Speaking of Custom v Catalog v Mass Produced...

Real Estate Agent with Century 21 Results Realty
Manufactured homes side walls are built and th...
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Yesterday, I wrote a post about Coach-Built cars of the 1920s and 1930s.  As I was wring about those cars, and the Coach-Builder catalogs that grew out of them... and the mass-produced cars, I started thinking about the comparison with homes in the US.  And there is an interesting comparison.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, my grandparents had a wonderful lake property in northern Michigan.  It was on Black Lake.  It had been in the family (mostly) for generations.  When I was very young, it had a couple of one room cabins that had been built in the 1930s.  There was no running water or indoor plumbing.

But then, in the early 70s, my grandparents had a double wide mobile home put on the lot.  It wasn't a palace, but it was WAY nicer than the little cabins in replaced.  And it cost MUCH less than having a "regular" home built on the lot.

Bulk materials stored indoors at a manufacture...
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There is a stigma with manufactured housing, though.  It isn't just "some people", either.  Some lenders won't finance a manufactured home.  Others have a much higher rate.

And those are kind of like mass-produced cars... built on an assembly line... using components that are often tailored specifically for them. Constructions is actually VERY streamlined.  The parts fit, so it is largely a matter of assembling all of the pre-made components.  It is efficient... less waste... less time... even less energy.

On the other end of the scale are custom homes.  There are a couple of flavors, but for the purposes of this discussion, we'll lump any home built completely on-site as being custom built.  That would be the vast majority of homes.  And it is a terribly inefficient process.  Just think about it...

  • Modern Desert Mobile Home/ Manufactured House
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    coordinating dozens of contractors to come out at just the right time

  • coordinating multiple inspections of the property... at just the right time.
  • while there are efforts made at maximizing the usage of the purchased materials, building one house at a time can't utilize materials as well as mapping them out for multiple builds.
  • engineering for one home, or even a small run of similar homes, can't be as rigorous as it can be for a mass-produced run.
  • same with design...

Honestly, I'm not really a cheerleader for pre-manufactured housing... but I can see some writing on a distant wall.  At some point, the efficiencies of manufactured or component housing will outrun the deficiencies. Lowering the cost and speeding the build-time, along with increasing the energy efficiency, space utilization and material efficiency will move in front of tradition.

Manufactured home ready for interior drywall i...
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Already, in various places around the world, component housing is picking up steam.  And I think it is only a matter of time until the idea catches on here.  In effect, a buyer could choose from the components that they want to make up a home... plug in various parts of the plan... add an extra bedroom, media room or garage space as the home is being designed... plug and play.  The various parts would be assembled in a factory, and then shipped to the location.  At that point, the house would basically be joined together.  (Have you ever seen a Bruster's Ice Cream Shop or Nathan's Hot Dog store being installed?  They come on a truck and the property goes from being a parking lot and a pad to having a building in a day).

Another option is that similar to the log home kit model.  Most log homes are built from kits.  The vendor literally builds the shell at the mill, makes all of the adjustments to the structure, then disassembles and ships the parts... numbered like a puzzle... to be built on the site.  That might be an intermediate step...

As I said... it is only a matter of time... but that could be a generation away.

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Jim Hale
Eugene Oregon's Best Home Search Website

Warren Buffett has put a lot of his money in this direction.  It must be the wave of the future.



But his concept is custom, factory-built.  He intends to make it the opposite of an oxymoron.

Nov 29, 2010 05:17 PM #1
Rick Frissell
HomeXpress Realty - Valrico, FL
aka "The Red Baron of Real Estate"

Another good post Lane.  Although it this is not the focus of your blog, it is just as interesting that construction loans are about as difficult to obtain as is manufactured housing.  Go fingure.

Nov 29, 2010 11:20 PM #2
Jon Budish
Resident Realty - Fort Collins, CO

I am very familiar with the pre-fab home industry. As people familiarize themselves with the factory built home industry, they'll become more receptive to ownership options.

Nov 30, 2010 01:35 AM #3
Andrzej Niemyjski
Realty One Group - Sun City West, AZ

I believe free standing commercial buildings for fast food or banks are mostly done that way already I would imagine residential is next.

Nov 30, 2010 01:40 AM #5
Dee Bundy
Fort Collins Realtor @ C3 Real Estate Solutions - Fort Collins, CO
Helping You Make Colorado "Home"

Hi Lane - I couldn't agree more that manufactured homes shouldn't have the stigma that has been attached to them.  The quality is often very high and the general economy and 'green' component of manufacturing versus custom stick-built is substantial.  It's frustrating that manufactured homes on land here in Colorado are often considered a nearly 'zero value' improvement and are just sitting vacant for years as no one can finance them.  What an unfortunate, and foolish, waste.

Nov 30, 2010 05:59 AM #6
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

to some extent isn't this being done already on large housing developments.  I know roofing trusses are made than delivered.  I think more and more components are.  The housing developments tend to use factory efficiencies too.

Nov 30, 2010 06:57 AM #7
Steve Hoffacker
Steve Hoffacker LLC - West Palm Beach, FL
Certified Aging In Place Specialist-Instructor


Remember the Craftsman homes that were sold by Sears? The first modular style home where everything was prepared offsite and bundled and shipped to the homesite for construction? This created a classic style of construction very popular to this day. :)


Dec 01, 2010 02:21 AM #8
Lane Bailey
Century 21 Results Realty - Suwanee, GA
Realtor & Car Guy

Thanks for the comments.  I think that there needs to be an efficiency revolution in housing.  It will lower construction costs and help revitalize the industry. 

Jan 05, 2011 12:53 PM #9
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