Whether you’re in the dreaming stages or have committed to buying a home, you may have weighed the option of a prefab home.
There are countless considerations in deciding whether a modular home is right for you. So, before we show you some models to consider, let’s discuss everything you should know before buying a prefab home.
What Is a Prefab Home?
Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is a prefab home? Even though it’s not a new process, it’s a relatively new term. All it really means is that some or all of the home is prefabricated (manufactured) in a factory and delivered to the home site to be constructed.
There are a variety of ways this happens. A basic kit might offer you the frame of the home, including the floor supports and roofing. A more comprehensive package can include everything right up to the floor coverings and appliances.
Prefab housing companies often offer a selection of add-on services. Sometimes they will only manufacture and deliver the materials. Other times they will construct the home. Others yet will handle the leveling of the land, pouring of the foundation, and other tasks required before putting the home in place.
Advantages of Prefab Homes
It’s not hard to see how having part or all of your home delivered and put together is an appealing consideration. And for good reason. There are many advantages to buying a prefab home.
The first is the obvious convenience.
On a smaller scale, it’s like buying a model car kit rather than cutting all the pieces out of balsa wood, or putting together pieces of furniture delivered in a box rather than designing and building it from raw wood materials.
When a prefab home arrives onsite, it’s typically flat packed with all the pieces ready to fit together. Whether you or a crew does the construction, having all the pieces cut to size makes the process go much faster.
In addition to the actual onsite build going faster with a prefab home, the construction of the prefabricated portions is much faster too. Since they are produced in a plant with high-tech production lines, the machines crank out panels much faster than an onsite, human build.
That technology also means the products you receive are standardized, so they fit together snugly without the need for additional measuring, cutting, and other adjustments. It’s all accounted for before the pieces are made.
Prefab homes are well-known for their tight envelopes that ensure an energy-efficient design.
The materials and techniques used can provide a significantly lower carbon footprint, and long-term energy savings over a stick built home.
Many prefabricated homes are built to withstand storms, fire, and earthquakes. They are also often resistant to mold and insects.
Building a prefab home will save you money compared to a traditionally-built house. Prefabrication allows companies to buy items in bulk and the efficiency of the process, both of which cost less than hiring a crew for a stick build.
Prefab homes offer a reduced environmental impact over stick-built houses. Most are made from steel, which is rodent, insect, fire, and mold resistant. Plus, it’s durable and recyclable. The construction process means minimal site impact and considerably less waste.
Disadvantages of Prefab Houses
Then, of course, there is the downside to prefab homes. And there are a few to consider.
You may not be able to find traditional financing for a prefab home. When a bank gives a loan for a home mortgage, they are using the home as collateral.
In the case of a prefab home, there is no collateral other than sheets of housing materials under production. It’s simply not a good investment for them.
Most companies you work with for your prefab materials will offer financing, but the terms often only allow for payments that pay the house off before delivery. They don’t provide a long-term payment plan, so you'll often have to pay it off in a lump sum.
In the search for housing solutions over the years, builders have delivered on alternatives we’ve called trailers or manufactured homes. They always seem to have less appeal as a long-term housing situation.
With the introduction of modular, or prefabricated, homes, that stigma often transfers over. Neighborhood decision makers may oppose the new build on the block. It may also lead to less value or fewer interested buyers when it’s time to sell.
Nearly all prefab homes will be set onto an existing foundation. That means you will likely have to clear and level the land, and have a foundation poured. This can cost a few thousand dollars or a few tens of thousands of dollars.
Limited Floorplans and Modifications
Most prefab housing companies make a limited number of models that are predetermined and cookie cutter by design. The production line is set up for repetition, so custom designs are often not an option.
Although there are companies that specialize in custom homes, they are considerably more expensive.
Due to the construction process, it’s also difficult to make modifications to the home later on. If you think you’ll need another bedroom, get it upfront rather than planning to add it later.
Some land is not zones for modular homes. Do your research, whether you already own the land or if you’re in the market.
Is it Cheaper to Buy a Prefab Home?
Typically, yes. The fabrication process allows the company to build in bulk and standardize the manufacturing so, as long as there isn’t a lot of customization, you can reasonably expect the house to cost 10-25% less than a stick built house.
However, remember you’ll still need to buy land, install a foundation, and run all types of utilities to the home.
What’s the Difference Between a Modular Home and a Manufactured Home?
A prefab and a modular home are the same thing. However, a manufactured home is different. While prefab homes are built in pieces, delivered, and then built onsite, a manufactured home is built to completion and then delivered to the job site as a finished product.
