Recently we built a custom modular T-Cape for one of our customers. The plan is the Wiltshire, which is also available as a one-story with a lower pitched roof.
Here is the modular Wiltshire T-Cape elevation:
Here is the modular Wiltshire T-Cape floor plan:
The standard modular Wiltshire T-Cape has 1,900 square feet, three bedrooms, and two baths on the first floor.
Click here to see several photos of our custom modular Wiltshire T-Cape.
As the photos show, the three front facing gables along with the center A-dormer add character and charm to the exterior of the home. The entry porch is practical yet ornamental. The floor plan is set up for easy entertaining. The kitchen, which opens to a large dining room and gorgeous living room, features a gourmet chef’s granite center island along with plentiful cabinets. The distinctive hardwood floors and Italian tile add beauty throughout the home. The master bedroom suite is well-equipped with dual lavatories, an oversized shower, and a generous walk in closet. The other two bedrooms are comfortably sized, while the laundry room provides ample and attractive cabinetry. The unfinished second floor offers abundant additional room for future expansion, such as for another bedroom or two, a home office, playroom, or storage.
There are a variety of ways to compare the advantages of a one-story vs two-story modular home. In part your choice will depend on your personal taste as well as your local real estate market. But you will likely also consider the distinct advantages of each. Here’s a list of the advantages most often mentioned by my customers.
More living space
You don’t need to use square footage for a staircase to the second floor, although you will need one to the basement
You might need fewer bathrooms
More attic space for storage
More basement space for storage
You don’t need to run up and down stairs to cook, clean, keep an eye on your children, do the laundry, or get a snack
Safer for younger children and easier for older/mobility challenged individuals
You can “age in place” more easily and affordably
Easier to evacuate in case of a fire
Less noise transmission, since sound does not travel through the walls of multiple rooms on the same floor as well as it travels between floors
TV or stereo on either floor
Foot traffic on the second floor
Easier – and cheaper – to heat and cool.
More consistent temperature zones, since all rooms flow into each other
Trees can provide more shade
Second story rooms easier to heat, since heat rises
Greater separation of public and private spaces
More privacy for second story bedrooms, which is especially valued by parents and older children
Can build a bigger home on a smaller lot
Easier to deliver modules down narrow streets and onto a small, tight lot, since each module can be half the length to create the same square footage as needed for a one-story
Safer to open second story windows at night
Smaller roof to maintain
More expansive views from second-story
Good exercise using the stairs everyday
Better for the environment, since less land is disturbed during construction
There are many things to learn the first time you build a modular home. But if you’re like most homebuyers, you won’t get the full benefit of what you learn, since you’ll likely only build one home.
But you can benefit from what I’ve learned over twenty-eight years building more than 1,200 homes. To start with you can read my book, The Modular Home, which gathers all this information in one place.
Take Advantage of My Experience by Using My Modular Home Checklists
Of course, it’s hard to use a book efficiently the first time you use the information. That’s why I’ve created several checklists that cover the most important steps. Below is a link to each of the checklists. There’s also a link to this list on the home page of The Home Store’s website. I hope you find these modular home checklists helpful.
I’m a member of the baby boom generation. Like most people in this demographic, I’m not as nimble as I once was. Even so, I get around well “for my age”, although I do have the help of a new left hip. I exercise regularly and don’t need the assistance of a cane, walker, or wheelchair. I’m proud to say that I can still climb stairs as fast as most 30 year olds. But this won’t always be so, and it’s important that I recognize that, especially when my wife and I build our next home.
In my experience as a modular home builder, however, many people underestimate the inevitable effects of aging when they design their home. It’s not because they fail to think about it. Nor because we fail to bring it up when discussing their selections. In fact, our T-Ranch model home displays several Universal Design features that should be considered by anyone who wants their home to be user friendly as they age. But most people have a budget and when forced to make a choice between a feature that will benefit them in the distant future or an amenity they really want now . . . . Well you know how that goes.
The most vivid example for me occurred not long after we built our T-Ranch model home. Two sisters in their 70’s decided to build a custom one-story that contained many of the Universal Design options in our model. However, they didn’t choose to eliminate the stairs to their front or back door. They said they were in good health and able to get around on their own. I pointed out that it was easier to create a level entrance without ramps if we did this while building their home. This is always true, but it’s particularly true on a property that’s very sloped, which was true of their lot. The stumbling block was the extra fill required to build a “bridge” to one of her exterior doors.
