To get a better understanding of modular homes we went straight to the source. Below is an interview with the owner of Next Modular, Joel Comino. He took the time to explain certain aspects of modular home building and his company in particular.
A HOMETOWN, FAMILY BUSINESS WITH A PERSONAL TOUCH
One of the first things we were curious about was how Joel Comino got started building modular homes in the area around Goshen Indiana.
“MY ENTIRE FAMILY IS INVOLVED IN VARIOUS ASPECTS OF THE MODULAR HOME BUSINESS, FROM SALES TO HOME SETTING AND FINISH WORK.” – Joel Comino
I’ve been involved with various aspects of construction since I was 16 years old. I started out helping my father on commercial jobs doing electrical work during the summers when I was in middle school, and eventually moved on to remodeling work, and was in charge of general maintenance for his 100+ rental units. Having set dozens and dozens of mobile homes with my own two hands (many times all by myself), I had the experience necessary to run two home transport and setting crews for a couple years after that. All this experience kind of gelled into the ground-up knowledge that is absolutely necessary to do what I do today.
WHAT OTHER TYPES OF EXPERIENCE DO YOU HAVE IN THE MODULAR HOME INDUSTRY?
“I WAS BORN IN KIMMELL, INDIANA IN A 1983 SINGLE WIDE MOBILE HOME.” – Joel Comino
Like I said before, I’ve been in the construction business since I was 16 years old. In 2009 I bought a mobile home park that was in very bad shape and spent the next couple years fixing up homes and improving the property. Eventually, it came time to sell the park, and I moved into General Contracting and modular home construction. Next Modular came about when I realized that there was a great need in the modular home industry for quality builders that actually listen to and take care of their customers.
Some home builders crank out over 300 homes a year. Their cookie-cutter type houses are generally medium to low quality and the builder can’t possibly have any kind of relationship with the customer because they’re just too busy. That is where we are different from the competition. I’m a small (compared to the big guys!) hometown builder, and I truly take the time to listen to your needs. I treat each project as if it was my own, and I stay very hands-on with each project. It’s pretty funny, but some people get really surprised when I show up to their new home with a tool belt on, ready to work.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE SOME OF THE IMPORTANT THINGS PEOPLE SHOULD LOOK FOR WHEN SEARCHING FOR A MODULAR HOME BUILDER?
“LOOK FOR SOMEONE WHO LISTENS TO YOU AND TAKES THE TIME TO EXPLAIN THE PROCESS OF NEW HOME CONSTRUCTION.” – Joel Comino
There are several things you should look for in a modular home builder, but some of the more important things are as follows:
- Find someone who will take the time to explain the building process.
- Never accept anything less than an itemized quote that includes all the charges: the home, the options, individual estimates on the site work (not just a big lump sum), and any other fees that could come up.
- Check to see that they are fully insured, and licensed for the state you’re building in. (We’re licensed to build in both Indiana & Michigan)
- Ask what sort of guarantees they offer on your new home.
A giant red flag is if a builder won’t give you an estimate up front. All our home pricing is listed right there on our website and I even have estimates for pricing on some of the site work items. Even though these costs can vary quite a bit, I wanted to at least give people some idea of what to expect. Many builders won’t even do that. (Editor’s note: see How Much Does it Cost to Build a Modular Home)
Flat-Rate General Contracting Fee
When it comes to the site work (foundation, septic etc.), we charge a flat rate General Contracting fee to run the job. Many other builders will just give you a lump sum, and you have no idea what anything costs on a line-by-line basis. We like to be a lot more transparent than that.
Another thing to be cautious about is a contractor’s insurance policy. Not only should you general contractor carry plenty of insurance, but all their subcontractors need insurance too. Without proper coverage, a single accident can become a financial nightmare for a new homeowner.
At Next Modular, we carry $2 million dollars worth of general liability coverage, and we only work with licensed and insured subcontractors. I make all my subs send me a certificate of insurance to prove that they are adequately insured before they can work for me.
HOW DEPENDABLE ARE YOUR SUBCONTRACTORS?
We have a good group of subcontractors that offer reliable and quality work. I try to use people I’ve worked with in the past and have proven to be good at what they do. Occasionally, a customer will request that we use a friend or relative to help out on their modular home build. We can accommodate those requests provided they meet my requirements for experience, reliability and insurance coverage.
The hardest part of finishing up a modular home build is coordinating the different subcontractors. A very specific order of events needs to occur and if one subcontractor falls behind, it affects the whole project. That’s why I use people that have proven themselves reliable. While not everything is controllable, for the most part, we have very few delays and things flow smoothly.
WHAT SORT OF GUARANTEES DO YOU OFFER ON YOUR MODULAR HOMES?
“I OFFER A ONE YEAR COSMETIC DEFECTS WARRANTY, AND A 10 YEAR STRUCTURAL WARRANTY ON ALL MY HOMES.” – Joel Comino
We take great pride in our work. In addition to our 1-year and 10-year guarantees, we also have our 8-month checkup. Lots of times you don’t notice little things like a door that sticks in the rainy weather until you’ve lived in a house for a while. That’s why we don’t just call it good after your move-in inspection.
About eight months after move-in, we do a check-up on your modular home. If you have a nail that popped or a wall that cracked, we’ll set up a time to come back through and make those repairs. We want you to love every detail of your new modular home.
Of course, if something needs attention right away, all you have to do is give us a call. Customer service is a top priority.
WHICH MODULAR FLOORPLAN IS THE MOST POPULAR WITH YOUR CLIENTS?
One of the biggest trends in modern design is the open floor plan. However, it’s interesting to note that the modular home floor plans on our site that get the most “likes” are the ones that have been professionally decorated, regardless of layout. The truth is that any modular home will look great if you take the time to decorate it well. The most important thing is to select a floor plan that meets the needs of your family.
People ask me what I would recommend in the way of upgrades on a modular home. Personal preference should always come first. However, I usually suggest adding taller interior ceilings because it makes your home feel bigger. That feeling of extra space makes it easier to resell later.
The important thing before you start adding upgrades is to get the size and style of home you want. You can always upgrade to laminate flooring and granite countertops later, but it’s not as easy to add on extra square footage or change the layout of your home.
WHAT PART OF BUILDING MODULAR HOMES DO YOU FIND THE MOST REWARDING?
You’d probably expect me to say the paycheck. But there are a lot of things I could do besides this to earn money. Building modular homes and seeing the excitement on my customers face when they walk into their perfect home is what it’s all about for me. That’s what truly makes this job rewarding on a whole new level.
I’m just a local guy, building modular homes in Indiana and Michigan. My primary goal is to take care of my client. I want to continually build upon our reputation as an honest, reliable modular home builder.