These aren't your grandparents' pre-fab homes

By Clark Howard, Channel 2 Action News consumer advisor
Today's news from WSB-TV
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October 22, 2002 -- When you hear the term modular home, you may think trailer home.

Well, now that couldn't be further from the truth.

Dan and Millie Warren love their new home. It may look like any other Georgia home, but it isn't.

"It's a modular home, which means that it was built in a factory and then brought to our lot," said Millie.

"The home is actually completed in enclosed sections, and delivered to a site where we erect the home with a crane, and actually complete the dry-in construction on site," said Grant Smereczynsky of Building Systems Network.

He built the Warrens' home. He's sold on systems-built homes. In fact, he's building a sub-division full of them in Toccoa, Ga.

"The house contains an average of 30 percent more building material than it's site-built competitor," said Smereczynsky. "The homes are better. They are built better. They are built faster. And they are build stronger."

"No question about it," said Ray Banks, a Winder County builder.

Banks has two modular homes, and a traditional stick built home being constructed side-by-side. It's his first try at the new building technique.

He says it's no contest. The systems-built homes are quicker and cheaper to build.

"We had these foundations done at the same time," he said. "Identical. "That house is ready for carpet. You see that hasn't even got the roof on it yet because of the rain."

These homes come from the factory in completed sections. How complete? Try sheet-rocked walls. Hardwood floors. Kitchen cabinets, appliances, fully furnished bathrooms --even the siding and the window shutters are pre-hung.

"The houses are complete at least up to 90 percent in most applications," said Smerecyznsky.

The builder still has to hook up water and power, add any decks or patios, build the garage, and complete the inside finish work.

"This house is ready to move in to in six weeks," said Banks.

So, are these homes built better than yours? We hired a private home inspector to find out. "The railings are tight," said Ron Marshall, a home inspector. Nice square wall. The plywood in between the walls gives it more integrity."

Marshall found some cosmetic and sub-contractor issues, but overall, he was impressed with the systems-built homes.

"The integrity is definitely there," he said. "The exterior walls are thicker from what I' m looking at than a regular stick-built house.

"I think it's the wave of the future, most definitely."

The Warren's agree. "As of right now, the skepticism is gone," said Daniel Warren.

"I'm glad we did it," said his wife.

Modular home builders say this is the next evolution of home building. They say just like the auto industry that went from building cars by hand to the modern factories, it only makes sense.

If they can quality control their subcontractors and the product, this will be a win- win for everyone.

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Click here to listen to BSN Founder Grant Smerecynsky on the Martha Zoller show on January 7, 2008.
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