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WYSIWYG - What You See is What You Get, Modular Homes | New from

WYSIWYG - What You See is What You Get, Modular Homes

February 6, 2009

WYSIWYG - What You See is What You Get, Modular HomesThe intention of this article is to clear up some common misconceptions that many people have exploring the wide world of modular homes. A problem I see happening over & over again is when retail modular sales companies don’t spend enough time educating potential buyers about the process, wanting to make a quick sale, & leaving consumers dissatisfied when they find out (much too late) down the road what’s really included with the price estimate they were given for their dream home.

Like the online acronym WYSIWYG, (What You See Is What You Get) you only get what’s written in black & white on the “Specifications” (specs) & on the floor plans. No doubt you’ve found several nice plans, only to decide you don’t like how the house looks in the drawings. Truth is, that picture is just showing ONE of the dozens of possible ways in which that house could look. Elevations are shown with many optional exterior features as they are purely hypothetical renderings of how you could make this particular floor plan look when built. These features may include, but aren’t limited to the following items:

Optional Exterior Features

  • Porches, steps & decks
  • Carports or garages (attached or detached)
  • Dormer windows on roof
  • Sidewalks & driveways
  • Landscaping
  • Millwork embellishments, e.g., posts, beams, deco-vents, window boxes, corbels (all the gingerbread trimmings)
  • Upgraded features (check against std specs) like specialty doors, windows, roofing, fixtures & bonus exterior lighting
  • Alternate exterior veneer material like brick, cedar, hardi-plank or even vertical (up & down) vinyl siding

It may sound confusing but think of it this way. When you purchase a preowned home, most likely it will include all of the necessities as it has been lived in for X amount of years with someone tending to the yard, adding landscaping, putting in a concrete driveway, etc. They’ve possibly built a porch & garage or even added a workshop if they were so inclined. You will now have to live with whatever they’ve designed and built-up throughout the years, dated or not.

On the contrary, when you undertake a new construction endeavor, whether it be site-built or systems built, you are starting from scratch. There are many facets in the building process & the modular home itself is just one of them. The goal of printed media such as the drawings you see alongside floor plans are intended to peak your interest with the picture. This would be impossible to do with a “Plain Jane” rectangle drawing of a house so they compel you to buy with adornments added to the picture, again, just a conceptual drawing, not literal. Look for a disclaimer on the page. When reading floor plans be sure to note that items listed as “Optional” are not included unless you ask for them to be priced in. And believe me, there will be several additional items needed in the contract for your home purchase to be complete. Sometimes home buyers choose to supply these things separately but you can ask for them to be included. Here’s a sample list:

Sample of Items That Need To Be Added To The Modular Home


  • Footers & foundations (i.e., Basement or crawlspace which may be constructed of std cmu block, split-face block, brick, etc)
  • Building permits, surveying, etc.
  • Land clearing, excavating & backfilling
  • Porches, stoops, decks & steps
  • Driveways &/or concrete work like sidewalks
  • Garages or carports
  • Heat & air systems (these aren’t preinstalled as in mobile homes - for better efficiency)
  • Water wells, septic systems or tap-ins to public facilities
  • Appliances (stove, refrigerator, microwave, etc)
  • Termite pretreatments
  • Seamless gutters & downspouts (cannot be preinstalled on multi-section home parts that go together)
  • Temporary power & toilet on-site during construction
  • Site utility hook-ups (electricity, phone, cable, etc)

This is a pretty well-rounded list but the options are endless. Most people start with the basics & add to their home over time as they can afford it. Say, after a couple of years they build a small porch on the front or have a weekend deck building party. If a garage isn’t in your budget, save that $20k +/- for sometime down the road & get the most house you can get for the money now.

It’s important to research & find the most capable dealer, preferably a licensed General Contractor, to work through this process with. The advantages of purchasing a modular home are numerous. For one, your new home is never exposed to the elements of weather while under construction. This means while a site-built counterpart is sitting in a rainstorm with water standing on the studs, sub-flooring, sheathing & roof underlayment for days, your home is being built safe & snug inside of an enclosed factory & basically shrink-wrapped in plastic shipping material before leaving, giving you a “never-wet” constructed home. When you think about that, consider this. Do you think that lumber in the site-built home ever completely dried out during the building process or was it covered up with sheetrock, roofing & siding while still containing moisture? What happens then?

Two other considerable advantages of modular are the fact that your overall construction time is reduced by 20-30% in most cases in addition to about the same amount of cost savings. These homes are engineered, reviewed and ultimately sealed by third parties to be guaranteed to meet International & State building codes, the same codes that on-site builders are required to build by even though they are not always required to submit sealed prints to the inspection departments as modular home installers are. Let me remind you again that this is WYSIWYG. Be clear about what’s included in your price. Be reasonable in your expectations when asking for a price as you can clearly see how many elements are required. Ballpark prices aren’t realistic, only given out to get you in the door to talk. You may get lower prices from some but be sure they include all that you think they do. If it’s not written in the specs, quote or contract, don’t expect to receive it.

The task of building a new home requires patience, good decision making & at times can seem overwhelming but the rewards more than make up for it. Do your homework, choose the right builder & you’ll be happier than you ever imagined!

As an accomplished mother with four children, Liddy Lane manages a successful construction company and lives life to the fullest in beautiful North Carolina with her children, dogs & cats. Send her an e-mail:

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