Fact or Fiction: Are Prefab Homes Killing the Construction Industry?
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About This Quiz
With surprisingly friendly price tags and modern designs, prefab homes offer a cheap and often green alternative to traditional housing. But are prefab homes so smart, and so hip, that they're killing the conventional construction industry? Take our quiz to weed out the fiction from the fact.
The first prefab homes originated in the 1900s.
Fiction: Prefab homes didn’t start to take off until the early 1900s, but the first prefab homes were actually made in England in the 1600s. Clearly, without modern machinery, these took a bit more effort to put together.
When prefab homes gained popularity in the early 1900s, it was in the form of house kits.
Fact: House kits were just what they sound like -- kits that had all the parts a customer would need to put together his or her home. They were the available form of prefab housing in the early 1900s.
Prefab homes get a lot of hype for being cheaper than traditional construction, but there's actually not that big of a difference in cost.
Per square foot, prefab homes can actually be almost half the cost of traditional homes -- a significant draw for many home buyers.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, prefab homes make up about 30 percent of all detached single-family housing in the United States.
Fiction: Even though prefab housing can be both cheap and practical, it still only makes up a tiny percentage of total housing in the U.S. -- just a fraction of 1 percent.
Even through prefab housing doesn't represent a large share of the U.S. market, it's immensely popular in countries like Sweden and Japan.
Fact: In countries like Sweden and Japan, where living space is at a premium, prefab homes offer a compact, practical and even stylish option that's workable with severely limited real estate. And yes, Ikea has finally expanded its space-saving, do-it-yourself storage techniques to the housing market with its own line of prefab homes.
Unlike traditional, architect-designed homes, construction on prefab homes is virtually unrestricted by weather conditions.
Fact: Since prefab homes are built in factories, construction can continue regardless of inclement weather -- often resulting in quicker and more efficient turnaround.
Prefab homes might come with an easy-to-swallow price tag initially, but what you save on the sticker, you're sure to make up in repair bills.
Fiction: Although prefab homes have always had a stigma of being cheaply made, the idea that they'll cost you more in the long run isn't borne out by any significant data. In general, prefab homes don't require repairs any more frequently than custom-built homes do.
If your prefab home does need a repair, it's easy -- just stop by your local hardware store for materials.
Fiction: Although they're not necessarily required more frequently, repairs on a prefab home can be inconvenient. Since they're designed with very specific measurements, items like windows and doors aren't always sold in the right sizes at your local hardware store.
Prefab homes are do-it-yourself projects, so if you choose to go that route, get ready to sweat!
Fiction: Contrary to popular belief, prefab homes actually require significant professional intervention to assemble. You'll also need heavy equipment, like cranes, and permits to use them in a residential area.
Prefab homes come with a low price tag, but home buyers should expect that to be offset in part by hefty shipping fees.
Fact: If you thought it was expensive to have a new couch shipped to your home, imagine if your whole home was being shipped to your home! Depending on the size of the house and your proximity to the factory, shipping could tack anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000 onto your final bill.
Traditional, architect-designed housing may be more expensive than prefab, but you won't encounter any hidden fees.
Fiction: Unfortunately, it seems that home buyers can't escape potentially unexpected fees. If you're building your home from scratch, especially in a major metropolitan area, you'll have to pay all kinds of fees for inspections, permits and much more to make sure your structure is up to code.
Since prefab homes are all prebuilt, any prefab home you buy will adhere to your local zoning regulations.
Fiction: Prefab homes are built to adhere to local building codes, but as requirements differ wildly from city to city, this creates problems when homes are shipped out of the factory's local area.
Prefab homes came to the rescue in the American South after Hurricane Katrina, where they could provide fast and permanent shelters for displaced families.
Fact: The speed with which prefab homes can be manufactured and put together makes them ideal for disaster recovery. One such instance was after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the American South, leaving millions homeless.
Since they're manufactured so quickly, prefab homes generate a great deal of waste and are generally made out of new, non-biodegradable materials.
Fiction: One of the perks of some modern lines of prefab homes is that they are very environmentally conscious. Companies are beginning to produce homes that are made of mostly recycled materials; further, because they're manufactured so efficiently, they incur far smaller quantities of waste than traditionally constructed homes.
Although they've always carried a stigma of low quality, companies are now making prefab homes that appeal to the luxury home buyer.
Fact: Slowly but surely, prefab homes are diving into the luxury market. With greater emphasis on design, plus their green leanings, some lines of prefab homes are doing their best to woo the luxury home buyer.
Despite the economic nosedive that the United States took in the late 2000s, employment levels in the construction industry were at healthy levels as of early 2012.
Fiction: The construction industry was hit hardest by the U.S.'s economic crisis after the turn of the century, and it still hadn't recovered as of early 2012: The unemployment rate for construction-based industries was twice the overall unemployment rate in the United States.
Although most industry insiders don't see prefab construction as a threat, aspects of it are being used to great effect in commercial construction.
Fiction: No one's manufacturing skyscrapers in a factory, but commercial construction often does use prefab techniques in the form of concrete slabs: Installing prepoured slabs instead of pouring on site can cut precious time off a project.
After the recession, when money was too tight for traditional construction, sales of prefab homes shot up.
Fiction: It's true that Americans didn't have the money for traditional construction after the recession hit, but they also didn't have money for prefab. Shipments of prefab homes fell significantly in the years immediately following the crisis.
Even years after the housing crisis first hit the United States, shipments of prefab homes were still dropping as of early 2012.
Fact: Although sales saw a very brief resurgence, as of early 2012 the demand for prefab homes in the U.S. continued to fall.
As it slowly got back on its feet, the traditional construction industry learned important lessons from the prefab sector.
Fact: While prefab isn't a threat to the traditional construction industry, it has its niche -- and it's taught the industry the value of efficient production and green design.
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