Best modular homes 2021: buying guide and top 4 builders
What’s the best modular home?
When you’re in the market for a new home, there are several options available to consumers today. That includes stick-built houses, manufactured units, and modular homes.
If you’re looking for the best modular homes, you’ve come to the right place as we’ve put together a guide that explains what to expect from this wondrous style of abode.
The popularity of prefabricated housing has increased over the years, and modular homes are among the most popular styles for a variety of reasons.
Before we get to what makes this type of house special, it’s important to understand what sets a modular home apart from a manufactured home.
Modular home vs. manufactured home
There are a few key differences between modular homes and manufactured homes.
The word “prefab” is a term used loosely in the building industry, and a modular home certainly falls into that category. It’s also commonly confused with manufactured homes, but there’s a world of difference between these styles.
While both are built in factories, the quality of construction, building codes, and design largely separate the two.
f you’re wondering, “What is a modular home,” well, it’s any home built in a factory that comes in at least two or more sections. They are designed to sit on a permanent foundation, and once shipped to the building site, the modules are “stitched” together before plumbing and electrical are hooked up.
From a style standpoint, modern modular homes can look like traditional residences, but there is more variation and freedom compared to manufactured units. Both can carry similar price points, and follow building codes, but the rules are stricter for modular homes due to a different classification.
The array of amenities you can find on the best modular homes is another reason for a price increase. They are simply staggering compared to their manufactured counterparts. Due to the modular and stackable nature of some modular homes, the square footage and floor plans are only limited by your imagination or budget.
Manufactured homes are built in a climate-controlled facility, just like a modular house. Often referred to as mobile homes or trailers until the late 70s, things changed for manufactured homes when the HUD building code was introduced. Manufactured homes after that date had to follow a strict set of guidelines which improved safety and helped set classes for prefab homes.
Modern manufactured homes come in several sizes and styles, just like stick-built, modular, and other forms of prefabricated housing. They are very popular, and you have probably seen a section or entire manufactured home hauled down the interstate by a tractor-trailer with an “oversized load” banner on the back.
This type of home is built on a steel chassis which can allow it to be moved whereas even small modular homes are constructed on a permanent foundation. While popular and affordable, manufactured homes and their mobile brethren do not hold value like a stick-built home.
Buying a modular home
Buying a new home is exciting, and that feeling is amplified once you see some of the amenities provided by modular home builders. Before you take out a loan or decide to empty your savings on a new modular home, there are some things you’ll need to know.
Modular home pros and cons
Now that you understand part of what makes a modular home “modular,” it’s time to talk about some of the benefits that come with the design. As you can’t have the sweet without the sour, we will touch on the negatives as well.
Benefits of modular homes
Faster building speed
Modular homes of any size are quicker to construct than a stick-built home. As they are built in a factory, the weather won’t be a concern until you get to the job site. You also don’t have to deal with tardy contractors, which can wreak havoc on projects you’re trying to get off the ground.
Want an energy efficient house that decreases your carbon footprint or qualifies for LEED credits? Those are two other significant advantages of most modular structures. While you still need to check and see what type of materials are used in the construction of your home, 90% of modular homes are eco-friendly!
Compared to manufactured or mobile homes, modular houses are easier to finance as they have permanent foundations like a traditional home.
Want something unique that looks like it belongs in Architectural Digest? From single to multi-module homes, you’ll be surprised by the number of styles available with contemporary and modern modular homes.
Another advantage of buying a modular home over one that’s traditionally built and assembled on-site is the price. Unless you buy a high-tech modular house or need a dozen modules, they can cost considerably less. Small modular homes with basic designs are even considered an affordable alternative housing solution in some regions.
Modular home limits
Selling your home
Modular homes can be harder to sell than a “regular” house due to the stigma often associated with modular, manufactured, and tiny homes. Style can be an issue as well, so think twice about exotic floor plans if you intend to sell.
While you generally have a degree of flexibility with the floor plan, you won’t get quite as much as you would from an open plot of land and a stick-built home.
