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pros & cons of prefab homes

Pros & Cons of Prefab Homes

By Tobias Roberts Rise Writer
Jun 8, 2020

There are essentially two different options on the table if you're thinking of taking on the challenge of building your own home. First, building from the ground up as a "stick-built" home, and second, ordering a prefabricated, or modular home to be assembled on site. There are both pros and cons to opting for prefab homes. Knowing these pros and cons can help potential homeowners decide what will best fit their budget, their circumstances, and the long-term livability of the home. We'll take a closer look at several of the pros and cons of prefab homes below. 

Table of Contents

  1. Benefit #1: Affordability
  2. Benefit #2: Energy Efficiency
  3. Benefit #3: Relatively Fast Construction Process and No Waste
  4. Drawback #1: Transportation and Assembly Factors
  5. Drawback #2: You Have to Buy the Land
  6. Drawback #3: Utility Hook Up and Other Hidden Costs
Phoenix Haus Framing on the Shop Floor
Framing on the Shop Floor. Photo Credit: Phoenix Haus

Benefit #1: Affordability

A home built on-site, known as a "stick-built" home, is usually about twice as expensive as prefabricated homes. On-site construction generally wastes much more materials that go into the building of the house. Considering that over 500 million tons of construction and demolition debris are generated annually in the United States alone, finding ways to cut back on that waste is good for the environment and your wallet. 

Besides being cheaper because of more efficient use of materials, prefab homes cut costs because they need fewer construction laborers on-site to help assemble the house. 

Solsken Ecocor Completed Goldenrod House
Completed Goldenrod House. Photo Credit: Solsken Ecocor

Benefit #2: Energy Efficiency

Secondly, prefab homes can save you money during the years you live in these homes because their designs generally have energy efficiency in mind. Because a prefab house's individual parts adhere to strict design guidelines, the seams in these homes are usually airtight. This standardized air-tightness helps to avoid leaks and airflows that can increase the energetic and economic cost of heating and cooling your home.

Dvele Tenaya Modern Cottage
Tenaya Modern Cottage. Photo Credit: Dvele

As more and more consumers begin to search for ecological and sustainable home features, prefab home architects and contractors are designing several home models that incorporate everything from solar panels to wind turbines to rainwater catchment systems. 

Plant Prefab
Plant Prefab Palo Alto Home. Photo Credit: Plant Prefab

Benefit #3: Relatively Fast Construction Process and No Waste

The pieces of a prefab home, be it modular prefab or panelized prefab, are assembled off-site. So, the actual time needed to attach the parts on-site is considerably shorter than the time required to build a regular stick-built home. If you have a tight timeline and want to get into your new home on time, prefab homes are usually the quickest type of new home construction available to homeowners

In addition, prefab homes are built in a factory setting, which means no on-site material waste. In the factory, whatever is leftover from an individual home's construction can be reused on another manufactured home.

Deltec Ridgeline Model with Solar Panels
Deltec Ridgeline Model with Solar Panels. Photo Credit: Deltec

Drawback #1: Transportation and Assembly Factors

Depending on where you live, the cost of transporting the different parts of your future home can become expensive. If you live "off the beaten path," transportation companies might very well charge you a hefty fee to get all the parts of your home to the construction site. 

It is important to note that if you haven't hired a contractor with experience assembling the specific model of prefab home you've chosen, you always run the risk of faulty assembly. This could lead to joint failure, leaks, and other issues. If your contractor doesn't have the correct equipment on hand, the different modules or panels of the prefab home run the risk of being damaged during the delivery and assembly process. 

FabCab TimberCab Kitchen
TimberCab Kitchen. Photo Credit: FabCab

Drawback #2: You Have to Buy the Land

One of the nice things about buying an existing home is that you're purchasing the land it sits on as well, in addition to the surrounding yard. All of this is incorporated into the negotiated price for purchase. Many people might spend long periods of time searching for the most affordable prefab home model only to find later that the cost of land in the area where they wanted to put their home will add another $50,000 or more to the final purchase price. 

It's essential to thoroughly research the land price for the location in which you plan to put your prefab home. And it is imperative to make sure that there are no restrictions on putting up a prefab or modular home in that particular zoning district. 

Drawback #3: Utility Hook Up and Other Hidden Costs

When searching the web for the most affordable prefab homes, it can be encouraging to find a quality, 1,500 square foot home offered with a base price of between $60,000 - $120,000. However, most companies that offer these types of houses don't include several other costs that will significantly increase the final price tag of your home. We've already mentioned the cost of the land itself. But, you'll have to factor in the additional cost of hooking your home up to utilities, including electricity, sewer, municipal water, etc. 

Canada Prefab
Prefab Home. Photo Credit: Canada Prefab

If you don't want to go through the hassle of doing all of this by yourself, it's a good idea to find a prefab home company that includes these hookups into the price of your home. Be sure to research what exactly is included in the price offered by the modular home company. Several companies offer "bare" prefab homes, which you will have to finish yourself. In contrast, other companies offer move-in-ready homes. 

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-07-16T14:13:54+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.