Modular Home Building FAQ – From the Customer’s Point of View

Every good manufactured/modular home builder will have a list of frequently asked questions on their website. Those pages are a wealth of information but they’re from a sales point of view. Here is a list of the top 10 questions we’ve been asked along the way with answers from the customer point of view. If you still have questions after reading this please feel free to contact me and I’ll certainly answer your questions too!

How long does it take from the time the house was put on the foundation to moving in? 

The best answer to that is “it depends.” We were about 3 months from delivery to hand-off but we had a garage, front porch, back deck PLUS a two week shut-down over the holidays and a couple winter weather days. I don’t think there’s a standard timeline because they’ll work it out based on what needs to be done for each home build.

To give a little bit of added perspective on the timeline, here’s what our entire process looked like:

Underlined items have posts describing the process.

I suppose, since this is such an exciting life event, it might look like it takes SO long but trust me, the time flies by. Even though you’re not watching your build stages on site, there are still a lot of things to do that will keep you engaged. Give yourself the space and time to take it all in. 

How easy was it to make modifications? 

The short answer is “super easy” – at least with Quality Homes. I think the hardest part was finding the balance between “the dream” idea and the “that could work too” possibilities. I’m sure we could have gone the completely custom design route too, but … why bother when they’ve got so many great designs that are easily “customizable.”  

We chose the Woodstock model with 5 customizations:

  • Moved the front door into the foyer. This effectively added an additional 4’ to the overall length of the house, it also added pantry space and extended the third bedroom.
  • Vaulted the living room and dining/ kitchen ceiling – I just can’t even picture our home without that extremely reasonably priced modification 
  • Changed the roofline of the front porch – opening up the area and letting so munch more light in
  • Added windows to the south wall (kitchen/dining/living room)
  • Added a covered deck on the back, off the kitchen. We had QH do this work for two reasons: the deck roof could be built into our roofline and it was so reasonably priced!

Why did you choose a crawlspace vs. the full foundation?

I know it seems silly to not take the full foundation that is offered as standard in the price of the home. Just think of all that extra “free” space! Our main reason for going with the crawlspace was that we were building directly on bedrock. We didn’t want to have to blast out a pit for our foundation to sit in mainly because we had visions of that pit (and therefore our basement) constantly fighting water infiltration. I don’t know if that’s actually a thing, but the thought alone was enough to put the knot in our guts enough to choose not to do that. 

Of course, if you don’t blast into the rock to lower the foundation, our home would have been built up even higher and that would mean a lot of stairs to enter the home. Since we were building our home for retirement, we didn’t want too many steps to access it. Also, we simply don’t need that much space for living area; 99% of the time it will be just the two of us here and we live a fairly minimal lifestyle.

Were we confident in our builder throughout the process? 

100% yes. Even when we hit the (very rare but some very big) bumps along the way I never for a second doubted that they would make it right. Even if I pushed a little for resolution in a more timely fashion, they responded respectfully and promptly. Are they perfect? No. Is any builder perfect? I suspect not. What makes a builder stand out and solidify confidence is how they handle those bumps and respond to the customer’s concerns. In that, Quality Homes excels. And if you’re curious if I’d choose them again – without a doubt I would! 

Did we have any surprise costs with our build? 

Not with the building itself – thank goodness. We had a guaranteed price from our builder and they stuck to it. We also had – and stuck to – our budget for finishes on our Personal Selection Day. 

The surprises we did run into were:

  • Our hydro connection. With the credits our hydro provider gives for hook-up, we were thousands under budget on that!
  • Our water treatment system. I’ll admit that our budget number was a completely uneducated guess so of course it was way out of line. We spent almost $13,000 more than anticipated for water treatment.
  • Final grading – we built our budget on the highly educated suggestion of our site contractor. And then we added a prepared area for a second garage ( for now, extra parking, a stone filled swale around half of the property for drainage, and a leveled and compacted fire pit area.
  • Our generator. Again, this was an uneducated guess to start with but then we upgraded the capacity of the generator because the one we initially selected was having some quality issues reported. I’d rather have more capacity than zero operation when we need it.

Did we choose to do any finishing work on our own? Is that even possible?

Yes we did choose to do some finishing work on our own, but not much! We decided to put our own shelving in the pantry for one. We also decided to install our own backsplash. That was something we knew we could easily do on our own and I didn’t want to rush that decision on our Personal Selection day. For the record, the backsplash still isn’t done. I think that will be a winter project.

