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I bought 5 wooded and hilly acres of land three years ago with the intention of having a house built on it. I was clearing the trees by hand for the driveway, building site and septic system drain field. This gave me a year to investigate the costs, types of construction, contractors and other things that I would need before getting to the construction stage of the project. This article is a summary of the things I learned during that year that led me to the decision to build a modular home.
I was unsure whether I was going to have a house built on site or have a modular home set in pieces on the foundation.
The first two obstacles to a modular home were: modular homes may not be allowed in my city and was it possible to get a modular home to this building site. If not, the decision was made for me. After checking with the local building inspectors, I found out that modular homes are allowed in this area. Next I contacted three different modular home builders in my area and had them visit my building site to find out if a modular home could be delivered to this site and if so, what was the largest size that could be delivered. From them, I learned that it was possible to deliver a home to this site and the maximum size that could be delivered.
Now I had to decide the method of construction. Initially, I had concerns about modular homes when it came to financing, quality and looks. First I checked with lenders in my area and found that I would be able to finance a modular home in the same fashion as a site built home. Next I needed to learn more about the quality and look of modular homes. I guess I had heard all the stories about them being glorified trailers. After looking at homes built by about 10 different modular home builders, I found that my concerns were warranted with a couple of builders, but not most.
In the end, I chose to go with a modular home. Here are the reasons why:
1. Quality and cost - most modular home builders offer a quality home with built in efficiencies. The home meets local building codes; has 2" x 6" exterior walls; uses sheets of flooring material larger than is possible on a site built home (meaning fewer seams); has numerous quality checks throughout the building process; walls are glued, screwed and strapped; interior walls are made with 5/8" sheetrock; a variety of options for the exterior of the home; and the home is very well insulated. After two years in the home, my utility bills are about the same as my condo which was 30% smaller and surrounded by other units on two sides.
2. Customization - I learned that you can customize your modular home just as with a site built home. You can either choose an available floor plan or customize them for the cost of the engineering fees. I went with the mirror image of an available floor plan.
3. Fewer contractors to manage. Since I was acting as the general contractor, I was concerned with the time to get bids, check out the work of contractors as well as schedule all the necessary work. By choosing to build a modular home, I would only need an excavation company to build our driveway and dig the hole for our basement, a surveyor to layout the site for the foundation, someone to pour the foundation and do the flatwork, a plumber and an electrician.
4. Speed of construction. My modular home was going to be built so fast (2 weeks) that I had to have all of my contractors chosen and scheduled when I placed the order for the home.
5. Cost - Due to the efficiencies of building modular homes there is a cost savings involved. It is hard to give a percentage savings. This would vary depending on the costs which are the same no matter how the house is built. There are many costs that are the same with either a modular or site built home - land, foundation, utilities to home, driveway, sewage hookup or septic system. With this said, there was definitely a cost savings for me to go with a modular home. I needed this savings, because my building site required extensive excavation costs to cross two creeks and modify the grade of a hill with 75 dump truck loads of rock.
After living in the home for two years, I feel I made the right decision. My wife and I are enjoying our house tucked back in the woods and have had only one issue with the home. Shortly after moving into the home there was a plumbing leak. We had a local plumber fix the problem and our builder quickly reimbursed us for the repair.
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