Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Last week I sent over 1,100 emails to people on Linkedin, Facebook and in my Google accounts asking them for their help in answering a question about modular homes.  The response was overwhelming with almost 400 people replying.

Some of the responses came from modular industry people but there were quite a few that just knew that modular was the way to build their next home. 

Some of the responses were so detailed I am going to put them into several articles.  Here is Part 1

Here is my email:

I've been writing Modular Home Builder for over 5 years trying to explain to both new home builders and new home buyers why modular is a great way to build a home. But something happened today that stopped me in my tracks. I was asked if I were looking to build a new home, would I really consider building it as a modular?

Of course I would but would you?

Here is where I need you help. If you were looking to build a new home right now, would you look at modular as an option?

Yes I would build modular. I have been in the modular industry starting the summer before I entered college. When I was in architecture school my designs were modular based. You see to me MODULAR is not an "option". It is the only way to build
John Erb
VP Sales and Marketing
Deluxe Building Systems, Inc.


I have been around the modular industry for 30 years now and have come to the sobering conclusion that the modular mystique is over. One company has on their web site these awesome concept homes from architects to show what they can do but they admit they can't build them anymore as they are too time consuming. Another company wants to be like the previous mentioned company and will offer to do just about anything the other company will do but with the unskilled labor force they use the quality is just not there. These companies need to understand their place and do what they do best.

In light of the afore mentioned issues with the industry I would pick a company, any company that understands the Net Zero concept or Super Home. A very high energy efficient process in my opinion that allows our industry to compete with the on site stick builder. We build from the inside out and they from the outside in, making it very hard for them to achieve the same energy rating at the time of blower door test.

The company that can build me a home that is 15% lower than the energy star 85 without a lot of side stepping before they say the'll accept the build and can give me a price with out waiting 2 weeks is the company I want to do business with. The bells and whistle fluff is just that, Fluff.

Give me Net Zero and I'll by it!

Tim Watson


A great question, here is my answer with a few extra notes.

The short answer is yes and in fact I am planning on doing just that.

I do have the dreaded "I have to sell my existing house" scenario going on but already have my land purchased and the road is in.

I have almost all of the design work done and....

I didn't give more than a fleeting thought to doing anything else besides use one of our houses.

Some may say that since I have my own factory that I will be able to do it much cheaper than a typical consumer and that is correct.

However, the facts are that I could also site build cheaper by providing material that I can buy for a lot less and thus could save money either way.

Essentially, my reasons are not cost but for all the other reasons that a modular building system makes the most sense. I may miss a few but essentially the primary reasons are as follows;

-I am going to know almost all my costs going in. There is a possibility that once I start digging the foundation, well and septic something will crop up but other than that I am going to have everything planned and priced before I get started.

-I will get to "take it easy" while the house is actually being built because....

-I have to plan the entire house before I can have the factory start it. So.. I won't be under pressure to decide things as construction is going on.

-I will get all my materials and products to go in the house identified and purchased before I start building the house.

-I will save some money over site built and I won't have cost overruns or change orders to spend my money on.

-I can be assured of the construction and material quality of the home.

-I know that it won't be subjected to the whims of Mother Nature during the construction process and will only be briefly exposed to weather and/or theft during the day or two of installation on the foundation.

-My property will not be subject to months of traffic during construction nor will the cost of people and materials being driven/delivered to the site be part of my cost.

-The time that the ground is disturbed before I can put in the yard will be minimized and all the benefits of that will be realized.

-My construction interest will be minimized due to the speed that I can get it done.

-My bank's risk of something happening (like me getting run over by a truck, hey it can happen) is also minimized because the factory buys all the material and pays for all the labor until the house hits the foundation and there is only the draw for the foundation and site work before the draw for the house, which will be on the foundation/basement at that point, providing the bank excellent security.

-My home will be both Green and Energy Star certified at a fraction of the cost of getting that done on a traditionally constructed home.

-My home will be more energy efficient and in general cheaper to operate and maintain.

-Because the factory provides me the freedom to design and customize my house I will end up with a home that is a unique design done to address my needs and wants, which will "fit me like a glove" and will be mine in so many more ways than what is typically found when you go out do things the "other way".

Just for the heck of it, and i don't know how much of this fits in Modular Home Builder so use what you want to if you desire any of it.

I bought my first house back in the 70's before the day of custom design.

It was a factory built 2 section that a tornado/twister hit in the factory parking lot and put one section on its roof. I bought it from the insurance company, got a lot from my parents, rolled it over, rebuilt the damaged section and I was off.

My second was a 2 section on a basement and my third was a 2 section in the country near our factory in Georgia.

Today, my brother owns an R-Anell home built in the late 80's, I own a 1989 model that I plan to live in while I build my new one, my mother lives in one built in the late 70's that is still going strong and I expect to be there for many more years. My sister lives in an R-Anell built in the late 90's so my family is well represented in the factory built industry.

If you look across the list of people that currently work at R-Anell and the add in the ones that have in the past you will see that there are a lot of people that know the industry well that also know that a building system is the way to go.

Probably way more information than you want but when you get me talking about what we do, why we do it and ask me why this is what everybody gets.

Thanks for asking.

Dennis Jones
R-Anell Homes

I would make it my first option. My biggest issue is the zoning requirements that are in my county that make any building solution a major time commitment for private lots that are outside of the planned community.

Al Barney


Gary, here you go..........

Absolutely I would! Modular home construction has many more benefits than just price/cost. In most areas there are cost savings but that's not always the case. The scope of every project is often different and market regions can have wide ranges in construction costs and consumer purchasing power as well. The benefits of modular construction are far beyond the financial implications. Controlled building environments, precision construction techniques, tighter and higher efficiency construction, less waste, clear and precise costing, quicker and more efficient build times, and stronger "overbuilt" elements of the home itself are all selling points. Unfortunately these points don't get "sold" enough. Economic reality is a hard thing to overcome and no matter what you're selling a lot of sales professionals get hung up on the cost factor rather than selling the other benefits of the product. If you sell the value and real benefits that exist in modular construction, and sell the consumer on those points, then the company doing the selling can find a product/supplier to fit in their buyer's price range. Some suppliers are going to be more costly than others simply due to their mode of production (business model), but the "baseline" in modular construction specifications isn't going to have near the range of quality differences as consumers and builders sometimes see in the HUD industry. That's where a good builder comes in and aligns themselves with the right products/suppliers for the price ranges/market they cater to. To answer your question, I wouldn't just consider modular as a personal housing option, I WOULD build a modular home right now if I was in the market for a new home.

Kevin Satterthwaite
President of Pine Ridge Homes, Inc


I would definitely use modular construction. The attributes that make modular a must for me include construction in a controlled environment (precision and no exposure to the elements), quality control and approval process by both the State and an independent third party, reduced construction time lets me move in quicker and saves me construction management, insurance and finance costs....

Alan Harman
Director of Architectural Design and Engineering at Haven Custom Homes


Anonymous said...

But Coach, did you expect any of these folks to say something else?
We need a survey of people currently in the market to buy a new home. Not industry folks being cheerleaders.

Coach said...

Not every response I got was positive. As I continue to publish more of the comments you will see that there are some people that really don't like modular for many reasons.

I will present both sides.

Anonymous said...

Coach, this is like asking people that work at McDonalds if they sell a lot of cheeseburgers.

Tim Watson said...


I sent a reply, but that ain't it.

30 years in Modular would have me starting at 15.

Anonymous said...

maybe the question to top execs of modular companies isn't would you build....but "do" you live in a modular?