Prefab homes are revolutionizing the housing industry to help first-time homeowners achieve a life goal: owning their dream house in record time. The prefab home universe also includes modular homes, which begs the question: which one is best for you?
Today we’ll take a complete tour of the prefab home universe, from tiny homes to luxury shipping container homes, and unearth each of the structure’s pros and cons. This article is an in-depth guide, so please bear with us! We guarantee you’ll be able to make an informed decision that will positively change your life once you’ve finished reading.
Without further ado, let’s begin with the basics!
What Are Prefab Homes?
Prefab is a term that refers to the prefabrication process. This process involves building a structure in a factory before assembling it on-site. Modular homes are also (mostly) built inside a factory, which is why they fall into the prefab home universe, according to most builders.
Prefab homes are precision-engineered structures where each section is built in a controlled environment. This process allows builders to combine premium materials with advanced building methods designed to minimize waste. Your home is also kept safe from potentially harmful elements and weather conditions.
It also allows builders to construct your home’s foundations on-site while a separate team works in the factory. This multipronged approach guarantees that your house gets built on-time and on-budget.
Who are Prefab Homes for?
Prefab homes are considered the most effective solution to today’s harsh housing market. Traditionally-built houses follow an outdated process that makes them inefficient in terms of resources needed, making them incredibly expensive to build.
Prefab homes, on the other hand, are affordable, precision-engineered structures. Each structure gets built following a standardized process that revolves around minimizing waste in a safe environment. These structures often exceed local building codes and appreciate over time, just as a “regular” home does.
Prefab homes are also positively impacting the hospitality sector. Developers opt to integrate modular homes into multi-story structures to cut down construction costs. Even Airbnb venue owners choose prefab homes to get a quicker return on investment.
How Much Do Prefab Homes Cost?
While each builder has its pricing system, you can expect prefab homes to cost anywhere between $100 to $170 per square foot, assuming you’re opting for a full install (which is usually the case). Like we mentioned earlier, the building process requires fewer labor hours, reduced energy use, and minimum waste. Floorplans are pre-made, which saves building design fees as well.
Prices, of course, can be lower if you opt to install your modular home by yourself (or hire a third party to do so). This process makes it even easier to purchase your dream home, especially since most banks process loans for these structures.
Which are The Best Prefab Home Brands?
Buying a home is, by no means, a casual purchase. You’d do well to go with a proven industry leader that is deeply familiarized with the building process and committed to your satisfaction.
We recently reviewed the best prefab modular home builders in a separate article. We considered the companies’ experience, materials used, completion times, energy efficiency, price, and sustainability. We highly recommend you check each company’s website as well as their catalog to find your dream home.
Types of Prefab Homes
Prefab homes (as the term suggests) are residential, built off-site, buildings that follow precise formulas in the form of predesigned floorplans. The latter account exact quantities of materials needed to lift them, saving significant costs and resources for homeowners and builders alike. Cost-efficiency is a big reason why the best affordable prefab ADU homes have skyrocketed in popularity this year.
These residences are often cataloged depending on whether they’re energy-efficient or not. However, sizewise, there are two relevant types of prefab homes: Tiny prefab homes and Luxury prefab homes.
Tiny Prefab Homes
Tiny houses are built based on highly-efficient floorplans that maximize spaces compulsively. Versatility, unassuming exteriors, and minimalism are non-negotiable traits that showcase their designer’s ingenuity. Tiny prefab homes also deviate from standard architecture & construction styles. That alone makes them popular solutions for homeowners interested in accessory dwelling units, independent home office areas, and treehouses.
Luxury Prefab Homes
Prefab homes are a cost-effective way to acquire a brand-new home without dealing with painstaking construction delays. In traditional construction, homeowners often bear the costs of delays and excess material purchases, further increasing their financial burdens. In some cases, they end up realizing that they could’ve made a better investment by ordering a cleverly designed prefab home with cost-saving, self-reliance features at a comparative price.
Unsurprisingly, luxury prefab homes are becoming increasingly popular as most companies allow homeowners to customize floorplans to their needs and budget. By partially or fully building their homes in a controlled environment, delays and excess materials costs are negligible and turn these high-end properties into affordable dream homes.
