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Save Time and Money by Building a Modular Home
Author: Lynne Taetzsch

Copyright 2006 Lynne Taetzsch

When my husband and I could not find a house that suited our needs, we investigated building a house, and ended up buying a modular home. A modular house is built in a factory, which means the quality is often better than traditional “stick built” houses where weather and other variations interfere with the process. A modular is also less expensive and quicker, since teams work on it step-by-step to complete production in a few days.

Modular homes may carry the taint associated with “mobile homes,” or cheap materials, but today you can purchase a modular home made of the highest quality materials and craftsmanship. You can also have one built to your most exact specifications in a wide variety of styles and sizes, from traditional to contemporary.

My husband and I found a three-bedroom, two-bath house plan that fit our basic needs, and then modified it to fit exactly what we wanted. For example, we enlarged the pantry, doubled the size of the walk-in closet, added extra windows, and a laundry room with half-bath. We chose the style and finish of the kitchen cabinets and counter tops, the roofing and siding materials, and flooring.

We had to make lots more choices than these, of course, and that will be true no matter how you have your house built. But with a modular, you make all the decisions ahead of time rather than having the builder ask you a million questions along the way. This means you have to plan very carefully and consider all your options early on in the process. There’s no time to change your mind once the house is on the factory floor.

We’ve lived in our new modular home for six months now, and we’re very happy with it. In order to have a good experience, as we did, in building a modular home, follow these important guidelines:

1. Research the factory to make sure they have a good reputation for quality and service. Find out how long they have been in business, what specifications they follow, and visit the factory itself, if possible. Take a tour of their model homes as well.

2. Research the builder. You will need a local builder, working with the factory, to handle all the on-site work such as excavating and pouring a basement, preparing and completing work on the lot (grading, walkways, driveway), selecting the placement of the house on the lot (a critical item!), and finishing whatever wasn’t done in the factory (some trim, painting, etc.). Get references from your builder for his or her customers and suppliers, and check them out. You need to know a builder provides quality workmanship, on-time delivery, and financial stability.

3. Be thorough in the planning stage. Take your time to learn everything you need to about windows, doors, counter tops, etc. Visit building materials stores, kitchen designers, and so forth, so that you can make an informed decision about each item. Go over the plans for the house carefully, to make sure the sizes and locations of the rooms, placement of windows, height of ceilings, etc., are exactly what you want. It may be a good idea to consider an architect’s input if you are making major changes to a standard plan or want a unique home design.

4. Budget realistically and comprehensively. The quote we got from our builder did not include appliances, flooring, walkways and landscaping. We had to get quotes on these items and include them in our budget. Be sure to ask for an itemized list of everything that is included, and more importantly, find out what is NOT included. After the house was delivered, our builder recommended adding another thousand dollars worth of insulation to the attic. We agreed to do this, but wished we’d known about it ahead of time.

5. Be realistic about the time it will take to complete your home. It took only four days for the factory to actually build our house, and a week for it to be delivered, but it took several months to get to that point. Engineers had to make the blueprints, and these blueprints had to be approved, before our house could even get in the queue to be built. We were also unrealistic about how long it would take our builder to get the plumbing, heating, and other finishing work completed. Thus, we sold our old house too soon and ended up living in a motel for three weeks while we waited for the new one to be ready.

You can save from 15 to 25 percent by buying a modular rather than a stick-built house, and many months’ time. You can also end up with a better quality house and a more satisfying overall experience, if you do your homework and plan carefully. Finding the right factory and the right builder are the key ingredients to success.

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Lynne Taetzsch is an artist and writer whose contemporary abstract paintings have been exhibited in solo and group shows throughout the world. Described by collectors as “vibrant” and “exciting,” her colorful paintings and prints can be viewed on her website at www.artbylt.com

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