Monday, February 20, 2006

Modular Home Invasion

By Peter C. Fyler - Exclusive Buyer's Agent

I read an article in the Real Estate Section of the New York Times back in January 1999 that peaked my interest in Modular Homes. It reported on the new wave of modular homes filtering in to some of the most affluent upscale communities in the Northeast. The article described an 8900sf 23-box modular home construction in Greenwich, Connecticut of all places. Another large modular home was being put together in Armonk, New York. Up to this point my understanding of modular homes was limited to what was called a “double-wide”, those ugly little ranch houses that look like trailer conversions or two trailers tied together up on blocks. I was soon to learn this was no longer true. I went to visit one of the companies named in the article, Westchester Modular Homes in Patterson, New York. I inspected their model homes and spoke with a friendly factory representative. Westchester Modular Homes has their factory in Wingdale, New York, so I went over there and took a tour. The factory is like a huge football stadium and everything is done indoors in a controlled environment. It was amazing. Some of the other manufacturers interviewed for that New York Times article were Excel Homes in Liverpool, Pennsylvania, Homeworks Modular Homes in Ronkonkoma, New York, New Era Building Systems in Strattanville, Pennsylvania and New England Homes in Greenland, New Hampshire. I learned that when considering a modular home, it is the dozens of available upgrades that will drive up the price. The final finish work after the boxes are installed on your site is what defines the visual quality of the final product and we have many excellent finish carpenters on Martha’s Vineyard who are real craftsmen.

Ever since my experience at Westchester Homes in 1999, I have been a great believer in modular home construction. My appreciation is partly due to seeing the level of quality, or lack of quality, produced during the 80’s when anyone who could hold a hammer came to Martha’s Vineyard to cash in on the boom. Unless you are fortunate enough to engage one of the top builders, many of whom are committed to projects 6 to 24 months in advance, you may be at the mercy of poorly managed construction crews that create inferior products with numerous inconsistencies. It has been my observation that quite often workers spend more time running back and forth for nails and coffee than time on the job, or they disappear for no apparent reason not to return for many days. Excavators, framers, masons, electricians and plumbers work in weather that even the seagulls would seek shelter from, but in many cases it is not their fault. Stick-built construction takes a lot more time and most clients want everything yesterday. If you are going to have your home stick-built, you have got to be patient.

Today we see more and more modular homes being constructed on Martha’s Vineyard as the harbor and roads are choked by these monsters being maneuvered to their final resting place.

I do not agree with some of the statements made in the following article published in the February 19, 2006 Real Estate Section of the Boston Globe, because I have been told by manufacturers that prices for stick-built and modular are about the same if you compare them apples-for-apples. I do not agree that the construction price on the Island starts at around $200 per square foot. We have not seen that number in a few years; it is more like $350 per square foot today and ranges up to $550 per square foot at the high end. However, the article is interesting, so I offer it for your edification.

Click here to read article -> Modular Home Invasion on Martha's Vineyard


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