New Jersey Modular Homes Construction Guide
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Since Superstorm Sandy, the awareness and popularity of New Jersey modular homes has sky-rocketed. Modular is enjoying a period of relevance and excitement that it never had before. There are many benefits of New Jersey modular homes that make them very attractive alternatives to traditionally built, or stick built, homes.
Traditionally, many homeowners think of New Jersey modular homes as trailers or ‘cookie-cutter’ structures that do not resemble traditionally-built houses. This may have been the case twenty or even ten years ago, but today, even seasoned professionals have difficulty discerning a modular home from a stick built home, from the outside.
New Jersey Modular Homes: Advantages
The five primary advantages of New Jersey modular homes are speed of construction, quality control, cost control, design flexibility, and energy efficiency. Look on any good modular home website in NJ and you will likely find an article outlining these benefits. In this article, we will outline the primary benefits of modular homes, while highlighting some of the lesser-known benefits and also some pitfalls of which to be aware.
Before we outline the benefits of New Jersey modular homes, there are some key facts about New Jersey modular homes that homeowners should familiarize themselves with before going too far down the road with a modular home company.
New Jersey Modular Homes: The Facts
Where can modular homes be built?
Most municipalities these days treat New Jersey modular homes and stick built homes the same. There typically are not restrictions on zoning and permitting for modular homes that would serve as barriers to building. However, in rare occurrences, a modular home may not be able to be built on a lot where there is restricted access to trucks, cranes, and other equipment due to such factors as hills, small roads, limited access areas, and wires that can’t be removed. Your modular home company should be willing to come to your home to offer a site inspection to determine whether you will be able to transport and set your modular home without difficulty. You can also call your municipality to have them take a look at it.
What do New Jersey modular homes cost?
As with traditionally-built homes, cost is a function of many variables – location, finishes, level of customization, and more. As of Spring 2014, the average cost of a modular home in the Jersey Shore area is $135-155 / square foot. This is a rough average and can vary significantly. The key here is realize that when you purchase a modular home, it is about 80% complete in a physical sense and about 60% complete in cost. When you purchase a modular home and have it set on your foundation or on stilts, you need to do the finishing work, which we will outline below.
On top of this cost will be costs such as demolition, engineering, site surveys, piles, and foundation work, where necessary. So if you have sticker shock at how low a modular home seems to cost, remember that you need to look at the big picture, not just the cost from the modular company.
Does a modular home require special financing?
No. However, some banks and lending institutions who have not done their homework may make special request for information or hold the process up a bit because they do not fully understand modular. Each lender is different. It’s probably prudent to work with a lending institution who is familiar and experienced with lending for modular construction. This will make the process much easier.
Now that we have outlined three questions that you may have prior to further exploring the options of New Jersey modular homes, let’s outline the primary benefits that modular homes offer, in comparison to traditional stick-built homes.
New Jersey Modular Homes: Benefits
Speed of Construction
Because New Jersey modular homes are built in controlled environments (factories), and due to efficiencies of factories themselves, a modular home can be built in about half the time of a traditional home. Some New Jersey modular homes companies are advertising that your modular home can be set on your foundation six weeks after you sign the contract to build. This is extremely fast, but don’t count on it. More likely than not, your home will be on foundation 8-12 weeks after initiation. The time it takes to finish a modular home once it is set on the foundation can vary depending on the contractors and the back-and-forth nature between contractors and homeowners. If things go well, your modular home can be finished within 6 months of initiation. Compare this to the 6-12 month process of traditionally built homes, all of which is weather-dependent, and you can see that speed of construction is a very attractive first advantage. This all sounds great, but also be aware that there are several other moving parts to modular home construction, all of which are common with traditional construction. These moving parts include: financing, planning, zoning, site surveys, engineering, house raising, house demolition, foundation-laying, pile-driving, and other general contractor services.
Another key advantage of New Jersey modular homes construction is quality control. New Jersey modular homes are built in giant factories, which means that weather and climate are not an issue, the factories have built-in quality control, and there are routine inspection processes, often by third-party inspectors. As we all know, New Jersey weather can be fickle most of the year. Rain, snow, wind, and even extreme heat are occurrences that can cause delays in traditional home-building. When your home is built in a factory, none of these weather factors affects the timing of your construction. In addition to eliminating weather delays, most reputable modular home companies in New Jersey work with building plans that are pre-approved by the State of New Jersey and that meet or exceed New Jersey building codes. Consistency with local codes ensures that your home is built with quality craftsmanship and there will not be extreme delays that often occur when waiting for permits and the like, with traditional homes.
