120205house2.jpgThe modules that make up the base of David & Gretchen St. Lawrence’s “stick-built modular home” went on the foundation Thursday as workmen from the Rocky Mount firm that built the home took advantage of a rare, rainless day.

Although we see many modular (or manufactured) homes around, I’ve never seen one actually under construction and it was fascinating to watch how quickly things came together. We considered a modular home before buying our present home (which was stick built in 1977) and we both were surprised at the quality of construction of some and the outright cheapness of others. David, an accomplished woodworker as well as a writer and blogger, researched homes thoroughly with Gretchen before they made the decision to buy their home from Southern Heritage Homes in Rocky Mount. We looked at Southern Heritage, along with Mod-U-Kraft, in Rocky Mount, and liked both, along with some offerings from Oakwood Homes but, in the end, fell in love with the existing home we eventually bought.

Modular homes, however, have come a long way from the day when they were little more than fancy double-wide trailers.

“Modular homes are like the hybrid car of the house-building industry,” says Bob Vila of This Old House fame. “They save money, they make sense, but they haven’t caught on yet. General misconceptions keep many from considering going modular, and the confusion between modular homes and manufactured (mobile) homes has led to regulations and restrictions being placed by towns that have new home builders scared into going the traditional route. But the word is getting out. It turns out modular homes are in many ways superior to stick-built homes, and, once assembled, cannot be distinguished from their traditionally built counterpart.”

In Floyd County, manufactured and modular homes account for more than half of new home construction. Realtors tell me that a manufactured or modular home does not appreciate in value as much as a stick built model but some think that will change. Of course, with the national real estate market flattening, any discussion of appreciation at this point is moot.

As Vila point out, it is difficult to tell how a well-built home was constructed once it is finished and the plans for David and Gretchen’s home show it will be beautiful when complete. Even better, it will be pretty much ready for them to move into in a couple of weeks.

Try doing that with a traditional stick-built home.