Do you own the land? If not, you have to consider the price of both the property and building permits at a minimum. It’s not like moving into a traditional or manufactured home in a subdivision where everything is included. Buying the modular home and having it put together is only part of the puzzle as landscaping, utilities, and other factors are still in play.
Think long term
Are you looking at a modular space for professional reasons or a “forever” home you can pass down to your children one day? Regardless of why you’re drawn to modular homes, you need to think long-term and plan before settling on a design.
Like any prefab home, modules are built in a factory, which takes time and requires money. If you plan to sell your current home to finance the new one, you’ll need somewhere to reside in the meantime. That can be expensive and so can extra modules down the line if you plan on bringing a new addition into your family.
Have you considered things like septic systems, driveways, and landscaping? Those aren’t included with your modular home and will add to the overall cost of the project. That’s assuming you’ve already purchased the land and have the necessary permits to begin construction.
Finding the best modular home is only half the battle considering you need to think about the foundation and land around it as well.
Modular rooms and design
One of the first things to consider with a modular home is the style. With a stick-built home, you can choose from Ranch Homes, Colonials, or Cape Cods, among others, but your options are more limited when it comes to traditional-style homes in the modular world.
While you can find a ranch house made from modules, many modular home manufacturers’ catalogs feature contemporary designs with an emphasis on efficiency. That’s not a negative by any means, but something to keep in mind if you’re looking for a particular style.
If you do find the perfect style, it may not be available in your area, so it’s always good to have a backup plan and temper your expectations if you want something traditional.
The types of rooms found in traditional and modular homes are common across the board with a few exceptions. You won’t find a floor plan without a bedroom, kitchen, or bathroom.
However, living and dining rooms could be hit or miss in small modular homes. Unless the builder offers a wide degree of customization, carefully consider the type of rooms you need when browsing the floor plans.
Want a mudroom? That’s an option, and so are two-car garages with the right layout. On the other hand, basements are something you will need to handle ahead of time when you are dealing with the foundation.
Attics are frequently found in traditional and modular homes, but it all depends on the floor plan as contemporary designs tend to forgo attics for extra living space.
Modular house customization
This is another area that comes down to the builder, although most offer some flexibility with their floor plans.
Every modular home will come with certain features including flooring, fixtures, windows, siding, and countertops. While some plans can be fairly basic, others will include everything from appliances to decking.
When considering modular home companies, look over what’s included with the base package and see which customization features are offered.
Electrical, plumbing, and anything related to building or construction should be clearly listed, but you may have to dig deeper for fine details. In some cases, you’ll need to work this out with contractors on-site, but you typically make the most important adjustments at the factory.
If you want to add an overhead rainfall showerhead, that’s going to be extra. Upgrading engineered wood flooring to hardwood would be considered an add-on too. Exotic cabinets or countertops can also raise the price significantly.
Consumers that prefer smart homes have some interesting options as well, although most consumer tech is considered additional unless you’re home buying a Kasita.
Modular home prices
One of the more important questions to come to mind with consumers are modular home prices.
There are hundreds of modular home builders offering their services around the country, and dozens of styles to choose from. That means modular home costs will vary from one manufacturer to the next.
The cost per square foot to build a home the traditional way depends on where you reside as contractors, land, and permits cost a different amount from state to state. A 2-acre lot in Virginia is cheaper than the same size plot in California, so you can expect to pay more in areas where the cost of living is high.
The same rules apply to the cost of modular homes, although most builders give you a good idea of what to expect beforehand.
Modular homes can average $150,000 – $400,000, but we’ve seen several solid structures below $100,000 as well. You can also find modular mansions that will set you back a million dollars once you factor in the permits, amenities, and overall construction costs.
With that in mind, we found that a 2,000 square foot house averages $100 – $225 per square foot, but a home decked out with all the amenities could be well over $300 per square foot.
In the end, most of your modular home cost comes down to the design of your home and its location along with what’s inside and outside of your home.
It’s also important to remember the contractor cost can be separate from the build cost. You have to consider taxes and delivery charges as well, which can be quite expensive.
Keep in mind, the same people building your home may not be the ones installing it on-site, so local contractors from your area could be involved in the project – not the company itself.
