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Modular Homes are Becoming More Popular in MA

A couple months ago we shared with you a story about a modular home that was built in Wellesley. Today, we would like to share with you a story of a family who built a modular home in Natick.

With three children, this family needed a larger home. But they did not want to leave the neighborhood where their 3 young kids have grown up. They also didn’t want to spend a year living in an apartment while a new home was built on their property.

So the family opted for a modular home, which they estimated would limit their stay in a three-bedroom apartment.

"It’s definitely the wave of the future," said the dad, as he watched a crane lift sections of the roof and set them into place.

And this family is not alone. Builders said modular home production dropped along with the housing market several years ago, but has shown signs of growth in recent years as people look for cost-effective ways to build a new home.

In Massachusetts, the state approved plans for almost 400 one- and two-family homes last year. As of last week, it had approved 297 in 2012, on pace for a 3 to 5% growth from 2011, said Rob Anderson, of Public Safety’s building division.

"I think there’s a lot of reasons they’re growing in popularity," Anderson said. "Manufacturers will essentially design (a home) to suit your needs. It used to be years back kind of one size fits all."

Anderson said his department receives fewer complaints about modular homes than conventional stick-built houses.

"They’re built in a controlled environment," he said. "You’re not dealing with subzero temperatures. In theory, you should get a good product and in most instances you do."

Speed of construction and price are other deciding factors.

Manufacturers of modular homes can reduce costs because the structures are mostly built in an assembly line process and the manufacturer can buy products in bulk.

The Natick family said they hope to save $30 to $50 per square foot on the project, which is about 75% complete now that its six modules have been installed.

A modular home typically offers 12% savings over a conventional home.

Each section of a modular home is built to withstand sometimes hundreds of miles of travel, so the finished product is strong.

"It’s amazing because once someone puts it together, you wouldn’t know if it was stick-built or modular," Bellingham Building Inspector Stuart LeClaire said.

Local inspectors look at work performed at the site, but much of the electrical, plumbing and other systems are reviewed at the manufacturer by third-party inspectors approved by the state.

Meanwhile the old home in Natick was demolished in early August. The new home is made primarily of six rectangular boxes and shipped to Natick on 52-foot long trailers.

"It’s amazing," said the dad on Wednesday as he watched crews installed the final pieces of the roof. "Yesterday was a foundation. Today we have a home."

For more information on building a modular home in Massachusetts, contact Avalon Building Systems.

MetroWest Daily News

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