We build houses pretty much as we did hundreds of years ago: each one built individually, with an architect for each building--none of the benefits of mass production.
Imagine instead that a company hired world-class architects to design say 10 models, each consisting of some of the following modules: bedroom, great room, living room, dining room, family room, home-office, kitchen, full bath, half-bath, deck. Each of those would come in three sizes: small, medium, and large. Each buyer could select low, medium, or high-grade finishes, and paint in the colors of their choice. Options would include, for example, a wall-built-in home entertainment system, home-office package, fireplace, whirlpool bath, etc. Of course, each buyer would customize further by decorating it to taste.
The same sort of approach could be used in building office buildings, restaurants, factories, etc.
Of course, modular home building has been around for a long time but has mainly been used for vacation homes and storage buildings because customers have preferred to pay the additional costs of an individually built home in exchange for greater flexibility of design and the good feeling of knowing your home wasn't stamped out by the hundreds. Also, quality had been variable.
But if, as I predict, the American economy is likely to remain weak or get even weaker, people will not be willing to pay so much for their homes not only because they won't be able to afford it, they won't be able to count on it appreciating in value. People used to think, "Okay. I'll spend a lot on the house now but it will be worth more as time goes by." Fewer and fewer Americans now think that way.
At the same time, improved high-tech manufacturing methods have improved modular homes' quality while reducing build time and cost. Currently, cost savings versus stick-built homes average just 10 to 20% but I predict the cost will decline as the technology advances, housing resale prices decrease, and demand increases.
So if I were looking for an industry to enter, modular housing, especially condominiums and mixed-used commercial/residential, would be on the roof top of my list. After all, it's good to get in on the ground floor.
For more on the modular housing industry, including the video referred to in the caption, click HERE.