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News / Industry

Factory-built homes have come a long way

ROBERT J. BRUSS , www.miami.com - Sun, Sep. 17, 2006

If you are thinking about building a new home, want to save money and have ideas of what you want in your residence, read Kit Homes by Rich Binsacca. Starting with a short history of the more than 75,000 Sears Roebuck kit homes built between 1908 and 1940, this unique book explains the pros and cons of today's factory-built homes.

As Binsacca quickly explains, there are many choices and sources for customizing these new homes. Looking at the many photos throughout the book, readers would never know most of these houses started out on a factory construction assembly line.

The old bland ''double wide'' trailer and mobile homes with low pitch roofs are long gone, replaced by stylish, custom-looking mobile homes that compare favorably with on-site ''stick built'' homes. Although exact savings are hard to pin down, considering time and finance cost reductions, Binsacca says at least 20 percent savings are feasible.

This step-by-step book shows home buyers how to investigate and compare catalog designs, manufactured and modular homes, kit or lumberyard suppliers, and on-site assembly of components. There is also brief information on mortgage finance sources and options, but this aspect of the process depends heavily on the buyer's personal situation.

This new book opens wide the door of affordability to prospective home buyers, especially those desiring to build in a rural or retirement area away from city or suburban housing subdivisions. However, factory-built homes are also an idea for urban in-fill lots where normal construction costs are very high.

In addition to explaining the many choices available to home buyers, the book contains valuable explanations of important construction terms used in the text. For example, in the section about on-site assembly of kit components, Binsacca explains along the side of the page important terms such as working drawings, permits, lien releases, in-house mortgage entities, and stick-built home.

To help readers narrow their focus, the book includes various checklists such as a ''housing affordability work sheet'' and a ''needs and wants work sheet.'' In addition to the sample filled-in worksheets, there are blank copies in the appendix for the reader's use.

The book's most valuable benefit is a detailed listing of the many factory home manufacturers and how they can be contacted. Some manufacturers work from online and print catalogs. Others have factory representatives with model homes available for inspection. Still others cater primarily to professional home contractors.

Heavy emphasis is placed on selecting the right type of factory-built home and choosing a contractor. Or, you can elect to work with a factory representative who takes the order, arranges transport and then hires contractors to do the construction work. The checklist of questions to ask builders is especially valuable.

This unusual book brings together in one place the resources and choices available to prospective buyers of factory-built homes, explaining the pros and cons of each alternative. On my scale of one to 10, this outstanding new book rates a solid 10.

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