Factory-built Homes: A New Solution to Affordable Homeownership

NPHS is committed to supporting sustainable homeownership by providing access to quality, high-performance factory-built homes, also referred to as manufactured homes.  Advances in premanufactured housing technology have made manufactured homes a more appealing homeownership option. We believe that this innovation will be the next disruptor in the housing industry by offering customizable, energy-efficient, quality homes that can be superior than traditional “stick-built” construction. Factory-built housing presents unmatched affordability when compared to site-built housing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average national sales price of a new factory-built home in 2016 was $73,100, compared to a $372,500 average sales price for a newly constructed site-built home.

NPHS Launches Manufactured Housing Campaign to Revitalize Neighborhoods

Manufactured homes represent the largest source of unsubsidized affordable housing in the United States. They are an energy-efficient and readily available option for communities experiencing housing shortages. For this reason, NPHS launched a manufactured housing campaign to kindle more opportunities to develop factory-built housing on vacant lots throughout the Inland Empire. NPHS recently completed the development of three modular factory-built homes in partnership with the City of Chino (see pictures below). The partnership redeveloped a blighted lot with three beautiful, energy efficient factory-built homes. NPHS is also working with the City of San Bernardino to revitalize its neighborhoods by developing manufactured homes on vacant lots throughout the City.

Manufactured Homes the Right Choice for Millennials and First-time Homebuyers

The next generation of homebuyers is realizing the financial burden of homeownership and some feel it is beyond their reach. More and more millennials are turning to manufactured housing as a solution. In fact, the largest group of manufactured home owners is between the ages of 18 and 29, as reported in the MHI 2014 Quick Facts report. And the great thing is that factory-built homes are a perfect fit for millennials who may be looking for high-performance, near-zero emission homes that are highly customizable. Technological innovations are allowing manufactured home builders to offer a greater variety of architectural styles and exterior designs that will suit most any buyer’s dreams, all the while allowing the home to blend in seamlessly into most any neighborhood. Two-story and single-family attached homes are but two of the new styles being generated by factory-built innovation. As a result, today’s manufactured homes are offering real housing options for the both suburban and urban buyers.

Benefits of Modern Factory-built Homes

Modern modular homes are a type of factory-built housing that can take on the look and style of a traditional home. The modular construction process starts in a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and are built in sections (modules), so the homes can be produced at a higher quality than those built on-site. Homes arrive 80-90% complete when delivered to the home site. In Lego®-like fashion, the home is assembled, connected, and completed. With the drywall, flooring, cabinetry, plumbing, and electrical completed in a quality controlled, weather tight environment, the construction process provides a custom home within stringent manufactured requirements.

The construction timeline of factory-built homes is also faster and more predictable since a controlled environment prevents damage or loss due to weather and theft. This offers a cost savings to the homebuyer with a faster move in period. Customization can also be more controlled, with specific costs tied to features and amenities up front.

Additional benefits of factory-built homes include the following:

Prefabricated construction is made possible by state-of-the-art factory assembly line techniques. A new home under the assembly process will travel from workstation to workstation, with all building trades represented. Work is never delayed by weather or missing materials, and specialized home construction techniques significantly increase the energy efficiency of every home. Due to these carefully controlled building conditions, factory-built construction ensures consistent high quality. Home components are never subjected to inclement weather,  every stage of production is carefully monitored, and construction is never affected by poor subcontractor performance. In addition, a thorough quality control process provides 100% assurance that the prefabricated home has been inspected for code compliance and workmanship.

In general, prefabricated homes are built stronger than stick-built homes because they are built with 20 to 30 percent more materials since they are designed to withstand the transport from the factory to the site. In fact, a FEMA study following Hurricane Andrew in 1992 found that wood-frame modular homes in hard-hit Dade County, Florida, stood up to the devastating winds better than stick-built homes. The finding states: “Overall, relatively minimal structural damage was noted in modular housing…” The report also points out that the construction method of modular homes “provided an inherently rigid system that performed much better than conventional residential framing.” The use of more materials also equals greater energy efficiency — another money-saver.

Prefabricated homes are built within a factory controlled environment that is unaffected by variables that plague site-built homes, such as poor weather and theft or vandalism. Building indoors means delays due to weather are essentially eliminated. Not only does this cut down on construction time (which saves money) it leads to a better product. Constructing off-site in a factory environment using innovative construction techniques also provides many inherent green advantages over site-built construction. It does this by minimizing site disturbance, cutting down vehicle traffic, and reducing the building costs of factory-built homes. Additionally, the chance of material theft and vandalism is minimized, fewer subcontractors are needed to complete the project and stress upon the surrounding community is significantly reduced.

Speed is one of the biggest advantages of factory-built methods. Production in a controlled environment can proceed without weather-related delays typical of site-built homes, saving time and money. By shifting much of the work to a factory, the time needed at the site can be greatly reduced. Prefabrication allows entire buildings or building sections to be constructed in a factory where an inventory of required materials lies close at hand, the weather always cooperates, and high-quality control standards improves precision. The resulting product can exceed the quality of site-built structures at lower cost, and with much faster progress on site.

