By scaling up and standardizing, modular, or prefab, homes are now more affordable than ever before. Though it is possible to get a modular home for cheaper than a stick-built home, one thing the buyer has to keep in mind is that about half the home price goes towards site costs (not including land), so most modular home manufacturers can’t give you the full picture when it comes to costs. So without a convenient all-inclusive price tag, shopping around for a modular home is a process that takes some time. Here are some things to consider and what to expect in terms of price.
Modular home prices
How much? It’s a question builders face on a daily basis yet one that’s difficult to answer. Since every project has a host of different variables, projecting a price can be a challenge.
And to the buyer shopping around, sorting through the quotes from different buyers can be tricky because different builders include different things. Some just manufacture the homes, some make and deliver, and others build, deliver, and will set up the home.
Some manufacturers like to keep their prices simple by stating an all-inclusive cost that just excludes the cost of land, but those prices generally offer a lot of leeway. Others state a base price that typically excludes site costs in addition to excluding land costs. And there are many others who state a price that leaves out a number of costs. Wondering how much your home is going to cost? You’re not alone.
Though rough estimates are the best that can be done without knowing what a site looks like, to give you an idea of how much modular homes cost, the following are some examples of how modular homes are priced.
Blu Homes lists a starting price of $335,000 plus $165,000 for site costs, plus the cost of land, for its three-bedroom 1772 square foot Balance model. For Blu Homes, the starting price includes home design, house with a choice of standard materials and finishes (i.e. appliances, cabinets, windows, floors) as well as delivery and on-site completion of the home.
According to this estimate, site costs are about half the cost of the home starting price. Site costs include foundation, utility hook-ups, permit fees and site work such as painting, landscaping, garage and decks. Bear in mind that site costs can rise dramatically based on what choices you make as well as your geographic location and other on-site variables, such as a steep lot or the need for additional infrastructure. (Blu Homes works across the United States and Canada, but charges a premium market price for homes in California, Hawaii and Canada).
Cutting Edge Homes works with a team of engineers and contractors to get project specific pricing for the on-site work, which is additional. They don’t mark these items up but introduce you directly to the people that you’ll need to bring your project to completion. Homes between 2000 and 2500 square feet, including transportation and taxes, typically cost about $90 to 92 per square foot. In their case, options such as finishes, steeper roofs, sprinklers are at an additional cost. So at an average rate of $91 per square a 2000 square foot house will run approximately $182,000. The smaller the home, the higher the price per square foot, and the larger the home the lower the price per square foot. (Cutting Edge Homes works in California, Hawaii, Florida, Georgia, the Dakotas and the New York metro region).
If you’re wondering about modular home prices in New York, MH Imperial Homes states a price of $65 to 75 per square foot depending on options for a square-box house, but for a multi-roof house the price jumps to $75 to 85 per square foot. (MH Imperial Homes operates in upstate New York).
Southern Orchid Homes lists a base price of $194,758 for their 1920 square foot Cape Hatteras home, which excludes land, permits and upgrades. (Southern Orchid Homes operates in Florida). For more modular home prices in Florida see the image above.
North Carolina based NC Custom Modulars sells a three-bedroom, 2171 square foot home for $203,900 ($94 per square foot). Their homes come with Techshield Roof sheathing, R-21 insulation in the side walls, a 15 Seer Trane XLI heat pump and their prices include delivery, set up, trim out, Energy Star and Green Home certifications.
Stillwater Dwellings offers final fixed prices of $225 to 300 per square foot, ready to move in. (Stillwater Dwellings operates in the 11 western states but is looking to expand coverage in the near future).
How to arrive at a price
Find out your land costs first. Visit sites like LandsofAmerica.com or LandWatch to find land. The cost of land varies considerably depending on a number of factors. The basics of supply and demand are at play—if you’re buying in the city expect to pay much higher than if buying in a rural area.
If you’re looking to buy an existing home for the lot to then tear down the house, you’ll find plenty of options on MLS.com and Redfin. Demolition costs can vary, but should run you less than $30,000 in most cases.
After arriving at a land price, add in the home price, site work and remember to include all the extra costs like taxes, permits, delivery, set up, certifications, etc. If you got a price that includes all those then great, it makes the calculation that much easier. Factor in financing costs and then once you have a number, search around for incentives to lower the cost of the home and subtract those savings from the price.
Green home incentives
So you’ve found the perfect lot and your dream home to build on it, but after pricing it out, you’ve found that it’s out of your budget. Luckily, since modular homes benefit the environment you may qualify for a number of green home incentives that may just bring that price within your budget. Incentives include building permit fee waivers, expedited permits, tax credits and rebates. Have a look at DSIRE: Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency for information on both state and federal incentives.
What to watch out for
If when shopping around you find a builder who offers to put up your home for a lot less than the competition, remember the truism: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Finish Werks sums it up nicely:
[box]by UB Hawthorn[/box]
The challenge is that sooner or later you may find a company that will give you a wildly lower quote on a modular home price. A problem, you ask? Yes. Your task becomes distilling an actual good deal from a bait-and-switch proposition because either that builder didn’t know what he was talking about (and will either charge you more or walk off the job with his draw payment), or he was deliberate for cash from the onset. Throughout 2008 with new home construction spiraling downward this problem has grown in severity. But fear NOT! Do not slump in your seat in despair. MOST OF US ARE GOOD GUYS! Just take your time and research.
image: © LivingHomes