Modular homes, also known as prefabricated or prefab homes, are becoming a big part of the building industry all over the world. Prefab builds account for approximately 70% of the construction industry in Sweden and many European countries.
In Australia, this type of modular housing is becoming ever more popular compared to traditional housing. This trend is apparent not only among homeowners, but more and more business owners are making the switch. It is estimated that one in every 10 constructions in Australia could be a modular home by 2027.
What is Modular Housing Exactly?
Prefab, modular, or offsite construction has been a crucial member of the residential market. It has thrived in many regions around the world, especially in Sweden and Japan where 80% and 15% of homes in the respective countries are constructed off-site. The numbers are continuing to rise quickly in Europe and Asia.
Meanwhile, Australia has not completely embraced this concept yet. Accounting for just three per cent of homes, which are typically single-custom built, uptake has been generally slow. The biggest reason is the scepticism surrounding the quality of modular homes. However, despite the slow start, it is expected that the figure will finally take off in the coming years. The notion that this type of construction is not durable is rapidly fading.
To understand better about what a modular home is, let us take a look at its characteristics:
- It is built in a factory or a controlled environment.
- It is constructed one section after another.
- The site of the new home will be prepared while the sections are being built in a separate place.
- Once the site is ready, the modular home will be delivered section by section.
- The home side will be arranged and often, a local contractor will put the sections together.
After the building process is complete, the final inspection will be carried out. Then, the certificate of occupancy will be given to the new homeowner.
History of Modular Housing in Australia
Modular or prefab homes are not entirely new, they have been around for several years. In the 1600s, there were simple cottages made of timber, which were shipped to the US after being built in England. The new colonies of the British Empire in the US used these houses and lived there for a while.
Australia was even part of its history. In the 1800s, the first prefab homes were shipped to the country. When Charles La Trobe, the representative of the Queen arrived in Victoria, which was once known as Port Phillip district, he had a prefab home shipped from England. Today, it now stands as a tourist landmark.
Meanwhile, in South Melbourne, a similar small corrugated iron cottage which was built in England, still resides on Coventry Street and looked after by the National Trust. This cottage served as home to the growing population in the village. More cottages were sent at that time. In 1855, an ornate mansion known as Corio Villa was built in Edinburgh, Scotland and was assembled in Geelong.
While World War II caused labour shortages, after this the reconstruction of areas and villages became much faster, thanks to these modular houses that were assembled in Europe. At that time, there were returning soldiers as well, which demanded inexpensive housing in many parts of Australia, especially it’s capital, Canberra.
The housing crisis led to the search for solutions that would make everything easier for both the builders and those seeking new homes. Prefab houses turned out to be the answer. Steel sheeting was utilised to create roofing and build walls. Melbourne was one of the cities that saw how modular houses were built. At that time in April 1947, it only took nine days to complete it.
Today, modular houses serve the same purpose. Owners who do not want to wait for months to live in a new home would often turn to a prefab house.
Pros and Cons of Modular Housing
Modular homes are quite simple and can easily be compared to traditional housing. The significant difference is that a modular home is constructed in a factory. It is based on a specific design with sections manufactured on an assembly line. These sections are then taken to a building site to finally complete the home.
A modular home may sound interesting but is it the type of home you wish to have? To help you decide, we have put together a list of the pros and cons linked to modular housing.
Many people in Australia and other parts of the world love modular housing mainly for the following reasons:
- Affordability: A large portion of the house is constructed in a factory. It is one of the biggest reasons why construction is more affordable than a traditional house.
- Fast: The building process does not take long. Unlike with a conventional home, you will have to face delays due to weather and even the shipment of supplies or materials. There are no such issues with a modular home. It is in a controlled climate factory and the inspectors are already on-site, which can aid in speeding up the process.
- Quick Delivery: The builders only take a few days to build the house. The sections will be delivered right away, usually one at a time. You will see how the home is constructed right before your eyes. It also helps keep the costs low since the crew would finish building quickly. We all know that the costs start soaring up the longer it takes to build the house.
- Financing: Buying a modular home is not expensive, especially compared to traditional homes. At the same time, you can easily find a modular home manufacturer that is willing to help finance the purchase of the house. However, it is significant to ask about the rates and fees before you even think about signing a contract for the loan.
- Valuable: Modular homes are often compared to mobile homes because they can be quite similar. However, the big difference is that a modular house does not lose value over time. It even appreciates, just like with traditional homes. Therefore, many financiers, investors, and lenders are happy to provide financing for the potential homeowner.
- Energy Efficiency: One of the reasons why experts and even environmentalists are happy about modular housing is that the homes are energy efficient. They utilise high-quality windows and are well-insulated. Energy efficiency is easily tested primarily because the houses or its sections are built in a factory. This way, the manufacturers can confirm that the house is indeed an energy saver.
- Low Bills: Since you have an energy-efficient home, you will certainly save money on bills.
- Easy Selling: In case you decide to sell the home in the future, it will often be much easier to do so. Many advocates of the environment are constantly looking for a new house. It should not take long for you to find a potential buyer since you can both target environmentalists and average people.
Modular housing, just like other types of construction, is not perfect. It does come with cons. Knowing the disadvantages will help you decide whether or not it is right for you and your situation.
- Land: Before you can have a modular home, it is a requirement to own a piece of land first. A traditional house usually involves a home on a property where the builder already pre-purchased. With a modular home, the dealer typically only sells the house. Therefore, you should first find a lot in the area you like before you even begin to arrange to finance for the house.
