At some point on your quest to building a custom made home, you are going to have to reach out to Manufacturers to get price offers for your building.
Unfortunately it is easier said than done...
Here are a few tips to maximize your chance to get the attention of Manufacturers and to receive a price in a reasonable time.
While getting a few price offers might seem a quick thing to do, it usually takes way longer than you can account for… and in some cases you will never get an answer to your price request.
I bet you don't like waiting… and much less you like to be the one who gets ignored.
Put yourself in the shoes of another fellow who is building a new home for his family.
His number one worry is: “can I pull this off?” (sounds familiar?)
There are a lot of things in play when you take a challenge this big, most of them you totally ignore in the beginning and you’ll figure out on the way - BUT - there is one question you keep asking yourself from day one:
“How much is this gonna cost me?”
Figuring out the price of a new house is one the most asked questions when it comes to prefab wooden homes.
All the fellows going through the planning process have exactly THAT question.
Can you imagine that?
Tens of thousands of people planning a better future for their families, all with the pressing need to figure out a price.
It would be nice if an Architect could help you to get this number quickly and easily… but you probably already figured out that Architects are wizards of geometry and, unfortunately, not so good with crunching numbers.
So the advice you get (or common sense) is to go ask the price to the one professional that knows everything about the house: the Manufacturer.
...and so think the other tens of thousands of fellows who are walking your very same path.
Manufacturers are busy. VERY busy.
A Word of Warning
Before I tell you how to get a Manufacturer to pay attention to you, you need to understand that relying on a Producer to make the price of your entire house is like walking into an appliance store to buy an oven and ask them how much your entire kitchen is going to cost.
It doesn't work that way.
Because exactly like in an appliance store they do not deal with anything but appliances, the Manufacturer deals only with ONE part of the house: the structure.
Everything that is OUTSIDE the house (groundworks, foundations, network connections, permits,...) or INSIDE the house (plumbing, electricity, ventilation, heating, painting works, …), is NOT a concern for a Producer and there is little he can do to help you put a price on it.
Roughly, the prefab house kit is gonna cost you 30-40% of the entire build (excluding the price of the land).
Yes, getting the price of the house kit can still be a good starting point but you have to be very careful with your expectations cause there is no better way to turn away a Manufacturer than asking something that is outside his scope of works.
Just so you get it clear, a Manufacturer generally specializes in this process:
- getting a set of Architectural drawings and pinpoint their technical flaws;
- understanding the three-dimensional object described by the Architectural Design;
- breaking down the object into two-dimensional components;
- making an engineering design for those two-dimensional components;
- manufacturing all the two-dimensional components;
- packing and shipping all the components to your construction site;
- assembling the two-dimensional components on your site and ending up with the full-size object you that was described by your Architectural drawings.
You see, in most cases, a Manufacturer is just a supplier and not a General Contractor.
Some Manufacturers offer more services and they might even go so far to offer a turn-key home. However, this is an exception rather than the norm, so you must ask before you assume a Manufacturer will make foundation works for you and will make your house completely ready.
Price Offers Take Time
Now that we clarified what you should NOT expect, let’s dig in into what you can get from a good Manufacturer.
Houses are complex objects and building one from scratch takes up lots of time and resources.
But it is not only about building works.
In order to make a sound and realistic price estimate, the Producer has to fully understand every detail of a project. You may think we are talking about Architectural details… but there is more than that to add to the price equation.
Things like location, proximity to other buildings, time of the year you’ll be building, your own logistics for the rest of construction works… it all has to be understood by the Manufacturer and taken into account in the preparation of a price offer.
When you consider all this, you can easily understand it takes not less than one full day of work of one person to make a good price offer.
Yes, you read correctly… ONE FULL DAY!
Of course, some houses can be priced faster than others but, as a rule of thumb, a detached single family villa takes not less than 5-6 hours to be understood, processed and translated into a money figure.
The Price Offer Queue
With more and more people going the prefab way, successful Producers are constantly flooded with requests for pricing new objects.
Good for them, right?
While having a high demand might seem a good and healthy fact, when too many people are in competition for the attention of the same Company, things often go sideways.
When a Manufacturer gets too many price requests, there is simply not enough time to make everyone happy.
Someone will be kept waiting a long time and some of those requests will never be answered.
If this happened to you, bear no grudge… it is probably your fault.
Yes, you hear me right: your fault.
In fact, whether your request is taken seriously and with “priority”, much depends on how you approach the Manufacturer.
Let me explain...
When you think you are asking “could you please give me a price on this house?”, what the Manufacturer really hears is “could you borrow me one of your employees for say 8 hours so I can decide whether I even want to build a house? …eventually… maybe… whatever.”
But it’s their job to make price offers - you might think…
Their job is to make money and to do that they need to produce houses, therefore they need to invest their time in those Projects which have the highest chance of going to Contract… hence their job is to get rid of all the requests that are a potential waste of time.
