Matt Knigge

Guide to Prefab and Modular Homes in Denver & Boulder, Colorado

Matt Knigge
Guide to Prefab and Modular Homes in Denver & Boulder, Colorado

Our guide to prefab and modular homes in Denver and Boulder, Colorado is designed to help you better understand your prefab housing options as a buyer based in north-central Colorado. Other areas addressed in the guide include Cherry Hills Village, Aurora, Centennial, Lone Tree, and Louisville, Colorado. In the guide below, we address questions ranging from “how much does a prefab home cost in Denver?” to “what companies serve the Boulder, Colorado area?”. Keep reading to better understand your options as a potential prefab home buyer in the Denver - Boulder area. Our guide also provides resources for individuals in the surrounding areas such as Cherry Hills Village, Aurora, Louisville, Centennial, and Lone Tree. Individuals requiring project-specific information can connect with a prefab concierge representative for free here.

Why Might You to Want to Build a Prefab Home in the Denver - Boulder area?

  • Quicker Build and Installation Times - prefab and modular homes are manufactured off-site, in a controlled environment and then later assembled at the build site. The efficiency of off-site manufacturing facilities often allows for quicker build times

    • Despite a harsh winter climate, the home manufacturing process can continue uninterrupted year round because homes are manufactured off-site, indoors

    • Cost Controlled - with a highly controlled build process (homes are manufactured in climate-controlled warehouses), unforeseen cost overruns can be better managed leading to reduced overall cost. This is especially important for expensive areas in the Denver - Boulder area such as downtown Denver and Boulder and suburbs such as Centennial, Lone Tree, Aurora, and Louisville

  • Sustainable & Modern - many prefab builders that serve Denver, Boulder, and the surrounding areas can build energy efficient, net-zero homes. Many manufacturers specialize in homes that are LEED and Passive House certifiable

Key Decisions to Make:

  • Home Location - building in an expensive area of Denver such as Cherry Creek, Stapelton, and Washington Park or an expensive area of Boulder might have high up-front costs but a prefab home in these (or other high-cost) areas can be a sound long-term investment. When buying property you should be mindful of a few things that could affect your home build:

    • Slope of lot - building lots with a significant slope may be unsuitable for some pre-engineered floor plans

    • Set back requirements

    • Floor area ratio or other zoning protocols that may affect the size of the home 

    • Whether or not your neighborhood requires a design review

  • Standard vs. Custom - While many prefab manufacturers that operate in Denver and Boulder offer pre-designed floor plans some also offer options for partial or total home customization. This is in addition to companies who primarily serve as prefab designers and only work on custom prefab and modular homes. If you live on a tricky lot (uneven terrain, small-lot size, etc.) you may face a limited offering of standard home designs that are suitable for your situation - in these situations a custom home may be your best option

  • Modular vs. Kit Home v.s. Panelized - While all three of these construction techniques qualify as prefab home building techniques, there are nuances that you should know when building your own prefab house. These prefab home styles include:

    • Modular - homes are made up of multiple box-like modules. These modules are fully assembled and consist of floor, walls, ceiling, wiring, plumbing, and internal fixtures. These modules are constructed off-site and then later shipped to your desired location. Once on site, they are joined and connected to the foundation. Modular construction is one of the most affordable prefab building techniques.

    • Kit Home - all materials and components necessary for building a home are delivered to the build site. In most cases, an owner-builder can assemble the kit home themselves as a cost-saving method.

    • Panelized - the home’s structural components: walls, floor, ceiling, are manufactured off-site and then later constructed at the final site like a traditional build. While somewhat similar to modular construction, panelized building offers more flexibility in the home build process.

  • Architect vs. All-in Company - There are many steps in the prefab home build process. Major steps include land acquisition, home design, manufacturing, and assembly. When selecting a company for your prefab home, you should pay attention to the services your company offers. In some cases the company you choose may only offer a home design your home and therefore sub-contract out the manufacturing process. This leaves you responsible for acquiring land and later finding a builder to assemble the home. Other companies however, may be a one-stop shop and assist you in all stages of the home build process.

  • Financing your home - unless you are planning to pay for your home in cash, you are likely going to need outside financing for your prefab home. The two most common ways of financing a prefab home build are:

      • construction loan - a short term loan that you can refinance once construction is complete

      • temp to perm loan - a construction loan for the duration of construction that converts to a normal mortgage once your house is finished. The advantage of these loans is you only have one mortgage close vs. two with just a construction loan.

    • These methods usually allow you to finance both the land purchase and the construction of your home however, the underwriting and approval process on these loans can be lengthy (60+ days) as the bank is not only underwriting you as a borrower, but also the viability of your building plans. To get land imore quickly, buyers will often pay cash for their building lot and then the lender will credit the land purchase as a down payment percentage on the purchase.

    • Some of the best lenders for these products only operate regionally. Therefore, if you would like assistance we can provide recommendations here.

    • If you’re looking to purchase an ADU (accessory dwelling unit) or tiny home, then you may want to consider a personal loan:

      • Many personal lenders allow you to borrow up to $100k with no down payment

      • These loans are typically amortized over a shorter period than mortgages (up to 12 years)

      • These loans typically don’t underwrite the property and instead underwrite you as a borrower

      • Many of the best personal lenders are online and serve almost the entire country

      • The time to get approved for a personal loan is generally pretty fast (as little as a day to up to a couple weeks)

Common Questions

  • How much will it cost to build a prefab house in the Denver - Boulder area?

    • While certain variables such as location, builder, and floor plan will affect the total cost of building your home, it is our experience that the final cost of your prefab will range between $200 and $500 per sqft before the cost of land, as of June, 2019.

  • Is a prefab home a good investment?

    • Yes, in areas where the total cost of building your prefab home (land cost + building costs)  is less than the average dollar per square foot sales price of homes in your neighborhood i.e. you are able to sell your home for more than it cost to build it. In the Denver - Boulder area, that includes areas where the average sale price per square foot is $350 per sq ft or higher. This includes most parts of 

  • Can I finance a prefab home in Denver or Boulder? 

    • Yes. The most common way to finance a prefab home is a temp to perm loan or a construction loan if you already own the land. This financing method starts out as a loan for the construction of your home and converts to a mortgage once your home is completed. Another financing option is a construction loan which is a short-term loan that you then refinance once the construction process is finished

  • What do the economics of an investment in a prefab home look like?

    • Our table (below) is an example of what the costs and potential benefits of a prefab home investment might look like. While there may be high up-front costs, there is still a chance for a sizable return on your investment. In Denver, Boulder, and the surrounding areas, much like other competitive real estate markets in the United States, one of the most challenging parts of the build process is finding a building lot at a reasonable price. In some cases it might be cheaper to buy and tear-down an existing home rather than purchase a vacant, build-ready lot.

  • How long will it take?

Reputable Companies that Serve Denver, Boulder, and the Surrounding Areas

  • Rocky Mountain Home Builders

    • Makes 9 standard home plans as well as 3 small cabins and custom homes

    • All-in-cost: $200 - $300

  • Method Homes

    • Has 8 collections of predesigned residential plans, varying from standard looking cabins to ultra modern looking contemporary houses and ranging in size from small 600+ sf studios to 3,500+ square foot luxury houses

    • All-in-cost: $300-$400 per sqft

  • ZipKit Homes

  • Connect Homes

    • Has 13 models ranging from 640 sq ft to 3200 sq ft, all of which highly aesthetic and boxy

    • All-in-cost: $250-$400 per sqft

  • Liscott Custom Homes

    • Tens of plans of mostly traditional looking homes, each of which come with a one-year warranty

    • All-in-cost: $150 - $300 per sqft