Guide to Building Prefab and Modular Homes in Upstate New York - Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany — Prefab Review (2022)

Matt Knigge

Matt Knigge

Guide to Building Prefab and Modular Homes in Upstate New York - Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany — Prefab Review (1)

Our guide to building prefab and modular homes in Upstate New York covers large cities in New York State such as Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, and Albany and answers questions that you may have about the prefab and modular home building process. In this guide, we address general questions about the process such as, “why should I build a prefab home in Buffalo?” or “how much will it cost to build a prefab home in Rochester?’ and outline key decisions that you must make along the way. Below, you can find our answers to these questions as well as a breakdown of the economics of a prefab home built in Upstate New York including the cities of Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany. For more project-specific guidance, connect with one of our prefab home experts for free here.

Why Might You Want to Build a Prefab Home in Upstate New York including in Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo

  • Quick Build Times - prefab and modular homes are manufactured off-site and assembled at the final build site which allows for multiple steps of the project to be completed simultaneously and more efficiently than a traditional home build. This often results in shorter build times than traditional, site-built homes.This is especially important in Upstate New York and even more so in areas with rough winters like Rochester and Buffalo. With prefab, the manufacturing process can continue in spite of high winds and heavy snow

  • Cost Controlled - using a highly controlled build process (homes are manufactured in climate-controlled production and cutting facilities), unforeseen cost overruns can be better managed leading to reduced overall cost. Sustainable & Modern - many of the prefab and modular home manufacturers that serve Upstate New York offer homes that are well-insulated and energy efficient.

    • Durable - manufacturers that serve cities like Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, and Albany offer products that are manufactured with consideration of the natural hazards of the area such as high winds, cold winters, and heavy snow loads. As such, homes are designed and engineered to provide high-levels of protection from these natural hazards.

Key Decisions to Make:

  • Custom vs. Standard - While most builders offer a set of pre-designed floor plans, while some also offer options for partial or total home customization. Other builders may specialize in custom prefab home designs. 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 home build

  • 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 manufactured and assembled off-site and consist of floors, walls, ceilings, wiring, plumbing, and internal fixtures. After being assembled in an off-site facility, they are shipped to your desired location and the modules are connected and fastened to the foundation. Modular construction is one of the most affordable and quickest prefab building techniques due to the high degree of work completed off-site.

    • Kit Home - all materials and components necessary for building a home are pre-measured, cut, and delivered to the build site. In some 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 separate from one another in an off-site location. From there, they are shipped and 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.

      • Some builders advertise using Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) which are a 2-in-1 combination of high-efficiency insulation and structural panels. This allows for the creation of a quick, energy-efficient prefab home.

  • Architect/manufacturer 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 also pay attention to the services your company offers. In some cases the company you choose may only offer a home design and therefore sub-contract out the manufacturing process, though this is not as common as most companies offer both home design and manufacturing. This type of company however, still leaves you responsible for acquiring land and later finding a local builder to complete necessary site work and finish your home at the project site. It is worth noting that there are several companies that offer all-in-one services and can assist you in all stages of the home-build process including design, manufacturing, site work, and finishing your home.

  • 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 more 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.

    • 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 a city like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany or other areas of Upstate New York?

    • 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 $175 - $550+ (as of June, 2020).

  • Is a prefab home a good investment?

  • Can I finance a prefab home in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, or other areas of Upstate New York?

    • Yes. The most common way to finance a prefab home is a temp to perm loan. 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 spreadsheet (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, it is likely there will be a sizable return on your investment.

Item Unit Rochester, New York Buffalo, New York Syracuse, New York Albany, New York Notes
Cost To Build
Cost of lot including closing costs & buyers agent $ 85,000 90,000 50,000 70,000
Cost of prefab home + construction $ 550,000 600,000 500,000
Loan Rate 4.50% 4.50% 4.50% 4.50%
Loan $ 34,290 37,260 29,700 36,180 4.5% APR (interest only), 18 months project time, 20% down
Value of tax deduction $ -12,002 -13,041 -10,395 -12,663 Assumes income to deduct and 35% marginal tax rate
Total cost to build $ 657,289 714,219 569,305 693,517
ARV (after repair value) This is the term for post-construction value
$ per sqft comps for new construction $ 265 275 290 255
Size of new home Sqft 2,750 3,000 2,500 3,000
Cost to buy similar home $ 728,750 825,000 725,000 765,000
Return On A Flip
Sale price $ 728,750 825,000 725,000 765,000
Cost to Build $ $657,289 $714,219 $569,305 $693,517
Broker Fees $ $43,725 $49,500 $43,500 $45,900 6%
Closing costs $ $14,575 $16,500 $14,500 $15,300 2%
Profit before taxes $ 13,161 44,781 97,695 10,283
  • How long will it take?

    • The answer to this question depends a lot on your particular location. Your city’s permitting and building process will play a large role in determining the time frame for your build. Total, the build process can take between 1-2 years and maybe longer if there is a design review process.

    • Planning Departments of Upstate New York:

Reputable Companies that Serve Upstate New York:

  • Huntington Homes

    • Offer over 100 traditional designs such as Cape, Colonial, Ranch, and Farm House as well as fully-custom floorplans

    • All-in-cost: $175 - $275 per sqft

  • Resolution:4 Architecture

  • Cocoon 9

    • Offers 3 models of high-end prefab tiny homes. Homes (also suitable for use as ADUs, backyard studios, or pool houses) are notable for their repurposed shipping container exteriors

    • All-in-cost: $700 - $800 per sqft

  • Turkel Design

    • A well-known designer, Turkel has 11 models of beautifully designed and crafted luxury homes.

    • All-in-cost: $450 - $550+ per sqft

  • BrightBuilt Home

    • Has 9 net-zero energy buildings — featuring Cape-cod and farmhouse designs — all optimized for sustainability and energy efficiency.

    • All-in-cost: $280 - $390 per sq ft

  • Lindal Cedar Homes

    • Has a variety of home offerings ranging between 470 sq ft and 6,000+ sqft. Buyers can choose between 9 home styles or custom design their home from the bottom up.

    • All-in-cost: $300 - $550+ per sqft

Alternatively, see our list of prefab home builders and modular home builders in New York or our list of tiny homes for sale in New York. For project-specific assistance, speak with a member of our Prefab Concierge program.

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