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10 Things Everyone Should Know About Modular Homes

By - Interior Design & Architecture Magazine on Mar 27, 2013

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What is a modular home?

A modular home is pre-built indoors in a factory-like setting. The finished products are delivered to their intended location where they will be assembled by a construction crew. A modular home is not a mobile home; it is simply a home that is built off-site as opposed to on-site. These homes are often called factory-built homes, system-built or pre-fab homes. Modular and Manufactured homes are NOT the same. Manufactured homes are not placed on permanent foundations. Manufactured homes can be moved from one location to another. There are specific laws and regulations regarding theserelocations. Thanks to publications such as Dwell, the popularity of the modular home is growing.

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How do modular homes differ from houses built on-site?

Because modular homes are built indoors, they can be completed in a few weeks as opposed to months. These home constructions do not have to deal with the typical on-site delays that are predominantly caused by the weather. Modular homes must conform to specific rules, guidelines and building codes that often surpass those of traditional on-site homes. However, it is important to shop around. Not all companies that make factory-built homes are alike. There can be significant differences in quality, price and service. As with purchasing or building any home, it is crucial to do your research.

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Modular Home Facts:

  • Modular homes appraise the same as their on-site built counterparts do. They do not depreciate in value.

  • Modular homes can be customized.

  • Most modular home companies have their own in-house engineering departments that utilize CAD (Computer Aided Design).

  • Modular home designs vary in style and size.

  • Modular construction can also be used for commercial applications, including office buildings.

  • Modular homes are permanent structures – “real property.”

  • Modular homes can be built on existing crawl spaces and basements.

  • Modular homes are considered a form of “Green Building.”

  • Modular homes are faster to build than a 100% site-built home.

  • Home loans for modular are the same as if buying a 100% site-built home.

  • Insuring your modular home is the same as a 100% site-built home.

  • Taxes on a modular home are the same as 100% site-built home.

  • Modular homes can be built to withstand 175 mph winds.

  • Modular homes can be built for accessible living and designed for future conveniences.

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Do all modular homes look alike?

Contrary to popular misconception, modular homes do not all look alike. In fact, modular homes have no design limitations. You can create any modular style home you wish from a traditional colonial to a Mediterranean style. You can add any window or architectural detail that you desire. Nearly all host plans can be turned into modular homes, helping you to create your “dream home.”

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How is a modular home assembled?

A factory-built home starts out as distinct sections that have already been built in a climate controlled area. The finished sections are transported to the building site and then assembled with giant cranes. This process quite resembles a child building with Lego blocks. Modular homes cannot be moved after they have been placed and set on to their foundations.

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It is important to talk to your manufacturer as each manufacturer operates with a different set of guidelines. If you are designing your own home, it is important that you ask very specific questions. Modular homes offer hundreds of personalized features that include but are not limited to: ceramic floors, solid surface countertops, various cabinet styles and wood species, exterior finishes, plumbing fixtures, etc. You can, essentially, customize your own home.

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Are modular homes more or less expensive than those built on site?

Pre-fab homes can typically save you quite a bit of money. Because they are constructed in a factory, they can be built fairly quickly -- a matter of weeks as opposed to months -- which can be quite significant. The reason for this is that there are no extreme weather delays. Furthermore, all inspections are performed at the factories during each phase of construction by a third party inspector, and are completed before the homes are transported to their new locations.

It is important to note, however, the more complex the design and specs, the more money your home will cost you. Other factors to consider such as electricity, plumbing, duct-work are often not calculated into the initial pricing, so your final cost may be 20% more than what the builder is quoting you. If you need to install a septic system or a basement, these, too, will add to your bottom line.

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How do you recognize a modular home?

A modular home should have a metal tag on the outside of each section. These tags are small and metal and quite identifiable. If you cannot locate a tag, you should be able to find details about the home in the electrical panel box. The tag should also reveal a manufacturing date. Plates can even be located in kitchen cabinets and bedroom closets.

Pre-fabricated houses are built on a non-removable metal chassis. If you are looking at a home that you think could possibly be pre-fab whose markers have been removed, look for small holes in the structure where the markers should be.

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What are the benefits of owning a modular home?

Modular homes can be more affordable. Their shorter build time will save you money on the overall construction. Home inspections are not needed as these are all done in factory. They are much more energy efficient, so your monthly expenses will be substantially less. Modular homes are environmentally friendly due to their efficiency. There is a large variety of homes from which to choose, as well as a whole host of top architects that specialize in designing modular homes. As with any home, modular homes can be built on to and expanded.

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A homeowner must own the land on which the home will reside. In many cases, one may end up spending upwards of $100,000 just for the land! Unlike regular homes, the lots cannot be built on subdivisions. The initial fees can be cost prohibitive for some. When building a modular home, the builder must be paid first, and in full, before the process has begun or has been completed. You might need to get a special construction loan.

This loan is valid for one year and when the work is completed, the dealer will pay the loan, then a traditional mortgage will be issued. It is therefore important that you know your budget and shop around. These rules are applicable to US residents only; if you live in Canada or in Europe you will need to check your country’s guidelines.

Would you consider a modular home for yourself, or are you more of a traditionalist?

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