'Instant' mansions all the rage

homeDuring the Great Depression, it took about one year to build the entire Empire State Building from top to bottom (well, I guess it was actually bottom to top), so why should it take months to build a mansion sized, custom house?

Apparently, the answer is, it shouldn't take a few months to build a mansion and , increasingly, it doesn't. But would you believe only 32 hours?

According to the Washington Post
, an empty lot in Bethesda, Maryland last month -- within 32 hours -- was transformed into the site of "a six bedroom, six-and-a-half-bath French country mansion." Oh, and did I forget to say, complete with "walkout basement ?" (The house took about two weeks to build on the construction line, followed by about 32 hours on site to put all the modular pieces together).

Sure, some mostly interior finishing touches still need to be done, but, essentially, the 7,200-square-footer, says the paper, is close to becoming someone's home sweet home. And, all for a reasonable $2.5 million.

How can a mansion be built so quickly and so cost effectively, you may ask?

The home, of course, is modular and prefabricated. While such modular housing is not new, what is new is that the building technique is increasingly being used to put together mansions that appeal to, what one investment banker called, "instant-gratification people," according to the article.

In just the past couple of years, the paper reports, "... about two dozen $1 million-plus houses-in-a-box have sprung up in Washington," not to mention in some nearby 'burbs such as Arlington County and Bethesda.

And it is not just the use of modular design for building mansion sized homes that is growing. These fast building techniques are now increasingly also being used to quickly assemble green homes.

According to USAToday, "...Oregon-based prefab maker, Ideabox, unveiled its new Fortino model, a two bedroom, two bath, 1,250 square foot home" that carries the federal government's Energy Star label for efficiency." Cost: $150,000.

In order for this all to work, the home buyer really has to make up his or her mind quickly, and in advance, as to what sort of features are desired for the new home. These features are then built into the modular home during construction at the factory. One WalletPop writer is herself thinking about taking the plunge.

Here's some wishful thinking: Maybe some lenders can take a cue from these "instant" mansion builders and figure out how to more speedily give distressed homeowners who can't afford their own homes, let alone an "instant mansion, permanent loan modifications.

Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book, "No Time To Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-Hour News Cycle." He has written about real estate issues for several years.
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