Don't confuse a modular home with the old-fashioned trailer-type mobile home. Modern modular houses can be indistinguishable from traditional stick-built homes. They also cost less to construct than the stick-built variety, so-called because they are built out of lumber, or "sticks." Modular house prices are generally lower than stick-built houses, often considerably so.
The cost of constructing a modular house runs about 10 to 20 percent less than stick-built housing. Putting up a modular house takes far less time than the stick-built version. With a modular home, all parts are pre-cut, pre-cast and ready for assembly. The sections are delivered to the site and the crew puts the house together, and the entire process from beginning to move-in readiness might take little more than a month. A stick-built house requires a lot more for the builders to do. After erecting the frame, the construction crew must sheath the outside in plywood, drywall the interior, and finish the exterior, perhaps with clapboard or another type of finish. The longer building process means stick-built construction is more prone to bad weather delays.
Your modular home might come in a kit, with the price varying according to the size and the manufacturer. Kits range from $14,000 for very basic housing to $100,000 or more for customized, higher-quality units. Modular houses must meet the same building codes as their stick-built cousins.
Costs for stick-built versus modular homes depend on the region. In 2007, Richard Palumbo, vice president and co-owner of Custom Modular Designs, LLC, in Rhode Island, said that the cost of a finished modular house in the Northeast is $90 to $125 per square foot, compared to $150 to $200 a square foot for stick-built construction. Prices in the South, Midwest and Southwest might be lower than the Northeast, but with a comparable difference in square footage costs.
Although modular construction is less expensive than stick-built, traditionally constructed homes might hold their value better over time. Much like automobiles, the value of certain modular homes tends to depreciate over the years, rather than appreciate as stick-built houses do. In some areas, there is still a bit of a stigma attached to a modular home, although that viewpoint is changing. Resale value might be similar to stick-built in parts of the country with a high percentage of modular home construction, such as the Southwest. While high-quality modular homes retain their value, lower-quality homes may depreciate faster than a stick-built counterpart.
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