In the early 1900’s, Sear and Roebuck offered a selection of pre-designed homes in their mail catalog. For a mere $2,500-$3,000, one could buy all the materials needed to build the home they selected. Additionally, detailed building instructions were included for the 30,000 plus pieces needing assembly. From 1908-1940, Sears and Roebuck sold over 70,000 catalog homes. After seventy years since the last Sears home was built, the next generation of pre-designed homes is becoming very popular. Unlike the Sears homes, pre-designed homes are prefabricated and constructed off-site in an assembly-line fashion, which is then transported to the permanent site. These homes are designed and built so well, that even experts in the housing industry have trouble discerning a prefabricated home from a traditional home. For a first-time homebuyer or even an existing homeowner looking to purchase a vacation home, prefabricated or “prefab” modular homes should be considered as an alternative to traditional or “stick-built” homes. Prefab homes are seen all across the world, with heavy concentrations focused in limited-space areas such as Japan and Western Europe. Additionally, even since the housing market crash, the U.S. has seen a surge in prefab home purchases over the past several years. Reasons for the rise of prefabs across the world could be deducted from the following benefits:
1. Economical- Because prefabs are manufactured and built in assembly lines, manufacturing companies are able to buy and store materials in bulk while reducing waste typically experienced during traditional home building. In general, expect the total cost of the home to be between 10-25% of stick-built homes.
2. Faster Building Times – Generally speaking, prefabs are designed, built, and completed more quickly than stick-built homes. Because these homes are assembled in climate controlled factories, they are not subject to the same seasonal restrictions as stick-built homes. These limitations typically result in higher overall labor costs and longer building times.
3. Customizable – Even though prefabs are designed to be mass-produced, most companies offer the ability to change floor plans to meet the wants or needs of the customer. Because these homes are modular, various sections can be placed together to create a one-of-a-kind home.
4. Environmentally Friendly – Prefabs are an excellent choice for people who are looking to reduce waste, improve sustainability, and use earth-friendly materials. Many of the companies offer “green” homes, with options to include solar and wind energy sources, natural glues, low VOC paints, and renewable wood sources, such as bamboo. Unlike traditional home builders, who cannot keep large inventories, prefab manufacturers can buy these products in bulk resulting in lower costs to the homeowner.
5. High Standards – Prefabs are required to meet stringent plumbing, electrical, and building standards, which are higher than stick-built homes. These homes will generally last as long, if not longer than traditional homes.
Although there are several advantages of owning a modular home, the biggest disadvantage relates to the potential damage created during the transportation of the home sections. It is very important to have an expert in prefabs available during delivery to inspect the shipment before accepting it. If damage is suspected or noticeable, most companies are more than happy to correct the issue in a timely manner.