Downsizing to a Prefab Home

How does a baby boomer downsize to a nice living space and save money? One of the latest retirement housing trends is a prefab or modular home. I’m not referring here to the tradition “mobile home” or trailer park environment. (Nor am I being critical of that type of manufactured housing.)

Rather, a prefab home in this context is something that has most of the characteristics of a home built on site, but instead is prefabricated off-site.

What is a Prefab Home?

I have seen many references in recent years to a trend in prefab houses for retirement living. So, I decided to investigate a little deeper.

According to one definition I have read at, the phrase “prefab home” is open to some interpretation but generally falls within the following definition:

prefab home = “kit home” = “panelized home” = “pre-cut home” = on-site assembly from prefab components.
The components are either generally available when the structure is designed or they are created specifically for the project (i.e. designed for reproduction)

The design of a modern prefab home now typically includes the assistance or guidance of an architect or other designer who works for the prefab housing manufacturer. Thus, for the most part, prefabs no longer have a “cookie cutter” look and can be heavily customized according the needs and desires of the buyer/owner.

Once the design of the prefab home is finalized, the components or modules of the structure are fabricated off site, usually in an indoor facility. The resulting product is delivered by tractor-trailer to the buyer with a completely finished interior, including fully equipped kitchens, bathrooms. lighting and HVAC systems. The modules or other prefabricated components are then attached to a foundation and to each other, on the buyer’s land.

Advantages of Prefab Homes

Because a prefab house is built in a factory, the timing and quality of construction can be more carefully controlled. This can reduce financial risk.

Although not always the case, modular home construction can save money overall, with construction costs as low as $41 per square foot compared to $93 per square foot for a conventional home built on site. However, I have seen reports of some highly customized prefabs costing as much as $210 per square foot.

Modernist prefab homes can also have unique architecture that appeals to many folks who want to move down in size without sacrificing style.

Another advantage of a prefab home is that it can be delivered and assembled on sites where conventional construction might be difficult and cost-prohibitive. Either way, the owner is responsible for arranging for all site preparation, including surveys, soil testing, utilities, permits and construction of the foundation.

Prefab Home Resources

There are a lot of manufacturers of prefabricated houses although the current economy may change the landscape. Some of the better known include WeeHouse and LV Designs.

Dwell magazine has a comprehensive introduction to prefab home design and products.

There many other links to prefab and modular home resources at FabPreFab and

Can’t hurt to look for your retirement dream home can it?


  1. says

    Hi, Interesting article. My kids did a lot of research into these and they have definitely gotten better over the years. It’s a nice alternative to the high prices of a regular house with more privacy than a condo. :)

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