With the growing interest and demand for energy efficiency, NPHS takes pride in delivering the most energy efficient home possible.  Since the homes are built within controlled environments, they are also built “tighter” minimizing the amount of heat or cold entering or leaving the home. As an Energy Star partner, NPHS also offers several items as standard that meets or exceeds current Energy Star, LEED, and Green Building Standards. Homes manufactured to Energy Star standards can save homeowners upward of $30 or more on monthly utility costs. NPHS allows the customer the opportunity to modify any factory-built homes designed to meet or exceed the requirements for the certification of their choice.

Modern factory-built homes can be constructed to incorporate universal design standards, providing greater access and an environment for aging-in-place. The customizations offered by the manufacturing process can include barrier-free accessible entrances, widened doorways and hallways to accommodate wheelchair users, height adjusted thermostats and outlets, and grab bars installed in bathrooms and showers

NPHS and Next Step Partnership

NPHS has partnered with Next Step to offer an innovative line of factory-built homes to homebuyers.  Next Step’s mission is to put sustainable homeownership within the reach of everyone, while transforming the manufactured housing industry through consumer education, affordability and energy efficiency. Next Step’s Manufactured Housing Done Right Program provides training, technical assistance, and performance standards to a national network of nonprofits to increase access to affordable housing. As a Next Step Network Member, NPHS works with Next Step approved retailers to order homes for homebuyers. All homes are designed specifically for the particular site being developed. NPHS coordinates the delivery of the homes with the retailer and oversees all the onsite and offsite construction of every home site.

Factory-built Homes Terminology 101

With so many more options today for building homes, there are certain terms that are being used incorrectly.  Prefab, Modular, Panel Built, and Manufactured are sometimes mistakenly used interchangeably,  but they all mean different things.

Short for prefabricated housing, “prefab” is a broad term similar to “factory-built” that encompasses several different types of building styles. Technically, any home that has sections of the structure built in a factory and then assembled on site can fall under the “prefab” designation. Modular, manufactured and panel built fall under the umbrella term of prefab, but are still different. Prefab may refer to buildings constructed in components (panels), modules (modular homes) or transportable sections (manufactured homes), and may also be used to refer to mobile homes, (houses on wheels).

Traditional “stick-built” homes are constructed entirely at the building site from the ground up. Common construction materials are 2x4s and 4x6s precut wood used for framing and trusses. They conform to all state, local or regional codes where the house is located, and comprise the majority of all new homes constructed today.

  • Modular homes are pre-built in sections (modules) at a factory and transported to the home site to be assembled together
  • Sections are transported to the home site on truck beds, then joined together by local contractors using large cranes in a similar fashion to Lego® blocks.
  • They are built to conform to all state, local or regional building codes at their destinations, and are usually installed unto private land.
  • Typically treated like a stick-built house for financing, appraisal and construction purposes.
  • A well-built modular home should have the same longevity as its site-built counterpart, increasing in value over time.
  • Local building inspectors check to make sure a modular home’s structure meets requirements and that all finish work is done properly.
  • Modular homes are usually less expensive per square foot than site built houses.
  • They can be built as “on-frame” or “off-frame” modular. On-frame will be built on a permanent chassis, whereas, the off-frame modular will be built with removal of the chassis frame in mind.
  • They are typically placed on full basements or crawlspace foundations.
  • The photographs on this page are examples of a modular home and are part of NPHS’ Villa del Sol housing development. They look just like regular homes built on top of a slab, and it is difficult to tell the difference.
  • A manufactured home is built to the HUD building code and secured on a permanent, non-removable steel frame.
  • A manufactured home can be built as one complete section, or in multiple sections, that are transported, assembled and installed at the home site.
  • Wheels, hitch and axles are removed on site and recycled.
  • A manufactured home is usually not moved from its initial installed site.
  • Manufactured homes can be placed private land or manufactured home communities.
  • Building inspectors check the work done locally (electric hook up, etc.) but are not required to approve the structure, which is done at the building facility by a third-party inspector certifying HUD code building specifications.
  • Panel building is accomplished by laying down the floor and then lowering each section of wall in to place one at a time.
  • This type of construction can be useful in building houses that don’t work neatly as modules and it can be just as structurally sound as other types of prefabricated building.
  • Commercial prefabricated building is often done this way as it allows for wide open spaces and high ceilings.
  • It is also much less expensive to transport a building in panels than in modules if it is large enough.
  • Sometimes manufacturers will already have placed anything that can be bolted down such as toilets, sinks, dishwashers, and anything else that can be properly secured during travel
  • Mobile homes, or trailers, are built on wheels, that can be pulled by a vehicle. Built prior to 1976, mobile home are no longer being constructed.
  • They are considered to be personal property, and are licensed by the Dept. of Motor Vehicles.
  • “Tiny homes”, which are gaining in popularity, are NOT within this category. They must be built to the DMV/RV code, and pass inspection for licensing.
  • Tiny homes, sometimes referred to as “park models” can be placed in some mobile home parks.