The advantages and disadvantages of Prefabricated houses

Lately, there has been a growing trend of prefabricated houses. In this article, we are going to analyze the pros and cons of this approach.

We will also learn about the minute differences between various terms floating around in this market – prefabricated houses, modular houses, mobile houses (i.e. Modular Houses Vs. Mobile Houses Vs. Prefabricated Houses Vs. Manufactured Houses)

Table of Contents
  • What are Prefabricated houses?
  • Advantages of Prefabricated houses
  • Disadvantages of Prefabricated houses

What are Prefabricated houses?

Prefab or Prefabricated houses is a general term used for a building or a building component that is manufactured in a factory and thereafter assembled at the construction site.

Here are some of the types of houses that may be prefabricated:

  • Container Homes
  • Bamboo Huts / Wooden House
  • Modular Cottages
  • Net House
  • Concrete House

What are Modular houses?

Now, let’s understand the difference between prefabricated and modular housing.

Modular houses are technically called ‘prefabricated prefinished volumetric construction’. They are at least 70% prefabricated. So, they are a kind of prefabricated house. They are built in parts. Each part is a self-contained unit, which are assembled at the site like building blocks.

So, all modular houses are prefabricated houses, but not all prefabricated houses are modular houses.

Modular house is like a manufactured house with steel i-beams supporting the floor structure on a permanent foundation. A reputable modular house builder will ensure the structure meets or exceeds all building codes and regulations for the city or county where the house will be placed and attached to a permanent foundation (while in case of mobile houses, such as trailers, permanent legal foundation is not required).

As the buyer you are responsible for ensuring you can put a modular house on your site. A survey will be required to determine where the foundation for the house can be with regards to the geology of the site. Trucks will need access to the site, a crane will need solid ground beneath its outrigger support pads, cement delivery for the foundations, etc.

Modular Houses Vs. Traditional Manufactured Houses

Traditional manufactured houses are built on the site, brick by brick, in a traditional way. Good quality and legal modular houses (and traditional homes) hold their value over time. Though mobile houses lose their value faster.

Traditional manufactured houses are built to the national HUD code, while modular homes need not be. Modular houses are built to all applicable state and local building codes. So, the codes and standards a modular home is built to can vary based on the county, state, city or township the home will be located in.

The codes may dictate:

  • minimum roof pitch, overhang length and foundation wall requirements
  • foundation - permanently installed at the home site without a steel frame, or on-frame foundations, etc.

Advantages of Prefabricated houses

  • Well, the most significant advantage of such houses is that they are super-fast to build. Quick build leads to less wastage of time, and less expense.
  • Prefabricated houses are generally tiny houses and are easy on the pockets of poor and middle-class people (though not very cheap). Though nowadays they are also being marketed to high class.
  • As prefabricated houses are built in a factory to a great extent, much of the waste generated is recycled in the factory itself. So, they are eco-friendly too.

Disadvantages of Prefabricated houses

But all things are not rosy with prefabricated houses. There are many drawbacks of this technology and some grey areas that you need to keep in mind if you have opted to go down this route.

  • Modular and traditional manufactured homes can easily be financed and resold. Things are not as rosy with other kinds of prefabricated houses (e.g. mobile houses, illegal/low quality modular houses). They are untraditional, out of the box solutions, and banks generally do not venture out of their comfort zones to finance them. Their value does not appreciate much with time, at least not as much as traditional houses. Even finding a buyer maybe a challenge, as very few financial institutions will lend money to the buyer for buying such a house.
  • Getting permit for such houses is not a piece of cake. You have to know and follow the rules of the land. Otherwise, your house may be declared illegal and you may have to take it down. Make sure you, as well as the agency building your house, are well aware of the local laws, rules, and regulations. Some counties/states require you to build these houses in phases, and get them inspected in phases (just like traditional houses) – it undermines the very purpose of prefabricated houses, but then you cannot argue with laws.
  • Many prefabricated houses lose their value faster over time than traditional houses.
  • Most of the prefabricated houses, even if tiny, are not that cheap.
  • There are only a few reliable prefabricated house (and modular house) builders out there. So, make sure you do extensive research regarding this. See their website, do some background research – have a look at their social media account (see the followers and likes they have), contact their previous customers, see if they follow the building rules to a tee or not, etc. If possible, select someone from your own county/state. Visit their office a few times and consult them.
  • If you think that someone will just place your house on your land overnight, you are wrong! It’s not like ordering a pizza. Apart from the actual house, there still are some other things involved, e.g. transportation, site preparation, foundation, septic tank, etc. They will add on to your expenses (and headaches!).
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