Thursday, February 6, 2020

Modular Small House Options Growing in Popularity

With the typical new single family home being a little over 2,500 sq ft and costing upwards of $600 per finished square foot depending where you live, there has been an increase in people looking to sacrifice a lot of the square footage for something they can actually afford.

Park Model Home by Champion Home Builders

To fill the need for people seeking to downsize, rightsize, utilize and buy it moneywize, the option of buying a home less than a 1,000 sq ft is becoming a reality.

Modular and manufactured home factories have been building “Park Model” homes for decades. Their popularity had begun to dwindle until “affordable housing” became a rallying point for more housing for people that couldn’t afford to live near where they worked.


A park model RV (also known as a recreational park trailer) is a trailer-type RV that is designed to provide temporary accommodation for recreation, camping or seasonal use. PMRVs are built on a single chassis, mounted on wheels and have a gross trailer area not exceeding 400 square feet in the set -up mode.

It’s amazing what those factories can squeeze into 399.9 square feet. As noted above, most are only allowed to be occupied less than 12 months and are typically found in recreational communities sharing resources with motorhomes and travel trailers and even tenters.

Park model RVs are unique in that they are up to 12 feet in width and 36 feet long with a peaked and shingled or metal roof.

That 12’ width precludes them from being towed by a standard car or truck like a travel trailer.

Enter the Tiny House on Wheels!

The typical tiny house on wheels is usually less than 8 by 20 ft with livable space totaling 120 sq ft or less, for ease of towing and to exempt it from the need for a building permit. Tiny houses come in all shapes, sizes, and forms, but they all enable simpler living in a smaller, more efficient space.


Because they are exempt from requiring a building permit, most tiny houses are built without any type of inspection for livability. Yes, there is a section of the IRC code that applies to tiny houses but unless you are going to use it in an area where zoning permits it, most tiny houses builders don’t follow build to those codes.


Some tiny houses are built in ‘modular’ type factories that follow the IRC Supplemental TH Code but many are built in backyards and barns by the people that will be living in them. Built on a utility trailer, some become works of art while others look like the 3 Stoogies built them while drinking heavily.

The next type is the ADU which stands for Accessory Dwelling Unit.


You might know ADUs by their other, quasi-affectionate names such as granny-flats, mother-in-law-apartments and so on. They are dwellings, either attached or detached from a main house, that exist on a lot with another house.

This is becoming one of the fastest growing segments of the small home market. Predominantly built in modular and manufactured home factories, most if not all are HUD code or IRC built homes.

West Coast states have been allowing ADUs to be set on existing lots with a house already there. Affordable housing sharing utilities with the main house. They can be used as rentals, granny and medical pods or simply as an Airbnb.

Now the East coast is beginning to see the benefit of ADUs in areas where even rentals are priced out of the reach of the people that work there.


Recently Urbaneer entered the ADU market in Virginia, one of the fastest growing states on the East Coast. Virginia lawmakers recognized the need for ADUs and passed new zoning laws to promote using them for affordable housing on existing lots.

The bottom line: affordable housing comes in all shapes and forms but as you can see, modular and manufactured housing is going to play a big part in the small home market.

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