I’m hoping this post will change the way you think about manufactured homes. For most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, the term conjures up images of trailer parks or low income neighborhoods. Since manufactured homes cost much less to build than stick-built or framed houses, that’s largely true. Manufactured homes serve a great purpose and fill a need for affordable housing, allowing more people to experience the benefits of home ownership.
A manufactured home, also called a prefab home or kit home, is simply a home that is built off-site, usually in a factory, and shipped to the building site in a nearly completed state. I think their history is fascinating. It took awhile for prefab houses to catch on in the United States. They were being built in Europe in the 1600’s. During the California gold rush in the 1800’s, manufactured homes were shipped to the settlements by rail and miners and their families lived in them. After World War II, soldiers returning home were anxious to purchase homes and start families but the supply couldn’t keep up with the demand. We needed homes that could be built quickly and inexpensively and manufactured homes provided both.
When most people think of manufactured homes, they probably picture the rectangular shaped houses lacking any sort of architectural interest. The manufacturing process has come a long way and prefab homes now come in many shapes and styles. See if you can pick out the manufactured home from the 3 houses below. As always, click on the photos to enlarge them.
OK, that was a trick question. All 3 of them are manufactured homes. Yes even the glorious Sunset Breeze house on the right. The home in the middle is a floor plan by Palm Harbor and well, the home on the left is what it is.
Now, prefab homes like the Sunset Breeze home are much more expensive than other prefabs but they’re still much less expensive than building a custom modern home. The Sunset Breeze home was designed by Michelle Kaufmann Designs and Sunset Magazine for green, healthy living. A key feature of the Sunset Breezehouse is the glass-enclosed breezeway at the center which allows you to “let the green in” to your main living and dining areas. This seamless transition between interior and exterior is a key component of modern architecture. For additional specs on the Breeze home click on this link: http://www.mkd-arc.com/homes/breezehouse/index.php
If you’re interested in more affordable prefab modern homes, check out the LV Series by Rocio Romero. The LVL150 is 1453 sq. ft. with 2 bedrooms/2 baths and starts at $45,225 for the exterior shell kit. The kit includes the plans and specs you’ll need to obtain your building permit and construction bids. It also includes a construction binder, all the information your general contractor will need to build your home, and of course, the materials for construction including wall panels, roofing and siding. You’re on your own as far as the interior goes but the cost of the kit breaks down to $31.50/square foot so you’ll have plenty of money left over.
Hive modular homes do include finished interiors and currently start at about $160/square foot. For that price you can expect to receive all of the structural/exterior components (joists, foundation walls, windows, etc), electrical components, and interior components like cabinetry, plumbing fixtures, wood flooring, light fixtures, doors, and paint.
FlatPak also offers complete home kits in the $200-$300/square foot range, including everything down to the kitchen sink. FlatPak homes are a bit more expensive but they offer quite a bit of customization in the pricing. FlatPak pricing also includes general contractor service and an assembly crew.
The advantages of building a modular home are numerous in my mind. One is the time savings, which usually equates to money savings. Site preparation and home construction can take place simultaneously. Another benefit of modular homes is construction creates less waste. Because these homes are built in a factory with largely automated systems, there’s more quality control, therefore much less waste. Finally, they tend to be very energy efficient. Factory built homes leave less room for error than site-built homes, so they tend to be tighter and better insulated. Many of them are constructed with SIP (structural insulated panels) walls, roofs and floors. SIPs have foam insulation sandwiched between to sheets of OSB (oriented strand board) or plywood. They arrive with window and door openings already cutout. They can hold in more heat or cooling than traditionally insulated walls.
One thing to strongly consider before deciding to build a prefab home are the CCR’s and design guidelines in the neighborhood. If manufactured homes are prohibited, you might not be allowed to build your beautiful, modern, prefab dream home.