Although they may seem like a newer invention, prefabricated homes have a long history in the United States. In fact, English colonists sent early versions of prefab homes to America so settlers wouldn’t have to worry about finding the materials to build a house.
The early 20th century was a very popular time for prefabricated homes. Department stores and manufacturers of construction materials started selling “house kits”, which contained all of a house’s parts. This way, the purchaser of a house kit could build their new home themselves without hiring a construction crew. Sears & Roebuck catalogs even included fully-built homes in a variety of sizes. Many people used these house kits for vacation homes.
Famous architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright even tried their hand at creating prefabricated homes. Wright designed some homes that could be assembled in pieces in a factory, and then delivered to the build site practically completed. He did this to cut labor costs, which made homes more affordable. The need for affordable housing made prefab homes very popular in the first half the 20th century, when Americans had to cut back during the World Wars and the Great Depression.
However, after World War II, the American middle class was much wealthier, and the demand for prefabricated homes fell in the United States. Modular homes became associated in the public’s mind with mobile homes, which were looked down upon by the middle class. Methods of construction used by prefab home builders, such as the assembly line and piece-wise construction, continued to be used in factories even when prefabricated housing was not as popular.
Even though there wasn’t much of a demand for prefabricated homes for the second half of the 20th century, the 21st century has brought a resurgence of popularity in the modular home. The recent demand for building an eco-friendly home with sustainable materials has caused an upswing in the production of prefab homes. Nowadays, modular homes can be customized, created, and delivered to a homebuyer’s property in record time. Prefab homes have broken away from their previous “mobile home” image and are now common in both low-cost and upscale housing markets.
The style, methods, and costs of prefabricated homes have changed a lot over time, but the appeal for buying a prefab home hasn’t changed. Prefabricated houses allow the homebuyer to customize their home to their wants and needs with materials, size, and price range, without having to go through a long and painstaking process of constructing a home on-site.