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Common Ground
Farm Credit Services of America Blog

Ready-built Homes Provide a Quality Alternative to Traditional Home Construction

by FCSAmerica Staff Reports | Jan 10, 2018

As Michael Larson followed the construction of new homes in Gettysburg, he couldn’t help but note the months – many marked by inclement South Dakota conditions – that passed while families waited to move in.

While many of the finished homes were beautiful and well-built additions to the community, Larson wanted a different and faster construction process for his family.

House transported by truckMichael and his wife, Sarah, chose what their builder calls ready-built – a stick-built home that is constructed and finished off-site and delivered as a single unit. It is one of many off-site building options comprising the fastest growing segment of home construction in the United States.

In some areas of FCSAmerica’s four-state territory, as many as half of our mortgage customers choose off-site construction for their home in the country or rural community. Driving this trend are people like the Larsons who see pre-built homes, whether delivered whole or in modules, as a good investment that saves time and, in some cases, money.

Avoiding the Elements

“One of the drawing points for us was that our house could be built in 10 to 12 weeks in Watertown,” Larson said of the couple’s builder, Steinmetz RediBuilt Homes in northeast South Dakota. “I knew from other projects in the area that it can take up to one year for a house to be built on site.”

The Larsons were so certain of their construction choice they didn’t seek an estimate for a comparable home built on-site. But Larson said his family did save on financing because they had no interest payments during the short period between selecting and moving into their new house.

The Larsons found their dream home while walking through a model. The couple preferred a different kitchen counter, otherwise, the layout and finishes were everything they wanted, down to the wall colors.

With their house already complete, they hired a basement contractor recommended by Steinmetz. Digging began in April 2017 and the house was set in place the first week in May. Contractors arrived to make the necessary connections to the electrical and plumbing systems pre-installed in the house, and the Larsons moved in two weeks later.

“There were no surprises,” Larson said. “We knew exactly what the house was going to look like. It arrived in one piece and only had a couple little cracks in the drywall, which they repaired.”

Looks Like Custom-Built

Builders generally offer several layout choices in their modular and ready-built home lines and then allow buyers to customize with finishes. The result can be a home that looks and feels like custom-built construction – but with the advantage of fixed costs, said Justin Leisy, a consumer lending officer in FCSAmerica’s North Platte, Nebraska, office.

Modular and other off-site homebuilders have “mastered the cost piece and the material quality,” Leisy said. “You can’t even tell these homes were delivered in modules. They have all the custom pieces you would expect of quality stick-built construction.”

In areas where the nearest building contractor is 60 or more miles away, pre-built might be the only affordable option for achieving the home of your dreams, Leisy said. Buyers of pre-built homes also appreciate that once they have selected the layout and finishes, the off-site builders take over the process. Some homeowners like the involvement and oversight that comes with a traditional construction site, Leisy said. But for people who don’t have the time, and that includes many producers, it’s nice not having to check on progress and make decisions throughout the construction process, Leisy said.

“Producers generally aren’t going to move off the ranch or farm, so for many of them, building a home is something they will do once in their lifetime. They want to get it right,” Leisy said. “As a lender, we work to help them identify the construction process that meets their needs and gives them the home they want.”

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