Prefab Houses

Archived Responses: 

Questions Related Pages

Buying a Modular or Manufactured Home

Aug 2013

Has anyone ever purchased a modular or manufactured home and had it installed on a lot? This seems like it may be the only way a somewhat low income (or high debt) person can become a home owner. What company did you use? Any advice? Is this a really bad idea? I am mostly retired, will be living mostly alone so I don't need a large place. I've been browsing modular log homes, which appeal to me strongly since I'll be living in the Sierra. I'm just not sure how (or whether) to proceed. Need a home

On the modular home question, yes, I think it might be a good way to go. I have not done this myself but in the course of my work I deal a lot with buildings and energy efficiency. Historically, modular and factory-built homes have been associated with the low end of the industry. There is no reason that this has to be true. There is a high-end modular home company, Blu Homes ( with a factory in Vallejo--their product is nothing short of stunning (they are offering factory and home tours this month). However, they are fairly expensive. Another company, Zeta (, aims at the more ''affordable'' or market rate. Another, All American ( does the same. I have been to the Zeta factory (a privatization project at the former McClellan air base near Sacramento)--they are very ''quality oriented.'' All of the things that need to be done to make a building shell ''tight'' and well-constructed are, on balance, more easily controlled in a factory environment. Anyway, check out these companies. Peter T

Advice on building a pre-fab home

Dec 2012

Has anyone had experience buying a piece of land and building a pre-fabricated home in the East Bay? My husband is convinced that this is the most cost-effective way to go, but I would love to hear from someone who has been through it. We have found parcels of land for around $100,000 in parts of town we couldnt touch in terms of buying something pre-existing, and the cost of the funky, super-green prefab we like is about $300,000. I'm sure there must be all sorts of permitting costs and restrictions, or else everyone would be doing it, right?

We are relatively recent east coast transplants, so we want to get out of our rental house and start feeling like we really LIVE here. I would just rather not get totally hosed in the process. if we build it, are we dumb?

I've not built one for myself, but as an architect I've been involved with these types of projects previously, and do know a bit about the whole process in general. A lot of the 'hidden' cost depends on the location (city), lot conditions (flat or hilly), soil conditions, the type of prefab system, and most of all, the actual terms of the contract proposal. Some prefabs are inclusive of everything (land preparartion, uitility connections, foundations, assembly, etc), while others only offer on-site delivery and perhaps placement/assembly. For a conventional pre-built in two or three sections, assembly is usually included, but not alway the other stuff, while other systems require more extensive assembly on site, for example a SIPS system. A SIPS house is generally more expensive than a more conventionally constructed home, but are very energy efficient as well. The later generally includes assembly, but may still require foundations, utilities, etc to be installed by others. Since you don't have a site yet, your contract may not include some of these things. Regulatory fees can be substantial, and are generally not part of the contract. These may include: fees to join the school district (required of all new homes), planning review fees, permit fees, utility connection fees, geotechical survey, topograraphic survey and park fees. School district, for example may range from 10-12K to well over 20k. Utilities connection fees, not the actual work to connect them, are usually in the range or 6-10K, but may be higher. A geotech report and topographic survey may cost $6-10K+. Permit and review fees, are about 4-6% of estimated construction cost, and park fees can be anywhere from $1-$2 per square foot to as high as $8-$10 per SF. Other fees could be required as well. Location, location, location is a primary determinate of these fees. Total regulatory fees can total $40-$80k+. If you need to provide foundations at your own cost, the total 'hidden' cost could well exceed $100k. And if you want something like solar panels, or landscaping and irrigatiion, a get the idea. There are a lot of other costs to consider beside simply fabrication, delivery and placement. Hope this helps, and I'd advise researching these possible cost and regulatory requirements prior to making any offer on a vacant parcel or signing a contract. rcbs3