Anyone searching for a new home knows the pickings are slim. Amid inflation and a housing market flying high with soaring prices, many potential homeowners are discouraged as supply remains remarkably low.

According to one CNBC report, the United States is short more than five million homes, and builders are struggling to make up the difference. Since August of 2020, home prices have increased 19 percent, which is greater than any period leading up to the 2008 housing crisis. With interest rates set to rise early this year, several experts debate on future expectations for the 2022 housing market.

One thing is for sure: affordable housing is scarce, leading buyers looking for more economical and innovative alternatives. Consequently, less traditional home options are seeing an emergence or reemergence in the housing market, sparking interest in manufactured/modular housing, 3D printed homes and the ever-trendy tiny home.   

Manufactured and Modular Housing

While the terms “manufactured” and “modular” homes often are used interchangeably, there is a clear difference. Manufactured homes are regulated by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and are defined as prefabricated housing largely assembled in factories on a permanently chassis after July 15, 1976 (when the HUD code was first established) and adhere to HUD regulations. Once completed, they are then transported to sites of use.

Like manufactured homes, modular homes are constructed inside building facilities and then transported to the home site. However, modular homes have different building requirements than manufactured homes, adhering to compliance with applicable state and building codes as a site-built home (instead of HUD.)

In years’ past, modular and manufactured housing fluctuated in popularity, but today, both are seeing an incredible resurgence. Given the extreme escalation of construction costs, the price to construct a manufactured or modular structure falls well below the cost to purchase or build a new home. Indeed, a site-build home, on average, costs $114 per square foot compared to a manufactured home’s cost of only $55 per square foot, according to the Manufactured Housing Institute’s Industry Overview.

Additionally, manufactured and modular structures previously held a certain stigma, specifically around the quality of homes. Today, modern-day fabrication technology has caught up with modern-day design, making these homes not only less expensive than traditional “stick-built” homes, but more sustainable.

3D Printed Homes

As a fairly new concept that continues to gain popularity, 3D-printed homes are reinventing the construction process. While builders watch the costs of conventional materials, such as steel, aluminum, lumber, drywall and copper, rise dramatically over the past two years, 3D print technology presents a potentially different and acceptable path for the industry.

Already being planned for construction in the Austin area, the 3D homes’ building process involves a 3D printer following a computer-generated set of plans to “print” the walls of a home with a proprietary concrete-type material/mixture. The roof, windows, doors and trim as well as other finishes are constructed separately using standard market products or prefabricated 3D printed versions.

The impressive end result creates more affordable homes at a faster pace with a fraction of the number of people required. Furthermore, 3D-printed homes use very few materials, reducing the need for material transportations to and from the job site and generating a more environmentally friendly solution. Ultimately, 3D homes can save nearly 10 to 30 percent in construction costs compared to conventional construction.

Although not mainstream, 3D printed homes are a fantastic alternative to save or reduced time, money, and resources. It will be interesting to watch their adoption rate in the years to come.

Tiny Homes

While not for everyone, the tiny-home trend continues, even during the pandemic-related lockdowns. When first introduced, their allure led to several HGTV shows dedicated to the trend. However, as housing costs rose, tiny homes became much more viable and were no longer simply in vogue or a fad. According to a late 2020 survey, 56 percent of Americans indicated they would consider living in a tiny home, and the global market as a whole is slated to grow by $5.8B between 2020 and 2024.

Arguably the biggest benefit of a tiny home is the price. With the average cost of a tiny home ranging from $30,000 and $120,000, it typically requires a few months to complete (if constructed by a professional builder.) While tiny homes rarely extend beyond 400 square feet, for many home buyers, they are a perfect “fit” with their much-reduced energy bills and lower maintenance and repair costs. Often, home buyers buy their tiny home outright, and insurance and taxes tend to be significantly lower as well. Because tiny homes are generally mobile, the option exists for homeowners to pick up and relocate, if necessary. Ultimately, the tiny homes offer not-so-tiny benefits.

It’s clear numerous alternative approaches are available in the market, and at Trinity, we offer inspection services for these and other types of construction projects. Please let us know if we can help.