The Complete Guide to Buying a Modular Home

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Buying a modular home is no different from buying or building a traditional house. You want to ensure that your house will feel like a home for years to come.

That’s why we have prepared a complete and easy-to-use modular home buying guide. This guide will help clarify what you are looking for and how to find it.

Part 1: Choosing the Right Manufacturer

Finding the perfect modular home starts with finding the right modular home manufacturer.

Since the modular construction takes place in a factory-like environment, modular home manufacturers tend to be specialized in a particular design or type of modular home. 

Some offer modern-looking houses while others only produce traditional barn styles. Others target specific features such as sustainability or the ability to withstand hurricanes.

In order to choose a modular home, it’s important to select a manufacturer that can satisfy your unique needs.

Part 2: Selecting the Right Modular Home

In this section, we’ll review some key steps to help you select the best modular home for your needs.

1. Decide where to build your home

Location is one of the most important considerations when thinking about investing in a modular home.

Some locations simply can’t support the building and transportation of modules, while others lack sufficient manufacturers.

Review manufacturers in your area

Before you start the process, you will need to identify which modular home manufacturers offer service to your area. Most manufacturers offer a reduced service area [1].

Many modular home companies now offer national and international shipping options.

However, shipping longer distances will likely incur higher costs and require negotiating additional building codes and permits.

You may also need to hire a local contractor to complete the building process once the modules arrive. 

Understand the topography of the land

Due to the size and shape of the modules, most modular home companies will require a flat topography to build their homes.

If you own a flat plot of land you will typically be able to choose any modular home company without limitations. 

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fig. 3. Modular home successfully installed on a wide, flat plot 

For more complex topographies like slopes, manufacturers will offer creative solutions such as excavations or land filling before the home can be assembled on site.

This might incur additional costs and extend the building deadline as well. Check for modular home companies that offer designs such as split-level homes. 

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fig. 3. Modular home design adapted to the topography

2. Consider the style and design

If you are looking to buy or build a home, you have most likely spent considerable time imagining what your new house will look like.

Modular homes come in lots of different styles and designs, so you can bring your vision to life.

We’ve put together an easy guide to help you realize the home you always imagined.

Choose your style preference

The first step to building a modular home is to choose a style.

Most modular home manufacturers focus on creating designs that fall under broad categories like traditional or modern.

It’s a good idea to get in touch with several manufacturers to ask questions and see their available styles before making your final decision.

Once you have opted for a broad style category, you can begin to refine your choices.

fig. 1. Traditional style modular home

fig. 2. Modern style modular home 

Choose a design: predesigned or custom

When investing in a modular home, you will almost always have two options: purchasing a predesigned floor plan or designing your home from scratch.

On one hand, a wide range of clients opt for a predesigned floor plan for an easier, faster, and more affordable construction process. Predesigned floor plans have been carefully developed and tested, so functional space distribution is guaranteed.

Most modular home companies also offer a wide variety of design options, so you can personalize your home predesigned modular home

On the other hand, many people appreciate the opportunity to customize their overall home design. This option offers absolute freedom to create a house that embodies your lifestyle.

This option would be suitable for those willing to commit more resources and time to build their modular home.

3. Determine your budget and financial needs

Just like traditional construction, there is a modular home for every budget.

You can purchase a modular home for as little as $50,000, or opt for something more high-end.

Keep in mind that you may incur additional costs along the way, so leave some room in your budget for any unexpected payments.

Choosing a modular home according to your budget

It’s important to look first at the base prices of different modular homes offered by your chosen manufacturer.

It’s good to aim slightly lower than your overall budget so you can factor in other costs later on.

The base price of a modular home usually only includes the manufacturing cost. It doesn’t factor in any customizations or essential costs such as transportation of the modules, building the foundations, or on-site work.

To give you an idea: the average modular home base price is somewhere around $50 per square foot while the average final price ends up around $110 per square foot [3]. 

Financing options

Once you’ve determined your budget, it’s time to think about the financing option that best suits your needs.

The two most common are self-financing or getting a loan. As with traditional houses, self-financing is pretty rare and most people opt to finance their modular homes with a loan.

The financing process is essentially the same as with traditional site-built houses. You need to get approval from a bank or another lending institution that will offer a construction-to-permanent loan valid for the duration of the building process.

They will also issue a permanent mortgage once the house is complete which will be paid in regular payments until the total loan amount is paid [4]. 