The best modular home builders
Depending on where you live, getting a modular home shipped to your location could be easier said than done. With that in mind, here are a few of the top modular home manufacturers that ship nationwide or are willing to go that extra mile for an additional price.
1. Deltec Homes
Deltec has built homes across the United States since the late 60s. The company is known for its energy-efficient home offers and certified by the B Corporation to boot. While being socially and environmentally conscious is a plus, we think you’ll be thrilled with their unique lineup of modular homes as well.
Deltec Homes come in two collections, with 360 and Renew.
If you want something that resembles a traditional house, the Renew collection is your best option. They include the Balsam modular home which is two-story with a rustic look, three bedrooms and clocks in at 2,029 sq. ft.
It has a passive solar layout, just like the Ridgeline which has six available floor plans. These homes are all one-story, however, and suited for small or narrow lots.
The 360 Collection from Deltec is circular homes with no load-bearing walls and a wide variety of options. From 328 to over 5,000 square feet, there is a style and design for everyone, and that’s before you take into account wing and connecting room options. Whether you want an economical guest house or a three-story circular tower with five bedrooms, they have you covered.
All of the homes from Deltec come with energy modeling based on the climate in your area, and highly customizable depending on your needs. The shell, which makes up a third of your home, is priced from $38,000 – $200,000 while the turnkey or finished cost is around $200 – $275 per square foot.
The average build time is between 6 – 9 months, and the company offers a 7% discount for members of the military.
2. Connect Homes
Some modular home manufacturers use design principles rather loosely, while others stay true to form. Connect Homes falls into the latter category with a series of rectangular modules featuring both modern and traditional designs.
The structures built by Connect Homes live up to their namesake. Their homes are named by size, so the Connect One is considerably smaller than the top-tier Connect 10.
Most modules measure 8’ x 40’ and are around 320 square feet, so choosing a size and floor plan is a breeze. While they don’t have as many customization options as some modular home manufacturers, you won’t be disappointed by their overall selection.
Are you looking for something in the ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) range? The first two homes in the Connect lineup are small modular homes well under 1,000 square feet which may qualify, depending on the size of your current abode.
The Connect 4 is a family-sized home at 1,280 square feet with two bedrooms and bathrooms while the Connect 6T is a two-story house with a total of 1,920 square feet, two extra bedrooms, and another bathroom. The largest home in their modular arsenal is the Connect 10, which is a two-story modular home measuring 40’ x 40’ with inset decks and two family rooms.
The prices on “completed” Connect Homes are a little higher on average than with other modular home builders with prices starting at $182,000 and topping out at around $900,000. That said, the homes are well-built and decked out with countertops, appliances, engineered hardwood, and more. The time from designing to moving in will be between 8 – 12 months, and they are available anywhere in the United States.
3. Stillwater Dwellings
Stillwater Dwellings modular homes have been featured in publications like the New York Times, and the company has designed a bevy of beautiful prefabricated homes. They make some of the best modular homes around, and you can purchase one if you reside in the continental United States.
While you won’t find any tiny modular homes in Stillwater’s design plans, their floor plans are between 1,000 to over 5,200 square feet. At this time, there are more than 20 to choose from, but they can also design a home from scratch using their Spine and Wing system. If you live in an area prone to wildfires, you’ll be pleased to know they specialize in fire-resistant housing as well.
The company has “Fast-Track” plans to get your family back into a home quickly after a wildfire, and offer services like Advanced Site Planning. There are six Fast-Track plans which cut the design and building time down to only six months. Advanced Site Planning takes landscaping into account to create a buffer zone around your residence.
Stillwater Dwellings can deliver your home anywhere in the United States, and they have several stunning examples of their work online along with those floor plans. Their homes typically take between 6 – 8 months to deliver which is on par with other modular home builders. The cost of modular homes from Stillwater starts at around $375 per square foot or $575 on the high end.
4. Method Homes
If the budget for your new modular home isn’t a concern, Method Homes is a manufacturer that should be very high on your list. They have several series of stunning homes and can design your modular dream home from the ground up if you want something original.
Method Homes has over 20 floor plans available spanning seven collections, each with their own distinct style.
