A CONSTRUCTION company says that many families are now opting for modular housing as the prices of conventional houses across Cork City and county soar.
JP Simpson, who founded Big Man, Tiny Homes, says 1,800 people viewed the firm’s first showhouse in 2018. He says the popularity of modular houses is now just as strong, given the extreme house prices in Cork City. Mr Simpson fitted a house for a family of five, who wanted to have the option of building on later, when they have saved enough money to afford a traditionally sized home.
The modular homes are constructed off-site and fashioned from insulated, structural panels that are energy efficient and airtight. Panels can be made from materials such as cedar, Siberian larch, or metal, according to the required finish.
Modular housing allows people to have their properties constructed over time, with separate units introduced as needed. More recently, Mr Simpson has been seeing demand from older people who are downsizing to allow their adult children to move into the family home.
“People are a lot more open now to not having concrete in their house,” Mr Simpson says.
“It used to be the case in Ireland that if a house wasn’t made of concrete, then it wasn’t considered a real home. Their concept of living and how homes can be used has changed.
“There is a big push towards the Scandinavian way of living, with clean lines and different pods for everything. Even though it’s small, it is still your own and can be added on to as the years go on.”
“We recently had clients with three young children,” Mr Simpson says. “It will be compact for them for a while, but the idea is that they can add units as time goes on to spread out the cost of their home.”
His clients come from all walks of life.
“Modular houses are very cheap to run and a lot of older people like to have that ease in their lives,” Mr Simpson says. “Mortgages are so hard to get now that a lot of older people are passing their own homes on to their children and opting for smaller places to live.”
The entrepreneur made the decision to branch into modular housing after years of working abroad.
“I did a lot of houses like this in the States and it was something I really loved,” Mr Simpson says. “It’s not that this is a new concept, it just hasn’t been brought forward to the domestic market.
“We should be the leading pioneers of it, because of our weather. Of all the countries to have your house built inside a factory and dropped inside finished, it should be Ireland.
“People have decided they’re no longer going to put themselves under pressure by feeling they need to have the bigger house straight away and, instead, do it over a period of time.”
The Riverstick native enjoys his work.
“I love the design element, but I especially love seeing people’s faces when they ask you how you managed to put up a house in one day,” Mr Simpson says.
“They are blown away that a house can be started in the morning before you move in that evening.”
There are hurdles for people opting for this type of property.
“People can’t get a mortgage on a modular construction,” Mr Simpson says. “Unless you have special certs that cost a fortune, then a mortgage isn’t a possibility. I think it would help if the banks started to relax on what they deem a mobile or modular home. If a unit can be craned in, it can be craned out and sold on, if necessary. If I was to build you a house on-site, then that person could get a mortgage. However, if I was to build that same house in my factory, then a mortgage isn’t possible. That seems to be the biggest hurdle, at the moment. You can get a credit-union loan for up to €120,000, but getting a mortgage is tough.”
Mr Simpson lives in one of his own modular properties. “I believe in my own product, so why wouldn’t I live in it?” Mr Simpson says. “It’s the cost and the freedom that really attracts people.
“People’s way of living is changing. They want to be able to travel the world. Society had forced the concept of having to live in a big house on us.
“They want to travel the world and have completely different attitudes. People are finally starting to see that it’s OK to do all these things and opt for a small house, instead,” Mr Simpson says