What is a modular home? The idea of buying a property that’s delivered is a strange concept to many people.
Yet they’re more common than you might think – and could become a mainstay in the UK housing market.
Prefab homes, as they’re sometimes referred to, are currently causing a stir. They might even be the answer to the housing crisis.
But how do they work? Can they really offer a reliable alternative to bricks and mortar? Are they safe?
Here’s everything you need to know.
What are modular homes?
Not to be confused with a mobile home, modular homes are constructed in a factory and delivered to a location when complete. Once delivered, the property remains in its location permanently – just like more traditional homes.
Unlike new-build homes, modular construction allows for a bespoke creation, which is driven by either the customer or the developer. Cheaper to construct, they are seen as a cost-effective and time-saving way to build housing. They still have concrete permanent foundations and building codes.
Another difference to new-build properties is the speed in which they are created. Each phase of construction is quicker. The result is higher volumes of housing that sometimes sees homes built 50% faster than traditional housing construction.
Different types of modular houses
The type of modular homes varies, from garden extensions to modern-day smart homes.
- DIY garden guest houses
- Modular house – A modular house comprises an entire property, much like a regular home. They are customisable, meaning people can design them how they see fit. All homes feature full electricity and function just like any other house. A manufactured home provides a more affordable alternative to traditional house building
- Modular developments – Modular homes aren’t limited to houses. An increasing number of modular developments form high-tech residential apartments. Also referred to as ‘flat-pack homes’, these prefabricated developments include onsite amenities. Most of them are panelised, which means they slot together like a piece of flat-pack furniture
Pros and cons of modular houses
Let’s weigh up the positives and inevitable negatives.
- Modular homes are often cheaper and more affordable to build than properties built on site
- More energy efficient
- Less chance of building delays e.g. ones caused by the weather
- Quicker to build – process often runs faster
- Often built in an environmentally-friendly way e.g. material choices
- Will last as long as a traditional home, if not longer
- Manufacturer designs the property
- You’ll need to built out the foundations e.g. plumbing
- Land must be purchased first
- You may need a construction loan first, then convert that into a longer-term mortgage
- Can’t be built on subdivisions
- Won’t be move-in ready
- May need dedicated homeowners insurance
Are modular homes a good investment?
Modular homes are permanent structures, and are treated as such, just as with traditional properties. So, in this sense, they can be a good investment just as other properties can be.
You should always do thorough research beforehand, however, to ensure you’re making a good decision. This includes what company to choose, how you’re going to finance it, how much you need to put down etc.
Past modular projects
New technology and methods have drastically changed the aesthetics and practicality of the modular home.
Regeneration specialists Urban Splash is leading the charge for modular property. They have created a range of apartments in Manchester that will be technology driven. The apartments went on sale in May 2019.
A smart system controls hot water, heating and lightning, with residents using an app to control these elements. The app is also compatible with popular voice assistants such as Alexa, Google Home Assistant and Apple’s Siri.
Birmingham City Council has commissioned the first council-built modular home in the Midlands. The two-bedroom house will feature a parking space and garden. It forms part of their 10-year housing plan, where modular homes will play a significant role.
Bristol is another city championing modular homes, with Bristol City Council committing to making sites available for modular home building over the next five years. They will start being offered to people in housing crisis within the next six months.
Can I build my own modular home?
DIY modular homes from Amazon have proven to be popular. However, they are more akin to garden guest houses than entire homes. But what if you want to build your own, fully-functional modular home?
You would first need to own the land where the home would be constructed. It’s also likely that you would need planning permission from your local council. The next step would be to decide on the type of home you want to buy, with many offerings available – including some on eBay!
Modular homes can be self built by home builders, though it’s recommended you have some professional help. A typical garden home is estimated to take around eight hours. A fully-fledged modular home built for full-time living would take considerably longer.
Could modular homes solve the housing crisis?
Many have posed the question as to whether modular homes can solve the housing crisis. This has been brought on by their shorter construction times and cheaper manufacturing costs.
Modular housing has been a success in countries like Sweden and Canada, where it makes up a growing number of homes.
The UK housing market could benefit from a surge of modular housing. While it might not single-handedly solve the problem, it can help speed up the process and provide faster access to housing for those who need it the most.
Are modular homes environmentally friendly?
Site built homes are more damaging to the environment than a modular option, which is typically built off site in a factory. Many modular properties are made from recycled waste and are therefore eco-friendly.
They are also more sustainable and produce a lower carbon footprint. Most factories also use their own construction materials. Once the properties are built, they tend to be more energy efficient and improve air quality as they are built to be low carbon.
Overall, they are low carbon in their construction, application and operation.
A modular future
Modular home designs might not become the de facto property type in the UK. But they are certainly here to stay and provide home buyers with an alternative option.
In the meantime, traditional bricks and mortar still holds the most weight for those purchasing a new home. We’re here to help you feel more confident when it comes to purchasing a house, no matter what type of property you buy.
Whether you’re looking to buy or rent, find out more about your new area with a property report. A full report contains information on everything from schools to crime stats, telling you everything you need to know.
Last Updated: July 30th, 2021