Real Estate

Real estate prefabricated houses – not off the shelf

The employees of Deutsche Fertighaus Holding have a lot to do. At the plant in Simmern, they produce up to 80 homes a week
The employees of Deutsche Fertighaus Holding have a lot to do. At the plant in Simmern, they produce up to 80 homes a week Katrin Binner

When Esma and Salih Toptas decided to build their own home for themselves and their daughter Mira in their hometown of Erbach, it quickly became clear that the house should be a prefabricated house. An important argument for the builders: the short construction time. When the construction team arrived in the Odenwald at the end of March, the inner and outer walls of the city villa stood in just two days, and the roof was sealed on the third day. “We even saved a little compared to a solid house,” says Salih Toptas. The house of the Okal brand with 165 square meters turnkey costs around 370,000 euros.

After a slump in demand, prefabricated houses are enjoying great popularity again. Every fifth home in Germany is built from prefabricated parts. While the number of building permits for all single and two-family houses fell by 4.7 percent to 102,000 in 2017, 5.5 percent more prefabricated houses were approved: a good 20,000. “Most manufacturers work at the capacity limit,” says Achim Hannott, managing director of the Federal Association of German Prefabricated Buildings (BDF).

The preparation

“Finding a building site is often the most difficult part of buying a house today,” says Andreas Speer, managing director of Eigenheim und Garten, an operator of model house exhibitions. Many providers help interested parties to find a suitable area. The Toptas family also had several building sites shown.

The development plan of the municipality limits the choice of possible house types (number of floors, floor areas, roof shapes), but a large number of models remain. More than 60 larger manufacturers are on the market in Germany, some of them offer dozens of basic types with a multitude of variants and options, so that interested parties quickly lose track.

Speer recommends that those willing to build should first draw up a list with all the points that the new house should fulfill. They should also set out a realistic financial framework at an early stage. The next step is to visit a model house exhibition (addresses at tinyurl.com/hausausstellung). Consultants of the manufacturers explain the house types on site and provide information about alternatives. Some companies even offer a joint inspection of the building plot. On site, for example, it is easier to clarify whether it makes sense to build a basement – or whether a floor slab is the better option.

The selection

A finished property is rarely a “ready-made house”. According to the BDF, around two thirds of all prefabricated houses are planned freely. Depending on the price range, floor plans and equipment can be changed to different degrees. High-priced providers such as Huf Haus generally design the building individually. The Toptas family in Erbach also had special requests: relocating the entrance to the basement – because the house is on a hillside plot – and separate dressing areas for bedrooms and children’s rooms.

But where can you save? Some providers sell so-called expansion houses, in which the customer takes over the interior work on his own. However, buyers should realistically assess their own manual skills and their time budget. If you hire a craftsman yourself, you have to get offers early and make appointments. The Toptas family opted for an intermediate variant: relatives take over the expansion of the “ready-to-paint” house.

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