Modular Multifamily Construction in Denver - Any experience?

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Due to the difficulty in finding rehab deals here in Denver & lack of housing supply, I am looking at doing a small modular townhome development for resale. (6-8 units to start) They would be what I call shotgun townhomes or tall and narrow. 

Does anyone have experience in a modular project like this? I have just started to look for land in the metro area north to Fort Collins and have found 2 companies so far that will deliver these products to Denver. 

Any specific questions I should ask the modular building companies? 

@Matt M.  building code is the greatest hurdle for modulars. I have talked to some zoning and building folks who say yes no problem with modulars "as long as it meets code" but then I read the code carefully and they have carefully crafted it so that modular construction can't meet it.

In one case it was the eve overhang required as well as the pitch of the roof.

Zoning for townhouses means within City limits which means City building officials. My experience is that you will need to groom them. You need the politicians on board because it will require a variance of some sort (because no bureaucrat is going to stick their neck out on something like this) and then the code guys on board because they have no clue how to inspect something they didn't have the chance to see every piece put together. Take them out to lunch and show them nice glossy pictures with testimonials from someone who is in their slot in life and see how they respond. 

Hey Matt! I'm really interested this subject. I think it has a lot of potential, especially for some of those small urban lots. There are some awesome modern modulars being made.  I don't have any advice for you, unfortunately, but I'd love to hear more about the process as it develops.

@Bill S.  One of the companies just sent me a property in Englewood. It was a triplex. I am going to see if I can reach out to them to get some specifics. Thanks for the input!

@Jean Bolger  What attracted me to them is that they can be delivered to the site in 8-10 weeks! I have seen some neat infill modulars, but we are going to go after bit larger project outside of the city's core where prices are outrageous. 

It is going to be very hard to find anywhere that will allow that type of zoning as Bill said. 

I found this via google. Looks like I need to find the actual law.

"By Colorado law, there is no zoning ordinance that can prohibit the use of a factory-built, U.B.C./I.B.C.-compliant house in stead of a site-built house."

@Matt M.  Interesting find....keep us posted on your findings.  I'm interested to hear how it turns out for you.

Check out the directory on Modular Today. They list 43 manufacturuers in Colorado. Once you find one or two start asking about what communities thay have built and where. They may built oin your area and have some experience to share.

@Matt M. I maybe wrong on this but I think that most modular are built to a different building code than the IBC/UBC. I seem to remember that HUD is the standard for modulars. I could be wrong and if I am, I'm sure someone here will know and point it out.

@Russ Goodman  Thanks for the link! One of the guys on there has 2 projects in Denver right now. I am meeting with him next week.

@Bill S. What I am finding out is that there is some confusion between modular and manufactured homes. Manufactured homes(think trailer park) are built to HUD specs, while modular are built to IBC/UBC standards.


Bill S., I think you may be confusing HUD "MANUFACTURED HOMES" not IBC/UBC "MODULAR HOMES". 

They are usually built by the same factories, even on the same assembly lines and generally close to the same way. But Mods fall under local building regs and HUD Mfg a nationwde federal mandate. 

I wrote a series of posts on Active Rain a few months ago because so many folks were having difficulty decerning between the two. 

Here's the link. Please feel free to peruse all of them as I'm sure it will give you and other BP'ers a much clearer overview of "FACTORY BUILT HOUSING" overall.

Albeit I'm in California I've found that so many states use close tothe same industry standards so for reference these should help. However, as others have suggested I would certainly contact your local building jurisdictions as they do all have their own protocols.

excellent! Glad to hear that! I'd love to hear more bout the discussions when you can. I am trying to set up a similar project but in florida. We have wind loading issues with hurricanes that you may not have. My biggest quesion is estimating the site development costs for SFR versus quads or larger (think townhomes). Kepp us informed Matt. Good luck.

@John Arendsen  thanks for the clarity. I like the "factory built housing" term. I know some zoning codes don't make a distinction between the two which is a bit unfortunate.

Russ Goodman

I think I might start re-blogging some of my FBH related posts on the BP platform as I'm beginning to realize there are a lot of folks seeking and or giving information and sharing their knowledge about the subject.

We've been in the game for 3 decades and have worn just about worn hat there is with the exception of actually owning a MHP which we are now exploring. I'd be happy to help out in any way I can. This is a great platform and since Trulia was absorbed by Zillow and disc'd their blogging and Q/A forums.

Bill S.

That also covers pre fab, panelized and kit built homes and yes there often is a great deal of complexity clarifying the two.

Many times the manufacturer has been approved by the States in which they sell and the homes don't need to go through inspections, ask the manufacturer. HOWEVER; the devil is in the details. Go to your local building department and ask them for the rules governing modular construction, even if the manufacturer says they can sell there. 

I know even in Newport Beach, CA where they have some of the highest valued property in America, they will allow modular homes. Also, a developer did a small subdivision on Catalina Island using modular because getting materials over there was too difficult.

Other positives about modular, is that the locals liked it because they don't have the construction traffic and noise for extended periods while house is under construction. 

I've seen companies that do modular hotels, dorms, etc. They manufacturers were back east, and one was in Texas. 

@Matt M.  Keep us posted if you do this, and in fact, put it on Deal Diaries. I'd love to see it. 

@Matt M.  I have a friend who does "smart" units, that flat pack and then can be built into multi-story buildings. I can PM you more info.

I've done a modular classroom remodel, but it was for a school. they are pretty nice, and the employee of the contractor that "moved" (it was existing from another site, he built some of it) it there said it was pretty easy to build, about 3 weeks, including foundations. did a great job at moving the thing, hired the 2nd largest crane in CA.

Thank you @Emilio Ramirez for that site, it was quite helpful

Appointment went well today with the modular builder. I was satisfied with the materials and process. Everything can be "upgraded" of course, but for a price. While they offer an almost turn key solution, my partner and I will take care of the dirt work & final finishes. 

There are some things we will "Opt out" of like factory installed granite & flooring. Cabinets look good. The walls come in white, so paint will be needed. Carpet I will try and get locally. It is basically a custom product built within the parameters of a modular factory. 

Our ballpark cost is $100-110sqft +foundation, etc+land. We will shoot for finished units in the $350k-$400k range. 

It looks doable so far, but now I am putting the numbers together to see about moving forward. My other concern is tracking down tap fees along with permit time, etc.

There is another project he is doing in Denver, so I am excited to see it take shape. They are in the permit process now. 

Matt, which company are you working with?

Explain to my why you want to build modular vs. conventional building practices?  

At $110 psf plus foundation you are not saving money, so why modular?  

@Grant P. Time. Building can take as little as 12 weeks. 10 weeks from order to delivery on site & 2 weeks to button up. 

@Matt M. I second @Karen Margrave 's suggestion to put this up on the deal diaries so we can follow your progress. Definitely sounds like a really interesting project with a lot of potential!

Originally posted by @Matt M. :

@Grant P. Time. Building can take as little as 12 weeks. 10 weeks from order to delivery on site & 2 weeks to button up. 

I had a development a few years back, a LIHTC project using mods in Aurora. I got all the city approvals. It was pretty straight forward, since the mods were built to the existing code. Should be no different in Denver. I had a friend who put up mod homes all over CO. Been gone a few years from there but, the zoning would not have gone backwards from that time. HUD code units were not permitted, except for in mobile home parks but IBC, was the standard code at that time. Now I think it's ICC. Your right on about the time savings, that's why we were using them. Do what you can to keep us posted about this. Sounds great.

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