Buying a Modular Home or Container Home? You Must Know These Critical Steps.

Updated: Apr 25, 2020

So you want to do something different, maybe you’ve been on YouTube and seen some amazing container and modular architecture, perhaps your unhappy with traditional building and want something better, or have you always been a design geek and are in love with the endless possibilities? For whatever reason you’re thinking about it, I want to walk you through the typical process of buying a container or modular home.

FAQ: For your container style modules, are they used/recycled shipping containers?

No, we create newly built modules only. This is for both our standard modular homes and our container-home style designs. For the container style homes, we simply finish the exterior in corrugated steel which gives it this aesthetic.

For all of our other modular designs, you can choose any cladding as you would with a traditional build. For example - Timber Slats, Cement Sheeting, ColorBond, Weatherboards, Scyon Matrix.

Scyon Matrix Cladding - Very Lux Finish.

All in all, none of these homes exist until you pay for them. They are built from scratch, tailor-made to your project design, with high-end insulation, steel thickness, high-quality finishes, and guttering systems to achieve a minimum 6-star energy efficiency standards for Australian residential use.

The 6 Step-by-Step Guide:

1) Consultation: Just like any buying process, we want to have a chat and make sure what we offer is a good fit for your needs. We’ll go over prices, timeframes, different design options to make sure you understand how everything works and answer any questions along the way.

2) Choosing a design within your budget: We have a number of designs that we’ve done in the past to work off, they can all be modified to suit your personality and desires – made smaller, larger, as well as a floor-plan alteration.

Our designers and architects can also create a unique home within your project budget and you will collaborate with them on this process until we create the home you're completely in love with. We then put the final design to the council, get it approved and off we go. Most clients choose this option, they want their family home or holiday home to be something never done before and tailored to their every desire.

Images courtesy of RAA Architecture. Designed with love by Robert Andary, our brilliant lead designer and town-planner.

3) Two options: Turn key vs Supply Only – What’s the difference?

You may have noticed that we have two options when it comes to building your home, supply only and turn key.

Supply: In short, the supply only option provides the completed modules delivered to the building site. No work is done on our part pre-construction or post-delivery. This is less common, but a number of our clients already have the building permits in place and are builders/tradesman themselves, so they are comfortable using their own network to assemble the modules. Turnkey: Our turnkey service takes care of everything for you. Our clients love sitting back whilst we do the entire A-Z, from permits, architectural works, delivery, fit-outs, installation and simply hand over the keys once the home is ready to move into. We have the most comprehensive and brilliant team to look after and manage the entire project for you, nationwide. Also, it’s worth noting we don’t charge a premium on the independent contractors required for the job, we simply manage and organize the entire project – you’ll be invoiced directly by the additional parties that are involved, not Dwellie Homes Pty Ltd. That’s our way of making the process as easy and painless as possible for our clients, and together we’re bringing the benefits of modular building and container construction further into the mainstream.

4) Pre-construction stages – what’s involved:

The first question we encounter from 90% of customers is “how do you get on with council permit applications for container homes?” Our container homes and standard modular builds are all structurally developed from the same building material, steel.

All of our container modules are light framed steel units that are fabricated from scratch for your project. They don’t exist until you pay for them. They are not shipping containers. This means we avoid all the usual aggro when applying to the council for a permit. Both of our types of products are structurally built from steel as appose to brick or timber.

What councils are worried about is contamination or a rust bucket landing to your home before building. During application to council, our container homes are classified as light-frame steel structures. They “just happen” to look like containers, hence the phrase ‘container homes.’ was coined.

Robert Andary (Prinicpal Architect) discussing all things design and pre-construction with our lovely clientele.

4a) The details:

For an outlay of $2500, we will get the ball rolling on your project! We will send a surveyor to your plot and produce a concept set of drawings for your home. We can work off any of our set designs or create a completely bespoke home design.

We'll get to your personalities, where you like to spend time, and create something that’s within your budget and ideal for your dream project.

Once we have achieved the design you love, we take another brief and work the drawings up further – at this point, we will invoice you as the drawings develop as we prepare the plans and intricate details for council approval. This stage of works usually accounts for about 5-7%.

At the same time, we get to work on the building permit. After assessing your site, and getting in touch with the council planner, we begin to engage various contractors required before submitting the application. This phase may include using some of the following;

· Feature Survey for contours

· Soil test/ geotechnical report for footing design

· Structural Engineering for the installation connection details, footing design, certification

· Civil and Hydraulic Engineering (where applicable)

· Bushfire Management Consultant

· Building site assessment (approx. $500) - this can follow concept design which is Stage 1.

· Energy Assessment for 6-star energy rating (approx. $500)

· Other external consultants: Such as

· Environmental & Cultural Heritage assessment

· Private Planner,

· Building Consultant,

· Landscape Design,

· Stormwater + Erosion Control assessment

· Land Capability Assessment,

· Bio-diversity Assessment, and an

· Arborist, etc to name a few.

