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David Lee

Building Idea #3

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

Modular Home

What we have here is a modular home. After the site is prepared and the foundation is poured the sections of the home are brought in on tractor trailers and placed on the foundation by a crane. In a day or two the sections are connected and weather tight. After the details are completed a new home is finished in a very short time compared to building the old fashioned way.

Modulars are popular not just for the speed of construction. If you own a lot (some companies even help with that) the modular company can arrange all the site work. The kind of foundation you want, a private well or public water hookup, the electric service, the sewer connection, even the landscaping is arranged by them. You choose the color and type of flooring, siding and roofing. You also choose window and door styles and where you want them located.

On the inside they install the plumbing, furnace, and air conditioning. They also install cabinets, counters, appliances, carpets, even the type and color of trim work chosen by you. Sign the contract and have a custom home in a month.

Perhaps the most important feature of a modular home is that they have financing available for the buyer. Modulars are available in a wide range of prices and lavishness. It is quite an amazing business concept. I especially like the fact that these homes are built in a nice dry factory out of the weather, using lots of glue to hold them together. The modular “units” must survive being hauled hundreds of miles behind trucks so they have to be structurally tough. This extra toughness means the home will be stronger too.

Theoretically, and if the housing market were better, you could order a modular home, have it set up on your lot and sell it right away at a profit. Since that is not the case let’s modify this concept.

Imagine the modular home contract as a menu. You can order each part or service separately. So, how does this benefit you, the Alternative Builder?

You have learned skills and it is time to use them. The more work you do on the house yourself, the more money you will save and the larger your profit will be.

Suppose you manage the site work. Choosing your own contractors for the well, driveway, septic system, foundation, electric work and heating system will often save a considerable sum. Have the modular company deliver and set the units on your foundation but you do all the finish work like completing the siding, installing carpets and other details to save another significant percentage of the cost.

If you order the most basic home package and add your own cabinets, counters and appliances you save again. Some modulars come with unfinished second floors. The basic Cape style comes this way. Adding two rooms and a bath upstairs adds big value to the home.

You could install your own doors, windows and shutters. You could build dormers, add a deck, and build a fireplace. You can also add a garage, as in the photograph above.

With an easy web search I found a 24′ x 36′ modular Cape style home. The deal includes crane set, exterior finish and interior touch-up for $58,300 including sales tax. Taking over the finish and touch-up work yourself and doing some haggling could get you an even lower price during these hard times for the housing industry. Having the basic home set up and weatherproof so quickly provides you with a place to work right away.

How well could you do financially with a basic modular and your own work? Figure this out. The house above is assessed for $211,900. The lot was $30,000. Add about $60,000 for the modular and about $30,000 for added services and materials. The rest of the money is yours.

Take time to prepare yourself and take on a project like this, or the others I’ve talked about, and you can have a career in homebuilding even in times like this.

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