In the latest episode of NBC's home renovation show "American Dream Builders," the remaining contestants were given four identical, modular homes to showcase their creativity. With their design tricks and tools, the competitors worked to transform the small homes into open, modern spaces.
Modular homes are houses manufactured off-site, transported and then assembled on residential land. The idea first appeared in the United States in the early 1900s, when you could mail-order a home kit from Sears. Today's models are new and improved, making them an attractive option for many homebuyers. Here are some reasons to consider a modular home.
Real estate prices are as much about location as the home itself. But with modular homes, prices fluctuate less because you aren't paying for a location.
MEKA Inc., a global modular home builder, offers six models ranging from 320 square feet to 1,920 square feet. Pricing in the U.S. starts at $61,500 for the smallest model and goes up to about $200,000 for the bigger models. Kitchen appliances are not included, and the buyer is responsible for the costs of the foundation, roof finishing and assembly. But according to MEKA CEO Michael de Jong, they are still more affordable than most alternatives.
Anyone looking to buy a brand new modular home can shop online to compare prices. Manufacturers like Clayton Homes, the biggest provider of modular homes, offer houses at many price points in a variety of floor plans. They will build and insure the home.
Easy to move
Plus, modular homes offer flexibility that traditional homes don't have. MEKA's homes are built to fit in a shipping container so they can be transported virtually anywhere. Assembly takes only a day, and it's possible to move the homes after they've been assembled.
"Like Legos, you also undo it and move your home," De Jong explained.
While modular homes typically don't have the architectural complexity of some home styles, de Jong says simple lines can be attractive if you make some modifications so the home doesn't look like a container.
"Our models have a post-modern look like you see at IKEA," he said. "It's been popular in California since the '60s, but now it's gaining popularity nationwide."
If someone decides to sell their modular home, de Jong says its no different than selling a traditional residential property. Real estate agent Natalie Lafont, who listed a shipping-container home built by MEKA in New Orleans, agrees.
"While on the for-sale market ... the reception was and continues to be of high interest," she said.
Of note, Lafont said the construction was good quality and could withstand hurricanes, making it a compelling option for a New Orleans homebuyer.
De Jong said the company's current models are built with a steel frame, making them stronger than a traditional, "stick-built" home with pine framework. The foundation is created locally and surveyed by architects to ensure it is up to code.
MEKA's customers range from retirees wanting to downsize, extreme off-the-grid survivalists and posh city-dwellers.
"Some people want to live in the wilderness," de Jong said. "Since our homes can be transported anywhere, they work for these kinds of people."
He says people increasingly don't mind the small size.
"There is a new generation of people who don't mind as long as you design it in such a way that it's attractive."