You see where this is going?
The way you ASK for that price offer can make a big difference!
If you are smart about the way you approach the Producer, your request will have a better chance of jumping right on top of the queue.
Let me show you how.
Generally, Manufacturers do not charge potential Clients for price offers. When making an offer they take the risk of investing several manhours on a project that might never come.
As in any investment, there must be a logic that dictates which opportunities to pursue and which ones to pass.
This logic is usually a combination of rules and “gut feelings” and it is different for every Company.
Now, while we cannot predict with certainty what puts you on the top of the queue for a certain Manufacturer, we can confidently pinpoint what would make your project drop to the bottom of the list.
In fact, as the Building Industry follows more or less the same rules everywhere, there are certain “indicators” that always play an important role in the evaluation of how likely a certain project is to make it to construction.
Reversing the prioritization logic, we pinpointed FIVE critical indicators that will certainly push your request to the bottom of a queue.
5 Things You Should Never Say to a Manufacturer
The Sales Department of a Producer of good Prefab Wooden Homes probably gets a few dozens of price requests per week Their queue of requests is long.
If you want to be taken seriously, avoid making any of the following mistakes.
If you want your request to stand out, pay special attention to the paragraph where I explain “what to do instead”.
Here are the top FIVE things you should avoid saying when you start your dialog with a Manufacturer.
I ask you forgiveness in advance for being very blunt... I trust the insights you get will compensate for a bruised ego.
1) “I am looking for a land to buy”
Owning a land is the first step to building a house. No land, no Project.
Saying you do not own a land yet equals confessing you are VERY early in the planning process.
Why it hurts you: if you state that you do not own a land (yet), the Manufacturers will immediately understand that you do not have a Project and that your request is purely hypothetical.
In their mind, you are just hunting for a price out of curiosity, therefore they will not spend a minute dealing with your request.
They will suggest you look the prices from Companies that offer catalog houses and they will tell you to come back at a later time when you have a more clear idea of your needs and wants.
They’ll probably advise you need to hire an Architect that should figure out what you can build on the land you are going to buy and, of course, you should own the land before contacting them.
What to do instead: the best would be you really follow the advice above and figure out how much the entire house would cost BEFORE you write to a Manufacturer.
As a rule of thumb, thinking of building a custom-made home with less than 1000 EUR/m2 is delusional.
In most cases, you can get your house fully finished with bells and whistles for something around 1300-1500 EUR/m2 (land excluded).
Of course, some houses are easier and cheaper to build while others are more complex and expensive…so consider this a starting point.
You can use these figures for a very rough estimate of the total budget necessary to build your new home.
If you do contact a Manufacturer, remember that his price will cover only part of the works you need to execute and remember not to mention you do not own a land (yet).
2) “Do you have a catalog?”
If you can be happy with a catalog house, why bother writing to a Producer of Custom Made Homes?
Catalog houses are cheaper than custom-made ones and there are Companies that specialize in setting up this kind of homes.
If you are really after a catalog house, do everyone a favor and do look for it on the right website.
Why it hurts you: when you ask for a catalog house you are basically admitting three things:
- You do not have an architectural design yet;
- You are happy with whatever average solution they give you;
- You have not done enough homework.
When presented to a Producer of prefab custom-made homes, each of the three statements above is equally bad and the sum of them will kill your request on the spot.
Let’s see the three statements one by one in detail.
Statement 1 - If you do not have an architectural design it means you haven't invested time and money in the Project. Chances are this is just an overnight idea and it will not be taken seriously by a Manufacturer.
Note that (1) also implies (3).
Statement 2 - If you think you can be happy with a Catalog House, you should turn to a Producer specialized in Catalog Homes.
If you haven’t been able to find one, it is because you haven’t searched enough… which brings us to nr. (3).
Statement 3 - If you have not been able to clarify for yourself what you really want, why should a busy Manufacturer borrow you some of his time?
What to do instead: if your aim is just to get a reference price for a house similar to the idea you have in your mind, just look for a catalog product and ask its Manufacturer to give you a quote.
You can then add a 20% to that price if you want to buy a custom-made home instead of a catalog one.
If your aim is instead to find inspiration for the design of the house, simply Google “prefab wooden homes floor plans” and start browsing images.
Please keep in mind that the best course of action is always to define which are your needs and wants and then hire an Architect to help you develop a good, functional and personalized design.
You shall contact a Manufacturer only after your floor plans are ready (note that the draft design should come with exterior views of the house as well).
3) “I need a house with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms…”
Bad, bad, bad…
Manufacturers should not make Architect’s work… and this is what you are asking with this statement!
Why it hurts you: although a bit better than asking for a catalog house, your request screams “I have not put the minimum effort into this thing and I’d like you to sort it out for me”.
What the Manufacturer will understand is that you have no design and there is no chance you are going to build anytime soon. Your request gets ditched.
