Prefab houses: are they affordable for self builders?

Prefabricated, modular homes are increasingly seen as the answer to the housing shortage, but how much do they really cost, and are they a viable option for self builders?

a timber clad mobile home in the New Forest

Have you thought about self building a prefab home? Prefabs are steadily increasing in popularity, providing an alternative to buying a conventional new build, self building brick by brick and the exorbitant prices of the dwindling stock of old homes. 

The quality of prefabricated, modular homes has vastly increased in the last decade or so, and prefabs are energy efficient and often eco-friendly, giving owners the ability to decide on what type of fuel they want to use to heat their homes – something that's likely to become more important as the UK gradually transitions out of gas heating. 

But how much do prefab homes really cost? This is where it gets more complex, with several companies currently offering prefab homes at different price points. The main difference in price is due to the different materials used. A traditional timber frame home will cost you anywhere between £75 and £115 per square metre, while those constructed with Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) cost around £95 per square metre. Oak frame homes are the most expensive in the prefab market, costing £200 upwards per square metre. 

Next, there are installation and project management costs to consider, as well as connecting up the home to water mains and electricity. This is why comparing quotes from different companies is so important – and asking them how much of the building/project management they can do for you. There is a huge difference between, for instance, a self-build Ikea flatpack home, which can cost less than £100,000, and a 'turnkey' home – where the company do all of the building and installation work for you – from Huf Haus, which will cost you around £500,000. 

So, a prefab or self build home will not necessarily be cheaper initially, especially once the price of land (very high in England in particular) has been taken account. What a prefab can offer you, though, is significantly lower energy bills, and a lot of freedom when it comes to the design of your home.