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Prefab Houses

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Housing, Neighborhoods, & Moving > Prefab Houses


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Buying a Modular or Manufactured Home

Aug 2013

Has anyone ever purchased a modular or manufactured home and had it installed on a lot? This seems like it may be the only way a somewhat low income (or high debt) person can become a home owner. What company did you use? Any advice? Is this a really bad idea? I am mostly retired, will be living mostly alone so I don't need a large place. I've been browsing modular log homes, which appeal to me strongly since I'll be living in the Sierra. I'm just not sure how (or whether) to proceed. Need a home


On the modular home question, yes, I think it might be a good way to go. I have not done this myself but in the course of my work I deal a lot with buildings and energy efficiency. Historically, modular and factory-built homes have been associated with the low end of the industry. There is no reason that this has to be true. There is a high-end modular home company, Blu Homes (www.bluhomes.com) with a factory in Vallejo--their product is nothing short of stunning (they are offering factory and home tours this month). However, they are fairly expensive. Another company, Zeta (www.zetabuilt.com), aims at the more ''affordable'' or market rate. Another, All American (www.allamericanhomes.com) does the same. I have been to the Zeta factory (a privatization project at the former McClellan air base near Sacramento)--they are very ''quality oriented.'' All of the things that need to be done to make a building shell ''tight'' and well-constructed are, on balance, more easily controlled in a factory environment. Anyway, check out these companies. Peter T

Advice on building a pre-fab home

Dec 2012

Has anyone had experience buying a piece of land and building a pre-fabricated home in the East Bay? My husband is convinced that this is the most cost-effective way to go, but I would love to hear from someone who has been through it. We have found parcels of land for around $100,000 in parts of town we couldnt touch in terms of buying something pre-existing, and the cost of the funky, super-green prefab we like is about $300,000. I'm sure there must be all sorts of permitting costs and restrictions, or else everyone would be doing it, right?

We are relatively recent east coast transplants, so we want to get out of our rental house and start feeling like we really LIVE here. I would just rather not get totally hosed in the process. if we build it, are we dumb?


I've not built one for myself, but as an architect I've been involved with these types of projects previously, and do know a bit about the whole process in general. A lot of the 'hidden' cost depends on the location (city), lot conditions (flat or hilly), soil conditions, the type of prefab system, and most of all, the actual terms of the contract proposal. Some prefabs are inclusive of everything (land preparartion, uitility connections, foundations, assembly, etc), while others only offer on-site delivery and perhaps placement/assembly. For a conventional pre-built in two or three sections, assembly is usually included, but not alway the other stuff, while other systems require more extensive assembly on site, for example a SIPS system. A SIPS house is generally more expensive than a more conventionally constructed home, but are very energy efficient as well. The later generally includes assembly, but may still require foundations, utilities, etc to be installed by others. Since you don't have a site yet, your contract may not include some of these things. Regulatory fees can be substantial, and are generally not part of the contract. These may include: fees to join the school district (required of all new homes), planning review fees, permit fees, utility connection fees, geotechical survey, topograraphic survey and park fees. School district, for example may range from 10-12K to well over 20k. Utilities connection fees, not the actual work to connect them, are usually in the range or 6-10K, but may be higher. A geotech report and topographic survey may cost $6-10K+. Permit and review fees, are about 4-6% of estimated construction cost, and park fees can be anywhere from $1-$2 per square foot to as high as $8-$10 per SF. Other fees could be required as well. Location, location, location is a primary determinate of these fees. Total regulatory fees can total $40-$80k+. If you need to provide foundations at your own cost, the total 'hidden' cost could well exceed $100k. And if you want something like solar panels, or landscaping and irrigatiion, a driveway...you get the idea. There are a lot of other costs to consider beside simply fabrication, delivery and placement. Hope this helps, and I'd advise researching these possible cost and regulatory requirements prior to making any offer on a vacant parcel or signing a contract. rcbs3

Backyard Cottage/Tiny House - have you built one?

