So, you’re thinking about building a kit home in Victoria? Over the last several years, kit homes have become an increasingly popular option, and one of just several alternative, non “stick-built” housing options.
You may have also heard the labels “prefab”, “prebuilt”, or “modular”, used concurrently. And maybe you’ve also heard 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.
Kit Home Manufacturers in Victoria
Here are some of the best kit home manufacturers in Victoria to consider:
Modscape – Established in 2006, Modscape is one of the leaders and most well-known names in the modular industry. More than 500 buildings constructed across residential and commercial sectors. Based in Brooklyn.
Ecoliv – Dramatic modern aesthetic meets responsibly sourced materials, for the ultimate in sustainability. Makers of modular homes, studios, cabins, eco huts, and fully off-grid builds. Offices in The Gurdies.
Archiblox – Having won several awards on a national and global level, Archiblox holds a place as one of the most innovative and sustainably-focused companies in the industry.
Anchor Homes – Design, construction and delivery of modular homes throughout VIC and NSW. Established in 2005. Offices and showrooms in Stratford and Bayswater.
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.
Prebuilt – Stylish and eco-sensitive modular prefabs on both the commercial and residential side, since 2003, with offices in Kilsyth.
Swanbuild – Family owned company offering extensive customization opportunities with 35+ years of experience, and more than 80 builds in VIC, NSW, and SA. Offices in Swan Hill.
Snowgum – Customizable modular prefab designs from a small family business with 20 years in the industry. Based in west Melbourne.
Premier Homes – With more than 39 years in the industry, Premier is a builder of homes, granny flats, cabins and commercial buildings. They have a display village in Bayswater North.
Superior Granny Flats – Manufacturer of prefab (and flat-packed) granny flats, sleepouts, cabins and relocatable homes since 1990. Headquarters in Bayswater.
iBuild – Company offering a variety of kit, modular, and granny flat homes. Offices in Mulgrave.
Neatline – Family-owned prefab and modular home business, with more than 16 years in operation. Offices in Kialla.
Case Studies in Victoria
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 Victoria:
With it’s splashy, low-slung elevation and loads of glass, this model from Modscape demonstrates just exactly how sleek and modern a modular home can be. Although there is flexibility with configuration and customization options, this 6-module home comes in at 235 sqm, and features high-end finishes like teak cladding, oak floors, and Axon sheeting.
This award-winning home from Ecoliv demonstrates the ability to build multi-storey residences or commercial buildings with prefab systems and processes. Ecoliv embraces a commitment to sustainably design and materials.
Located in Wye River, VIC, the Tucker House is a handsome example of what a kit home can be. Featuring sustainably harvested and recycled materials throughout the home, this ARKit home achieves an elegantly modern, yet truly eco-friendly home.
The “ehabitat” is a truly modular home, incorporating standard 1200 x 2400 sheeting material into the build. The individual modules are flexible and small enough to be used in a variety of ways, which you can decide when customizing your plans in ehabit’s initial architect consultation.
Designed by Maxa, and built by CarbonLite, this masterpiece in Donvale, VIC makes use of rammed earth walls, XPS insulation, and green garden roofs (among other features) to achieve the pinnacle of aesthetic sustainability.
Located on the Mornington Peninsula of Rye, Victoria, this modern prefab from Anchor Homes is spacious enough for the whole family. Titled the Shoreham 19, it features 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and 175 square meters of space.
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.