Custom Home Cost: Modular Vs. Stick-Built

Posted by Jamie Kline on May 8, 2024 10:00:00 AM
Jamie Kline
Stick-built vs. modular home

There are plenty of ways to build your dream home. 

Regardless of construction method, the #1 thing future homeowners want to know from the start: How much is this going to cost me? Fair enough – understanding your custom home cost matters; building your home is an investment. And it’s one most make only once in a lifetime. 

Two of the most common home building methods – stick-built and modular – each impact your final bill differently.
But exactly how and what does that mean for your bottom line? 

Let’s take a look at both ways to build a custom home outside of panelized construction (our specialty) and how their costs stack up.


Modular Vs. Stick Built: What Comprises Their Cost to Build?



When examining custom home costs associated with both methods, the final price is driven by two factors:

  1. Up-front costs 
  2. Construction costs 

For the sake of this comparison, we’ll look at “on your lot” building as opposed to tract (subdivision) building.

Let’s dive into each of these cost elements.

1. Up-Front Costs

Unless you’re working with a mass on-your-lot system stick builder (uncommon in New York state), most stick builders for on-your-lot construction are local contractors. Others are production tract builders willing to send their crews and materials off-site or high-end luxury stick builders.

A local contractor or luxury builder likely requires architect-stamped blueprints before working up a quote – an expenditure of at least $3,500. And that doesn’t even guarantee the home the architect has drawn will fit your budget!

A modular builder will work with architect plans or will use one of their standard plans with limited or no customization options. If you choose this route, we recommend the latter. 

Modular home costs are easier to determine because a builder knows every expenditure associated with its standard plans. But when you start customizing your floor plans, it has to estimate the cost. To protect themselves from the unfamiliar, modular home builders place a premium on their services for custom plans. 

Cheapest Up-Front Cost: Modular

2. Construction Cost

How much does it cost to construct a stick-built home? 

This is a tough one to nail down. Even a thorough researcher who gets several quotes from builders using different methods won’t have the answer. 


Because any quote given from a stick builder is really an estimate

Using a set of plans provided, a stick builder will give an educated guess (very accurate, most of the time) of the necessary material quantities and time-on-job, and come up with a total cost. 

In the end, the price can change several times – even after a price has been agreed on, if the estimate wasn’t accurate. Worse yet, it’s a common practice for stick builders to intentionally quote a low number to get a job, only to jack the price up after the job has been secured. Regardless of the plan you choose, if a builder quotes you a price per-square-foot, RUN.

A modular home is only a step better. 

Modular home builders are able to guarantee a price – they know exactly how much material and time is needed to construct a home. 

Problems arise when custom features enter the equation.  Any specialty materials the production team is unfamiliar with will come at a premium. Any features that need to be built on-site are subject to the same issues as the stick builders, as well as delays in construction.

Cheapest Construction Cost: The Jury’s Out 


Controlling Custom Home Construction Costs 

The only way to control construction costs is to oversee every aspect of the job individually, which Barden’s home building system allows for. 

With a prefabricated panelized system, up-front expenses are absorbed into materials costs. Any design and production deposits are taken out of the final price of the home, making the out-of-pocket investment minimal.

We guarantee prices for the “shell” materials for your home, as well as the kitchen, interior doors, and trim. 

Each individual labor component can be handled by you (with help). Unlike a modular company that pads its numbers when working with custom plans and materials, you can assign each job to the most competitive bidder through our homebuilding system. That means there’s no added expenditures for customized floor plans.

How do the Timelines of Modular Vs. Stick Built Compare?

Modular homes typically have shorter construction timelines because much of the building occurs off-site, which reduces delays due to weather. In contrast, stick-built homes can have more variable timelines due to their complete on-site construction, weather conditions, and potential delays in material delivery or labor availability.

How do Resale Values Hold Up for Modular and Stick-Built Homes? 

Resale values of modular homes can sometimes be lower than those of stick-built homes, which may be perceived as having better quality and durability. However, modern modular homes are increasingly being designed to match the quality and aesthetic of traditional builds, meaning the value between the two is generally the same.  Keep in mind that there are many, many factors that affect a home’s value regardless of how it was built. 

Are There Differences in the Level of Customization Possible for Modular and Stick-Built Homes?

Modular homes traditionally offered limited customization compared to stick-built homes, but advances in modular construction have expanded these options. While stick-built homes still provide a higher level of customization due to the flexibility of on-site changes, they do take longer to build.

Custom Home Costs: Spending With Eyes Wide Open

In the end, it’s impossible to predict which builders will offer you the best quote, how they’ll hold their word, or how accurate their estimate was in the first place. 

For 90% of situations, nobody will be able to tell you what the cheapest way to build a custom home is, including me. 

What I can tell you is this: Regardless of who gives the lowest quote, I personally guarantee Barden and its independent dealers will always give an honest and accurate quote on a custom home.

Let’s start designing your custom dream home!

A great place to start is our Home Plan Gallery

Click to Visit Our Home Plan Gallery

Topics: Financing, Technical Specs, Process

Send us a message!