Over the last few years, the prefab home has become a more serious part of the conversation. Even here on this blog, we’ve talked about the shift to smaller homes, an option that many prefabs represent very well. Yet, there is still a stigma attached to them, with visions of trailer parks, or lifeless geometric boxes, dancing in the heads of many.
So, who best to dispel some of them than someone who makes them? Builder and writer Wade Myer is here to talk about what pre-fab homes represent in 2013.
My father is a contractor, and I grew up working with him and his crew of carpenters building high end custom homes. While I didn’t realize it at the time, I’ve come to see that the home owners we were working for, and the blue collar guys on the crew, were all elitists.
I can remember passing double-wides on the highway and my dad snorting at them in disdain. In his eyes, these mobile homes were a symbol of what was wrong with construction. Cheap, poorly made homes and trailers was what I associated the term “prefab” with, and many people still do to this day. But I’ve come to realize that the trend is changing and the steps prefabricated homes have made might surprise you as well.
A range of options
What can be found on the market today is drastically different than what people expect to find when they think “prefab.” Rather than there being limited options of long rectangles, there is a wide range of options that can suit anyone’s needs.
The prefab industry has quickly become competitive, and manufacturers and designers need to up their games to keep an edge. This has led to companies who used to offer only one, slightly customizable design, to offering a range of floor plans and features that you can tailor to suit your needs.
Prefab, meet Design
Cubicles are boring, at least that’s what we’ve come to believe. But designers are making us question this long standing “fact.” Prefab homes tend to be focused on minimalizing floor plans not only to lower shipping costs, but to match a growing trend. After the housing bust, people have moved away from large square footage houses that require a lot of upkeep.
Also, those who are looking for vacation or weekend getaway homes don’t want the upkeep associated with a full size house. Modern prefab design features extended site lines to make the homes feel bigger, and space saving features to stop the smaller homes from feeling cramped.
Get out of the house
As mentioned above, prefab homes are being used for second or vacation homes, but it doesn’t stop there. Many people are purchasing prefab buildings to put on their existing property to use as studios, offices, guest rooms, in-law housing, and more.
These range from basic to elaborate, with prices ranging from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars. A common misconception for prefab homes is that they are cheaper than custom on site houses. While this is often the case, prefab homes are not guaranteed to be a cheaper alternative. Even if they aren’t cheaper, the benefit for prefab homes comes from the fact that they are generally finished much faster than an onsite home.
The ripple effect
The growing popularity of prefab housing has led to traditional contractors changing how they do business as well. What I like to call “hybrid” companies, these contractors offer pre-priced floor plans and packages that offer everything upfront.
All the purchaser needs is a suitable lot, and sometimes not even that. This competes with prefabs by offering a more customizable approach since people can still modify the floor plans more than they could with a prefab, and it speeds up the process since the plans are largely ready to go.
Prefab housing still isn’t for everyone, and it’s important to research extensively before choosing to go with one prefab over another. Be wary of hidden costs such as foundations and labor that are sometimes not associated with the packaged price as listed by the manufacturer.
That being said, it’s important to realize that prefab homes are a viable option for anyone in the market and that associating them with trailer parks and low quality double-wides isn’t doing anyone any favors.
Wade Myer has worked as a grunt, framer, grunt again, light equipment operator, and building inspector. Finally, he’s getting to write about his experiences on behalf of Steiner Homes who builds custom homes in Valparaiso.