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Prefab in SoCal: Do I need a reality check?

by hunter cereal last modified Feb 15, 2007 10:05 PM
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Prefab in SoCal: Do I need a reality check?

Posted by hunter cereal at February 06. 2007
My husband and I latched onto the concept of prefab several years ago, but it was not an option at the time because of cost, the lack of real models and our location (Chicago). We have since moved to the Los Angeles area and are once again looking into the possibility of building a modernist prefab home. I have fallen deeply in love with the Ray Kappe Living Home and am hoping I can find some way to make this (or similar) 2,000 + sq ft home a reality. Our budget maxes out at 1 million, including land & all fees. I can get an estimate of how much a prefab will cost plus some ballpark figures on permits, foundation, etc., but what I don't know is where to build and how to find the land. Since I am new to SoCal, the only place I've really looked into is the South Bay / Redondo Beach. It seems that there aren't many vacant lots or teardowns available, so it's difficult to figure out what land would cost. Since I work in Culver City and my husband works in downtown Long Beach, we are restricted to areas between the two. My requirements are that the area should be on the rise (at my budget I need a good value) and that the neighborhood would be eclectic enough to accomodate such a home. I'd like to know if my goals are within reach. Can one find a large, flat parcel of land in SoCal in a nice area for under 500k?

Re: Prefab in SoCal: Do I need a reality check?

Posted by Splatgirl at February 06. 2007

Have you read Sara Sage's blog here?  They found a lot and went prefab in LA county for much less than your budget, with help from LiveModerns' own Greg LaVardera.  They've been in for over a year and I'm sure property values have gone up in that period, but they definitely proved that it's possible.

Not sure if Sara is still around but you could try a PM...

Re: Prefab in SoCal: Do I need a reality check?

Posted by hunter cereal at February 07. 2007
Thanks for the info! What a great blog of the process from start to finish.

Re: Prefab in SoCal: Do I need a reality check?

Posted by richierod at February 15. 2007
Hi - I went through your same thought process regarding prefab and lots here in LA... Some quick comments - my opinions, of course - 1) No way you will find a "large, flat parcel in SoCal in a nice area for under 500k." The areas between Culver City and Long Beach are generally not nice, or very expensive. However, both Culver City and Long Beach are up and coming and definitely worth looking into. I live in Culver City, so I'm partial... 2) Prefab, with a few rare exceptions, is not designed to fit on the typical urban lot here in L.A., which is generally 50'W by 100'D. They are more geared to a curb appeal type approach where the width is greater than the depth, or equal to it. These type of lots are quite difficult to find, and when you do, you will pay dearly for it. 3) The Ray Kappe home is beautiful. MKD has finally got some designs that will fit an urban lot. 4) You may end up doing what we did... (in a nutshell) buy a house, tear it down, design a new one, and build it. I still feel that a custom designed home will take the best advantage of a site's characteristics. (See today's L.A. Times "Home" section about this very idea.) Until the price point of prefab becomes such an economic advantage that it cannot be ignored, the true value of a custom designed home is still more attractive to me. Neither is inexpensive, and your $1 million will be put to the test if you are loooking at Ray Kappe - type homes. Additionally, currently GC's in this area get between $300 and $400 per square foot to build custom homes. That said, I hope you can make it work with a lot and prefab. If you do, I hope you will keep us informed. I think I started a little too early in the prefab cycle. Perhaps now is a better time. Good luck! -R.

Re: Prefab in SoCal: Do I need a reality check?

Posted by Gregory La Vardera at February 15. 2007
Hey - just caught up with this conversation. We did in fact beat the LA prices with the Sages project. But you can see the amount of sweat equity that the Sages invested in the project in planning, as well as finishing their modules after the house arrived and the "pre" part of the fab was done. You could do the same, no doubt, if you were up to the effort. Or similar, meaning spend less effort, and more dollars, to come in somewhere between the Sage's effort and a more complete product. I think the thing to take away is that there is a big difference between the Living Home house and the Sage's house in the expense of the products that have gone into it, and the latitude in design that comes along with a higher budget. You can't get the Living Homes house at the Sage's cost/sqft no matter how hard you work at it. Don't misunderstand me - I think there is as much merit in the Sages achievement as the Living Homes achievement. The two are very different however.
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