The Normans did something remarkable during the Battle of Tinchebray. They pulled pieces of preformed materials out of their battleship and built a mighty fortress within a night. Roman de Rou, an epic poem by Wace, includes a description of this event. And that is the first mention of prefab homes in world history.

In Wace's poem, the Earl who erected the first prefab home had brought in beams and pegs in his battleship. As per the poem's description, these beams and pegs had certain qualities. They were already 'planned, pierced, carved and trimmed.' And that is what prefab homes are. You put together a collection of factory-made pieces and erect a house in the quickest possible time.

So, prefab homes aren't new. However, with the aid of technology, they have come a long way since the Norman fortress. And at this time of rising housing and construction costs, prefab homes look like the best solution. Keep reading for more.

What Are Prefab Homes?

Prefab homes are houses that are not built piece by piece and on site like traditional construction. Instead, various parts of the home are manufactured in the factory. Afterward, these parts are transported to the housing site and put together to create the home.

So, unlike traditional homes, there isn't much on-site construction. Instead, you will assemble the parts (like a Lego or jigsaw puzzle) and make your home. This translates to speedy and time-efficient on-site construction. This also means you will save a significant amount of money.

As you already knew at the beginning of this article, prefab homes (or something similar) were first mentioned in Roman De Rous’ 6516-6526 verses. This poem was written around 1170. So, that makes prefab homes thousands of years old. Emperor Akbar the Great also used similar moveable structures in 16th century India.

Modern prefab homes first appeared in the United States in the 1900s. Sears Catalog Homes were mailing such kit homes to their customers from 1902 to 1910. Ten percent of American homes became prefabricated around 1958.

When people say 'prefab Homes,' they are not usually referring to only one kind of house. Instead, prefab is a broad term and covers a variety of homes. So, let's look into the types of prefab houses.

Types Of Prefab Houses

Architects, designers, and engineers are always looking for new ways to enhance the features of prefab homes. As a result, more than one kind of prefab house exists, and these varieties are ever increasing. Currently, you can find mainly four types of prefab homes.

Manufactured Homes

Manufactured homes are one of the oldest types of prefab homes in the U.S. In the earlier days, they were known as mobile homes. These houses were manufactured off-site in one complete piece and then transported to the lot. So, let alone on-site construction, even assembling wasn't necessary.

However, these houses were weaker than average homes. So, Housing and Urban Development code (1976) laid down some safety standards for these homes to abide by. Also, the 1980s Housing Act changed their name from 'mobile homes' to "manufactured homes." As a result, manufactured homes built after 1976 are stronger than their predecessors.

Manufactured homes are deemed the least desirable among all the types of prefab homes. That's because they tend to have overall lower quality than the other types. Therefore, unlike traditional homes, manufactured homes lose their value over time instead of increasing.

Modular Homes

Modular homes are one of the best kinds of prefab homes. As you may understand from the name, the house is built by assembling modules. These modules are manufactured off-site in a factory. The manufacturer then transports all the pieces to the site and puts them together to make the home.

These prefab homes are strong and safe. They have a permanent foundation, and the value of the property increases over time. Some studies claim modular homes are more resilient to natural forces than typical site-built houses.

Unlike manufactured prefab homes, the modular variant is customizable. Your modular home can follow a bungalow, ranch, or other floor plans. So, if you want a prefab home, go for a modular one.

Panelized Homes

In the case of panelized homes, the manufacturer builds the panels off-site and then transports them to the lot to assemble them. They would have already built the foundation for the house on the site. So, all that is left is to set the panels on top of them.

The panel system usually has three components. These are the floor, walls (exterior and interior), and roof system. Similar to modular homes, they are also strong and safe.

Kit Homes

Mobile, Modular and Panelized prefab homes are intended to be family homes. In other words, they are big and full-size. In contrast, kit homes are small pieces built off-site that can be put together to make a small home.

In the case of other prefab homes, the pieces are large. So, you will need professional assistance to move and put them together. In contrast, kit homes come in small parts and with instructions. So, the homeowner can assemble the house on their own. Such kit homes are like cabins or other tiny homes. Therefore, they might not be ideal for a family.

What Is The Average Price Of A Prefab Home?

The price of prefab homes will vary according to size, material quality, type of home, installation crew, and other factors. Keeping these in mind, you may pay around 90-120$ for one square foot of prefab home. However, if you can compromise quality, you might even be able to build a 1600 square feet home within 50-70000$.

A modular prefab home is 10-20 percent cheaper than a site-built home. And this affordability is one of the most attractive features of these houses.

One of the main reasons for the lower price is the bulk production of materials. Unlike traditional construction, you are not buying your material at retail price. Instead, the factory is mass producing them.

Also, compared to a typical home, there is very little work on the building's site. As a result, you can significantly cut down on material costs. So, reduced material and labor costs make prefab homes cheaper and more affordable than traditional houses.

Would A Prefab Home Work For Me?

The above discussion might tempt you to buy a prefab home. And why not? It is cheaper and astonishingly quick to construct. Plus, there is no hassle of maintaining a labor force and construction. Moreover, prefab homes are energy efficient, environmentally friendly, and can provide better protection against natural disasters.

But before jumping to a conclusion, you may want to consider a few things. For instance, the price tags on prefab homes exclude the land price. So, you will pay for that separately.

Also, when you choose traditional construction, site surveying, soil testing, getting permits, and other formalities are part of the package. But that's not the case with prefab homes. Which means they will require effort on your part. Plus, most prefab packages don't include laying the foundation.

Another critical factor is the utility hookups. The water, gas, and electricity lines are designed mainly for conventional homes. Plus, when you build your home on-site, the developer's company takes care of these. But in the case of prefab homes, you will have to deal with these yourself.

In short, there are many benefits to choosing a prefab home. But it also means you must invest your time, effort, and money in other things. So, if you are okay with those, then a prefab home will work fine for you.


Building and construction material prices are always on the rise. On top of it, people want things to happen quickly without compromising quality. Thus, prefab homes are the best modern housing solution.

However, you may have to invest the saved time and money elsewhere to complete the home.

August 04, 2022 — Della Wang