Choosing a modular home within your budget

Today, there are many modular home manufacturers based in the United States offering a huge variety of prices, styles, and design options.

The following chart lists some of the major manufacturers and the services they offer.

 StyleWhereSpecial FeaturesPricing
Blu HomesModern style, 
non-customizable
Mainly California (other States possible)SustainableBase price: from $195,000
Champion HomesTraditional style,
non-customizable
Nationwide and Western CanadaNoneBase price: around $115 to $260+ per square foot
Clayton homesTraditional style,
non-customizable
NationwideNoneBase price: from $100 to $200 per square foot
Clever HomesModern style, 
customizable
NationwideSustainableBase price: around $350 to $500 per square foot
Connect HomesModern style, 
non-customizable
Continental U.S.SustainableBase price: from $195,100
DveleModern style, 
non-customizable
Western U.S.SustainableBase price: from $205,000
Go Modular SIP HomesTraditional style, customizableNortheastern U.S. SustainableBase price: around $150 to $265 per square foot
Green DwellingsModern style, 
non-customizable
Mainly FloridaSustainable and hurricane-proofBase price: from $200,000
IdeaboxModern style, 
customizable
Most of the Northwestern U.S. SustainableBase price: around $180 to $350 per square foot
KasitaModern style, 
non-customizable
California,Texas, and NevadaSustainableBase price: around $600 per square foot
Ma ModularModern style, 
non-customizable
Texas, Louisiana, Western States, and the East CoastNoneBase price: from $137,500
MekaModern style, 
non-customizable
Nationwide and CanadaSustainableBase price: from $88,900
Method HomesModern style, customizableMost of the Western U.S. SustainableBase price: from $154,160
Module DesignModern style, 
non-customizable
Pittsburg, PennsylvaniaSustainable and accessible Base price: from $80,000
Next ModularTraditional style, non-customizableWithin a 250 mile radius of Goshen, IndianaNoneBase price: from $82,629
Plant PrefabModern style, customizableMainly California (other States possible)SustainableBase price: from $180,000
S2A ModularModern style, 
non-customizable
NationwideSustainableBase price: around $190 to $275+ per square foot
WheelhausModern style, 
non-customizable
NationwideSustainableBase price: around $225 to $350+ per square foot

4. Select any special features

If you live in an area that tends to have extreme weather, or you are looking for more energy-efficient models, it’s important to consider any special features you might need.

Sustainability

If sustainability is important to you, you will find an extensive selection of sustainable building alternatives.

While some companies focus on environmentally friendly materials, others cater to energy efficiency or even renewable energy sources

Keep in mind that some unique features such as achieving Net Zero energy consumption or incorporating renewable energies are often not included in the price and will incur extra costs. 

Weather precautions

If you live in an area where extreme weather events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes are common, it is key to look for a modular home company that builds homes designed for this purpose. 

However, the building codes aren’t always enough to ensure a hurricane-proof home [2], and opting for a modular home manufacturer who understands your specific weather conditions will offer you a safer, longer-lasting housing solution.

References:

  1. Gillespie E. IBC Modular Home Building  SFGATE   https://homeguides.sfgate.com/ibc-modular-home-building-64384.html
  2. (2021, June 1) Inconsistent Building Codes leave some states vulnerable to hurricane damage Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) https://ibhs.org/ibhs-news-releases/inconsistent-building-codes-leave-some-states-vulnerable/  
  3. JElitzer Modular Home Prices: How Much Will My Modular Home Cost? Modular Homeowners https://modularhomeowners.com/how-much-will-my-modular-home-cost/#google_vignette
  4. JElitzer Financing Your Modular Home in 8 Steps Modular Homeowners https://modularhomeowners.com/the-definitive-guide-to-building-modular/financing-your-modular-home-in-8-steps/

Fig. 1. Traditional Modular Homes – The Grandby Mega Modular Go Modular SIP Homes http://gomodularhomes.com/traditional-modular-homes/

Fig. 2. Burlingame Custom Method Homes https://www.methodhomes.net/portfolio/burlingame-custom

Fig. 3. Connect Homes’ Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/connecthomes/photos/1508984545879821

Fig. 4. (2017, June 16) Raikes L. Can I Build a Modular Home on a Sloping Block? Anchor Homes https://blog.anchorhomes.com.au/build-modular-home-on-sloping-block