Prefabricated houses: The pros and cons of buying and building a prefabricated house

Living the dream: What the prefabricated house offers

Prefabricated houses are a sought-after alternative to traditional, solid-structure homes in Switzerland. Faster and more cost effective to build, each new home is ready for occupation within a few months. However, there are also disadvantages. What to bear in mind when buying and building a prefabricated house.

Prefabricated houses – homes built according to modular designs

Did you enjoy playing with building blocks as a child? Two as a foundation, one as a roof, and presto! You had a house. That's the idea behind the prefabricated house trend: Structural components are prefabricated in production halls and assembled on-site according to modular designs. This saves not only time but money too. Sounds tempting, doesn't it? The question of whether or not a prefabricated house could actually make your dream home a reality depends on several factors. Learn more about the most important advantages and disadvantages and what you should be aware of when the contract is concluded.

What types of prefabricated houses are there?

The main distinction between prefabricated houses is their construction technology. The first type is a lightweight construction with a lightweight building envelope, which mostly uses wood – or, in some cases, wood in combination with aluminum. The second type is solid construction, which uses concrete or reinforced concrete for construction. However, prefabricated houses built using solid construction are not considered solid-structure homes, but solid-construction prefabricated houses or solid prefabricated houses.

Prefabricated houses come in many forms these days. Prefabricated wooden houses or wooden houses with a wooden support structure are particularly popular and they rate rather highly in terms of sustainability. Wooden houses also differ in the various types of construction used. One example is wooden-panel construction using prefabricated wooden panels or frame construction with wooden beams. However, it's worth noting here that laypeople can very quickly become overwhelmed by all the terminology and should ideally consult an expert. One thing is certain, though: Whether or not they are made of wood, all prefabricated houses are built using prefabricated modules or structural components.

Advantages of a prefabricated house

  • Prefabricated houses can usually be viewed at showhome parks or, depending on the provider, virtually before construction begins. This gives future homeowners a chance to look at their dream house before they buy it and get an idea of what their own home could eventually look like.
  • The list price for prefabricated houses is often lower than for solid structures, making them a cost-effective option for those longing to own a single-family dwelling, provided no individual changes are made to the blueprints.
  • The construction process does not take as long. Standardized building plans, prefabricated structural components, and the ability to assemble the shell of the building regardless of the weather all help to save time.
  • A prefabricated house is ready to be moved into as soon as the interior fit-out is complete, with no need for the months of drying required for a stone building. This reduces the double financial burden of mortgage payments and rent.
  • Building prefabricated houses with wooden panels gives them integrated thermal insulation, lowering heating costs. They are thus energy efficient.
  • Prefabricated house manufacturers act as general contractors, giving the client a point of contact for all of their concerns. This usually results in fewer communication issues during the planning and implementation stages. As a rule, the general contractor is also responsible for creating an energy certificate and handling the building permit.

Disadvantages of a prefabricated house

  • Prefabricated houses offer restricted possibilities for layout planning and architectural design. Client-specific changes are only possible to a limited extent.
  • Preliminary work and additional services are often not included in the offer price. The price of a prefabricated house can be similar to that of a solid structure depending on the service provided and the degree of customization.
  • Walls and roofs have reduced sound insulation due to their wooden construction. Higher levels of noise pollution should be taken into consideration if the house is being built on a very busy street or is being planned as a duplex house.
  • Prefabricated houses are less robust than solid structures and may be more vulnerable to water damage or vermin infestation depending on their quality.
  • As the majority of prefabricated houses are made from wood, their lifespan is shorter than that of a solid structure made from masonry and concrete.
  • The shorter lifespan of a prefabricated house means its resale value is also lower. Anyone considering real estate as a financial investment should opt for a solid structure instead.

What does a prefabricated house really cost?

Prefabricated houses are offered at various finish levels depending on the manufacturer. The price is also dependent on this. Manufacturers often quote a basic price for a low finish level. The lower this level, the more additional construction work you will need to handle yourself, such as arranging for the interior fit-out on your own. Since newbuilds are generally financed with a construction loan, you should contact your bank about this as early as possible to ensure smooth construction financing.

However, many prefabricated houses in Switzerland are offered at a fixed turnkey price. Turnkey means that the general contractor carries out all of the work. Beware, though: this price is not always entirely transparent. The fixed price often does not include many ancillary costs or additional services. These differ from one provider to the next, making it difficult to estimate the total cost of your home. As a result, it is important to request a detailed construction and service description for the sake of comparability. This forms the basis of the contract and must include information about quantities and material specifications as well as the quality and price of the individual components.

Before signing the contract, it is important to check whether the price covers preliminary work, such as ground investigations, construction site power and water connections, bulk waste containers, traffic access, and insurance. When completing a turnkey handover, you and your provider should agree in advance whether sanitary installations, flooring, wallpaper, and painting are included. It is also advisable to set a binding completion date when concluding the contract and to only make payments based on the progress of the build. You can avoid unpleasant surprises by thoroughly planning and checking the contract.

How is a prefabricated house built?

The construction process for a prefabricated house is different than that of a solid structure. This is how it works.

1. Prefabrication at the factory

The wall components are prefabricated in production halls and brought to the construction site for assembly. This saves time and resources, because the individual components can be protected from the weather and erected at the building site while saving on working hours.

2. On-site assembly

The wall component can be installed in situ at the building site. It can be assembled quickly thanks to precise measurement in the production halls.

3. Shell construction

Assembly in the shell construction phase takes only one to two days. This may be more or less detailed depending on the finish level. For example, if it includes a closed outer shell and various preparations for the interior fit-out, it is considered an expanded shell construction.

4. Dry construction work

Depending on the finish level of the shell, ceilings and walls are then first covered with drywall.

5. Interior fit-out

Lastly, the interior fit-out is completed, which usually takes between eight and 12 weeks. Once this is finished, the prefabricated house is move-in ready. Depending on the finish level, the work of the general contractor may end here or it may have ended even earlier in the shell construction phase. In this case, the interior fit-out needs to be completed by the builder-owner.


Why buying a prefabricated house is worth it

If you want to build a house for less and find a model that you like, a prefabricated house could be the key to your dream home. In particular, prefabricated houses are worthwhile from a financial perspective for the following reasons:

  • Prefabricated houses are built more quickly than other houses, thus saving costs.
  • They are very energy efficient, which reduces heating costs.
  • Prefabricated houses are offered at a fixed price, which means less financial risk.

In addition, the general contractor is responsible for implementation, and you get everything from a single source. This makes it easier for you to plan and shortens the waiting time so that you can move into your new house in no time.

Do you have any questions about financing your own home?

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