Blogging the WSJ: Questioning the Promise of Prefab

Blogging the WSJ: Questioning the Promise of Prefab

Jonathan B.
Mar 14, 2008

Sara Lin uncovers some eye-opening numbers about prefab: Rocio Romero's sold 154 kits for her LV home. That's a roaring success compared to Dwell and Empyrean, which has sold only 20.

Combined, that's an infinitesimal fraction of the 1,353,700 new homes started in 2007.
How much it costs to build a prefab house is a bit depressing in most cases, too...

For the NextHouse, the $255,000 kit produced a home that cost $800,000 finished (these calculations appear to leave out the cost of the land.) That's a factor of 3. One LV home kit sold for $42,000 (plus shipping); the final house cost $375,000. That's a factor of 9. Why the wide range? And is there a rule of thumb for how much a prefab house might actually cost?

For now, there's not a good answer to that question. The NextHouse kit, for example, includes doors and windows; Romero's LV kit requires that you add your own windows, and there's a huge range in price between locally-produced Milgard windows and imported European swing-tilt models.


And then there's the question of customization. Part of the idea of the prefab house is that the design is done for you. But of the four houses built in the article, three were customized by their owners -- which adds costs and reduces the efficiency of production.


Read "The House in a Box" by Sara Lin at The Wall Street Journal

image by Kenny Trice via WSJ link above

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