Who wants to live in a shipping container? Quite a few people it would appear — and not just rowdy travellers and itinerant workers who can't get accommodation elsewhere.

Container homes are both hip and cheap and TV's George Clark has helped popularise them. These tiny homes can even be stacked on top of each other to create a multi-level living space, or placed to enclose a deck or courtyard.

Containers were once used exclusively for shipping goods. Then came the industrial uses for them as office spaces, pop-up shops, display units and more. It's only in more recent years that containers have become popular as modular homes.

David and Maureen Drury had built two large homes during their working lives. As retirement began to loom Maureen in particular started to ask why she was cleaning such a large home when their son had flown the nest.

At the same time their son and daughter-in-law were living in rented accommodation and couldn't see a way forward to home ownership.

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The answer was to buy an 4.5h property in Helensville, with the younger generation taking on the mortgage with help from David and Maureen. Both generations would live on the same property and the Drurys' only child received "some of his inheritance early", says David.

David and Maureen, who had been watching tiny home programmes on TV, ordered a 60sq m double container home from IQ Container Homes.

David in the kitchen. Photo / Supplied
David in the kitchen. Photo / Supplied

The container had to be small to comply with council rules regarding secondary dwellings.

Inside, however, it doesn't feel small, says David, although it is compared to the couple's previous homes.

"When you are in it you don't know you are in a container," says David. "It feels like a home. It's perfect for us." Despite the home being just 60sq m, the couple was able to add a 34sq m enclosed deck with a Fresco brand canopy and awning. It provides a huge outdoor living area.

The container home was built offsite in Manukau, with a few changes such as a tiled shower finished on site.

It cost $122,000 and the deck a further $9000. There were additional costs for services, a driveway and council consents.

Kiwis often think container homes are cheap. The reality is that shipping container homes aren't necessarily any cheaper than other ready-built tiny homes from group building companies and others such as Keith Hay Homes, Lockwood, and Versatile.

Container homes can be fabricated in a factory, which reduces the need for spec builders, who can be expensive.

These and other prefabricated homes simply need foundations and can be craned into place.

They're also built to a formula in most cases, so no need for an architect.

They're also seen as sustainable and a good option for off-grid living.

As with everything there can be downsides. Buyers may also have difficulty siting them on new subdivisions, which have covenants controlling what can be built. As a relocatable home, a container may not meet the requirements.