This prefab home post is sponsored by Clayton Homes.
In our Living With Kids series we’ve shared a ton of different living situations over the years — from big fancy Hollywood mansions, to tiny grad school apartments, to nomadic families living on the road. But the other day, when Clayton reached out and told me about their new series of farmhouse-style homes, I realized that we’ve never featured a prefabricated home. I don’t know much about prefab homes, and as I explored their website, I was curious to learn more.
If you’re unfamiliar with Clayton (I was), they’ve been around since 1956 and they focus on prefabricated housing — including site built homes, modular homes, manufactured homes, designer cottages, college dorms, and military barracks. Last year they delivered over 48,000 (!) prefab homes to families across America.
Speaking of homes across America, I’m sure you know, there is an affordable housing crisis happening right now, and it seems to be getting worse. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average sales price of a new site-built home (with land) is nearing $400,000. This makes homeownership unattainable for a whole lot of families. But the average price of a prefab home (without land) is only about $75,000.
So I told Clayton that I would love to interview one of their customers; I wanted to find out what the modern experience of buying a prefab home is like. They connected me with Mesha Mayfield. We spoke on the phone a couple of times, exchanged several emails, and if you’re curious like me, this interview will give all of us a pretty solid idea of how the whole prefab home thing works.
Come say hello to Mesha, prefab home owner.
Hello, Mesha! Tell us a little about you:
Hello there. I’m Mesha. I’m married to Jerome Mayfield. We have four grown children, and three adorable grandkids.
We own a big property in the countryside in Alabama — about 300 acres. For work, I manage the property, which includes ten full-site campgrounds, and an event venue. I’m also a wedding event designer — when you book our venue, I can take care of the wedding details from beginning to end.
My husband has his pilot license (not commercial), and we also have a small hanger and airplane on the property.
What brought you to look into a pre-fabricated home in the first place?
We lived in a town, Thorsby, Alabama, and Jerome wanted to move us to our property in the country. Our property has been in Jerome’s family forever. He wanted to build really bad — he was picturing a barn with living quarters. But I put my foot down. I did not want to commit to that kind of project until I knew if I like living in the country. Hah!
Then one day, we were coming home from the beach, and on the side of the interstate was a sign for Clayton Homes in Clanton, Alabama — with a picture of a gorgeous farmhouse.
I came home, got on the internet, and looked up “manufactured homes farmhouse style” to see if I could find the home featured on the sign.
I found the prefab home — it’s called the Lulamae. When I saw the photos, I was like: Wow! Surely this is too good to be true.
Did you have previous ideas about prefab homes that you had to get over?
I had to get over the “trailer” stigma — not that I thought I was too good for one. It was just that I was used to living in a traditional site built house and wasn’t quite sure what a manufactured prefab home would be like. I would say I was definitely more nervous about the whole prefab thing before we saw the model in person. When I saw the home in real life — when I could see and touch the quality for myself — I felt much better about the idea.
What was the design process like? Did you get to pick particular finishes or materials?
The design process was fun! There were a whole bunch of luxury options I could choose from — soaking bathtubs, walk-in closets, an open floorplan, stainless steel appliances, kitchen finishes, a large laundry room — even smart thermostats. During our visit to the model, when I learned what we could customize, I was so excited!
When I went inside the Lulamae model, I immediately started thinking about customizations. One of the main things I wanted was a wood-burning fireplace. The Lulamae didn’t have one. So we completely changed where the entertainment center was, put it on another wall, and I was able to get the fireplace.
Other customizations: 1) I added shiplap to another wall in the living room, to my office nook, and to a wall in my master bathroom. 2) I felt like the model had too many white walls for my taste, so I added a bit of color to make my shiplap pop. 3) All the lighting was farmhouse lights — which were super charming — but I wanted ceiling fans. We ended up putting them in every room. And 4) I got them to add wooden beams that would make it feel more like a country home — there are now beams in the living room and the master bedroom.
Yes, there are set floor plans, but you can adapt them.
Did the whole thing happen online? Or at a Home Center?
I looked at the Lulamae online every single day for about a month. I would look up information, research the customization options, and ask around to see what other people thought about the company.
As luck would have it, I had a friend who had purchased one and she told me she was very happy with hers. So I went back to the Clayton home center in Clanton, and decided to purchase the Lulamae.
It was a terrific shopping experience — to say the Clayton staff were resourceful, patient and kind is an understatement. A huge shout out to Mr. Tim and Mr. Albert for dealing with someone like me — I’m hard-headed and knew what I wanted. They delivered!
I laugh to remember it’s the exact home that caught my eye, as I drove down the interstate that day, on the way home from beach.
Did you run into any zoning issues that were different with a manufactured home?
We had no zoning issues. As I mentioned, we already owned close to 300 acres in the country, where we have a hanger for our plane, a grass runway strip, a full site campground for ten, and a hunting club. The Lulamae fits perfectly in our life and looks so good on our property!
Beyond the listed price of the prefab home, what other things did you need to budget for to get the whole project completed? Did you have to hire contractors? Electricians? Plumbers?
