Officials hopeful for new housing trend

Published 6:00 am Monday, January 29, 2007

Brookhaven’s first locally produced modular home was placed lastweek, and officials hope it represents a trend of booming housingopportunities and economic prosperity.

Crews from New South Homes and its subcontractors laboredThursday and Friday to place the home on a prepared foundation onPritchard Street.

The modular home is the second produced by the company and thefirst to be placed in Brookhaven. The company’s first home wasplaced in Wesson.

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It’s the first modular home to be built in Brookhaven in manyyears, said Walter Temple, Brookhaven building inspector.

Tom DeHuff, part owner of New South Homes, said the PritchardStreet modular home could be completed in about a week. Heestimated another seven to eight days to raise the roof and lay thebrick exterior.

“We’ve seen them set up and bricked in one day with a largeenough crew.” he said. “We don’t have big enough crews ofbricklayers here to do that.”

Most people will not realize the difference between site-builthomes and the modular homes once the crews finish their work,DeHuff said.

“Once we’re done, it won’t look any different than any of theother homes out here,” he said.

Steve Moreton, Brookhaven’s director of public works,agreed.

“It doesn’t look like what people expect right now, but whenit’s done it will look like a brick house,” he said.

Modular housing is a construction process where homes are builtindoors in sections and assembled on site, DeHuff said. Buildershave used the process for many years, but the process has onlyrecently become popular in Mississippi because of the demand forhousing caused by Hurricane Katrina.

“They’ve been big in other parts of the country for quite sometime,” he said. “It represents a new trend here, though. We wereactively investigating modular homes prior to the hurricane, butnow there is a huge demand for them.”

In the past seven to eight years, the builder said, modularhomes have grown from 4 to 6 percent of the home constructionmarket.

The growth in the modular home industry has been spurred becausethey can be built much quicker than a home built on site, commonlyreferred to as stick-built homes.

“When we get in full production we can do two a day, but we’renot in full production by any means,” DeHuff said.

The company would needs to expand in order to produce homes thatquickly, he said. Also, to meet a production schedule of thatscale, the foundations of the homes would have to already be inplace.

Aside from the speed at which the modular homes can be built,another inherent advantage is that they are built indoors.

“They can built in the shop. You don’t have to worry aboutweather slowing construction or damaging the materials. You justget your foundation ready and bring it to the site,” Templesaid.

New South Homes is one of only two modular home manufacturers inMississippi, DeHuff said. However, three other companies haveannounced plans to expand into the state or have started buildingmanufacturing centers.

The homes have to meet the same construction requirements as thestick-built homes, Temple said.

“They have to meet all the building codes that we have adopted,”he said. “It’s the same requirements as any other home that wouldbe built on that site.”

The homes are built to withstand winds in excess of 140 mph,DeHuff said. Homes built for the coast would likely be strengthenedbecause of the possibility of another Katrina.

Temple has to inspect each potential site and approve it beforea home can be placed there, which would also be required of astick-built home. However, once a housing design has been approvedby state regulators, the floorplan can be used repeatedly.

New South Homes has six different house plans, but variations onthose plans expand offerings to 18 plans, DeHuff said.

The price of modular homes is not dramatically different thanthat of stick-built homes, DeHuff said, but prices are typicallylower. Savings in labor costs and less material wastage caused byweather allows modular homes builders to sell their houses at aslightly reduced cost.