What to Look for When Buying a Prefab Home
Buying a home is never an easy process. There are always a lot of decisions to make. Although buying a prefab home may simplify the process a bit, there are still many factors to consider.
For example, you know you’ll need to find a layout and size that works for you. But you’ll also want to consider the style of the home. Just because these homes come from a production line doesn’t mean they don’t offer a ‘look.’ Check out examples of contemporary, craftsman, or Victorian to get the home that matches your tastes.
During your initial interaction with a prefab house-building company, be sure to ask what their delivery timeline looks like. You don’t want to spend the time deciding on a home you need in three months if delivery isn’t an option for 18.
On the other hand, you obviously can’t schedule delivery until you have a foundation ready, so ensure there are no penalty fees for them to hold onto a completed home if necessary.
You’ll find there are a range of options when it comes to the final home product. Most manufacturers leave a little wiggle room for customization. They will offer predetermined floor plans with a few variations. If they provide finishing goods like flooring and countertops, you may have several options to choose from.
The more decisions you have to make, the more it will feel like a personalized space.
Your home will be transported to you, even if that means trucking it across the country or even internationally. In general, it will cost you less if you buy from a manufacturer that’s closer to you. Some builders only deliver to a limited geographical location so ensure your area is an option.
Plus, it’s better for the environment with fewer transport emissions polluting the air. It will take less time to arrive, and you may even have the opportunity to visit the factory to see the operation in action and get any questions addressed.
Now let’s look at some of these prefab delights.
Home Depot Getaway Pad
This is a steel frame you can make into your own ADU or primary home. The kit runs just under $44,000 and includes the framing materials you need for 620 square feet of living space.
You’ll need to spend more time at Home Depot picking out your doors, windows, and all your interior goods, but this kit is delivered quickly and will save you a lot time in the planning and framing stages.
From there, you can personalize it to make it your own.
Choose from a vast variety of floorplans and styles through this east coast prefab home manufacturer. The company provides homes in MA, NH, RI, ME, VT, NY, NJ, CT. It offers two types of pricing.
The first is “Set Only Pricing” which basically covers the cost of the home, delivery, and any required sales tax. The Set Only price covers about 50% of total costs.
The second is called “Turnkey Service Pricing” and it also includes everything from the foundation pour to the finish work.
Avalon Building Systems builds commercial and residential spaces. Homes are categorized by styles that include cape, coastal, colonial, contemporary, multi-family, ranch, split ranch, vacation, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. There are single and multi-story homes in a variety of sizes to choose from.
This company is based out of Florida and offers everything from yurts to shipping container homes. Its mission is to provide affordable tiny homes that are equipped with modern amenities like smart features and luxury finishes.
The Norman Luxury Tiny Home is the largest home at 538 square feet. It offers an open floor plan with a loft bedroom, an A-frame design, and floor to ceiling windows. Plus it offers smart features like remote controlled window shades and easy to adjust thermostat.
You’ll need to hire your own contractor for this one, but it only requires one to two days to build once delivered.
Serving the Western states, Method Homes offers a bit of something for everyone. The Simpatico Series starts with net zero energy home, which includes solar panels in the base costs. It’s a customizable design that adds desired features like large overhangs or height adjustments.
The Annata Series offers a simple, single-story design with myriad finish options for a personal touch. Different models come in two or three bedrooms ranging from 1590-2250 square feet.
The Cabin Series comes in a range of sizes and can be placed as a single level or stacked for a smaller footprint. The design is highly customizable to accommodate a variety of building site locations and layouts.
Method Homes also offers several other design series options to choose from.
Appropriately named, Midcountry Homes is based out of Wisconsin and serves the central states in the country. The Westlake base model can be customized in a variety of ways, from choosing your own bathroom features and ceiling fans to customizing the box bays, dormers, roofing, siding, windows, doors, and more.
This company provides modular homes to every state in the country. It’s a brand known for customization and offers copious options for everything from floor plans to finishes.
Start by choosing a floor plan and housing style with options such as Cape Cod, Traditional, Coastal, Colonial, Chalet, and Contemporary. Look for one or two story homes, optional porches, garages, basements, and more.
Then customize that plan with the help of an in-house design team. This allows you to make rooms larger or add a deck to the front and back of the home.
You’ll also select every finish from faucets to shower and flooring, countertops, molding, windows, shingles, and much more.
Building a home is a major undertaking. Choosing a prefab home means making the same number of decisions, but spending a lot less time in the building process. It also means saving money.