Are Modular Homes Delivered Turn-Key?

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Most modular homes are delivered turn-key, however it is important to properly understand what turn-key entails.It is common to believe the purchasing process of a turn-key modular home to be as simple as deciding the budget, agreeing on a design and waiting until the keys are delivered to you. However, even if modular technology eases the construction process, there are a lot of steps to consider from ordering to moving in. To avoid any sort of complication, it is key to understand the Modular Home process from Design to Delivery:

Do Modular Homes Come Furnished?
Do Modular Homes Come Furnished?
  1. Land Preparation and Permits
  2. Design. What is included?
  3. Fabrication
  4. Transportation
  5. Assembling vs Site work

When a modular home company advertises their products as “Turn-Key Delivery” they are referring to the house itself, ensuring you that no construction work will be needed inside the house after their work is done. As a general rule, cabinets, plumbing, wiring and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) are included while non-integrated furniture, decoration and often appliances are not. Because of the complexity of the building process, with different professionals and steps required, the ideal modular home turn-key delivery (ordering, waiting and moving in) gets a bit more complicated and some aspects of the process have to be taken into consideration to establish the turn-key delivery expectations.

What turn-key entails

Terms like turn-key, are used to express ideas that aren’t always understood the same way due to the rapid growth of the housebuilding industry [1]. Turn-key is defined as “an equipment ready to be used immediately” [2] which could be easily understood as a house ready to move into right away, fully finished and furnished. In general, a turn-key modular home doesn’t necessarily imply that it is ready to move in but refers to a construction that has been fully built and no improvements or repairs need to be done inside [3]. This understanding of turn-key entails that all finishes, windows, doors, cabinets, plumbing and electricity are included; while personal elements such as non-integrated furniture, decorations or curtains are not. Yet, every modular home company works differently and what is included needs to be looked at carefully to avoid misunderstandings.

Understand the Modular Home process from Design to Delivery

Land Preparation and Permits

While the manufacturing of a modular home is conducted separately in a factory, once each part of the building itself are built the house needs to be assembled on site and attached to the foundations. Although, some modular home companies will take care of the land preparation and build the foundations themselves, most of them are only manufacturers and you will need to hire a contractor to prepare the land and build the foundations [4].

Like an on-site home, modular homes require building permits. These permits will vary depending on your project and location and you will often need a local architect to obtain them [5]. Some modular home companies will take care of this important step, but pay special attention to it, especially if your modular home supplier isn’t from your area as they most likely do not have the jurisdiction.

Design. What is included?

The design will be fully carried by the architects in the modular home company. Most of them offer both catalogue and customized designs, whichever you decide, now it’s the time to understand what is included in your design. As a general rule, since no construction work will be required inside the house once it is delivered, any integrated furniture is by definition included in the design: built-in cabinets and cupboards but especially those elements that require plumbing or wiring to function, such as toilets, sinks and kitchens. Keep in mind though, that while all the cabinets and placements in the kitchen will be ready, very often appliances such as fridge, oven, dishwasher or stove are not included since they are considered to be a personal choice.

The design needs to consider all those elements that are naturally integrated within the walls or floor in a section of the house, from the exterior wall to the interior space such as windows, doors, wiring, plumbing or HVAC. Additionally, all indoor finishes are included as well, your home will be painted, lights will be installed and the flooring finished with the colors and materials chosen in the design process.

As a general rule, what won’t be included in the design are non-integrated furniture and decoration elements, so unless your modular home company specifies it do not expect it to include beds, tables, chairs, curtains or rugs. Carpets would nonetheless be included as long as that is the finish chosen for the floors. Some modular home companies offer an interior design service, do not hesitate to express your needs and desires and to verify what will be included in the delivery to get a clear understanding on what turn-key delivery means in your situation.

Fabrication, Transportation

These steps are fully covered by the modular home company and will be based on the design both client and designers have agreed on, as well as land’s location and conditions.

Assembling vs Site work

Once all components and personnel are onsite, assembling takes place and each module is attached to the foundation. However similar to land preparation, most modular home companies won’t include the site work required to finish the process after the modular home has been assembled [6]. You are most likely going to need a contractor, ideally the same one you hired for land preparation, to connect the plumbing and electrical systems, landscaping and ensuring the site is finished and ready to live in.

Turn-key delivery expectations

The modular home company will deliver you the keys once the house is assembled in the location. Unless they offer extra services and take care of the site works, their job finishes once the prefabricated home is delivered and assembled on site. You can expect the house fully finished and equipped with:

  • Built-in cabinets and cupboards
  • Kitchen furniture and sink
  • Bathrooms (toilets, sinks and shower)
  • Finishes such as paint, tiling, flooring or carpets
  • Electricity, wiring and integrated lighting
  • Plumbing and HVAC

A part from the site work conducted by your contractor (or the modular home company if this service is included) you will in most cases need to provide:

  • Non-integrated furniture such as beds, tables, chairs or sofas)
  • Appliances (fridge, stove, dishwasher, oven, microwave, washing machine…)
  • Curtains, rugs and other home decor fabric.
  • Other decorative or personal elements.

This guideline is based on the most common practices established by today’s modular home companies, but there aren’t any concrete rules and every manufacturer will follow their own premises, so always verify with them what their exact definition of a Turn-Key Modular Home is.

  1. Smith R. (2021, Jan 19). The evolution of modern Methods of construction. The Planning, BIM & Construction Today https://www.pbctoday.co.uk/news/mmc-news/modern-methods-of-construction-8/87623/
  2. “Turnkey.” Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary ¬ Thesaurus, Cambridge University Press.
  3. Gomez J. (2021, Feb 18). What is a Turnkey Home? Should you buy one? UpNest. https://www.upnest.com/1/post/turnkey-homes/
  4. What is a Modular Home? Everything you need to know about modular homes Affinity Building Systems. Modular Home Manufacturer https://affinitybuildingsystems.com/about-affinity/
  5. About building permits County of San Mateo. Planning and Building. https://planning.smcgov.org/about-building-permits
  6. Gianino A. (2005). The Modular Home Storey Publishing LLC.