Building a Home: Should You Go Modular?


Modular homes are growing in popularity. It’s been estimated that by 2027, 1 in 10 homes in Australia will be modular, which could change the face of the housing industry.

Modular homes—also referred to as prefabricated homes—are not your traditional construction. They’re constructed in a factory, then the modules are delivered and joined up on site.

These homes are built in sections, or modules, almost in assembly-line fashion. But don’t confuse modular homes with mobile homes, because they’re not the same. Mobile homes aren’t permanently fixed to their location, while modular homes are.

A modular home is placed on a foundation. Once it’s in place, it isn’t designed to be moved, much like a standard construction. These homes, once thought to be bland and cookie-cutter, can actually be highly customised. They still have to adhere to building standards and codes, and often are built to a higher standard.

If you’re building a home, it’s worth asking the question: should you go modular? Here are the pros and cons of doing so.

Pros of a Modular Home

No weather delays
Modular homes are built under controlled conditions, which means no unexpected weather delays. Builders don’t have to worry about conditions on site that can interrupt the building timeline, or rushing to get things done before a storm. Modulars are built undercover, taking out the element of weather.

Quick construction time
Traditional construction of a new home can take 6 to 12 months, if not longer. Modular homes, on the other hand, can be completed in 12 to 16 weeks. That’s from the day you decide on a design to the day you move in! The likelihood of unexpected circumstances is much less than with traditional construction, as everything from weather to access to materials is more controlled.

Modular homes are considered to be greener than traditional builds. They are constructed out of high quality materials and designed with efficiency in mind. Because the work is done in a factory, there is less transport of materials on an ongoing basis, which results in less waste.

Greater control over budget
Fewer variables means potentially lower costs associated with a modular home. Since construction is so quick, you could save on renting another place while you wait for it to be completed. You could also save on unknowns like weather delays that could lead to inflated costs.

Ability to build in remote locations
Modular homes are popular in remote locations, where it would be difficult to have a number of builders onsite for an extended period of time. Although there is the final hurdle of delivering the modules, you eliminate the challenge of delivering materials and facing unpredictable weather conditions.

Cons of a Modular Home

Land suitability
Before building a modular home you must first find a suitable plot of land. Not all councils allow for modular homes to be installed, so check first that you will be able to do so. The land may also need to be accessible to cranes and other machinery required to assemble the modules.

Be very clear about what’s included in the cost of your modular home. Specifically, find out if the foundation, utility hookups, and transportation are part of the final bill. If you’re making any customisations, ask for prices in writing so you have a complete picture of costs. While modular homes can be customised, the level of customisation may depend on the builder. Some may be very flexible while others won’t be able to stray far from the initial design.

Transportation challenges
Transporting a home is no small feat, even if you’re doing it in modules. There is a chance your home could face challenges on its way from the factory, though the modules are designed to withstand the stress of transport. However, it could be tough to navigate past power lines and down major streets.

Obtaining finance
As modular homes become more common, it’s likely that lenders will come to the party in terms of offering loans. At the moment, some lenders may be resistant to giving a home loan on a home that not only hasn’t been constructed, but isn’t even being constructed at its final address. This can be a risk to the lender; if you default on the loan before the house is assembled, they may not have recourse.

Besides the pros and cons associated with modular homes, there are a few things to keep in mind. Despite many people’s preconceptions, a modular home can be adjusted to your personal taste. It may be built in a factory, but it can come out looking like one of a kind.

Modular home renovations are also possible. Once the home is fully assembled, it can be treated much like a traditional home. You may need to consult the original builder before doing renos, but there’s no immediate reason why you wouldn’t be able to do them.

They may seem unconventional, but modular homes are poised to become a serious contender for many home buyers. If you’re planning to build a new home, you might want to go modular!