Selecting a Modular Home Dealer
A brief summary of Chapter 2 "Selecting a Dealer" (26 pages) in
The Modular Home
by Andrew Gianino,
President of The Home Store


Shopping for a modular home or for modular house plans means, first and foremost, finding a dealer who offers the kind of home you want and can back it up with good support and fair modular home prices. Many customers find this process both difficult and confusing. It is not like shopping for a new car or refrigerator. There are no consumer magazines offering comparisons and recommendations on modular home companies. Unless you know several people who have already built prefab houses and can offer advice on specific modular home companies, it may be hard to take the first step.

Part of the difficulty rests in the fact that modular home dealers (and all house builders, for that matter) offer different levels of craftsmanship and service, different materials and techniques that typical customers know little about, price variations that seem to make little sense, a variety of modular house plans, and a package of choices that can be more overwhelming than enticing.

Custom design created by architect Rob Coolidge - Manufacturer:? The Home Store

Custom design created by architect Rob Coolidge

This chapter is addressed to customers who want to build a modular home but do not know where to start. You may or may not have a building lot, or the financing finalized, or a budget or specific modular house plans in mind, but you will need to find a dealer. In this chapter you learn what a modular home dealer's job is, or should be, and how to evaluate and compare modular home companies based upon their craftsmanship, service, price, and products. You will also get answers to the following questions about selecting a dealer:

The porch and garage hide the fact that this is a straight ranch - Manufacturer: Manorwood
The porch and garage hide the fact that this is a straight ranch

While shopping for a modular home, you will be somewhat dependent on the knowledge, availability, and patience of the dealer. Consequently, you want a dealer who will take the time to educate you about your many responsibilities and who will help you carry them out.

First and foremost, you need the dealer to provide a general understanding of the projected modular home cost and schedule. He can begin at your first meeting by giving you a ballpark price. Although a ballpark price will not give you the level of detail you need to select a modular housing dealer, it will give you a reasonable idea whether you can afford to build a particular dealer and how his modular home prices compare to other dealers.

Ball Bark Budget Example

At a later meeting, the dealer should be able to give you complete itemized pricing that you can take to the bank, literally and metaphorically. To assess the likelihood that the dealer can provide this level of detail, ask to see a copy of his typical estimate. If it is one or two pages long, he is not used to providing the detail you need to protect yourself. This does not mean that he is unwilling to provide you with more detail, but you will need to ask. This chapter will help you with securing the specification and pricing details you need by answering the following questions:

A dealer’s primary job is to design, price, and order a modular home from the manufacturer. The job of turning it into a livable home is that of a general contractor (GC). Most dealers also function as GCs or work closely with specific GCs, and this is a good route to follow. Acting as your own GC or working with one who does not have experience with modular homes can be risky, since you and your GC will not know the particular requirements of a modular home. Consequently, if you are intending to select an independent GC, you should ask each modular dealer to identify the specific construction tasks required to complete your home, including the plumbing and electrical hookups, heating installation, and carpentry button-up. (For more information, see chapter 5 (20 pages), “Selecting a General Contractor,” and chapter 7 (51 pages), “the General Contractor’s Responsibilities,” in The Modular Home (310 pages) by Andrew Gianino.) The dealer's written information should reduce the likelihood that you and your GC will underestimate the scope of work. Should the dealer not have the knowledge to provide this information, you should ask yourself what else he does not know, and who will provide the answers to your GC's technical questions.

It will take a few meetings with each prospective dealer to learn enough about his building specifications, craftsmanship, modular home prices, and customer services. During this time, look into each dealer’s background, modular experience, and company size. Begin each meeting with a plan for acquiring this information. This chapter provides a series of questions to help guide you through each interview. It also provides a series of questions to ask each customer reference provided by your modular dealers.

When you are finally ready to sign a contract with a dealer, you need to make sure that the legalese protects you as well as him. This chapter explains what needs to be included in your contract regarding deposit requirements, payment terms, prices adjustments, change orders, delays, demurrage, insurance, product changes, warranty, and contract contingencies.

For a comprehensive overview of what you need to know to build a modular home, order The Modular Home (310 pages) by Andrew Gianino.