We have since finished the interior of the garage as well. We never considered this as a requirement when we purchased our home but soon after we moved in it became one. Don’t laugh but we didn’t do it for any reason you’d probably imagine. We finished the garage so we could flex it into additional sleeping space when we discovered we’d need it soon for company!

How did you know your township would let you build on your lot? Did you talk to them first or talk to Quality Homes to see if they could even put the home you wanted on your lot.

When we were first considering whether to site build or purchase an engineered home, we had a local site-build contractor visit two potential properties with us. He was extremely helpful when it came to assessing the grade and appropriateness of both lots. Given that he had so much experience working in this area, and with the township authorities, we trusted that if he said a lot was buildable, it would be.

One big factor is that our lot isn’t located on waterfront of any kind (lake, stream, pond etc.) so we knew there would be fewer restrictions or considerations involved. We also did our research on the municipality’s website and noted that our area was developed into lots with “residential without restrictions” zoning. That means that it is the municipalities intention for the lots to be built upon and as long as we adhere to their setbacks etc. to other lots we’d would be fine.

Why did you get a generator & did they have to do any special wiring or changes to your wiring to accommodate that? 

The long answer to that question can be found in my “Do We Need a Generator” post. The short answer is that we live in a very low population area that can experience more frequent and longer outages. Without power, our well and sump pump (mainly) cannot run and we felt those were critical items to being able to sustain ourselves and protect our home during an extended outage. There was no special wiring required within our home but we did require a different meter base to accommodate the switch from the grid to the generator and some extra trenching outside for the propane and wiring lines. 

What are 3 things that you added to the house that you are glad you did?

I don’t think we really added much to the house itself, other than the modifications to the Woodstock model. But overall here’s what I’ve got:

  1. All the modifications I’ve outlined above. I think they turned a great home into the perfect home for us. I can’t imagine the house being as awesome without any one of them.
  2. The generator because it brings peace of mind.
  3. The extra grading outside. We could have had a steeper grade and more stairs to get into the house but I find the gentle grade we’ve created – even though we had to take out extra trees to make it happen. I find it gives the home a more “been here forever” feeling.

Is there anything you’d change – about the house or wish was different about the building process?

Funny you should ask! Just the other day as we were coming up the driveway from our after-dinner walk, I asked Brian the same question. We stood there for a good long time looking at the house and thinking. Neither of us could think of a thing we’d change about the house. 

As for wishing anything was different about the building process, I’d have maybe 3 wishes: 

  1. That Quality Homes either selected some of their site sub-contractors more carefully or monitored their work more closely. Specifically some of the exterior, on site, finishing isn’t quite up to the standard I would have hoped for but for the most part – so far – the bigger issues have been resolved quickly. 
  2. I wish there was someone to guide us through the aspects that were our responsibility. There’s a lot going on in between the sale and moving in that Quality Homes staff tried to guide us through but it’s not really their responsibility or scope of work. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to document our new home building journey: so maybe it will help make someone else’s path a little easier. 
  3. I’m not sure if this wish would go under communication or planning but I would have liked a clearer plan that we could follow along. Beyond getting a guaranteed delivery date we really had no idea what we could expect for the on-site workflow. Often I’d find out only a day or two earlier that someone would be on site, and it didn’t always pan out like that anyway. Maybe it’s my project management brain that wants to know what’s supposed to happen when – or at least in which order – so I could follow along and manage my own expectations. This goes for all aspects of the project, not just the Quality Homes portion. I know it’s an industry thing: they just do what they can when they get an open window; sometimes communication comes later. It still bugs me though.

Any other words of wisdom?

This whole building process is far more than building a house: it’s building a home and your future. No pressure eh?! I probably have lots of words of wisdom if I give myself time to think about it but mainly I’d say:

  • Keep a calm head when working through the process. Anything can go a little sideways during a project as complex as building a house – no matter how exceptional your builder is. If you see something that doesn’t seem quite right, let your builder know about it and then trust them to find a remedy or to provide you with the information you need to understand what’s happening. That doesn’t mean that you don’t push or escalate when you need to but stick to the facts, provide pictures or any other information you can to illustrate your concerns.
  • Enjoy the evolution of your dreams as they become reality. If you focus on the excitement, and maintaining a good relationship with your builder, you’ll barely notice the hurdles.
Yes … we are happy in our new place with our new home!

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The Cottage Wife

In addition to hiking, biking, reading and writing, I like to focus on making as light an impact on the land possible, while still living a modern life.

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