Home Building Choices 101: Panelized Homes & Kit Homes

“Let’s see … I’ll take Home-in-Box Plan #73997”


Since the early days of Sears near the turn of the LAST century, we’ve been able to purchase entire home building kits and have them delivered to our building site for construction. Not only has the idea never gone away, the choices are growing. What’s the attraction? Are they real homes? Should YOU consider this approach?

There’s a lot of misinformation about packaged homes that I want to clear up. In my years as an owner builder consultant, I have found them to offer some clear advantages for people. The biggest being the convenience of having so much included in the package reducing the need for decisions and shopping.

They are referred to in a variety of ways. But, most of them are honest to goodness homes. We call them packaged homes, kit homes, panelized homes, factory built homes, and so on. Traditional site-built homes are often referred to as “stick built” homes. Unlike manufactured (mobile) homes which are classified differently, most packaged homes have earned full “stick-built” status.

Yet, these stick built homes are not put together in the traditional way. They are built in controlled factory environments and usually with high quality wood products. A valuable option offered by some panelized companies includes energy efficient Structural Insulated Panels or SIPs.

Homes can be purchased as a lumber package only to complete the outer shell of the home, or they can be nearly complete home packages. These full packages include all the windows, doors, siding, roofing, insulation, dry-wall, cabinets, countertops, and sometimes plumbing and electrical.


Very often there are a number of styles and lay-outs to choose from and in some instances you can submit plans of your own. They will incorporate your plans into their system and “panelize it” for you. This means that they will frame it in small sections, or panels, for delivery to your site. Then with the help of computer prepared schematics, the framing is often completed in less than half the normal time required to stick frame a house the traditional way.

Your choices aren’t limited to just floor plans. You’ll be able to choose things like siding, roofing, cabinets, countertops, and windows, doors and trim. For further clarification, here is a short list of what these and packages usually “are” or “are not”

— THEY ARE generally considered high quality, stick-built construction that receive full appraisal values against the traditional site built homes.

— THEY ARE convenient for the home builder in more remote areas where there aren’t any lumberyards.

— THEY ARE NOT snap together homes to be build by a novice. They need to be assembled on site by experienced labor.

— THEY ARE often time savers as much of the labor and shopping has been done.

— THEY ARE NOT trouble free! In most cases the manufacturer will have to resolve at least some (usually minor) issues with the lumber package.

— THEY ARE often packaged with the financing necessary to pay for materials and labor to build the home.

— THEY ARE usually backed by companies who can send out trouble shooters to analyze any problem and offer solutions.

— THEY ARE NOT less expensive than buying lumber from the local lumberyard. Although, when you factor in convenience and potential time savings, the overall money invested could be lower than with traditional building.

— THEY ARE most often built in the factory with more precision and consistency than can be found with many local framing crews.

Packaged/panelized homes can be a really good alternative depending upon your goals and needs. You should check out several companies before you buy. You’ll find differences in pricing, options, customer service, and available plans.

Be sure to check for the following:

— Are they licensed in your state or building area?

— Do they have local representation that you can work with?

— Can they give you references in your local area that you can talk with?

— How far away from your building site are they and how do they fix problems?

Like any other building project, panelized home packages will have their problems. Depending upon your needs, the help you can get, the financing offered, the location of your building site, the cost of lumber locally, and many other factors, the advantages can be very attractive. Good luck and remember, whatever you do, have fun!

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