- Regulations: It is also a necessity to ensure that the neighbourhood where you plan to have your modular home built allows such construction.
- Payments: More often than not, you need to pay the builder in full even before the house is completed. In this case, you should be able to make payments while the house is under construction. It means you need to have the money required to afford a modular home.
If you take a good look at the pros and cons of modular housing, it is easy to see that the pros heavily outweigh the cons. For some people, the biggest issue is with regards to payments. They typically have to turn to their personal savings to pay for the home. Some would take out a construction loan to make payments.
However, despite needing to pay as you go, modular housing is quite inexpensive. Additionally, it is not difficult to obtain a loan to make timely payments for the house while it is in construction.
Assumptions about Modular Homes
Modular homes are quite appealing and interesting. However, not everyone understands what they truly are. Many Australians have formed certain theories about them. This section gives you details about what some people assume about modular housing, along with the truth behind them:
1. Prefab houses all look the same.
This idea was perhaps born several decades ago when modular homes were not as advanced as they are today. A wide range of home designs exists to match Australia’s landscape and lifestyle. You can have a granny flat, which is mostly designed for the elderly but is also suitable for young adults and nannies.
Even better, modular homes can be designed by the owner. It is like building your home out of your style. If you are not sure about what you want, you can always take an existing design from the builder and simply customise it to make it your own.
2. Modular houses are of poor quality.
There is always this debate that a modular house is inferior to a conventional or stick-built house when it comes to quality. However, even a traditional home built on the site can be poor quality too. Some factors decide the superiority of the construction, including the skills of the builder, the contractor’s plans, and the materials used.
It does not mean that a modular house is of poor quality. Even experts recommend it because it is not only sturdy but energy-efficient as well. It comes with a ton of benefits, including being able to withstand harsh weather conditions. It may not even be easy to tell the difference between a modular house and a traditional one.
3. These homes cost more than those built on the property
Surprisingly, prefab homes will allow you to save more money. They are built quickly, usually in a matter of weeks. Inspections are already performed at the factory with a third-party inspector present during the phases of construction. Saving time saves money as well.
Of course, if you plan to have a more complex home than other modular houses, you will expect to pay more than other simpler construction. However, those built onsite would often be more expensive.
4. Modular homes are the same as manufactured homes.
Manufactured homes are often built offsite too, just like modular homes. However, the difference between these two is that a modular home is assembled on a permanent foundation. A manufactured one does not have such, which is why it is typically referred to as a mobile home.
In this case, a mobile or manufactured home does not have one specific location. It can easily be moved from one place to another. However, owners should understand that there are laws and regulations when relocating.
The Prefab Process: How Is the House Put Together?
Many people already know the experience with traditional houses. When you choose a prefab home, the experience would be so much different. Pre-built houses are more affordable today and they have various design offerings.
Despite that, the standard details do not truly have to be revolutionary. Most homeowners still prefer a simple look, consisting of full height doors, bathroom and kitchen, and bedrooms. The building process typically involves the following steps:
- The plan is created for the home. The client can provide ideas and even design the home.
- The council permits should already be in order. Prices and designs should also be finalised at this point.
- The buyer provides payment for the project, usually a five to 10% deposit once the contract is signed. The other payments will be paid as the construction continues.
- Once the arrangement is settled, the builders will begin the construction process.
- The home starts at a climate-controlled factory. It will begin as sections.
- As the home is being built, site inspections will be made. Depending on the company you have hired, an architect may be included in the project to help with the process. Architects will aid in different constraints, including planning regulations. They can also assist when considering orientation and other aspects of the building. Other companies, however, would simply leave these choices and issues to the buyer.
- The materials used will depend on the plan. However, most of the time, steel frames are used at the beginning. Steel keeps the structure quite slim. Others prefer timber, but this material would be bigger.
- The sections will be delivered to the site, usually one by one.
- Cladding generally involves sustainable hardwoods, including plantation hardwood and spotted gum. For A-framing, Australian pine is often preferred, mainly because this timber is thermally efficient. Additionally, it helps lower noise levels. Still, the materials used will be based on the plan, which involves the budget of the client.
- Building the prefab home can take anywhere from nine days to 12 weeks, sometimes more, depending on the complexity of the house. The good news is that once there is a set time, a reliable company will always make sure to reach that timeframe. Once the house is complete, each section will be delivered to the site. Kitchens and bathrooms will often be fully wired and plumbed while they are still in the factory. Light fittings will be in place. This way, they will be ready to install and connected when delivered on-site.
The housing modules, which include the framework and panels, are lowered to the ground by crane. Sometimes, the builder will assemble the parts onsite. Note that once the parts have been placed, it means they are set on their foundations and can no longer be transported or moved.
Finding the Right Builder in Australia
Once you have decided that a prefab home is for you, the next step is to find the best builder that will help make your dream home a reality. Fox Modular is the only company you can trust:
Fast manufacturing and easy transportation
The homes will be manufactured at a facility. Once completed, they will be transported and set onto the property in Perth or anywhere in Western Australia.
Those who are searching for an alternative housing option will find a prefab home extremely valuable. Fox Modular can design a house that will suit your requirements. For instance, if you live in a rural area or the Metro, we make sure that the house meets your standards. At the same time, it can survive harsh weather conditions.
Quality homes and updated styles
You do not want a house that looks like the others in your neighbourhood. We will give you quality-built prefab houses at an affordable price. They come with contemporary designs, a wide range of finishes, and a lot more.
With Fox Modular, we take the building of your home seriously. After we have completed our work, all you need to do now is move in.