Believe it or not, there are a lot of people that confuse the term “Prefab” with kit construction or panel construction, but don’t worry because in some ways they are alike but for the most part, it is not.
According to LABC Warranty, prefabrication is the creation of a building’s components offsite, generally in a factory, and then assembling the building onsite. This is a far quicker process than more traditional methods. It is likely that you have heard of modular homes, these are ‘Prefabricated’ which refer to buildings built in components, or modules hence the term modular homes. Also, another example of prefabricated homes is the transportable sections (manufactured homes), which you may know as mobile homes.
These three types of homes may seem similar but their methods and design differ very much, especially how they are built. NOTE: In the U.S., mobile and manufactured houses are built according to the HUD building codes, while modular houses are built according to the IBC (International Building Code).
It is important to remember that modular homes are designed and created in sections, mainly in a factory, which are then transported to the building site for 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. Like a typical home, the sections, or modules of a modular home are put together on the construction site.
Keep in mind that 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 points, modular, or prefabricated homes offer a variety of benefits for home buyers. Here are 3 things to consider before committing to a prefab:
1. Prefabs are faster to build
On average, it takes seven months to build a house from start to finish, according to a 2019 U.S. Census Bureau report. But you may also need to include time for an architect to draw up plans (1–4 months). 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 takes 4 to 7 days for the components to be assembled.
2. There may be 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 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.
3. Get it right
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 nothing that indicates 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 traditional sticks and brick homes or that they are flimsy.