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Modular Homes Vs. Stick-Built: Which Is Best? | Cottage

Both modular and stick-built homes have their advantages and drawbacks when it comes to time and cost efficiency. Follow our guide to learn more.

January 1, 2018

Building your new home is an exciting and transformative experience, but it’s not without a fair bit of required preparation and learning along the way. Cottage understands fully that this can be an intensive project, from the design phase to the construction itself, with no small share of learning speed bumps along the way, especially for new homeowners.

Don’t fret! There is an array of hybrid, customizable options, all worth exploring as you plan and design your future home.

Cottage is here to prepare you with this guide on modular and stick-built home construction and to settle the score on which style of construction is better for your building project.

What Is a Modular Home?

Simply put, a modular home is a structure composed of one or various “modules.” Sometimes, these homes are also referred to as prefabricated (or prefab) structures, pre-built in a factory assembly line or other off-site location and transported to the property later.

How Are Modular Homes Built?

Prefab homes can be mobile homes, cottages, or other types of residences, but the main similarity is that they are delivered to the construction site as whole, finished structures. Or, as is the common case with many modular houses, they could be larger homes delivered to the building site in separate and complete pieces, which are put together on location.

Each of these “pieces” or three-dimensional sections is pre-built according to local building codes. Typically, client input is not a factor in this process.

Once the modular home is brought to the site, it is rooted in a foundation. It is important to note that a modular home is a fixed structure, not a mobile or manufactured home, which can be re-transported.

As a result of the assembly process, modular homes are often cut-and-dry and formulaic. These homes are not built with uniqueness and character in mind. Unfortunately, this leaves a homeowner with a home that has very little personality.

Modular Homes and HOAs

Before constructing a modular home, investigate if your HOA will allow it:

Home-Owners Associations (HOAs) are neighborhood-driven organizations that work to maintain the general property value of their area by enforcing rules regarding home construction quality, beautification, landscaping, and many other value-increasing efforts.

Some HOAs may deem a modular home to be too value-reductive to permit. There may be concerns about beautification, safety, or other such pitfalls that can come with modular homes. In these cases, a modular home will be restricted, or the homeowner will be made to pay a fee to their HOA. If HOA fees go unpaid, the Homeowners Organization may put a lien on the property and foreclosure of your home.

What Is a Stick-Built Home?

A stick-built home might be seen as the conventional type of construction. Many regard it as the gold standard of housing options. Generally, the building materials are of higher quality, like tried-and-true wood and drywall, among other things. Interior and exterior furnishings tend to be more luxurious, including classics like granite countertops, LVP, and French doors.

Stick-built homes grant the homeowner full rein over the design of each structure. Unlike modular homes, a traditional stick-built home is constructed entirely on-site instead of in a facility like a factory or construction yard.

\ Stick-built houses are fully adaptable and personalized, as they can be designed and built with the property’s landscape and the homeowner’s budget, needs, and desires in mind.

The homeowner can customize their stick-built home completely, as long as they follow building and fire codes. That said, the homeowner is also completely responsible for the entire process, from design to permitting. So, the creativity that comes with a stick-built home can sometimes come at the price of lower efficiency.

That’s not to say there aren’t alternatives to the extremes of either a fully site-built home or a pre-produced, modular home. Homeowners can absolutely reach out for professional help in securing the home of their dreams.

At Cottage, we take a unique approach to home construction, offering the creativity and customizability of the stick-built approach with the simplicity and efficiency that prefab or modular promise. We save the fun and creative part for the homeowner and leave the hard work of making those visions come to life to ourselves.

Comparison: Modular Homes vs. Stick-Built Home

  • Which Takes Longer To Build?
  • Which Lasts Longer?
  • How Expensive Will Home Insurance Be?

Which Takes Longer To Build?

As we touched on earlier, a modular home may take less time to build than a stick-built home, but that is not always the case. The modular home is already pre-designed and pre-built, and it is transported to the property and installed there in an already (more or less) complete state.

However, a modular home is still subject to permit fees, costs of materials, and the expenses of labor to put the pieces together.

In addition, the homeowner is still responsible for the often extensive permitting process for modular homes and submitting the plans (in person or through the mail). This process can take weeks or months, and it won’t be able to move forward until the permits are perfected and accepted.

As a result, while modular home construction can seem as though it offers overall quicker timelines, in reality quicker construction can often be negligible when you consider the entire project timeline covering feasibility, design, permitting, and construction.

