Friday, July 15, 2005

Get One Off The Factory Shelf

There may be a way to beat the housing bubble, but only if you're looking for a house to live in, not one to flip. It's manufactured and prefabricated housing, structures built entirely in a factory and then assembled on site. These are not panelize components. That's something entirely different. This is the actual structure built in a factory.

There are some differences between the manufactured and prefabricated products, most importantly that the manufactured homes are built to HUD specifications, not local building codes. Usually all this means is that they have a chassis underneath, but you never see it. Both structures are mounted on foundations and often come with appliances installed at the factory.

There are a lot of different opinions about how much you can save with a factory-built house. Some say it's the same, while others claim savings of 25% or more. Of course, the land you put this house on also is going to add to the price. But assuming you can find a nice lot in a location that suits you, it's not too hard to get into a home for under $300,000 this way, which is otherwise impossible in Southern California. Ask anyone who has looked to buy a 1,200-square-foot home. Not only are there damn few out there in the housing inventory, but builders aren't building any more of them. Factories are.

Here are some links to help you see what's available:

• Manufactured Housing Institute

• California Manufactured Housing Institute

• Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.

• Silvercrest Western Homes Corp.


• Modular Building Systems Assn.

• Hoopa Modular Building Enterprise

• FabPreFab

• Precision Integrated Homes Inc.

• R. Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion House


• Automated Builder magazine