How to get a Modular Home in 2020 & What to Consider When Buying One.
How to get a Modular Home: Prefabricated (prefab or modular) homes used to be associated with ugly, cookie-cutter models but now times have changed. Nowadays, prefab homes have a stunning array of customization options, and they’re more likely to be associated with world-class contemporary design.
However, the cost of buying or getting a prefab home can vary a lot depending on what choices you make, and there are a lot of choices when you decide to build a custom home. Here is everything you need to know about it.
What is a modular home?
A modular home (also known as a prefabricated home) is entirely built in a factory, transported in parts, and assembled at the final construction site. The home looks like its traditional on-site developed counterparts but can be built and disassembled faster.
By purchasing a modular home instead of building one on-site, buyers can often get a new home sooner and cheaper. However, there are a few pros and cons you should consider before you decide whether modular is the way for you.
Pros and cons of modular homes
Portability: While modular buildings are generally built to be permanent structures, some designs can be disassembled so you can pick up and leave anytime you desire.
Quicker build: Since modular homes are built in a factory, unfavorable weather conditions don’t delay construction. Also, much of the assembly is already done, which cuts down the building time for the final construction.
Lower cost: Using conventional construction methods can cost $150 to $250 per square foot if you’re building a standard, non-luxury home. Modular construction can cost 10% to 20% fewer thanks to assembly-line efficiency.
You can’t customize as much: While you have some customization options with modular buildings, most designs come with limits on alteration.
You need to be near the factory: To keep costs and effort under control, buyers should try to purchase a modular home from the closest factory/company to them. Otherwise, you could end up paying for extensive transport costs.
Zoning is an obstacle: Modular buildings are relatively new to the construction industry, and local zoning boards are still catching up. You may run into some outdated zoning rules that could derail the project or even prevent you from building altogether.
Types of Prefab Homes
There are several different types of prefab homes. According to the National Modular Housing Council (NMHC), factory-built homes that must meet state or local building standards include the following.
1. Modular Homes
Modular homes consist of one or more modules that are built in a factory (according to the state and local building codes where the home will be built) and then transported separately to the building site, where construction is completed. Each module usually comes fully-outfitted with interior fittings – plumbing, electrical, doors, closets, and stairs – so there’s little finishing work to be completed when the home is assembled.
2. Panelized Homes
Panelized homes are built in panels – a whole wall, for instance – then each panel is transported to the building site and is constructed into a home. Typically, panelized homes require more finishing work than modular homes, as the interior finishing work, such as painting, installing cabinetry and stairs, and installing flooring, must be completed on-site.
Factory build-time is still similar to that of modular homes (about 6 to 12 weeks), but on-site build time is longer. It might take a week to construct the panels on-site, then it could take an additional month to complete the interior work, depending on the schedules of the subcontractors. Total build time can be estimated at three to five months, give or take, depending on subcontractor schedules.
3. Pre-Cut Homes
Pre-cut homes are “kit” homes, such as log cabin kits or dome homes. The homes are cut to design specs in-factory, then are shipped as a kit to the building site to be constructed on-site. Some pre-cut homes are panelized homes, but not all panelized homes are pre-cut homes.
One factor that sets apart pre-cut homes from panelized homes is that pre-cut homes are often designed for the motivated home buyer who wants to construct the home on-site themselves using the materials and instructions supplied by the manufacturer. The kits come with a detailed list of instructions and parts, much like a piece of Ikea furniture. The home buyer then works to piece the home together, either alone or with the help of a general contractor.
The basic difference between a panelized home and a kit home is the intention – most panelized home builders intend for the panels to be pieced together by their company on-site, while kit home builders have no such intention unless construction is an add-on feature. Also, not all pre-cut homes come with full walls or ceilings pre-manufactured.
For instance, some pre-cut log cabin homes simply provide the pre-cut logs and framing materials ready to be assembled on-site. These tend to have the longest on-site build times, which range drastically depending on whether the home buyer completes construction him or herself, or if he or she enlists the help of a contractor. Total build time can be estimated at a minimum of five months, although it could be much longer.
Shipping container homes (homes made, quite literally, from industrial steel shipping containers) have made a splash in the media because of their funky and creative designs. Much like modular homes, shipping container homes can be stacked and pieced together like Legos to create homes, offices, and funky eateries.
