Modular homes are increasingly capturing interest as a fast and affordable housing option. The global market for modular homes is forecast to grow from $82 billion in 2022 to $139 billion in 2029. These houses are built from factory-made components and are then constructed on a permanent foundation on a building site. They must meet the Department of Housing and Urban Development standards, as well as local guidelines.
Not to be confused with manufactured homes (previously called mobile homes), which can be moved from location to location, a modular home can be a good option to what are known as stick-built or traditionally constructed homes.
Could one be right for you? Here are the pros and cons of these structures, to help you decide if this might be your next home sweet home.
What Are Modular Homes?
Modular homes are constructed in a way that differs from a traditionally built home. Many of the components are made in a factory and then shipped to the property, where they are assembled on a permanent foundation.
The process is typically less expensive and faster than a stick-built home (meaning ones that are assembled piece by piece at the site).
As briefly noted above, modular homes are permanent structures and are subject to local and federal standards.
Recommended: Mobile vs. Modular vs. Manufactured Homes
How Are Modular Homes Constructed?
One of the biggest differences from a traditional home is the way modular homes are constructed. The house’s components are assembled in a factory and delivered to the homesite in one or more trips. The modules may be akin to three-dimensional boxes that are connected to one another and the foundation at the job site.
The benefit of constructing modular home components in a factory is the controlled environment. Because the parts are assembled under ideal conditions (perfect temperature, humidity, etc.), buyers can usually expect a consistent, high-quality build.
In addition, the actual build can move more quickly. Estimates of the time to build a modular home range from 16 to 32 weeks, depending on how customized the plans are and other variables.
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The Pros and Cons of Modular Homes
As with most things in life, there are pluses and minuses to modular homes. Consider these points to decide if one could be right for you. First, the upsides:
• Modular homes are typically 10% to 20% less expensive than traditionally built homes.
• They can be built up to 30% to 60% faster than stick-built homes.
• Depending on the builder, they may be customized to suit your needs, both in terms of layout/square footage and finishes. You can get a very basic home or a truly luxe, mansion-like one.
• They can be more energy-efficient than traditionally built houses, and the materials and building process may be more environmentally friendly as well.
• They are considered better able to withstand environmental threats (flooding, hurricanes) than traditionally built homes.
That said, there are some disadvantages to modular homes to consider:
• You need to add in some costs to your home-buying budget: the cost of the land, the foundation, and other related expenses. Yes, you are paying for those things when you buy a stick-built house, but it’s already rolled into the price.
• You will need to investigate how to finance your home. If it’s an already built home, then a home loan will work. But if you are building from the ground up? Rather than getting a mortgage (since you aren’t buying an existing home from a seller), you may want to look into construction loans. Some modular home companies offer their own financing and lending programs.
• Depending on the modular home company, you may not be able to get every last detail you want. Shopping around can help you find the top features you want in your home.
First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.
Modular Home Risks
There are a couple of considerations prospective modular homeowners should be aware of:
• Finding land can be difficult in some areas. If you love modular homes but want to live in a suburb that has a hot housing market, you may be hard pressed to find a lot that works for you.
(You also may need a land loan to purchase your property if you do find a lot you love.)
• It may be difficult to make changes once construction has started because so much of the home is pre-built.
• Bias exists. Some people confuse modular homes with manufactured or mobile homes, which don’t have a foundation, and may therefore avoid them. This could mean a real estate agent might not show buyers a modular home that’s for sale, for example, due to this misperception.
How to Find Modular Homes for Sale
You can shop for pre-existing modular homes on major real estate websites like Realtor.com and also on specialized sites that list this type of home.
To construct a modular home, you can look at such sites as modularhome.org and modularhomeowners.com. Also, with the growing popularity of modular homes, you may well be able to get a word-of-mouth referral from someone in your circle.
How to Choose a Modular Home
When considering a modular home builder, much will depend on the following factors:
• Do you like the style of the houses they build? The floorplans?
• Are their prices lining up with your budget? Do they offer financing, if you need it?
• Where are they located? If their factory is somewhat close to you, which can help reduce transportation expenses?
• Are you impressed with the quality of their work? Their customer service?
• Which brands do they partner with? Many manufacturers work with certain vendors for windows, doors, appliances, etc.
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How to Finance a Modular Home
Financing a modular home will take different paths depending on whether the house is already constructed or you’re building it.
• For already built homes, you may look into conventional mortgage loans, FHA, USDA, and VA loans, just as you would for any other property you are interested in.
• If you are building your own modular home, then you will probably need to apply for a construction loan to have the funds to get your house over the finish line.
• Some modular home companies offer financing options.
