The answers are yes, for many situations, prefab or factory built homes offer real advantages. I will list some below, but first let’s mention a short list of situations where prefab is not a good idea.
  • Where tastes and budget demand a truly custom one of a kind design.
  • Where the site topography demands an unusually shaped foundation footprint.
  • Where the shape of the lot and the view orientations demand an unusual shape for the structure.

Now let’s look into a longer list of the potential advantages of a prefab process. But first, let’s start by saying that the nature of what we have known as “prefab” has come a long ways from the image of a double wide mobile home on wheels. There are now companies that are doing excellent quality semi-custom homes with desirable contemporary designs.
Potential advantages of the modern prefab process:

  • Time: There are two main areas where the schedule is abbreviated.
  • Design: Because you would typically start with one of their template models instead of a blank slate, you should arrive at your final design sooner.
  • Site work: While the earthwork, foundations and utilities are being done at the site, the home, including the time consuming components such as kitchens and baths, are being built at the factory.
  • Quality: There are three advantages to this:
    • Details for finish materials have been executed before and therefore will go together seamlessly.
    • Most materials including structural members such as 2×4’s for walls are cut from a computer controlled cutting list, therefore should be to tight tolerances.
    • Areas that are difficult to waterproof should have been tested, refined and proven in previous homes, so leaks, stains, roof drainage problems should not exist.
  • Cost: (The point of main interest for most of us).
    It is my observation that final cost for the completed building including foundation and finishes will be in the vicinity of 25% to 35% less than a one of a kind site-built custom home.
    Additionally and quite reassuring is that early on in the design process you get a reliable estimate of the final cost of the home, what Stillwater Dwellings calls a “confirmed investment”.

As a life-long builder of some 200 unique luxury homes I find myself conflicted in stating this apparent advantage of factory built homes. However, in my current role as an Owner’s Representative and Construction Project Manager, it is my duty to fairly represent the option of quality prefab homes available today.
Building individual high-end homes on site is somewhat like building a one-of-a-kind luxury car in your back yard. Many suppliers and workmen arrive each day carrying their individual materials and tools and figure out the unique configurations to put it all together.

Below are the links to two prefab manufacturers that I am familiar with have impressed me for many years.
Stillwater Dwellings offers more “customizable” design options.
Bluhomes: is more production oriented encouraging staying closer to the models they offer.
A Canadian company now making a big splash in the BAy area is Bonestructures. Their process is an all steel structure with the structural loads being carried out to the exterior walls.