatpack homes)
  • Relocatable granny flats
  • Mobile granny flats (“on wheels”)
  • Used granny flats
  • Ex-display models
  • Shipping containers


Today I discuss your cheapest solutions for a granny flat, including how to save money with your builder and with building materials, and dangers to look out for when choosing the budget option.


First, I will discuss the common ‘Shipping Container’ option I am asked a lot about.

DON'T PAY A FORTUNE FOR YOUR GRANNY FLAT. Find out how to deal with council and build a granny flat for the lowest cost possible. Learn More.


Shipping Container Granny Flats – Is It Legal?


Yes – you are allowed to live in a shipping container converted to a granny flat. There are some requirements that you should know about though.


Firstly, every local council has its own rules around living in a shipping container. Most are similar, but I suggest you do your research and contact your local council for their regulations.


I came across this great post which can serve as a guide to buying a shipping container.


Almost all councils treat a permanent shipping container just as they would any other building on your property.


This means you need:


  • Building approvals
  • Engineering plans for your granny flat
  • Plans including council-approved drawings
  • Site inspections


The shipping container will also require modifications for it to be classified as livable. After all, you’ll probably actually want doors, windows, fixtures, appliances and plumbing.


But with every alteration you make to the container you risk making it weaker. This means it may also need reinforcing.


Cheapest Solution for a Granny Flat


For a range of affordable used granny flat options, see my article on Where To Find Used Granny Flats For Sale.


For a range of affordable prefabricated flatpack options, see my article on Granny Flats Under $10 000.


And For a range of relocatable options, see my options on Granny Flat Under $50 000.


If you are keen to inquire about savings on a range of ex-display models, inquire here. To chat with the guys at Atlas Living.




These are generally one of the cheapest options as they can be classed as a caravan, meaning you can keep them on site with minimal council approval (if any in some cases)


  • Flexihome – Factory 3, 657, Pine Ridge Road, Biggera Waters, Gold Coast, QLD 4216


Contact them here or on 0450 634 962.


Source: Flexi Home


  • VanHomes – 1/14 Vere Place, Somersby, NSW 2250


Contact them here or on 1300 558 5123.



Contact them here or on 1300 799 812.


Ways to Save Cost with a Builder


There are several ways to save money on labour when building your granny flat.


These include:


  • Shop Around for a Builder


Get several bids and choose your contractor wisely. By doing so, you may find a contractor you like who keeps their price low.


Once you’ve gotten a few bids you’re happy with, ask for references – names of former customers. Go even further by asking those customers if they have any more references. Trying to get a review from a customer further than “arms-length” from the builder will work wonders with a real review.


Of course, contractors are going to give you their best references. So, it’s a wise idea to seek out more to get the best possible picture of them. After all, it’s not just the price that costs you money.


If the contractor delays work or doesn’t effectively manage their subcontractors, you may end up paying more to correct their errors. The goal is to find a respected, affordable contractor whose work can be trusted and who sticks to the timeline.


If unable to find a contractor you are happy with, you could:



  • Post an ad on Gumtree and see who responds.


  • Communicate with your Builder


Once you find a builder, keep your lines of communication open. Make sure your builder knows what your priorities are. Also, seek their input when it comes to finding ways to save – they are experts in their field.


They may be able to advise you which styles to choose, which will save you valuable dollars.


Choose a Smaller Design


Have a long, hard think – does your granny flat really need to be as big as the design you initially chose? It’s basic math – the bigger the home, the higher the cost.


Reduce the size and lower your cost. One of the best ways to do this while maintaining space is to choose an open floor plan.


This enables you to use the space in multiple ways – the kitchen opens into the living and dining room. This prevents the area from feeling confined.



Keep your construction small and simple and you’ll save a lot of money.


Consider whether it’s necessary adding additional costs in the shape of interior walls and doors.


Choose a Simple Finish


Any sort of “rustic” aesthetic is incredibly forgiving and stylish. Choosing cheaper materials such as flooring will save you a lot of time and money.


