The concept of prefabricated homes has been utilized for centuries, but today’s consumers increasingly have more options when it comes to customization and building methods than their forebears ever did.
Prefabricated homes offer many costs benefits to the homeowner, in categories of building, maintenance, energy and resources.
Prefabricated construction ranges from modular, where the majority of the home is built inside a factory, to panelized, where only a structural frame and walls are constructed, to green or sustainable precision building.
According to 2013 figures from the Manufactured Housing Institute, prefab construction can cost 10- to 20-percent less per square foot than conventional site-built homes. They’re also built in a fraction of the time as traditional homes.
“Some [prefab homes] are built from foundation to handing over the keys in as little as 45 days,” said Jason Blenker, president of Blenker Building Systems. The Amherst, Wis.-based company manufactures structural building components that are used in prefab construction. Using these components, the building cycle can be cut down by anywhere from one-third to one-half the time, Blenker said.
Even custom homes can be built in as little as six months, said Steven Glenn, CEO of Living Homes, a Santa Monica, Calif., company that specializes in modern, sustainable prefab designs.
This requires more planning up front, including individualized product selection for the home.
Precision-built prefab homes offer even more benefits to the homeowner, including efficiency and lower maintenance. Their construction eliminates many of the problems associated with standard construction because of its controlled environment. Setbacks such as damage of building material, theft, vandalism and unskilled labor are minimized.
“The green quality of our homes is a definite attraction for our buyers – that
includes both energy efficiency, as well as eco-friendly building materials and finishes,” says Maura McCarthy, CEO and vice president of market development for Blu Homes, a premium prefab-home design company in Vallejo, Calif.
In states like California, where residents are ever energy-conscious, the market for prefab, precision-built homes is growing rapidly. For Blu Homes, the Bay Area is at the center of this growth, while Glenn reports that Living Homes had record sales levels in its Santa Monica market last year.
With rising energy and real estate costs in many U.S. markets, it’s no surprise that consumer types such as young families and professionals and retirees are looking to prefab building.
“In general we call them ‘cultural creatives.’ These are people who really value design, health and sustainability, and products design,” Glenn said.
Nearly half of prefabricated home residents are ages 18 to 29 (23 percent) or 50-59 (22 percent), according to the Manufactured Housing Institute’s 2013 figures.
While the age range of customers is broad, they have shared concern for keeping monthly operating costs at bay. They’re also attracted to the simpler building process and its controlled costs, said McCarthy.
“Many have built new homes before and prefer not to do it that way again,” she said.
Still, a number of misconceptions about prefab building exist among consumers.
Some still equate prefab with trailer homes, which differ from the state-of-the-art way that precision-built homes are completed.
With so many different types of prefab construction available to consumers, it’s important that they understand the differences among the providers on the market before they begin the building process.