This was one of the best parts. Clayton Homes of Clanton took care of all of that. They acted as the general contractor and handled the whole installation. When they gave us the price, it was all included — the build, the finish work on-site, the electrical, the plumbing. The only thing we had to do was prep a “pad” where the prefab home would sit. We happen to have a crew at our property who could do that, but even if you don’t have a crew it’s a simple thing to hire out. (I should note, if you’re
shopping for a home at one of the other Clayton home centers, this process could be outlined differently
depending on the store.)
The one upgrade we made which did increase the price, was choosing a brick base under our prefab home. It was a little more costly than the default underpinning. We also had to pass a perk test — which we would have had to do as well if we’d built a home from ground up.
Once the pre-built house arrived, how long did it take until it was ready to move in?
Once our prefab home arrived we were able to move in about four to five weeks later. It arrived in two giant sections, on an 18-wheeler. They pulled in and parked it on top of our pad. Then they bricked the base around it.
Here’s a cool video showing a time-lapse of how a Clayton home is typically built (they’re constructed indoors!), shipped and delivered:
I had designed some of the home myself, so I was aware that they would have to send out different crews to finish the onsite construction and get our just like I wanted it. It was worth the wait to me!
How long did the whole process take — from deciding to go with Clayton to moving in?
The whole process took approximately three months. That’s measured from the purchase date to moving in. That also includes me changing up design decisions more than once! Thank you, Clayton, for being patient. : )
How stable is the home? Earthquakes? Hurricanes? Snow storms? Severe weather?
Though manufactured construction can vary slightly, most modern prefab homes are excellent quality, built with really good materials, and have to meet highly-regulated building standards. My home was customized and constructed with 2 x 4s, real plywood flooring, and true sheet rock walls. According to the Manufactured Housing Institute, these homes perform as well as site built homes during a storm.
Modern prefab homes are excellent quality and have to meet highly-regulated building standards.They’re built with really good materials — 2 x 4s, real plywood flooring, true sheet rock walls; nothing is press-wood. They are just as secure as if you had built from the ground up. And Clayton homes talked me through all of that, and answered all my questions, when I shopped. And Clayton talked me through all of that, and answered all my questions, when I shopped.
What’s your favorite part of your prefab home?
I absolutely love my kitchen, so do all my guests. My island is the best, I honestly love it more than any other I have seen. The lighting options in my home are incredible — the mason jars hanging over the sink area add total farmhouse charm!
What surprised you (in a good way) about buying a prefabricated home?
Speed, affordability, and quality. It was definitely more affordable than building on location, and allowed us to budget more money for our on-site venue, which was a big help. And it was so much quicker. Building would have taken six months at least, and maybe a full year. We were done in 3 months.
We honestly thought the prefab home was almost a temporary fix while I adjusted to living in the countryside. And then we fell in love with it. Now I have no plans to construct a site built home at all. Someday, if we do decide to build a big barn, the house will become the new bridal suite.
I know you do a lot of entertaining. Do your guests know it’s a prefab home? Do they ever ask about it?
It’s true. I love entertaining in my Lulamae. I love to see the reaction when we have gatherings — guests can’t believe what a beautiful country home we have. And yes, they recognize that it’s prefabricated, but they are always so surprised to see how gorgeous it is inside, and to see how well it’s built.
Does your prefabricated home feel different than when you lived in a traditionally-built house?
I never really think about it as prefab. It’s so beautiful and comfy; I can’t tell you how much I have fallen in love with this prefab home. I’m so pleased with the decor, the way it arrived, the way it was finished. We hadn’t done anything like this before and purchasing the Lulamae was a perfect first experience. I’m telling you, once you’re inside, you won’t care that it’s prefab. It’s just so lovely.
What was the biggest challenge?
The most challenging part of the whole process was being patient because we added those additional
custom features; looking at the home sitting on our property for a couple of weeks while the crews completed the interior, and not being able to move in. I bet I asked a thousand times: When will this be ready for me to lay my head down?
Which reminds me, my master bedroom and bathroom are incredible! I adore the sliding barn doors that separate the bedroom and bath, and I love the relaxing tub and the pretty tiled shower.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting the process?
If you are thinking about a manufactured or modular prefab home, go online and really do your research. Then go straight to a Clayton home center. This is our favorite home ever!
Curious? I sure was. I checked out the Lulamae, and the Country Aire, and then I checked out all their homes with farmhouse features — open floor plans, plenty of natural light, neutral colors, large kitchens for entertaining, farmhouse sinks, pendant lighting, sliding barn doors, wide plank floors, shiplap walls, rustic wood ceiling beams, and stand-alone soaking tubs. They even have a quiz: Which Farmhouse Model Are You? And I found their Home Buyer’s Guide helpful too.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you ever visited or lived in a manufactured prefab home? Have you seen the newest options in person? If you were going to place a prefab home in your town, where would you look for property? Do you feel like manufactured homes could help with housing issues where you live? Did you watch the video? I LOVED seeing how these homes are built. I’m a sucker for a good behind-the-scenes factory peek. : )
Image credit: All images are of Lulamae and Country Aire model homes.