May 2012

Hi, We're considering building a 'Backyard Cottage' or 'Tiny House' in our backyard in the Berkeley flats. We're unsure how to proceed, and want to ask some locals about the pros and cons. We're thinking 400 sf or so, to use as a rental and/or when visitors come.

I understand that Berkeley is replete with such structures, and there's the one well-known one that got a lot of press last year (the UC Berkeley professor). But, have others built them recently? If you have, who did you get to do the construction, and did you buy a plan or have one firm do the design/build? What was the total cost, and what do you rent the cottage for? Would you recommend doing it? Pluses and minuses?

Thanks for any information, advice, recommendations, cautions... Hope to add small unit


Dear Hope-to-add-small-unit, I designed an In-Law Unit recently for a client in the flats of Berkeley. It is 450 square feet and cost about $130k, not including pre-construction costs. Eric Manou built it. In-Law Units are easier to permit than rentable units, which require a use permit with a public hearing, separate utilities, etc. I hope you enjoy the process.
I recently designed a small cottage in Alamo. It was 776 square feet and construction estimates came in at around $220K. You'll want to look at the zoning requirements for your lot and confirm setback distances and height limitations. You'll also want to look at parking requirements to determine if an additional parking space will be necessary. Lastly, talk to the city about permit fees for your project. The fees required for a project like this are often greater than clients expect.
I have to say that, in order to expand space potential for our tiny Albany house, we ordered up a backyard cottage from the Shed Shop in Fremont: http://www.shedshop.com/ This was probably nine years ago, but the cost came in at under $80,000, including the concrete slab foundation we put in, and the shed is still going strong. This was a one-room thing, however, with electricity and phone line. Not a mother-in-law unit. But worth looking at for extra space. spatially challenged
We went down the architect path for a small backyard cottage and it was a nightmare that cost us $7,000 in fees with nothing at the end as our $60,000 budget became an unfinished unit estimated at $110,000. Then we found Summerwood - and spent $12,000 for a 'pool cabana' that fit perfectly in the corner of our yard. It's 220 sq feet, and when you add Sheetrock, electricity, roof, lighting it was just about $20,000. We then re-did our yard and it all looked/s amazing - and was way, way better than the 400 sq foot planned structure. We could have easily added a sink, but for a toilet would have need to trench across the yard - do-able but we decided a second bathroom in the house made more sense. Happy to tell you details of our summerwood experience - amazing! No waste (all the wood is precut) - we love the windows and doors. Our house has been on a number of garden tours and people always ask about the structure. Love our cottage

Prefab backyard bungalow/cabin/in-law?

Jan 2011

Hello, We are considering the most inexpensive way to add a small 'bungalow' / cabin / in-law apartment to our Berkeley backyard. Has anyone used one of the pre- fab 'kits' for building such? Which company did you use, and how was it? How is it holding up? Other ideas for rather inexpensively adding a live-in 'apartment' to our backyard? Any recommendations/ suggestions welcome. Thank you! Need a little room


We had an estimate from an excellent contractor who specializes in prefab in law cottages. I have seen several that this contractor made and they were beautiful little homes. His price included all cabinetry and kitchen appliances. His name is Steve Vallejos and here's his email: Steve Vallejos stevevallejos@hotmail.com www.valleyhomedevelopment.com/ I can tell you more specifically if you want to call me: 529-6328. Micky
Not sure if this would meet your needs, but definitely worth checking out -- Tuff Shed. We built one several years ago to use as a workshop. Although ours is not plumbed or heated, I think you could add those things to the basic structure. Since it's on a slab, radiant heat would be ideal. We also added skylights (which are an option) and the space gets lots of natural light from them. We don't live in ours, but we know someone who does and it seems to work for him. Once you get all your permits in place, construction is super fast. Happy with Tuff Shed
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