Student-built house will go to live auction in program first

Event will take place next week after open-house viewings

Megan Petersen
Farmington Daily Times
Jamane Benallie works on a home with classmates on Wednesday at the San Juan College School of Trades and Technology in Farmington.
  • The minimum bid for the house is $25,000, which is about half of the cost of materials alone.
  • The house was built in 2015-16 by students and has been up for bid twice since it was completed.
  • All student-built structures are built to meet the San Juan County building code.

FARMINGTON — San Juan College will present its first live auction of a student-built home in a long-running tradition for the School of Trades and Technology's building trades program.

The college will auction off an 800-square-foot home with two bedrooms and two bathrooms at 1 p.m. on March 10 at the building trades carpentry yard on Technology Trail on campus, according to an event flier. The program also will present open house viewings from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on March 9 and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on March 10 at the yard.

The minimum bid for the house is $25,000, which building trades program coordinator Chad Triplett said is about half of the cost of materials alone. The house was built on concrete blocks so it can be transported when it is finished and sold, Triplett said. Buyers are responsible for transportation costs, which vary on distance and route.

Triplett said the house was built by students in the 2015-16 program, and that students have been building and selling sheds, tiny houses or starter or family homes for as many as 40 years. Previous student-built projects have been sold through sealed-bid auctions, but this year, the program is bringing in B&B Auction.

“We’ve had this house for a couple of years,” Triplett said on Tuesday. "It’s been up for sale twice, and we’ve gotten no offers, so that’s why we’re experimenting with this live auction.”

San Juan College School of Trades and Technology coordinator Chad Triplett, left, and instructor Zack Pettijohn show off one of the homes to be auctioned on Tuesday at San Juan College in Farmington.

The housing market in San Juan County has seen a slight decrease over the past four years, though 2017 bucked the trend, according to information from the San Juan County Board of Realtors. The number of residential units sold — 799 in 2014 — fell by approximately 35 units in both 2015 and 2016. However, 867 residential units were sold in 2017, a jump of 138 units from 2016 numbers.

Each year, students and instructors work together to design a home when the program starts in August, and the rest of the two-semester program has students learning every aspect of house building by the time the house is completed in the spring, Triplett said.

“Historically, you became a carpenter by going out to a jobs site and essentially getting yelled at for a few years until you sort of knew what was going on, and if you made a mistake, it was time and money for the general contractor,” Triplett said. “That’s why they’re here — to make mistakes and to learn what not to do and what to do.”

San Juan College School of Trades and Technology instructor Zack Pettijohn talks to his students on Wednesday at San Juan College in Farmington.

Triplett noted that the college subcontracts with local plumbers, electricians and HVAC technicians for specialized trade work on the student-built projects, and that the structures are all built to meet San Juan County building codes. The college incurs the cost of building the house and is reimbursed by the sale, so the program can be self-sustaining, Triplett said.

There are 19 students enrolled in the 2017-18 program, and one of the challenges that the student crew faces on any given day is elbow room, Triplett said. Many professional crews have only a handful of people working on a site, but the work force on the student projects is much larger, and the space can get crowded.

But student Brendan Ramsey said the project has created a team dynamic that is beneficial to all students, no matter their experience or skill levels.

San Juan College School of Trades and Technology Instructor Zack Pettijohn, left, and coordinator Chad Triplett show the homes to be auctioned off on Tuesday at San Juan College in Farmington.

“We’ve got 19-year-olds all the way to 72-year-olds, and we’ve got guys who’ve worked in the field with crews before, so there’s different levels of experience, and there’s always something to learn from each other,” Ramsey said today.

This year's students are building another 800-square-foot house that will be on sale in June, Triplett said.

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or