Factory-Built Homes’ Plug and Play

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“Is this something homebuyers are ready to embrace in the next five to six years? Our biggest questions focus on design, cost and marketability. Is it something that 100 percent of homebuyers will want?” Raymer said.

Blu’s sales director, Kaitlin Burek, is convinced the buyers who prefer a green home are quickly becoming the majority. “People are thinking about helping the environment, becoming more efficient and saving money,” she said. “More banks are willing to wrap in solar costs to traditional home loans.”

While very few first-time homebuyers could afford the $2.25 million Blu Home in Sonoma, other designs are more affordable. The smallest, a 460-square-foot studio apartment, starts at $130,000. A four-bedroom “Sidebreeze” model such as the one in Sonoma costs $590,000. That price doesn’t include land and other costs such as the foundation, which could be as low as $60,000, according to a Blu Homes estimate.

Los Angeles’ Connect:Homes, founded in May 2012, also is manufacturing green factory-built houses. Each is shipped 90 percent pre-assembled. Both Blu Homes and Connect homes meet the Silver-level LEED requirements; Blu homes can attain LEED Gold certification with the addition of the solar panels.

Where Blu’s homes are box-like, Connect homes are more like a boxcar, 8 feet wide, 40 feet long and 9½ feet high. The modular shape can be shipped just about anywhere for about $5,000, according to Connect.

The base model, a 640-square-foot, one-bedroom, costs $139,000. Installation and site work are an additional $23,000. On the upper end of the range, Connect’s 2,500-square-foot model costs $360,000 plus $88,000 to put it together.

At the end of 2012, Blu Homes celebrated its 100th “project” (each structure is referred to as a project), and by July of this year it had already doubled that mark, Burek said. Blu has built more than 50 of those homes in the Bay Area and more than a dozen more within 150 miles of San Francisco. “Since I joined three years ago, our sales have grown more than 10 times,” Burek said.

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Photography courtesy of Blu Homes

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