What to do instead: get in touch with an Architect with the very same request.
The Architect will take your needs into consideration and, based on the limitations given by the land you own, he will develop for you a good, functional and personalized design.
Once you have your own design, any Manufacturer will be happy to price your house.
4) “I asked offers to other Manufacturers and I am looking for the most affordable one”
This, honestly, sounds a bit rude… it is like dating more than one lady at the same time and say “you are informed the time you invest in me has no certain return since I am seeing more than one woman… cause, hey, I want to pick the best one!”
Polite, maybe, but plenty stupid if you ask me.
Why it hurts you: you give the impression of not caring about the quality and the service provided by that particular Producer and you admit being on a budget.
The Manufacturer understands that the chances of getting your project are very low and, even if he gets it, it would be for a very low price.
Who would want to accept such deal?
They will trash your request with no second thought… especially because they know their Competitors will give you a price and you’ll eventually end up happy bearing no grudge against them.
What to do instead: instead of bluntly stating that you are on a budget, ask Manufacturers to price your project using their standard construction solution.
This is the cheapest option they can provide and they’ll be happy to do so since it is faster for them to make a price offer if no special wishes are involved.
Once you get the price offer for the standard solution, you can evaluate whether you have the budget to add bells and whistles or if you better work with a cheaper Company.
NOTE: do not expect great differences in price among Manufacturers. If the price difference exceeds 10%, most likely you’ve been offered a different product!
5) “I want you to make foundation works”
A very few Manufacturers offer this kind of service… so make sure you do your homework before even asking.
If you are trying to buy the prefab house kit from a Manufacturer which is located in another Country, you should understand that asking to perform concrete works on site is a bit of a stretch.
God forbid you ask “I want you to deliver the house turnkey”... that would be even worse.
You are asking the Manufacturer to do the interior works, technical installations and all the necessary finishing works… and most of them require special licenses in the Country where the works are performed.
Why it hurts you: if the Manufacturer states on his website he specializes in production, delivery and installation of the building envelope, you are not paying attention.
Moreover, if you insist on getting foundation or finishing works done by the Producer, it shows you do not fully understand the complexity of the tasks involved.
If it was possible for the Manufacturer to perform such works, be sure he would brag about it.
Concerning concrete works, you should know that they require specialized heavy machinery. A foreign Company is unlikely to have connections with local Contractors right in the place where you have to build, much less likely to have machinery standing there ready to perform your works.
What to do instead: most Manufacturers are willing to go the extra mile to please you… but they do appreciate when you understand their limitations and conditions.
If you set your game playing by their rules, you can get the upper hand when it comes to negotiating a good price or a few extra “features” for your house.
Insisting on getting something the Manufacturer is not equipped to give you, will only create tensions.
If you think you really need additional works done by the Producer, then try to go with a Company that is located in your Country or do your homework before asking the price offer and be sure that particular Manufacturer offers the works you require.
The Best Approach
If you want a Manufacturer to be genuinely interested in your project and to take it into high consideration, nothing can beat a good architectural design and a well-written request.
Presenting yourself with a custom-made design is a sign you are fully committed. With or without that Manufacturer, your project is going to happen.
Manufacturers respect this attitude.
Take a moment to explain to the Manufacturer why you are contacting him out of all the possible options. Maybe some image on his website inspired you or maybe you heard good words about him.
Explaining the WHY, will make you stand out of the crowd and they’ll instantly like you.
If you can find the name of a Sales Manager on the website of the Manufacturer, write directly to that contact and address him/her by name.
This shows you have a superior attention to detail and you’ve done your homework right.
Manufacturers love this kind of people.
Finally, in your first request be open to experiment. Let the Manufacturer make you the offer he thinks works best for your project.
This way your request will be processed faster and you’ll get the best price they can offer.
Asking too much customization too soon generally results in a more careful evaluation of the project, hence longer waiting time.
It also results in higher price since every customization you make comes with a margin.
So, especially if you know you are on a budget, let Manufacturers do what they do best and trust they’ll make you a good price offer.
Once the first offer is done, you have your foot in their door and it will be faster to get a revision if necessary.
Just so you know, it is totally normal to ask a couple of revisions after the first price offer.
In general, Manufacturers are happy to make a revision because:
- it is faster than starting from scratch with a new project;
- it feels like they are making progress towards the closing of the agreement;
- it feels like the work they’ve done for you so far has been appreciated.
Yes, you can leverage this to your advantage.
When you ask a revision, make sure you acknowledge what you liked in the previous offer and then ask for the required changes.
If you follow all the tips of this article you will be able to get your price in record time while being able to customize your house exactly the way you want it.
Remember you should get price offers from at least three different Manufacturers and you should them compare them to make sure you get a fair treatment and good agreement terms.
Comparing offers is a story for another article (a long one).
For the time being, just keep in mind we are here to help you when the time comes to figure out which offer is the one you should sign-on.