So, you’re thinking about building a kit home in New South Wales? Over the last several years, kit homes have become an increasingly popular option, and one of just several alternative, sustainably designed housing options.
You may have also heard the labels “prefab”, “prebuilt”, or “modular”, used concurrently. And maybe you’ve also heard some other non-traditional home types mentioned in the same conversations–pod homes, granny flats, tiny homes, flatpack homes, or even pole barn homes.
The upshot is this: As building technologies, systems and processes improve, more and more people are realizing the benefits of alternative home construction.
To make it easier for Australians to see their options, we’ve assembled this list of eco-friendly modular homes for a wide range of living styles.
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Kit Home Manufacturers in New South Wales
Here are some of the best kit home manufacturers in NSW to consider:
YZY Kit Homes – A true “kit” home manufacturer, YZY Kit Homes brings cost-conscious affordability to backyard cabins, offices, or B&B rentals. YZY works through a network of authorized distributors/builders, with display units and showrooms around the country. They also have display villages in Ourimbah and Queanbeyan.
Ecoshelta – As one of the longest operating companies in the space, Ecoshelta boasts more than 30 years of experience designing and building modular and kit structures around Australia. Focus on ecologically sound, beautifully built houses and pod homes. Offices in Rozelle, NSW (also in Downsing Point, TAS)
MAAP House – Flat-packed homes that begin as a kitchen/bathroom/laundry pod, and can then be designed and built on with any number of configurations. Headquartered in Bulahdelah, NSW.
MODE Homes – Flat-packed, modular and kit homes inspired and designed by founder and principal architect Matthew Dynon. Focus on high-quality design and aesthetic, paired with the needs of specific site requirements. Office in Smithfield, NSW.
Prefabulous – Stunning mid-century modern prefab homes and commercial buildings for NSW homeowners looking for a bit of flair. Based out of Wagga Wagga.
Strine Environments – Strine boasts over 30 years in the space, and is dedicated to the principles of sustainability, including passive solar design, and use of site-specific microclimates. Of particular note is their unique precast concrete offering.
Paal Kit Homes – Long time steel frame kit home manufacturers with “build by number” kit building. In operation since 1970 and offices and showrooms in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra.
Swanbuild – Family owned company offering extensive customization opportunities with 35+ years of experience, and more than 80 builds in VIC, NSW, and SA. Offices on the border of NSW in Swan Hill, VIC.
Kitome – For customers looking for a more traditional aesthetic, Kitome offers over 50 designs that should fit the bill nicely. In operation since 1996, they have built over 4,000 across Australia. Offices in Sydney, Canberra, and Canowindra.
Hi-Tech Modular Homes – With a wide and diverse range of homes Hi-Tech modular builds over 100 homes a year. Country homes, traditional, high-end luxury, holiday, granny flats and even commercial buildings. Offices in Bringelly, NSW.
Manor Homes – Modular country homes in the Central Coast and Hunter Valley regions since 1992. Extensive range of possible inclusions and opportunities to customise your home to fit your lifestyle. Offices, factory, and on-site display homes in Lisarow.
Kit Home Case Studies in NSW
Because there is a fair amount of overlap between the terms “kit home”, “prefab home”, and “modular home“, here is a cross-section of case studies of some of the best examples of these homes throughout the state of New South Wales:
Far from being just a “pretty building”, this eco prefab from Strine Environments boasts serious performance. Making use of passive solar orientation and high thermal mass materials, the need for air conditioning has been completely eliminated, and the need for mechanical heating dramatically reduced.
Coming in at 142 square meters, this Merimbula build incorporates precast concrete, sandwich panel walls, strategic glazing and a host of other touches. Coupled with a host of other sustainable home upgrades, such as solar PV, a heat pump hot water system, and in floor hydronic heating, the home provides an incredible example of how beautiful and high-functioning a thoughtfully built modular or kit home can be.
With it’s straightforward pricing and timelines, the “Rhodes” model from YZY Homes is a 2-room kit unit that can be used as an auxiliary living space for aging parents, older teenagers, short term rentals, or as an art studio or workspace. In this case, owners Catherine and Alex used it to house their 2 older teenagers, to give them a bit of independence and make more room in the main home.
The Rhodes unit features a small kitchen and dining area, a bathroom, 2 bedrooms, verandah, and a total size of 78 square meters. Local YZY builder partners took design/style cues from the main home to try and match the feel as much as possible.
The Herbert family came to PAAL with a need for a residence on their beautiful 20-acre block in Arcadia. With 5 children, they needed it to be a large home. Even though the “Franklin” model already contains 4 bedrooms, Charlie and Alice customised it to create 2 additional bedrooms, making it a 6-bedroom, 5-bath home.
The Franklin model is anything but small, featuring 458 square meters, large living area, rumpus room, lounge, study, workshop, and more.
Benefits of Kit Home Construction
So just what exactly are the ideas, goals, and benefits propelling these new housing types? Here are the big ones:
Producing several of the same units in a factory means that manufacturers can profit from the economies of scale, and pass on some of these savings to the end user. There is significantly less time spent in problem solving and “working out the kinks”, so the end product can be delivered less expensively.
There is also less material waste, and less man hours wasted in repeated travel to a building site. All of these result in lower overall costs, and a lower consumer price tag.
And finally, not having to site build a home means that the home is less susceptible to losses during construction from water damage, rust, or theft.
Because the construction of kit and prefab homes occurs largely in the controlled environment of a factory, timelines are almost never interrupted or upset by weather (or transportation issues), resulting in shorter build times.
