Why are modular homes less expensive than traditional stick-built homes?

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WOW! We are truly humbled by the interest in our homes, as measured by the number of visitors we had at our Jackson South sales center during this fall weekend event.  It was the biggest Open House we’ve had in decades.  Thanks to everyone who attended. We know everyone’s time is precious these days, and we appreciate you chose to spend some of your time this beautiful weekend with us.

We had some great questions about our houses, our pricing, and the ability to customize our homes to fit a family’s needs.  One question that keeps coming to mind is one from a woman who commented that she had no idea how affordable modular homes were, and she wondered if there was a sacrifice in quality that caused the cost to be lower.  Unfortunately, time just didn’t allow for us to answer her question thoroughly, as there are many factors that make a factory-built home less expensive while still maintaining a high level of quality.

Here’s a fact that is often overlooked about traditional stick-built houses (where families hire general contractors to build a home from a blueprint, stick by stick and piece by piece): general contractors use a lot of mass-produced, factory-built elements in their houses to build a better home faster and cheaper.  These components include roof trusses, pre-hung doors and window units, interior moldings, and custom cabinetry.  They buy these factory-produced elements not because they can’t build these things themselves from scratch, but because these elements, built in a factory, can be built more efficiently and at such a high quality that the general contractor simply couldn’t make the same item for less.  It is the factory environment the general contractor seeks to build the home quickly.

The modular home company takes this concept to the ultimate level – building the entire house less expensively through the advantages a factory environment affords.  A factory-built home can be less expensive and still high-quality simply because of the environment in which it’s built.

Imagine a crew of 3-5 (or more) employees working for a general contractor.  They need to be jacks of all trades.  When it’s time to build the structure of the house, they are framers.  When it’s time to roof the house, they are roofers. When it’s time to side the house, they become siding installers.  When the interior work begins, they become plumbers, electricians, drywallers, painters, carpet layers, you name it.

See where this is going? We are not saying a general contractor’s work is not quality work. Remember, the question posed today at our D&W Homes model center was “are modular homes less expensive because they sacrifice quality”? No.  The reason, in short, is because the factory environment allows for a very organized and efficient process.

In a modular housing facility, roofers roof and plumbers plumb.  Painters paint.  This makes them very efficient at what they do.  This efficiency results in a lower cost to make the house, which makes them LESS EXPENSIVE.

The cost of materials is another area where modular housing excels in producing a less expensive house.  General contractors buy the components of the house they’re building as it’s needed.  And at a retail cost (think Lowes, Home Depot, or the nearest lumber yard).  They simply do not have the financial resources or storage capacity to buy truck loads of siding, lumber, shingles, wiring, plumbing, and insulation for multiple houses, which means they pay a premium for everything and pass that premium cost on to you.

It is no secret that buying in larger quantities means less cost for each item.  It’s the reason Costco and Sam’s Club are so popular.  Families can buy lots of cereal, cheese sticks, toilet paper, and canned goods at a lower cost per item than if they were just buying one at the local grocery store.

The same is true for the factory building your home.  Modular home companies are able to buy lumber, roofing materials, insulation, windows, you name it, in bulk at a wholesale price, and pass their savings on to you.

Now let’s talk about quality for a minute.  Are there general contractors out there that use inferior products & materials and have shoddy workmanship?  There sure are.  Are there modular companies out there that also have inferior products, materials, and workmanship? Indeed.

That’s why the selection of your modular home builder (or “dealer”) is so important. D&W Homes only carries factory-built modular homes that we can stand behind.  We partner with companies that care about the components they use to build your house and the workmanship of the employees they hire.

Factory-built modular homes are quality homes for a multitude of reasons.

  • Employees are more likely to perform better because they become experts at their one part of the process and are more closely supervised than the average on-site worker or sub-contractor.
  • The main parts of the house (think floors, walls, trusses, etc.) are built using jigs to ensure everything fits together properly.  This means a modular house is more square and the walls are truly plumb, and the house was built exactly as it was designed.  An on-site builder in contrast must make allowances as they go for floors or walls that aren’t precisely square and plumb in order to continue building.  If a wall of a room is not quite square, they do not go back and re-do it.  They just go with it and make the rest of components work around the error.
  • Materials delivered to the modular manufacturer are kept out of the weather, in a climate-controlled facility.  This means less waste and no use of damp materials that may warp and shrink as they dry after they have been installed.  This results in a better-built house with less maintenance in the years ahead. Have you ever thought about that stack of lumber sitting outside of the foundation of a house being built in a neighborhood you’re driving through? You will the next time.
    If you want to see this process in person and visit one of our modular factories to see this quality for yourself, Unibilt Homes and Rochester Homes both offer free monthly tours for interested buyers. Commodore Homes will arrange a mutually convenient time for you to tour their facility.  It’s an amazing process and worth your time.

You don’t buy cars or appliances built in someone’s back yard using components purchased at a retail price for one unit at a time, with the materials exposed to the weather and no one acting as quality control over the process. Start thinking about buying your home the same way.

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