Do the Work Yourself


Yes, it’s possible – you can build your own granny flat and it will save you a tonne on labour.

Ways to Save Costs on Building Material


If using a contractor, talk to them about sourcing your own materials


Source Materials Where ever Possible


Sometimes, trades people and subcontractors can get cheaper prices on bulk items such as timber and paint.


However, a lot of the time builders will add a margin on top of their work when sourcing products for you. So it is best to keep this margin in your pocket.


By-in-large it is better to buy products that are high-quality but cheaper and have your contractor install them. Generally speaking, I’d suggest you source new materials rather than pre-owned.


Although that does depend on what you’re looking for. For instance, from a retailer source a new:


  • Water heater
  • Air-conditioner


For example, I had a quote to install a split system air conditioner and the price can to $1600, when I asked how much it was to simply install the system, the price for this came to $550.


So I shopped around and found the exact Mitsubishi Air conditioning unit from Bunnings.  I purchased it myself and saved $200.


As mentioned, it is common for trades people to add a higher margin onto materials, or products they install.


And consider shopping for second-hand items on Gumtree  eBay  and Facebook Marketplace.


  • Flooring
  • Light fixtures
  • Know When to Splurge and When to Save


Not many people know how expensive cabinets can be. When it comes to cabinetry, consider buying stock cabinets rather than custom-made.


This can save you $2000.


Salvage Materials for Reuse


Reuse whatever you can, wherever you can. Building projects often create material waste than can be reused in other ways.


This timber in my granny flat was from an outdoor wrecking yard.


Think creatively.


Don’t let your builder throw away a single scrap until you’ve had the chance to look. You don’t need to turn into a hoarder and keep it all.


But don’t discard good materials that have the potential to be used elsewhere.


  • Doors can always be used in another area.
  • Timber can be used for shelving.


Pitfalls to Look Out for When Choosing a Budget Option


You always need to be cautious when choosing the cheap option for a granny flat.




Buying used granny flats may be a more affordable option, but you don’t know what they have gone through in the past. As such, you will have a hard time getting them certified.


And the biggest reason for needing certification from council is Granny Flat Insurance. Without certification you can’t insure a granny flat.


Basically, here are the “used” options you have for a secondary dwelling:


  • Used granny flats
  • Used shipping containers
  • Ex-display models


Also wise to consider, if thinking about a shipping container home. They may not be as strong; as they may have been hit or be dented. And while some may be structurally sound, others may have been dropped from a great height.


You have no idea where they have been. Used shipping containers in particular will not come with a detailed history. So you do not necessarily know what possibly deadly materials may have been inside.


For example, used shipping containers could have been used to house anything from weapons to scary material. And the toxins that remain could be seriously dangerous.


So you are potentially putting your health and safety at risk if you house yourself in a container in which you don’t know what it once carried.




If you choose the cheap option and hire the wrong builder, you may end up with someone who has never completed a granny flat build. This is why it is so important to check their references, so you know their quality of work.


They may make errors, break your councils’ regulations, and you may have problems getting approvals. When building a granny flat, time is money, and every error costs.




There are a range of budget granny flat options in which you can choose from;


  • Prefabricated (flatpacks)
  • Relocatable granny flats
  • Mobile granny flats (“on wheels”)
  • Used granny flats
  • Ex-display models
  • Shipping containers


There are ways to save costs with a builder, including getting several bids and choosing wisely.


Check references, to get a broader view of their work. After all, delays and any work done by their subcontractors also cost you money.


Once you’ve found a trusted, respected, affordable contractor, communicate with them. Seek their input on your project when it comes to saving money, as they have (hopefully) performed the job before. They may be able to save you money on materials, or allow you to source your own. Also make sure you keep every bit of material for reuse.


Think wisely about your design, the materials you use and the finish you choose. Every small change can save you valuable dollars.


Even consider doing the work yourself as an “owner-builder” to save huge dollars on labour. See our site Do It Yourself Granny Flat to learn more.