Depending on the complexity of your plot this can be a very smooth exercise, or a lengthy one. It varies from plot to plot. What I will say is that our planning team has not failed to get a building permit across the line in 20 years of trying. We very much intend to extend that record for another 20 years!

Once we have all the ducks lined up we apply for the building permit which takes around 8-12 weeks. After we get the green light, the real fun begins – Manufacturing!

5) Financing (if necessary):

Modular homes are classified as real property, just like a traditionally built home. You can take out a mortgage to pay for a modular home purchase and won’t have to worry about paying for it in all-cash upfront. The difference is that you’ll be applying for a construction loan, as modular builders are paid in stages.

The lender will release funds to 80% of land value initially, with no further funds available until affixed to the site (lockup). From there, a standard building progress draw applies. Once the home has been completed, the construction loan will then be changed to a traditional mortgage. However, this initial cash release is often not enough to cover the first 30% deposit to begin manufacture and the secondary 30% for it to leave the factory and be delivered to site. If your supply costs are $200,000.00 (for example) you'll need 60% upfront in the above scenario. Meaning you need to be able to borrow $120,000.00 to work with us. The final 40% is to be paid 30-days after it has arrived on-site. Which is fantastic, most modular builders want 100% upon delivery. 1) Business Owners and Developers: If you operate a business or a property developer, we can review your financials and offer B2B financing at a very competitive rate. 2) Individuals: If you have pre-approval from your bank, we can discuss taking out finance on your behalf to carry you over until the modules are on-site.


Okay, strap in, theirs a quite a few details here...


Your contract will be split into 2 major sections, with 3 subsections in each.

1. Design & Planning

a. Stage 1.1 – Design Concept & Survey.

b. Stage 1.2 – DA & Permit Management.

c. Stage 1.3 – Building permit drawings/Shop drawings for Manufacture.

This will account for approximately 10-12% of your project costs.

2. Construction

a. Stage 2.1 – Procurement/purchasing materials.

b. Stage 2.2 – Completion of manufacturing and delivery to your site. c. Stage 2.3 – Commencement of Install and Finishing touches on-site (approx 4-8 weeks)

d. Stage 2.3 – Handover.

Drawdowns will be taken at each of these stages. The construct phase of the project is expected to account for 70-85% of project costs, depending on the size and nature of the project.

Note - There are two components of the overall contract that will need to be fulfilled. a. Supply - Purchasing the materials and then manufacturing the modules in the factory. b. Install - Our builders doing the install of the completed modules once they have arrived on your site.

3. Payments for Supply

a. To begin manufacture a 40% deposit of supply/material costs is required, once this has been paid we begin building. This process varies somewhat from project to project but in most cases, we expect 8-12 weeks for manufacturing.

b. Once the home is ready we will fly you out to our factory so that you can walk through your completed home. That's right, we'll completely assemble the project (no matter the size) and allow you to physically touch, feel and personally Q.A the finished product before we disassemble it back into modules and send it to your site. For the home to leave the factory and be transported to your site, we require another 30% payment.

At this point in time, you've paid 70% of supply costs.

c. Once the modules arrive on site, we have a 30-day period whereby the balance of the supply costs must be paid. We are one of the only modular building companies that don't ask for 100% of the costs upfront. This 30-day period gives us a nice bit of time for our builders to get the project to lock up stage and claim progress payments. And for your bank to send their valuers down to the site for you to get traditional finance based on the prospective construction value (if necessary).

3. Payments for Installation

a. Once the modules have been delivered, our registered builders will provide you with a standard building contract to install the modules and apply the finishing touches.

b. You will have a separate contract with our Registered Builder and this will provide you with all the standard warranties, insurances, exactly like a traditionally built home.

c. The cost of install will be defined by our builder at the very beginning of our journey together. You'll know exactly how much each component of the contract will be costing you, see below example:

Project Cost $350,000.00 (Turnkey)

Payments Breakdown:

1. Design, Planning & Drawings = $35,000.00 (paid) ✅ 2. Supply of Modules to site = $190,000.00 (paid) ✅

3. Installation and Handover = $125,000.00 (balance to be paid to the builder) 👷🏻‍♂️

While the modules are on the water – the on-site work begins. We get to work on the installation of footings & service runs. The site is also prepared for the entrance of a crane and the lift plan is put together and signed off by the site supervisor.

When the modules arrive at the site, the mobile crane does its magic and gets the structures dropped into place. This whole process usually takes less than 4-6 weeks. It really a great solution for inner-city families as their home life isn’t disrupted for months on end!

Upon completion of the works, we do a detailed QA check and produce a snagging report. Our site team will then do a final once over, closing out all the items before we hand you over the keys! 🔑



Well, I hope that gave you some more clarity on how purchasing a modular or container home works if you have any further questions or would like to chat about what we can do for you, schedule a time to chat here !

Many Thanks, The Dwellie Team.

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