• You might also see if a personal loan could help you afford a modular home. Some lenders will allow you to buy a property with the funds; check with your lender, and understand the interest rate you will be charged.
Are Modular Homes Worth It?
Whether a modular home is worth it is a very personal decision.
For some people, there may be no greater satisfaction than working with a modular builder to specify their dream home and seeing their home come together, usually more quickly and less expensively than other building methods. They can collaborate with their builder and find a house plan that checks off all (or most) of the items on their home wish list.
Many people are thrilled with the eco-friendly aspects of these homes as well.
However, there are also people who find a vintage home more appealing or who would rather walk through an already built home and know exactly what they are buying.
Recommended: How Much Does It Cost to Build a House?
Modular Home Tips
If you’re set on buying a modular home, here are things to consider:
• Style of home. Modular homes come in various styles, from contemporary to log cabins. It can be wise for buyers to shop around and work with a modular home manufacturer that suits their taste.
• Manufacturer location. The cost of transporting a modular home can be high. It may be essential for the budget-conscious modular homebuyer to work with a manufacturer close to the home’s final destination.
• Custom builds. Some modular home manufacturers may offer more customizable options, from floor plans and finishes. Do your research, and find a builder who can check off most of the priorities on your wish list.
• Timeline. Some modular homes go up relatively quickly, while other manufacturers could be dealing with back orders. If time is of the essence, choose your builder carefully.
Modular homes are growing in popularity. Components (modules) are factory-built and then assembled on a foundation; this process can be faster and more affordable than buying a traditionally built home. They also often have environmental benefits.
However, they aren’t for everyone: Building your own home is very different than hitting the open houses, and financing a modular home likely takes you on a path that involves a construction loan. If, however, you fall in love with an already built modular home, then you can usually apply for a mortgage from a number of lenders.
Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.
Is a modular home a good investment?
A modular home can be a good investment. They often offer energy efficiency which is a selling point. However, a modular home’s value will be dependent on the housing market in your area, just as it would be with any other kind of home.
Are modular homes dangerous?
The dangers of modular homes are minimal. As long as the assembly of the modular home complies with local building codes, modular homes are as safe as a traditionally built home.
Is the value of modular homes decreasing?
Modular homes appreciate and depreciate in a way that’s similar to traditional builds.
Where can you get financing for modular homes?
Among the possibilities from various lenders are a construction loan, financing from your builder, or a personal loan.
How long will a modular home last?
With proper maintenance and high-quality materials, a modular home should last as long as, or longer than, any traditionally built home. Some of the first modular homes, built in the early 1900s, are still standing today.
Photo credit: iStock/turk_stock_photographer
*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.
To obtain a home equity loan, SoFi Bank (NMLS #696891) may assist you obtaining a loan from Spring EQ (NMLS #1464945). All loan terms, fees, and rates may vary based upon individual financial and personal circumstances and state. You may discuss with your loan officer whether a SoFi Mortgage or a home equity loan from Spring EQ is appropriate. Please note that the SoFi member discount does not apply to Home Equity Loans or Lines of Credit brokered through SoFi. Terms and conditions will apply. Before you apply for a SoFi Mortgage, please note that not all products are offered in all states, and all loans are subject to eligibility restrictions and limitations, including requirements related to loan applicant’s credit, income, property, and loan amount. Minimum loan amount is $75,000. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. Products, rates, benefits, terms, and conditions are subject to change without notice. Learn more at SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria. SoFi Mortgages originated through SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). Equal Housing Lender. SoFi Bank, N.A. is currently NOT able to accept applications for refinance loans in NY. In the event SoFi serves as broker to Spring EQ for your loan, SoFi will be paid a fee.
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To obtain a home equity loan, SoFi Bank (NMLS #696891) may assist you obtaining a loan from Spring EQ (NMLS #1464945).
All loan terms, fees, and rates may vary based upon individual financial and personal circumstances and state.
You may discuss with your loan officer whether a SoFi Mortgage or a home equity loan from Spring EQ is appropriate. Please note that the SoFi member discount does not apply to Home Equity Loans or Lines of Credit brokered through SoFi. Terms and conditions will apply. Before you apply for a SoFi Mortgage, please note that not all products are offered in all states, and all loans are subject to eligibility restrictions and limitations, including requirements related to loan applicant’s credit, income, property, and loan amount. Minimum loan amount is $75,000. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. Products, rates, benefits, terms, and conditions are subject to change without notice. Learn more at SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria.
SoFi Mortgages originated through SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). Equal Housing Lender. SoFi Bank, N.A. is currently NOT able to accept applications for refinance loans in NY.
In the event SoFi serves as broker to Spring EQ for your loan, SoFi will be paid a fee.