However, before you settle on shipping container building, just be aware that it’s not the same as building a prefab home. Shipping containers may be sturdy and strong, but they aren’t designed for residential use. This means you need to check your local building codes to see whether there are more restrictions for building homes using shipping containers.
And unless you’re quite handy with a welding torch, you’ll likely need to hire an architect and general contractor to figure out exactly how to construct the home. These are still on the fringes of modular building, which means there are more hoops to jump through. If you love the look and feel of shipping container homes, there are a few modular manufacturers who have redesigned the shipping container specifically for residential and commercial use.
Key factors that determine the cost of modular homes
The cost of a modular home varies based on the U.S. state you live in, the type of home you want to design, and its size. Let’s take a closer look at these three factors.
Whenever you’re talking about houses and real estate, this is your number one concern. Where you build matters as much as what you build. A modular home in New York—where the median home value is a staggering $669,500—will cost substantially more than a home in West Virginia where the median home value is just $99,000.
There can also be additional costs based on the unique nature of your location, such as excavation costs, transportation costs, permit costs, land development, and sales tax.
Once you’ve settled on a price per square foot, it’s relatively easy to determine just how much you need to buy a house, based on its size. Here, it becomes simple arithmetic: You multiply the price per square foot by the square footage you’re planning on.
The question is: How much square footage is going to be enough for you? The average house size in the U.S. is 2,435 square feet, but do you need all that space? Or could you settle for less?
The base price of some modular homes only costs $50 per square foot. If you multiply that by 2,435—the average square footage of U.S. homes—that’s about $121,750 for a new home.
Having said that, the price climbs drastically depending on desired customizations. For example, utility hook-ups for electrical equipment and plumbing systems will incur additional costs. Likewise, further enhancements such as custom flooring and countertops will drive up your total cost of ownership. And if you want luxury, it can cost upwards of $300,000 for the final product.
Building a Prefab Home
It’s one thing to understand the ins-and-outs of what a prefab home is, but it’s quite another to undertake the actual building and construction of your home. The good news is, the process isn’t all that different from that of a traditional-build home, but it goes a lot faster.
Before You Start: Buying the Right Land
Even though prefab construction is widely accepted as a quality form of home-building, buying the wrong piece of land can add thousands of dollars to your total cost, or even waylay your plans entirely. Consider the following before buying a home tract:
1. City or Neighborhood Building Restrictions
Always check the city’s and neighborhood’s building ordinances to make sure you’re allowed to build a prefab home – or more specifically, the type of prefab home you want to build. For instance, some neighborhoods require landowners to use specific builders or to build homes to a specific aesthetic. If your dream home is a geodesic dome, it may not fit into a neighborhood filled with ranch-style homes.
2. Easy Access
Remember that your modules, panels, or kit must be delivered to your home via oversized trucks. If you’re constructing a modular home, a crane is used to place the home on top of the foundation. If the only way to access your home’s plot is by narrow, windy roads, or if your building site is tucked away behind a forest, you may be in for a rude awakening when it comes to site preparation costs.
3. Soil Sample
Before you buy your land, check with the current landowner to see if you can pay for exploratory digging or a soil survey. The type of soil your home is built on can significantly affect the cost of laying a proper foundation. For instance, a home built on clay soil or atop significant rock can skyrocket your foundation expenses. The fine sediment of clay expands when it gets wet, then contracts when it dries out.
This constant expansion-contraction can lead to irregularity in the “settling” of a home, opening it up to cracking and shifting of drywall, windows, and doors, and problems with utility connections. A home built on clay should have its soil pre-compacted before the foundation is laid, and in some cases, it may need support beams fitted under the home to prevent damage from shifting soil.
On the other end of the spectrum, if your land consists of too much rock, it can be quite expensive to drill through to create a level foundation. That’s one of the reasons why our septic system cost $13,000 to install – it took three solid days for a drilling company to drill through the rock where our septic system was laid. There’s not a right or wrong type of soil to build on, but you do want to know what you’re working with before you buy your land so you can account for the costs of proper site preparation.
Assuming you want to use utilities like water, gas, and electricity, it’s important to check with your city or county to see where the closest hookups are to your desired building site. You’ll likely have to pay for hookups to these services. Otherwise, if you live outside a municipal district, you may have to pay to install a well or septic system. It’s important to know what you’ll have to do (and how much you’ll need to pay) in order to make your home fully functional.