The lighter side of real estate

Three Little Pigs Renovated: Pick a Pre-Fab Home or Build with Bamboo

Movoto wanted to know how much it would cost to construct the Three Little Pigs’ homes in the modern age and what materials the oinkers would substitute.

David Cross

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We’ve all heard the tale of the three little pigs. It’s just one of those stories that parents tell their children both to entertain and, hopefully, pass along a life lesson. And, no, it’s not about hiring an experienced contractor.

Recently, the Movoto Real Estate team wanted to know how much it would cost to construct the Three Little Pigs’ homes in the modern age and what materials they would use. With building codes the way they are, it’s unlikely the same materials would be used. Loose straw just doesn’t cut it. And sticks? What can we say? At least they aren’t straw.

What we learned was that Piggy Three not only built a wolf-proof structure, but he probably did for less than his two brothers. What Piggy Three’s house lacks is any sense of style–those points go to his brothers.

After we crunched the numbers we learned:

  • An updated straw house would cost $60,000
  • An updated stick house would cost $76,065
  • An updated brick house would cost $33,000

Once There Were Three Little Pigs

To come up with the costs we made two important assumptions. First, the three little pigs did not build their own homes. They did, however, fork over the cash for contractors. The second assumption: These anamorphic oinkers could afford the hefty price tags.

To figure out the cost of the three little pigs’ homes, we needed to find comparable building items and a location. After that it was math and guesswork. The first thing we focused on was location.

The Red Wolf Huffs and Puffs

Source: Red Wolf Recovery Program. By B. Crawford/USFWS.

According to Wikipedia, the “Three Little Pigs” tale originated in Europe. But a child’s imagination isn’t limited to Europe. In fact, a morality tale works best when it can be localized. Because of this we wanted our pigs’ three homes in the States.

Little did we know this simple task would devolve into an argument over wolves.

In the end, we picked the location based on the where the pigs would come across wolves. After all, the three little pigs’ homes can’t be blown down without a dastardly wolf with excessive lung power.

Unfortunately, in the States the wolf populations are slim. Their numbers have dwindled because of hunting and habitat destruction. We had two breeds to choose from:

  • Gray Wolves
  • Red Wolves

When it came time to choose, we picked red wolves. We wanted our little pigs’ abodes to be on the East Coast. This was our way of admitting the story’s European heritage. (It also didn’t hurt that the red wolf is an endangered species. We’re doing our part!)

The majority of red wolves in the country are found in North Carolina. The endangered wolves can be found in Alligator River National Park in Dare and Hyde Counties. This means the three little pigs will build their three little homes in The Tar Heel State.

We were as surprised as you are.

Once we had a location, we turned our eyes on the pigs’ homes, only we threw in a twist. We wanted to know if people actually build homes with straw and sticks. It turns out they do, just not how you imagine them.

The Straw that Broke the Pig’s Bank

Source: Flickr user Peter Blanchard. A completed straw bale house.

A straw house isn’t necessarily so far out there. You can, indeed, build a house out of straw, though it might be significantly different than the storybooks. A quick search of the Internet will show straw houses aren’t a thing of the past. is a website that’s dedicated to educating people interested in building straw-bale houses.

What are straw-bale houses? They’re exactly what they sound like. For various reasons people build houses that are primarily constructed using bales (essentially compact rectangles of hay) as the primary construction material.

Advocates of these types of houses point to a number of reasons to pick straw bales. Some reasons:

  • Energy efficient for heating and cooling
  • Surprisingly fire resistant
  • Sustainability

If Piggy One were to construct a home out of straw, the anamorphic animal would likely have chosen to construct it with straw bales. A small home, something similar to a studio apartment, would set the wee little pig back about $20,000—if he built it himself.

Andrew Morris, of, estimated a small bale-straw home would hover around $100 per square foot. Because our pigs are bachelors (cue the bachelor pad pigsty jokes) we assumed they would each have a small studio-like dwelling.

Thus a 600-square-foot straw-bale house would come with a $60,000 price tag.

Stick and Stone…We Mean Sticks, Just Sticks

What is the modern equivalent of building a house out of sticks? Bamboo. Surprisingly, the hollow grass is immensely strong—way stronger than you imagine. In fact, bamboo has been shown to have a:

  • Higher tensile strength than some types of steel
  • Higher compression strength than some types of concrete
  • Higher strength-to-weight ratio than graphite

It’s safe to say bamboo flexes its strength all over the place.

Coming up with a cost of a bamboo house, however, wasn’t an easy task. We asked the American Bamboo Society for an idea of how much a bamboo structure would cost per square foot. In response, the educational organization asked us how much a car would cost. In other words, the cost will vary depending on a number of factors such as size and location.

The closest the Movoto team came to figuring it out was to find an actual bamboo home. This led us to Bamboo Living, a Hawaiian-based company that specializes in pre-fab bamboo houses.

Among the many options a would-be bamboo owner could purchase is the Bali 576. For $53,666 Piggy Two would get a studio home that includes 576 square feet of interior space and a 192-square-foot porch. This, however, doesn’t include the finish. With these features added on the price tag swells to $76,065.

While Piggy Two might be environmentally conscious, he definitely has extra income to spend.

Brick by Brick

Did you really think we’d come up with a modern version of brick? Brick is brick. It’s reliable, and in our humble opinion, quite fetching.

To come up with a cost for Piggy Three’s home, the North Carolina Masonry Contractors Association put us in contact with Sam McGee of McGee Brothers. The North Carolinian took our off-the-wall request and came back with a cost to build a rudimentary brick structure.

McGee estimated it would cost about $11,000 to build a 600-square-foot brick building that included:

  • a wolf-cooking chimney;
  • two windows;
  • a exterior door; and
  • a flat roof.

Unfortunately, this price tag doesn’t include anything else. Without some amenities, such as plumbing, our diligent pig would be living in nothing more than a sturdy brick shack. Toss in some basics and the cost rises significantly. We estimated Piggy Three would spend about $33,000 on his bachelor pad. And yes, he purchased an Ikea sofa for his freeloading brothers.

An Act of Wolf

One question that popped up several times while researching the pigs’ houses was if the homes would be covered by insurance. To get to the bottom of whether the first two pigs could rebuild their homes, we spoke with Denny Christner of BayRisk Insurance Brokers.

While many home insurance policies include “sudden and accidental losses” (think acts of God) such as a windstorm or hailstorm, wolf-tastic lung capacities doesn’t fall into this category.

Where the two little pigs would find their insurance would be with a standard dwelling policy, specifically damage by burglars.

“We could not find an exclusion relating to damage by the wolf and feel that the two little pigs would be covered,“ Christner wrote in an email.

At least the pigs can rebuild their homes.

The End

The Movoto blog is a service of Movoto Real Estate. If you’re looking for a new home, keep us in mind. We have up-to-date real estate listings and local agents throughout the country. When you want to take a break from browsing homes, you can keep coming back to read awesome blog posts like this one.

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posted on: October 24, 2012
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