The Cabin lineup has the vibe of a modular log home and is designed to flow with the surrounding landscape. It’s available in five styles with floor plans featuring between 3 – 5 modules.
Elemental brings modern modular homes to the forefront with six-floor plans while the Option collection is highly customizable but expensive, with a cost between $350,000 – $800,000.
The M Series from Method is our personal favorite, and the modular home cost a bit more affordable at $260,000 – $600,000. There are two lofted options in this series of homes which top out at 1,740 sq. ft.
If you’re interested in a commercial building to match your personal property, Method Prefab can handle that as well. In fact, they can build anything to suit your needs from a small office to a massive modular motel.
While Method doesn’t have any modular homes under 100K, these eye-catching abodes qualify for LEED credits and are built to last. We also like the fact you can view the models in AR with a HoloLens or in Remix 3D.
The Washington-based company currently delivers to a handful of western states along with a few regions in Canada but is willing to work in other areas of the United States, however, at an additional cost.
Our top choices will ship a modular home to your property whether you’re in Montana or Florida and have what we consider “reasonably priced” homes. The alternatives below may not deliver to your area or be out of your price range but should be high on your list as well.
The minds behind Turkel Design don’t have as many collections as other manufacturers, but their Axiom lineup is one you’ll need to see to believe. These highly configurable homes are actually panelized, and not modular, but have contemporary designs that blend in with a variety of landscapes.
Turkel partnered with Dwell Prefab for the Axiom series which currently consists of 11 designs. They range from a single-story rectangular retro home to box-like structures a few stories high. Floor plans are customizable, but the design packages are basic and without additional options like plumbing and lighting fixtures or interior doors.
The company’s homes feature standard rooms but have some amenities you wouldn’t expect like fireplaces and screened-in porches. In addition to the Axiom series, Turkel also has a lineup of custom-built cabinetry for use in your new modular home. We couldn’t find any pricing on those luxurious cabinets, but the cost of their homes could give you sticker shock.
Turkel Designs’ Axiom series has prices starting at $850,000, which you might as well round up to an even million after taxes, delivery charges, and various fees. While that will rule the Axiom out for some, if you can afford one of their floor plans, you’ll be thrilled to know the company ships its panelized palaces worldwide.
We briefly mentioned Kasita in our guide, and it’s a company that should be on your radar for a good reason. The fact they make affordable modular homes is a bonus, but their eye-catching designs are what initially caught our eye.
A Kasita home is a smart home considering they are designed for connected gadgets. You can control lighting, heating, and other features of your home without having to shop around and install individual components.
All of their homes have a distinct look but are suitable for a variety of locations including backyards, the desert, or in the city as a mini modular housing unit.
Things only get better when it comes to pricing. The starting price is just $150,000, which is cheap compared to other homes in this class. Keep in mind, that’s the initial price, so extra features or amenities will raise the cost. They only offer a studio floor plan at this time, but it includes all the usual features like a shower, fridge, and toilet.
If you’re interested in one of Kasita’s modular homes, you need to reside in Texas, California, or Nevada and they currently only have 50 units available for sale. The company will consider delivering Kasita modular homes to other areas, however, and have plans on expanding their lineup shortly.
On average, the time frame can be anywhere between 6 – 8 months using existing floor plans, but you’ll need to wait longer for a custom home. A small modular home or something basic may be a little shorter, but 6 months is considered quick.
No, but ones that follow modern design principles generally are. If you want something unique, contemporary, or large, the cost per square foot can definitely exceed that of a stick-built home.
Not like a traditional home, but the rules change with some of the more modern modular homes. While modular homes are built just as well if not better than a stick-built home, finding a buyer can be difficult depending on the style of your home and its location.
As long as your credit is sound, it shouldn’t be an issue. These houses aren’t treated like “mobile” homes when it comes to financing, as modular homes are on a permanent site with a foundation.
It depends on what you plan to add and the layout of your home. It’s best to ask the manufacturer about additional modules when planning the design of your home or you could find yourself in a sticky situation down the line.
Buying an existing modular home is certainly an option, and you may find several modular homes for sale in your area. The best way to do that is to check with local realtors or large online housing sites like Zillow.