Modular homes are being used for a growing number of Vail Valley projects
July 15, 2018
EAGLE COUNTY — Bruce Hagedorn has worked with modular homes since the 1990s. He's seen a lot of changes in those years.
"Everything has been dramatically improved," Hagedorn said.
Hagedorn is the owner and developer of Eagle Landing at Brush Creek, a new townhome project in Eagle. The units there are being shipped to Eagle from a factory and then assembled on site.
Using modular construction has become more popular in the valley in recent years, from Vail to Dotsero.
Fortius Realty for the past few years has been working on Two Rivers Village at Dotsero. That project has been selling well, and about 35 new units there will be sold this year.
Fortius has also been working on homes in Gypsum's Buckhorn Valley neighborhood and is branching out. The company is now working on bringing pairs of duplex units to Main Street in Minturn. Those units are a bit more than 1,800 square feet each and sell for upvalley prices — between $725,00 and $750,000 each.
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Chad Cremonese, of Fortius, said that firm is also in the planning stages of putting a luxury home in Vail. That will also be built in a factory and then set on a foundation and finished locally.
Built to a need
Homes in Dotsero and Vail have to meet different standards, from county building regulations to passing muster with the Vail Design Review Board. That can all be handled at whatever factory builds the units.
While Fortius is building in neighborhoods, the company can also work with an individual who owns a lot. Services can range from putting a unit on a foundation to a full package.
That can help someone who wants to build a home.
From financing to hiring contractors and subcontractors, "building a home can be difficult," Cremonese said. "We can make a project that seems impossible more practical."
Using factory-built units has been becoming more popular in the past few years.
Vail Housing Director George Ruther led that town's effort to build a 32-townhome project along Chamonix Lane in West Vail. As the project evolved from idea to reality, Ruther and his team evaluated the differences between site-building the townhomes and assembling the units from already-complete sections. Using modular construction won out.
Ruther said modular pricing was "a little better" than site-built. But, he added, there were other advantages.
Perhaps the biggest was speed. Construction at Chamonix began in April 2017. The first families moved in in January of this year.
The speed of construction helped the town quickly recoup the roughly $18 million it loaned the project, which was repaid through sales in about 12 months.
Then there were savings in overhead costs. Every month people had to be on the Chamonix site meant a cost of roughly $40,000 to $50,000, Ruther said.
Speed to market also helped take some of the uncertainty out of buyers' mortgage interest rates.
Complete on arrival
Part of that speed comes from the fact that the factory-built units are fully finished.
Ruther said the Chamonix units were finished from interior paint to flooring and appliances. All the plumbing and wiring was installed, and sinks and toilets made the trip on the truck.
Hagedorn said the finishes available from factories run the gamut from first-home basic to luxury-home fancy — including cherry wood cabinets and high-end counter tops and appliances.
Once a unit is inspected and ready to ship, it's wrapped in plastic and sent to its ultimate destination with everything inside, with a few exceptions. Ruther said some of the Chamonix units with "luxury vinyl tile" were shipped with bare floors. It gets hot in a shrink-wrapped unit, and the flooring was installed on site to prevent possible warping.
"The old theory that the modular is just a starter home" doesn't apply any more, Hagedorn said. "Anything you want is out there."
Cremonese said the duplexes in Minturn are priced similarly to the most expensive Chamonix homes. But, he added, those homes are on the free market.
The Chamonix homes are deed restricted, meaning owners are limited in how much their units can appreciate over time.
Several of the Eagle Landing homes will also be deed restricted. But, it seems, factory-built units are coming to the valley regardless of price point.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com and 970-748-2930.