Another benefit of the off-site construction is that the home can be built at the same time that the dirt work, foundation, driveway approach, or utility work are happening.
And with a ready made set of plans and many of the issues already worked out, a kit or prefab home can also frequently be permitted in a shorter amount of time than a “one off” home.
Save The Earth
As mentioned above, one of the most green and eco aspects of kit home construction is the ability to significantly eliminate waste. This means that each home produced in a factory requires fewer total resources and less total energy to build.
Another feature of kit building is that homes are frequently made of materials that are eco friendly and/or sustainable. Often manufacturers are using materials like bamboo, low VOC insulation, cross-laminated timber (CLT), structural steel, and more. Sometimes these homes are even manufactured with the end goal of being largely recyclable.
In many cases, kit homes have a smaller footprint and total size, meaning that they require less earth disturbance or disruption at the building site for a foundation. The smaller overall size also lends itself to increased energy efficiency once the house is complete.
Several prefab and modular built homes opt for environmentally friendly systems, such as solar panels, high efficiency hot water, heating and cooling, rainwater harvesting, grey water systems and more. This also gives these homes the flexibility to be built in more remote locations.
Finally, one of the hallmarks of more modern home kits is the attempt to incorporate passive solar thermal design principles into the build. With the strategic placement of windows, the angle of the home, overhangs, and materials selection, kit builds are delivering a home that is more comfortable in both the winter and summer, and requires less energy to be so.
Overall Higher Quality
In general, there are some quality and quality control measures that can often be delivered at a more affordable price per foot with kit homes than with traditional stick built homes, including:
Less mould, mildew, and rust: a tighter and more exact building envelope means that the home is less susceptible to moisture, and all of the things that come along with it.
Fewer toxins: Although this isn’t universal, many kit and prefab homes are made with materials that are low-toxic, low-VOC, and otherwise more natural materials. There is a shared ethos among many in the industry that focuses on health, well-being, and sustainability.
Challenges of Kit Built Homes
With all these benefits, what are the downsides to kit built homes? Here are the main drawbacks that are wise to consider:
Kit Homes Can Be Difficult to Finance
Even though this is getting better all the time, it is still more difficult to finance a modular or kit home than it is a traditional stick built home. Quite simply, this is because it’s hard for lenders to define what it is, and then assign a specific value to it.
Is a kit home a mobile home? Is it a pile of parts?
On the whole, there are just fewer comparisons out there for lenders to be able to use as comps, and in a risk-averse industry like lending and finance, anything that seems different can be an uphill battle.
Thankfully, there are some options. Several manufacturers have created flexible payment terms for customers purchasing directly from them. There are also some lenders that can issue loans for a kit home–construction loans, mobile/modular home loans, etc.
Limited Customizations Available
It probably goes without saying, but many of the advantages of a kit home can also be considered disadvantages. Customizations are one. In order for a manufacturer to reap the benefits of a well-thought out home design and the economies of scale, you can’t “reinvent the wheel” each time.
Kit homes aren’t intended to be wildly modified from their original design. While most manufacturers do allow for some modifications, there are fees associated with this (either on an hourly or per square foot basis), and in some cases, it’s just not possible. Speak with your manufacturer early to communicate the changes that are important to you, and be realistic about the fees or limitations that you may end up with.
In Some Cases, They’re Not Actually That Much Cheaper
This leads us to our final consideration, which is, that in some cases, building a kit home may not actually end up being cheaper than a traditionally built home. For as much as we all want the cost-savings to be significant, in some cases, it won’t end up that way.
Design choices, materials used, the amount of site prep involved (grading and dirt work, foundation, delivering utilities, etc), as well as any unforeseen issues that arise, may ultimately render your kit or prefab home more expensive than its traditional counterpart.
The biggest recommendation here is to be crystal clear about what is included in your kit home package:
- Who is building/assembling their home, and how much are they not doing?
- What are the delivery/transportation fees of your home?
- How many of the interior finishes will be included? (Doors, cabinetry, etc)
- Who is performing electrical, plumbing and HVAC?
What Are the Components of Kit Houses?
So, what are the individual milestones and components you can expect to address when building a kit home? Although every manufacturer’s systems and processes vary, in general, you can expect:
- Design: Finalize the home design you are interested in, as well as any customizations that you are requesting.
- Land: Although this typically happens outside of the manufacturer, it is obviously a significant component that needs to be firmed up well before you build. Are there any legal restrictions against building the type of home you are wanting to? Be sure to check council and state restrictions
- Timelines: According to the design, customizations, and materials lead times, the manufacturer should be able to give you at least a rough schedule of when to expect things to happen.
- Financing: How will you pay for and purchase your home? Are you hoping to do this through a conventional lender? Make payments directly to the kit home manufacturer?
- Permitting: One of the advantages of building a kit home is that frequently the manufacturer will already have designs and drawings that have been previously approved by other councils. This should make getting a permit easier, but it is usually still the homeowner responsibility (if you have a builder helping you with your kit home, sometimes they handle this aspect).
- Prep work: It is your responsibility to make sure there is adequate driveway and road access to the build site, develop the foundation, and arrange to have water and utilities brought to the site.
- Delivery/Construction: The final piece of your kit home is the actual delivery and assembly. This could look different depending on what kind of home you have opted for. If your kit home is actually more of a modular prefab, than it may arrive to your home site already mostly built. On the other hand, if it is a true “kit”, it will likely involve a much more ground-up building process.