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.
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.
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.
Per square foot, prefab homes can actually be almost half the cost of traditional homes -- a significant draw for many home buyers.
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.
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.
Fact: Since prefab homes are built in factories, construction can continue regardless of inclement weather -- often resulting in quicker and more efficient turnaround.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fact: Although sales saw a very brief resurgence, as of early 2012 the demand for prefab homes in the U.S. continued to fall.
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.