The benefit of cost control is largely a factor of the controlled environment in which New Jersey modular homes are built. Since there are no weather or permitting delays, the modular home project stays on time and on budget. Since, in most cases, when building a modular home, you are not reinventing the wheel, you have the entire set of home plans, add-ons, and customizations in front of you before you begin, so there are fewer surprises, change-orders, and other difficulties when building modular.
Flexible Design and Construction
All modular home companies in New Jersey have templates or home plans with which you start. However, in the past decade, the addition of computer aided design (CAD) means that you can customize nearly any aspect of your home before you build it. This is the reason why you can no longer look at a home from the street and determine whether it is modular or stick-built, as you could easily do ten years ago. Of course, customization increases the price of any product, so make sure that all custom aspects of your modular home, along with corresponding prices, are outlined in your contract prior to signing. Also worth mentioning is the fact that traditional stick-building affords the ultimate luxury of customization. However, these customizations may not all be laid out from the beginning and they all add to the construction time due to increased chance of weather delays and other variables.
Durability and Energy Efficiency
This advantage is highly dependent on the New Jersey modular homes builder that you decide to hire for your new home. The general rule of thumb is that New Jersey modular homes are built with 20% more lumber than an equivalent stick-built home. This means they are stronger and better able to withstand storms and other natural disasters. It also means they can potentially last much longer. Further, several modular companies are building modular homes to be compliant with the 120-mph wind zones in New Jersey, including additional roof and foundation strapping, better roofing shingles, and other assurances. Increased Energy Efficiency is another advantage that most modular home builders tout. Many builders will site superior engineering, new construction technologies, more insulation, and better materials add to the energy efficiency of a new modular home. To be fair, however, these are also things that traditional stick builders can and do use when building homes today. So, yes today’s modular homes are more efficient than yesterday’s modular homes, but not necessarily more efficient than any other home built today.
As you can see, there are more than a few advantages to building a modular home versus building a traditional stick-built home. However, there are advantages to a stick-built home, such as 100% customization, that modular home builders may not always tout. So, as with anything you purchase, be sure to do your research on the benefits and drawbacks of both stick-built homes and New Jersey modular homes.
New Jersey Modular Homes: Additional Factors
Once you have decided on a modular home, there are several other decisions you will need to make. Some of these decisions and variables are dependent on the municipality in which you live, so the best bet is to always call your town for some guidance. Immediately following Sandy, towns were not equipped with the proper information to help many homeowners. However, now that several months have passed, towns are beginning to figure out how to aid homeowners and are usually very helpful with answering questions and guiding you through the process as much as they can.
Here are some additional factors you will need to consider when building a home, whether modular or traditional.
Site Survey, Engineering, Foundation
Any time you build a home, you will need to have these things in order. Whether you are building a new foundation or set of piles or whether you already have one, you will still need a site survey and inspection to ensure that your foundation is strong enough to accept your new home. With a traditional-built home, your builder or general contractor will likely guide you through this and even hire the appropriate subcontractor and professional firms. With a modular home, you are a little more on your own and will need to navigate this process yourself. You can ask your modular home company for recommendations (they usually have people they work with), you can hire a general contractor, or you can manage the process yourself. As a rule of thumb, depending on your location and the size of your home, a good estimate for site survey, engineering, permitting, and pile driving is $30,000. Of course this can vary greatly, but it’s a good place from which to start conceptualizing your costs.
Finishing Your Modular Home
Most New Jersey modular homes companies have formed information partnerships with local general contractors to finish their modular homes, and they might even offer these services as part of a package. You are not obligated to hire their recommended contractors at all. There may be advantages to following their recommendations because the contractors with which they work are familiar with the modular home design and construction and are usually more efficient at finishing modular homes. However, you can choose to hire your own general contractor or you can manage the project yourself and hire all of the subcontractors. If you go the latter route, you must be ready to devote a lot of time and energy to the finishing process to manage the different contractors and also to arrange for inspections and permitting, two tasks that a general contractor will usually handle for you.
Now you should have a solid understanding of the benefits and possible downsides of New Jersey modular homes. As with any purchase you make, explore all of your options, talk with different people, different contractors, and of course with your town. If you know anyone who has built a modular home, ask them about their experience. Investigate everything, especially if something seems too good to be true. As long as you do your homework and spend the time to educate yourself about the options for your new home, you will make the correct decision.
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