There were two reasons they decided against this. One was because the fill would cost a few thousand dollars, which they could only afford by giving up the hardwood floor in the dining room and living room. In addition, they didn’t like how the property would look with the extra fill.
Sadly, one of the sisters had a serious stroke two years after they moved into their home. Although she survived, she could no longer move about without a wheelchair. Since there was no level entrance, the sisters had a ramp built to their back door. It was quite sizeable – and by their own admission unattractive – because the door was five feet above the finished grade. But it was the only practical choice at that point.
When I tell this story, most people are surprised the sisters made the choice they did. But I’ve found that many people make these kinds of choices because of how strongly they want their dream home to include all of their desired amenities.
Ultimately it’s your choice what you build. But give serious thought to building a home that meets your family’s needs now and into the future. Design it so it allows you to age in place without forcing you to make expensive renovations, move, or radically alter your lifestyle when your abilities start to slip. It’s certainly something my wife and I will do.
Last week I pointed out that the marketing literature for most house plans displays a dressed-up exterior elevation. This is significant because the ornate features shown are not usually included in the standard base price for the plans. Many a customer has assumed they were getting everything they saw in the literature drawing, only to find out when the house was built that they were getting a simpler, less adorned version.
I suggested last week that there are two ways to make sure you are getting what you want. The first is to look closely at the specifications listed in the modular builder’s estimate, and the second is to have the builder provide you with a drawing of the exterior elevation showing exactly what you’re getting.
Three Levels of Exterior Elevation
There are three levels of detail that must be included if you are to get an exact drawing of what your finished home will look like: the manufacturer must draw what you are ordering, not a generic drawing; the dealer or general contractor must add the site-built structures; and someone must map both of these onto the slopes and contours of your property. I’ll discuss the first two requirements today and the third in my next post.
Exterior Elevation of the Modules
All modular manufacturers will provide an elevation plan of your home, but not all of them will draw the exact home you are building. They may instead give you a generic plan showing the home without any of the custom touches you’ve added. For example, they may not show the additional windows and sidelights at the front door you selected, and they may leave out the reverse gable you specified for the roof above your front door.
You should not settle for a generic elevation. Ask your modular dealer to provide you with an elevation plan of what you have ordered from the manufacturer before you authorize him to build it. If his manufacturer will not provide the plan and he is unable to create it himself, ask him to have it drawn by someone else. Even if you have to pay extra for an accurate plan, you need to see it. Little things like the spacing of the windows can matter a lot, especially when you have taken a standard plan and lengthen the plan, added windows, or simply moved some windows within a room to accommodate furniture. In addition, if you are dressing up a plan’s no-frills standard look, you will want to see if your vision holds up to your own scrutiny.
Exterior Elevation of Site Built Structures
Asking the dealer to provide plan-specific elevation drawings will not be sufficient when you are having additional structures such as a garage, deck, or porch built on site. Unless your elevation plans include all site-built structures, you will not be able to review what your home will look like.
However, you might not get the needed assistance from your dealer if he is not serving as your GC. Your dealer may feel that since he is not completing the GC work, he does not know what the GC is planning to do. He may point out that the regulations governing modular construction in your state do not allow the manufacturer to include any of these site-built structures in its permit plans. He may correctly insist that state and local officials only allow the manufacturer to draw what it is building. While this is true, some dealers and manufacturers will help you by creating a separate set of plans that show the GC’s work. Before completing the drawings, they will ask you and your GC to provide the details, insist that you take responsibility for their accuracy, and charge you an additional fee for the assistance. You should make this investment.
Exterior Elevation of Modules and Site Built Structures
An alternative to having the dealer complete the elevation plans is to ask your GC to complete his own set of plans. The advantage to this approach is that he will know exactly what he is building. The disadvantage is that you will now have two sets of incomplete plans, one of your modular home and one of your GC-built structures. The only way they will appear on the same page is if the GC recreates the modular plans or another person integrates the details into a third set of plans, an impractical and wasteful step. This is why it is better to pay the dealer to provide a complete set of plans.
Remember, you need your modular dealer and general contractor to include whichever options you select in their exterior elevation drawings, since these, not their marketing literature, show what you will get.
Before looking through a book for the right modular home plan, first determine which features are most important to you.
Questions to Help You Make the Best Modular Home Plan Selection
What do like about the floor plan of your current home? What would you change?
