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When a modular home isn’t the best option

Modular homes have taken off in New Zealand with new, quality homes popping up all over the country. But how can you be sure the modular approach is right for your dream home? 

In this article, we dive into the topic of modular homes and address some of the most common problems that homeowners and buyers may encounter. Whether you’re a first home buyer or looking for your next step, read on to determine if the modular method will work for you. 

What is modular construction?

A modular home is a type of prefab home and transportable home that is constructed off-site in a factory setting, in two or more pieces. These parts are then delivered to the building site and assembled on a foundation. The process of building modular homes is more efficient and cost-effective than traditional site-built homes because it is done in a controlled environment, with less time and labour required. 

Some of the other benefits of building a modular home are:

  • A wide range of styles and sizes.

  • High-quality building materials.

  • Faster build times.

  • Cost-effective and no hidden fees

  • Compliance and consent are included.

Transportable homes NZ

Transportable homes are regulated by the same building code and standards as site-built homes. That means your home is built to last with the same reliable products and is energy-efficient. 

When a modular home is not the right solution

While there are plenty of enticing advantages to the modular approach, it won’t suit every project. Take a look at the following situations that aren’t suited to modular or prefabricated homes. 

First-home buyers 

Due to the challenge of obtaining financing, first-home buyers may struggle to afford a modular home. Without a mortgage, first-time buyers will likely need to fund the build themselves, not to mention the land and site services. 

Fortunately, financing options for transportable homes are increasing. At Genius Homes, for example, our partnership with BNZ means more buyers can access funding that suits the prefab method. 

Difficult access or steep sites

Building a modular home requires a suitable site, which involves having a site consultation to assess if there will be any issues with access. For example, the delivery truck may struggle to access the site if it is extremely steep, or where there are low-hanging wires, encroaching trees or other obstacles.

Due to uneven terrain, problematic accessibility, and increased site work, a prefab will also not suit a stilt foundation. 

However, this is a case-by-case problem so we recommend booking a consultation before ruling it out. The Genius Homes team have delivered to sites all over the South Island — you’d be surprised what can be achieved. 

Large multi-story homes

With modular homes, the limitations of transportation will come into effect, especially when it comes to the size of your home. If you want a large-scale home with more than one story, a modular house won’t be the right choice. 

Any transportable home, including a modular house, must meet the New Zealand Transport Agency load regulations. When considering transport costs, try to keep the house sizes within the Category 3 and Category 4 sizes to minimise the costs - anything bigger will require a special permit from OPIA.

These include: 

  • Category 3 loads: Between 4.5m and 13.3m up to 5m and 20m. 

  • Category 4 load: More than 4.5m and 13.3m up to 5m and 20m. 

If your dream home exceeds those dimensions, a traditional onsite build will be a more suitable solution.

Brick homes

If you’re set on having a brick home, prefab construction won’t be the right solution. In addition to the size restrictions for transportable homes mentioned above, weight also poses a problem. 

Not only will the extra weight exceed legal limits, but it will also increase delivery costs by up to $7,000. To keep costs down and simplify compliance, prefab and modular homes are typically clad with lightweight materials like Weathertex boards. These can be painted or finished with a woodgrain aesthetic to suit your style. 

Extreme customisations

Most prefab and modular home companies offer a range of floor plans to choose from, with the option to customise certain features. However, the size and shape of modular homes do limit how far these customisations can go. 

For example, you can make changes to your cladding, windows, roof, and interior fitout but redesigning your layout and adding extreme additions will be more of a challenge. If you are wanting to add a bedroom or extend the home slightly, speak with the Genius Homes team for advice. 

Cheap homes

Modular homes are often more expensive than non-modular homes owing to the additional engineering work, transport, and logistics. This means they’re often not suited to people looking for the cheapest home on the market.

Modular homes are typically suited to people wanting space, additional segments to their house and a more designer layout.

Modular homes in NZ

If you are considering a modular home, it's essential to do your research and work with a reputable builder. It's also crucial to understand local New Zealand zoning and building codes, as they may have specific requirements for modular homes.

At Genius Homes, our design and building process is streamlined and stress-free. See the key stages outlined below: 

1. Initial consultation 

Our experienced staff discuss your needs to design a house that’s tailored to your tastes, site, and budget.

2. Proposal and design sign-off

We’ll provide a proposal with CAD renders and the total costs, including transportation and service connections.

3. Colour selection and council consent

We’ll send the paperwork away for council consent while you select the colours, fittings and materials for your dream home. 

4. Construction

Our qualified team will begin construction in our fully enclosed warehouse. This step includes flooring, framing, windows and doors, plasterboard, insulation, cladding and roofing.

5. Internal fit-out

Next, we line the walls and floors, paint, fit the kitchen and bathroom, and install the electrics and plumbing.

6. Site works and delivery

Your brand-new home is delivered to your South Island section and connected to the site services. We’ll complete final touch-ups, add decking, and complete a quality inspection. 

If you want to learn more about modular homes, visit our full explainer of the construction process and our frequently asked questions. You’ll find everything you need to know to decide if a modular home is a practical solution for you, as well as our full catalogue of house plans

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