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 it should be a prefabricated house. An important argument for the client: 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 were up in just two days, and the roof was sealed on the third day. “We have even saved a little compared to a solid house,” says Salih Toptas. The turnkey house of the Okal brand with 165 square meters costs around 370,000 euros.
After a slump in demand, prefabricated houses are enjoying great popularity again. Every fifth home in this country 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 are working to the limit of their capacity,” says Achim Hannott, Managing Director of the German Association of Prefabricated Buildings (BDF).
“Finding a building site is often the most difficult part of buying a house these days,” says Andreas Speer, managing director of Eigenheim und Garten, an operator of model house exhibitions. Many providers help interested parties to find a suitable space. The Toptas family also had several building sites shown.
The municipality’s development plan limits the choice of possible house types (number of floors, floor areas, roof shapes), but there are still a large number of models left. More than 60 larger manufacturers are on the market in Germany, some offer dozens of basic types with a multitude of variants and options, so that interested parties quickly lose track of things.
Speer recommends that those willing to build should first draw up a list of all the points that the new house should meet. You should also define a realistic financial framework at an early stage. The next step is to visit a model house exhibition (addresses at tinyurl.com/hausausstellungen). Manufacturers’ advisors explain the house types on site and provide information about alternatives. Some companies even offer a joint tour of the building site. For example, it is easier to clarify on site whether it makes sense to build a cellar – or whether a floor slab is the better option.
A prefabricated property is rarely an “off the peg” house. Around two thirds of all prefabricated houses are freely planned according to the BDF. Depending on the price range, floor plans and equipment can be changed to different degrees. High-priced providers such as Huf Haus always design the building individually. The Toptas family in Erbach also had special requests: moving 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 finishing houses, where the customer does the interior work himself. Buyers should, however, realistically assess their own manual skills and their time budget. Anyone who engages craftsmen themselves must obtain offers and make appointments at an early stage. The Toptas family decided on an intermediate variant: relatives take over the expansion of the house that was handed over “ready for painting”.