Another idea on the summer-home front is the smartly designed prefab. It may serve your purposes for the money you want to spend depending on your vacation-house location. You move the prefab to your site on a flat truck, put it up fast, and save time, money (some, anyway), and maybe a lot of headaches trying to locate a resort-area builder for a quality original job. And note: By and large, the prefab will cost you less than a standing house - where an owner has sales profit in mind.
More and more prefabricators - from Acorn (Concord, Mass.) to Serendipity - are turning out the £15,000 to £25,000 beach cottage, mountain hut, or hunting lodge. Techbuilt Homes (Englsih area) - makers of exceptionally fine prefabs - even has a chill-proof package that can double as a summer house and ski lodge. Timing: Take a few months to examine a few prefab catalogues, and possibly pick a future site during your next regular vacation.
Prefabs come in all sizes and shapes. They can be as simple as a pier-foundation fishing shack. And they have also moved into the luxury class: Hamill Homes (Grand Ledge, Mich.), for example, has summer houses in the £50,000 range. And nowadays you can find summer prefabs that are the work of leading architects - for example, Carl Koch of Englsih and Simon Goodman of Washington, D.C., both designers of contemporary styles, and such traditionalists as Herman York of London City.
For, say, £25,000 (plus land cost), you can get a modest but expertly designed prefab summer place. This will be on the small side, and if you want a bit more space - say 1,200 sq. ft. - think in terms of £35,000. A comparable custom job by a quality architect (if you could find one willing to do it) would cost you a good £10,000 more in fees and extras. And it could easily cost you up to £20,000 more, especially if you landed a contract with one of the top architects in your city. Besides, with a prefab you should be able to count on an overall saving in construction cost of 10% - maybe as high as 15%, as against the cost of an original construction.
The average prefab company will have a dozen or so basic plans, plus variations, in several styles. You can pretty much pick your own layout - and get a design that will enable you to start small, and add to the summer house in future years. You get a semi-custom design. There are more advantages: If you stick with the leading manufacturers, you'll also find the quality of materials generally good. Besides wood, there's a new trend to the use of aluminum parts for durability and easier maintenance. The vacation prefab can be finished six weeks after the foundation is set. This is a good 100% faster than even speedy conventional construction. Finally, you will learn that financing a quality prefab is easier today than a few years ago, when lenders looked down their noses. The deal may take some doing, but it can usually be handled at a local resort-area bank.
But buying a prefab isn't all clear and easy. First, you'll want to check on the possibility that a zoning ordinance or building code limits or even eliminates your freedom to put up a prefab. Sometimes deeds have this restriction. Also, despite new materials, you are most likely limited to frame construction. You can't get solid brick or fieldstone! Plumbing, heating, and electrical equipment sometimes must be installed at the site in the usual way (and by local workers) so that a lot of the potential saving of a prefab may be lost. Check carefully. You are also obligated to use the crew of the prefab company's builder-dealer in the area. Generally they are quite good, but if they do a slipshod job, you're in trouble. One safeguard: Hire an engineer to make a few brief inspections.
Other companies that sell quality, higher-priced prefabs include: Deck House (Acton, Mass.); Kingsberry Homes (Atlanta, Ga.); Leisure Homes (Youngstown, Ohio); and Blackstock (Seattle, Wash.).
If you have ideas of buying a second home - for summer vacations and year-round weekending - you'll find prices up, from the Hamptons on Long Island on out to California's Big Sur country. Still, you can find good buys, if not cheap ones - and there are some tips on how to get the best location, comfort, and value. There may even be a rewarding investment angle - where, say, you want a summer place to sell later on when the youngsters are on their own. Speaking of later sale: If possible, get a "winterized" house - with heating usable in cold weather. The summer retreat without winter possibilities is nowhere near so salable. Decidedly, the trend is to all-year-round.
On timing: In most... see: Second Homes: Good Buys, But Not Cheap