Prefab can be a confusing term. A large number of people think prefab construction is the same as kit construction or panel construction. In some ways it is but for the most part, it is not. According to Wikipedia prefabrication is the practice of assembling components of a structure in a factory or other manufacturing site, and transporting complete assemblies or sub-assemblies to the construction site where the structure is to be located. ‘Prefabricated’ may also refer to buildings built in components, modules (modular homes) or transportable sections (manufactured homes), and may also be used to refer to mobile homes, houses on wheels, and tiny houses. Although similar, the methods and design of the three vary widely. NOTE: In the U.S., mobile and manufactured houses are constructed in accordance with HUD building codes, while modular houses are constructed in accordance with the IBC (International Building Code).
- Modular homes are created in sections, and then transported to the home site for construction and installation. These are typically installed and treated like a regular house, for financing, appraisal and construction purposes, and are usually the most expensive of the three. Although the sections of the house are prefabricated, the sections, or modules, are put together at the construction much like a typical home. Manufactured and mobile houses are rated as personal property and depreciate over time.
- Manufactured homes are built onto steel beams, and are transported in complete sections to the home site, where they are assembled.
- Mobile homes are built on wheels, that can be moved.
Beyond those talking points, modular, or prefabricated, homes offer a variety of benefits for home buyers wanting to build on a plot of land. Here are five things you should know though before committing to a prefab:
PREFABS ARE FASTER TO BUILD. While I have no stats to defend my statement, observation shows that building a more traditional “sticks ‘n bricks” home takes anywhere from 9 months to a year. That is based on a number of factors including permits, inspections, weather, etc. A prefab home typically takes from 3 to 4 months, start to finish. Prefabs are built in a factory under consistent conditions with inspections taking place on the line as building happens. It should also be noted that once on site it only take 5 to 7 days for the components to be assembled and the home to be turnkey.
THERE ARE *HIDDEN* FEES. This is a very touchy subject. It isn’t that the associated fees are hidden so much as they are circumstantial and personal to each home. The base price of a prefab home includes construction, transport to the final build site, and the setting of the home on the foundation. This does not include any special tweaks to the house while being constructed. If the advertised house comes with linoleum flooring but the buyer would rather have travertine tile, there is a cost associated with such a customization. The price changes. Once on the site there are possibly even more fees. If the site doesn’t already have a septic system, one will need to be installed. If utilities are not present, those will need to be added. If some of the land needs to be cleared to make way for the home, there is a fee. So while the additional fees aren’t exactly hidden, they aren’t exactly glaring either.
HAVE PATIENCE. There is a stigma associated with the words “modular” and “prefab”. Despite stricter building codes and standards as well as improvements in the prefab process, the stigma still exists. There is still that nothing that modular or prefab means “mobile” and few buyers are interested in a mobile home. These same buyers often think that prefabs aren’t built as structurally sound as a more traditional sticks ‘n bricks home or that they are flimsy.