Even though prefab home builders present their clients with different sized floorplans, there’s always the possibility that a small home either doesn’t fit their budget needs or overshoots as a viable vacation venue. When facing such a scenario, Campers and Tiny Homes become the perfect match thanks to the following advantages:
Campers and RVs
Today’s Camper vans or RVs are the outcome of improved, modern designs that seek simplicity, elegance, and cozy little nooks in full vacation cabin fashion. These units are ready to be driven down the highway by most standard pick-ups with a Class V hitch.
Depending on their design, they may function as vehicles with survival essentials or as cozy homes on the road. These models come with a bedroom, living room, and kitchen areas, effectively labeling them as mobile homes.
Despite their size, these types of homes are perfectly capable of including energy-efficient fixtures and appliances that make them green (and even self-sufficient). To help further illustrate what makes a tiny house, feel free to check our Teardrop Camper Trailers list and Everywhere Shelter’s towable house model.
We mentioned earlier how tiny homes are unique creations that maximize both style and function without excess. These differ from the smaller prefab house models by working as stylish vacation and retreat venues that transcend the survival functions covered by generic RVs and Fifth Wheels.
A tiny house’s floorplan can present more than a bedroom in its floorplan, considering cooling systems, front-load washers, dryer spaces, and unique storage solutions. Some of the best tiny house floorplans feature cooling systems, front-load washers, dryer spaces, and unique storage solutions. These additions make them perfect getaway homes that let you escape the city noise without surrendering modern comfort.
To help further illustrate what makes a tiny house special, feel free to check our top 7 list of the Best Tiny House Designs.
Shipping Container Homes
Shipping container homes continue to be one of this year’s hottest trends, and with good reason. After all, they’re super eco-friendly solutions that allow you to own your dream home at 30 to 50% of what it’d normally cost.
Some companies use shipping container homes as building blocks and can turn a small studio-sized home into a high-end luxury shipping container home. Experienced builders can put together these breath-taking properties in under 15 weeks, which is particularly remarkable considering they can be installed almost anywhere.
These homes are not only incredibly affordable: they’re also super stylish, easy to expand, and support all sorts of interior design styles. For all of these reasons, they’re a favorite amongst Airbnb owners that wish to earn passive income.
Popular Prefab Home Styles
Architectural ingenuity and a pursuit of all the good things that come from enjoying natural surroundings have heavily impacted present-day popular prefab home styles. Let us take a look at the defining traits of trendy prefab home styles such as modern, A-frame, and cabin prefab homes and their advantages:
Modern Prefab Homes
Modern prefab homes presently revolve around two concepts: optimized interiors and sustainability. These factory-built homes are known for their Scandinavian flair and using authentic materials to create living spaces that feel connected to the outdoors.
A-frame Prefab homes
A-Frame prefab homes find their origins in Proto-Germanic culture, giving them distinct steeply-angled sides that deflect pouring rains and snow like no other. These prefab house models evolve from the rustic models of historical Nordic houses by offering organic, elegant indoor spaces and vaulted ceilings with stunning views.
Prefab cabins stand as compact living spaces that seamlessly blend with natural surroundings. Prefabricating them brings their future owners all the advantages that modular systems and customized floorplans bring to the table. Homeowners can choose different floorplans arrays, allowing them to have dedicated art studios, weekend retreats, or cozy family homes.
Prefab vs. Modular vs. Manufactured
While there are some notable differences in both the installation and delivery system process, it’s fair to say that all of these structures are considered prefab homes. For instance, modular homes are constructed in separate box-like modules (similar to Legos), while manufactured homes feature steel frames and get shipped on their own wheels.
But, as we mentioned at the beginning of this guide, prefab is a term that refers to the prefabrication process. Prefab, modular, and even manufactured homes see most of their building process inside a factory, making them part of the prefab home universe.
We hope this guide has served as the starting point for a journey that will change your life for the better! We highly recommend you check out our pieces and individual company reviews we’ve linked throughout this article. They’ll allow you to browse each of these companies’ top prefab home models and features in a matter of minutes!
Emma is Home Refinery's interior and design editor. When she's not obsessing over her next home decorating project, she can be found bargain-shopping at vintage stores, mixing and matching new color palettes, and writing for one of many major home publications for which she contributes.