Housing shortage:could this flat-pack £50k 'modulhus' be the future of new homes for first-time buyers?

TV property experts Kevin McCloud, Charlie Luxton and George Clarke recently voted this flat-pack house the winner of the Starter Home on a Shoestring competition.

Pre-built, customisable homes are being touted as a way to help get first-time buyers onto the property ladder.

A far cry from the low-quality post-Second World War prefab houses, new technology means that factory-built houses can be at the cutting-edge of architecture - functional, sustainable and ​generally more affordable than traditional brick.

The Modulhus is one such example. Last week, TV property experts Kevin McCloud, Charlie Luxton and George Clarke awarded it the winner of the Starter Home on a Shoestring competition, run by the National Custom & Self Build Association.

The design consists of a series of "modules" pre-built in a factory, transported on a lorry to the site and assembled within days.

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Modulhus: each module can be fitted together to create a unique standalone house or block of flats

Each module is 15 feet wide by 9 feet high and constructed from 12-inch timber I-beam, so is highly insulated. Plus, there is no need for internal structural support so just about any interior layout can be accommodated, say designers Ecomotive and Barton Willmore.

The modules can fit together to create a standalone home, terrace, or low-rise block of flats, with a standard 710sq ft, two-bedroom home costing from just £49,644.

With possible savings of up to 30 per cent on buying an existing property, including buying the land, this could bring the average cost of first-time buyer homes down to £300,000 from £430,000 in London, and £175,000 from £250,000 nationwide. 

NaCSBA's chariman Michael Holmes said: “We have always believed it was possible to build a modest new home for much less than this, and the winning design demonstrates that a comfortable two-bedroom starter home can be constructed on a self- or custom-build basis for less than £50,000.

How to get started
New right to build legislation is already making it easier than ever for the UK's aspiring self-builders to find land.

Plus next month, the Government is expected to release a proposal that will encourage banks to lend to small firms pre-building homes in factories, with ministers said to be hopeful that more than 100,000 custom-built homes will be erected within the next four years.

Financing may not be as daunting as it first seems. "Self-build mortgages aren’t so different to regular mortgages," says Holmes. "The amount you can borrow is determined by your income - typically three to four times. Significantly, the mortgage amount dependent on the costs of the project rather than the value."

Custom-builds in the spotlight
In June this year, Bill Dunster, founder of award-winning architecture practice Zed Factory, came up with a similar idea - the ZEDpod concept of cheap, space-saving houses and flats raised on supports above car parks.

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The Zedpod: these cheap, space-saving houses and flats raised on supports above car parks could cost from £60,000 to build (ZEDfactory)

His prefabricated pod homes, which measure a cosy 242sq ft, would cost about £60,000 each to build. 

Huf Haus, meanwhile, has been creating factory-engineered timber and glass homes since the Sixties. The company produces mainly one-off and thus expensive properties, but their fabulous houses are a brilliant showcase for the possibilities of modular design.

Follow Lizzie Rivera on Twitter @LizzieRivs

Michael Holmes will be at The Northern Homebuilding & Renovating Show, November 4-6, Harrogate; and The South-West Homebuilding & Renovating Show, November 19-20, The Bath & West Showground, Shepton Mallet, Somerset.

Tickets are £8 in advance or £12 on the door. Visit www.homebuildingshow.co.uk/harrogate or call the ticket hotline on 0844 8740 484 (calls cost 6p per minute plus network extras).


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