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BPD asked Doug Fritsch, Director of Web and Package Services for longtime package seller 84 Lumber, for his company’s take:
How long has 84 Lumber sold home kits for?
84 Lumber started selling home packages in the 1980s. The program was called “Affordable Homes Across America” and was widely advertised in newspapers and on the radio. Seminars were frequently held to teach customers how to build their own home. Several new models have been added since the initial program launched, including upscale homes from the Oaks Collection. Homes are routinely added based on customer interest.
How many different “models” are available, and how customizable are they?
We currently offer packages for nearly 60 different models, including ranch, one-and-a-half story, two story, narrow lot, split level, vacation and townhomes. While the blueprints can’t be modified, we have the ability to change the material package to suit a customer’s needs. Many of the homes also include “option packages” that feature decks, garages, porches and family rooms. Customers have the ability to build the core house first and add other options at their convenience. We also offer packages for four Tiny House models.
Does the package need to be ordered well in advance?
Our packages are ready to be shipped immediately. Core components such as framing, sheathing, house wrap and exterior trim are in stock, whereas specialty items like roof trusses, windows and cabinets need to be ordered. There typically is plenty of time to get special-order items to a jobsite.
Are all materials delivered at once, or in stages?
We ship portions of the package based on the builder’s schedule. Most packages consist of multiple deliveries before a house is complete. We also take into account the types of products that are being shipped, weather, and other factors that can impact delivery.
Are there certain buyers, regions or markets where kits are more popular?
Our homeowner customers tend to be where our stores are, with the Mid-Atlantic states driving the bulk of our business. While the do-it-yourself mentality still exists, new codes and regulations are making it more complex to build your own home. That’s why many people now go through professional builders. In most cases, customers already know which builder they want to use, or at least have narrowed down their options. Builders ultimately control when materials arrive, so they may be the ones who make the final purchase. Many of these builders are developing their own properties and work closely with our local contractor sales representatives to choose the home package and subsequent products.
How does the current popularity of home kits compare with historical demand, and what are your expectations for the future?
84 sold the most home packages in the 1990s, when many customers were building their own homes and had minimal interference from local municipalities. Now that do-it-yourself building is less common, more professionals are purchasing home kits instead. 84 has seen a steady climb in package sales from builders since the financial crisis in the late 2000s. Many builders that had ceased construction are starting up again, helping to drive new business. Although the traditional home will continue to be the backbone of our program, you will see more fringe offerings such as tiny homes, cabins, vacation homes and cottages grow in popularity. These are often simple projects and can be a lot of fun to build.