What types of floor plans have you liked in other homes, including model homes and homes of family and friends?
What type of home will fit best in your new neighborhood?
What type of home will work best with the topography of your lot?
What design will allow you to take advantage of the sun?
What is your ideal budget? What is the most you can spend, leaving 2 or 3 percent aside as a contingency fund?
Do you need all of the space finished right away, or will an expandable plan work best, such as an unfinished cape?
Do you prefer one-story or two-story living?
How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need?
Do you prefer an informal family room separate from a more formal living room?
Do you prefer an informal eating area (“nook”) separate from a more formal dining room?
Do you need a study or home office?
Do you want the laundry on the first floor, second floor, or in the basement?
Would you like an exercise room?
What other rooms would you like to have?
Are you counting on a walk-in closet or pantry?
How big of a kitchen would you like?
How big would you like the rooms in your house to be?
The best way to determine if each room is big enough is to measure the rooms in your own home as well as in model homes and record this for future reference.
Visualize Walking Through Your Home
When you find a plan that appeals to you, imagine living in the house. Visualize walking through it, entering first through the front door, and then through the other exterior doors. Think about traffic flow and the location of various rooms. Imagine greeting guests and hanging up their coats. See yourself coming in from the car with a bag of groceries, or your children returning from their play in the backyard. Visualize placing your groceries on a countertop or table before putting them away. Make sure you have ample cabinets and closets in the convenient places; as best you can, count the cabinets and closets, noting their size. Imagine serving a meal at the table, and what you will see when eating. Consider whether the children’s or guest’s bedrooms are too close to or too far from the master bedroom. Would you have to walk through one main room to reach another room? Are the halls too long? Think about the views through all windows.
Customers often ask whether modular home resale value is the same as for a comparable site-built home when it is first built and later when it is resold. As far as professional bank appraisers are concerned, the answer to both is yes.
Why Modular Home Resale Value Is Strong
When a bank appraiser assesses the value of a site-built home and a modular home that are built to the same specifications and located in the same neighborhood, she applies the same appraisal rules to both homes and comes up with the same value. Likewise, most people shopping for a new home evaluate a house with their eyes in terms of its perceived quality. Few people have any idea who built a house or how it was built, and most really do not care. Once a house is constructed, its resale value is determined by how it appears to potential buyers, not its pedigree. What matters is whether you select a good house design, equip it with desirable amenities, and have it designed by an experienced modular home builder. Then your modular home needs to be built by a quality-conscious manufacturer and general contractor and located in a desirable community. If you do all of these things, you will do very well on your modular resale value with both appraisers and customers. The same holds true for stick-built houses. In other words, neither form of construction has an advantage when it comes time to resell.
No sales model is perfect, regardless of who builds it. Even modular home sales models have minor imperfections.
What I Learned about My Modular Home Sales Models
Soon after starting my business, I built a two-story model home with several upscale features. For example, I dressed up the first floor with oak trim and doors, all finished in clear polyurethane, so that my customers could see what this option looked like. The first customer who ordered this upgrade called me soon after we set his home, very upset. He said that some of his oak moldings had a much darker grain pattern than the others, which he felt was not the case in my model home. Without first looking at my model, I went to his house to see what made him unhappy. When I saw the variation for myself, I ordered replacement moldings. Unfortunately, the new moldings came in with as much variation as those installed in his home. Finally, after ordering three sets of replacement moldings, we were able to match all of the moldings in his house almost perfectly. (In retrospect, I cannot believe that my manufacturer provided me with all of these moldings for no additional charge.)
A couple of months later, the manager of a custom woodworking shop visited my model home. I told her about the problem with the oak moldings, and I showed her the rejected moldings. She then walked me through my model home and pointed out that it had the same “problem.” Even more surprising, she said that all of her high-end, custom stick-built customers had the same “problem” when she provided them with naturally finished wood moldings. She added that most customers actually prefer this natural variation.
Notice the Imperfections in Your Dealer’s Modular Home Sales Models
In addition to teaching me about the natural qualities of wood, this experience taught me how easy it is to miss the true appearance of a home’s features. Over the years, I’ve noticed that while most customers do not look closely at our modular home sales models, they put a microscope to their own home. And when they do, they see both real and imagined imperfections that they do not realize are typical of all homes, including their dealer’s modular home sales models. I strongly recommend that you make an effort to notice the imperfections in your dealer’s modular home sales models and expect them in your home.