When Art Sine wanted to build a custom home outside of New York City, he says he began working with an architect on plans that would be to his specification, built the traditional way. But when the price tag was adding up to $725,000 — and possibly as much as $900,000 when he factored in upgrades, with no guarantees it wouldn’t go over budget — his dream home became out of reach.
However, he found a different way to build his dream house for a budget under $500,000, in a timeline of four months and with no surprise costs (in fact, he says invoices came in under-budget).
How? He opted for a modular home, better known as “pre-fab” (short for pre-fabricated). Not to be confused with mobile or manufactured homes, or even tract housing, modular homes are built in a factory and designed to fit together a little like legos. This option has come a long way from the “kit” houses popularized by Sears & Roebuck in the 1940s — and one of the biggest improvements is that they're now highly customizable.
Related: Six Fabulous Pre-Fabricated Homes
Check out the accompanying Destination Home episode to see what they look like and how they're put together.
While pre-fab is considered by some to be low-quality and cookie-cutter, those we spoke with in the industry say these days, those assumptions are completely unfounded.
“It kind of goes back to a misconception from decades ago that a modular home and a trailer home are the same thing,” says Donna Peak of National Association of Homebuilders' Building Systems Councils. “There’s a stigma that the industry has unfairly faced.”
Meanwhile, Peak says these days most, if not all, modular companies do customization on some level.
In the accompanying video, we speak to John Colucci of Westchester Modular Homes who contends modular home quality is higher than traditional homes. He also explains how modular homebuilders are able to erect these homes in as little as 30 days, on a budget that averages 5% to 10% less than what you’d spend otherwise. From start to finish — if you include the design process, permitting and finishing work — a modular home can be move-in ready in as little as four to five months, easily half the time spent on a traditional stick-built home. The video also features BluHomes, a modular company that builds architect deigned and energy efficient homes nationally.
Related: Would you Buy an Ikea Home?
This way of building is not free of complaints. You can find instances of slack building standards and quality problems, and a wide variation among manufacturers, so make sure to do your homework if you’re building a home. But judging from the testimonials of the homeowners and builders we interviewed for this story, pre-fab these days sounds pretty fabulous.
Additional shot footage provided by: BluHomes.com