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A New Home in Five Easy Pieces

Trend grows for modular homes.

— The Plymouth Haven neighborhood is welcoming another new modular home, the third in the last five years. Last week, Plymouth Haven native, Jim Harvey, and his wife Colleen, watched a crane operator lift the modules of their new home into place. Jim Harvey had mixed feelings as the new house replaced the one he grew up in with six brothers.

“As we started to think about a replacement house,” Harvey said, “one of my brothers steered me toward modular homes. He said that we would be able to move in more quickly. And once we began digging into the details, we were impressed with the quality of construction.”

HandCrafted Homes of Henderson, N.C. fabricated the modules and trucked them to the site. Harvey hired a general contractor to prepare the site, pour the foundation, which he accomplished in December, and handle the loose ends after the modules are assembled. The fabricator installed all of the modules and made the house waterproof in two days. The Harveys expect to move in during March.

Another family on Alden built a modular home two years go, and a third homeowner commissioned one on Fort Hunt Road across from the park five years ago. A fourth recent modular construction is on the corner of Cedar Dale Lane and Collingwood Road. All are substantial homes, with all of the features of traditionally-built houses, and should not be confused with a “manufactured” home — cousin Eddie’s trailer house.

Modular home sales increased 33 percent nationwide during the period 1992-2005, according to U.S. Census data, rising from 33,000 units annually to 44,000. However, the popping of the housing bubble in the late 2000s hit the industry just as hard as the site-built sector. By 2011, national modular sales had fallen to 10,000 homes.

Homebuyers can get a better deal with modular homes, according to Kevin Flaherty, a spokesman for modular house matters at the National Association of Home Builders (NHAB). “When homeowners choose modular construction, they experience measurable savings in cost and time.”

The NAHB reports that the national average time from start to completion for a modular home is five months, compared to nearly seven months for a site-built home. That reduced period translates to labor cost savings. Further, the national average “permit value” of a modular home was $77 per square foot, as of February 2012, versus $94/SF for site-built. (Permit value is the figure that reflects the specifications in the building permit. Since many owners already own the lot, permit value excludes land costs.)

Flaherty said that modular sales were up 11 percent for the first nine months of 2012.