Beyond Trailer Parks: Prefab Homes

People tour a modular solar house on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. See more prefab home pictures.
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Having suffered a bad reputation for the past few decades, prefab homes are making a comeback. In an age where people are paring down, thinking more ecologically, and trying to save money, a prefab home can be a great solution.

Prefab homes first appeared on the American landscape around 1908, when Sears, Roebuck and Co. began selling kit-homes. Automotive workers in Michigan -- where the Aladdin company was based, another manufacturer of pre-fab homes -- wanted to build homes for their families outside of the city. And as assembly line production methods improved due to the automotive industry, manufacturers realized that homes could be produced efficiently on conveyor belts as well. Instead of sending an entire construction team out to a property site to build a house, kit-homes could be manufactured in just one place and then shipped to each site at a lower cost.

Around 1920 or so, you could buy a kit-home for about $2,500. Your kit would come with very detailed instructions and about 30,000 pieces -- which kind of makes that IKEA desk seem like a cakewalk, doesn't it? The low price also made kit-homes a popular option for more wealthy homeowners who wanted to build a vacation home. However, after the stock market crash, people could barely afford their own homes, let alone a vacation home, and kit-home sales dropped off. After World War II, prefab homes found popularity once again, for returning veterans who had little money. Many people would just tow their home from town to town, wherever the jobs were.

Soon enough, these mobile homes settled down in what we know as trailer parks and became associated with low-income housing. Pre-fab homes no longer signaled wealth.

Today, however, that's all changing. Pre-fab homes have come a long way, and many people now embrace them for their cutting-edge design, their sustainability and their low costs.

Read on to find out more about the new boom in pre-fab homes.