A stick-built home, on the other hand, is built on-site and from the ground up, so to speak. So design, permitting, and building can take some time. But for many homeowners, stick-built is preferred for the sake of a home with character, personality, and specific features designed specifically for them. Working with experienced and vetted stick-built professionals and contractors can speed things up.

Which Lasts Longer?

Both modular and stick-built homes are made up-to-code for safety and longevity. In addition, both are also firmly rooted in a foundation on the property and cannot be re-transported.

This means that both types of homes are safe and maintainable, with the potential to be conserved or renovated over time. That being said, there is one important drawback worth mentioning when it comes to modular homes.

Modular homes, while still up-to-code, offer less flexibility and adaptability in terms of design and, additionally, can potentially be subject to some wear-and-tear. This factor should be a major concern in the minds of homeowners before choosing modular construction.

As is the case with many ready-made or mass-produced products, modular homes are often of a lower quality than customized, stick-built homes.

The materials used in constructing a modular home are often selected based on their affordability and availability en masse. That means that finer, less readily-available building materials may only be available for those who take the construction into their own hands.

Modular homes are not typically constructed with the best quality material in mind but rather the most efficient material.

How Expensive Will Home Insurance Be?

Standard homeowners insurance policies can apply to both modular and stick-built homes. Modular homes do not require an alternative type of coverage like mobile or manufactured homes.

This is because both modular and stick-built homes are fixed structures rooted in a foundation. Therefore, while they may have been designed or built, they are both seen as standard homes. They can be eligible for dwelling, personal property coverage, and liability protection.

What Are the Benefits of Stick-Built Homes?

  • Appreciation Value
  • More Variety

Appreciation Value

As fully-customized, high-quality structures, stick-built homes typically have an easier time earning appreciation as they age. A stick-built home can be designed with appreciation value in mind and structurally adapted to withstand the landscape and climate where it is built.

They can also be specifically designed with the property in mind, enhancing the beauty of the landscape and interacting with its features to produce a long-standing, unique structure. A customized home will typically be seen as a more valuable investment with a higher resale value than a factory-produced one.

More Variety

Stick-built home building offers a wide variety of options, making it the most creative and flexible approach. Everything from the architectural design to the material used can be customized, making for a completely unique structure.

How the house operates in terms of utilities and appliances is also completely in the homeowner’s hands.

The homeowner is afforded a lot more agency in how they budget, manage resources, and adapt their home to fit the property with a stick-built approach. This can lead to a higher return on investment depending on how the structure is designed in reference to its neighbors or the landscape around it.

Compare this to modular homes: Since modular homes are pre-designed, they are not built with the look of their companion home in mind. Stick-built homes can be architecturally customized to work with the terrain they are built upon, their structures adapted to the elements, and other environmental factors that come with the property.

What Are the Drawbacks of Stick-Built Homes?

  • Cost
  • Fewer Financing Options
  • Home Condition


Sometimes, with the creativity and quality of material available from the stick-built approach comes a higher price tag.

Working personally with home designers, contractors, construction companies, permitting, and having the entire process happen on your budget can be quite taxing. Additionally, transportation, building material, and labor costs can all add up over a long construction period.

As an option, Cottage offers a customizable home design based on the stick-built approach while alleviating the strain of permitting, design, and construction by taking care of the hard work for homeowners. Lower the cost and time crunch of your personally-designed home by scheduling a consultation with Cottage!

Home Condition

Ultimately, a fully customized home does not necessarily guarantee quality. While there may be sound ideas on the table, the execution of those ideas is what makes a world of difference.

There have been many cases of custom-built homes failing structurally with improper roofing, slanted floors, unevenly distributed supports, and a range of other problems that can come when you deal with various unvetted contractors.

Cottage provides a sensible choice here, making the process a lot easier by guiding homeowners through design and permitting, and then working with only vetted, reputable contractors to deliver a quality build.


Stick-built homes are considered by many to be the most desirable properties in terms of amenities, resale value, individuality, and quality. This idea of a home that is truly _you _appeals to those looking to love every inch of their space.

However, sometimes creativity and customizability come at a cost, and that cost comes in the form of expensive construction, permitting, and designing processes, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Cottage offers homeowners a fully personalized design process while taking on the stressful, time-intensive role of designing, permitting and construction upon ourselves and our respected contractor network.

Cottage seeks to simplify the construction process while still giving the homeowner the agency they need to create a dream ADU with a valuable return on investment. If this model seems right for you, schedule a consultation with Cottage today, and learn how we can help you on your home-making journey!


Modular Vs. Manufactured Home Insurance | Investopedia

Permits & Inspections | California Department of Housing & Community Development

ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE | The California Association of Homeowners Association Inc