Home Buying in Los Angeles>Question Details

Ds, Home Buyer in Topanga, CA

I would like to buy an individual plot of land and put a modular home on it. Are there any permits and so on that I should look for?

Asked by Ds, Topanga, CA Wed Dec 5, 2012

In the UK, where I come from, you dont ever buy land to build on, unless it already has planning permission or unless you can afford to gamble! So, other than a reasonably level plot, what else should I look out for? And is there a general guideline on price per square foot? I am thinking of along the 101 from Woodland Hills out to Calabasas and including Malibu, Topanga, Agoura and The Valley.

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carlos parrague’s answer
Yes, there are many regulations here regarding what you can and cannot build. A modular is also very regulated, it has to be specifically designed for the earthquake region. There is no simple answer to your question. I strongly suggest you hire a professional top investigate your options. Different areas have different regulations. My suggestion to you, if you are seriously thinking about this is to make an offer on the land you are interested in, contingent on your ability to obtain appropriate approvals of your home plans.
I am a California registered Architect, Licensed General Contractor and Licensed Real estate Broker. I can certainly help you, call me at 626-358-2360 or email me at cp@parrague.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 6, 2012
You've received some astute and not so astute answers. First there is a big difference between a "Manufactured" HUD Home and a "Modular Home" albeit they do go down the same assembly lines and are built almost exactly the same way. I have actually done some Modular and Manufactured Home projects in Topanga Canyon and know it's doable there.

Here is an excerpt from our website: http://www.onthelevelcontractors.com/mobile-home-foundation/…

Manufactured homes and modular homes are both completed in the factory in approximately one-third of the time it takes a stick built home to be completed. This eliminates the possibility of on-site construction related damage, bad weather, back-ordered materials, construction financing and unreliable contractors. There are other advantages to this construction method as the availability of skilled labor, materials and energy become scarce. Additionally factory construction allows the builder to reduce payroll through need for fewer employees, enables simultaneous activities where site built doesn't, shortens financial constraints on customers and builder due to reduced length of construction, reduces on-site losses due to vandalism and waste and generally adds flexibility and precision in design due to in-house AutoCAD engineering department.

While both types of housing are under the umbrella of "factory-built", the difference between manufactured and modular is akin to the difference between apples and oranges---same family but very different characteristics. One of the common mistakes for homeowners, realtors and lenders alike is to use the term "modular" to interchangeably describe manufactured homes, mobilehomes, and modular construction.

Manufactured homes are built in a factory on a permanent chassis to a preemptive code and all of the design and engineering criteria including wind, seismic, roof load, floor loads are built to a national standardized criteria. Under the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) code, manufactured home fabrication supersedes the requirements of the local building jurisdictions. Because the requirements for set-up can vary depending on whether a homeowner or borrower wants permanent or more temporary housing, manufactured housing is generally less expensive and the permit process can be less restrictive and time consuming. However, financing a manufactured home does have greater restrictions. For that reason, it is generally recommended you use a manufactured home lending specialist.

The Modular home is also constructed in the factory but it is built to the same building code used by conventional site builders so the code will vary depending to the local building jurisdictions. Because the home is always installed on a permanent foundation, the cost may be higher for the more substantive and permanent installation, but the pre-fabricated building offers distinct advantages from a financing standpoint. In essence, the pre-fabricated building is considered an equal to the site built home with regarding to financing. There are many other advantages. Because the construction takes place within a factory, it eliminates the possibility of damage from weather and allows the materials to be assembled in a climatically controlled environment. With the growing concern about mold, this possibility is eliminated during the construction process. Unlike manufactured homes with standardized design criteria, applications of size and style are unlimited as the units are totally customizable.---so possibilities range from cozy cottages to apartment buildings!

OnTheLevel is happy to direct you to competent companies to meet your manufactured and modular home needs for one home or an entire project, including the financing for your factory-built home.

Generally speaking unless there are specific CC&R's in esthetically blended and planned communities neither a Modular" nor a "Manufactured" home can be discriminated against. However, all that stated when the dust finally settles you won't end up saving an overwhelming amount of money by the time you factor in all the related development costs involved.

The biggest advantage is the aside from what was stated above regarding a controlled environment et.al is turn around time. We no longer travel that far North as we are a San Diego based company, however, we would be happy to recommend a very dependable licensed, bonded, insured and experienced Manufactured/Modular Home Dealer, Contractor and Developer.

Please feel free to email me anytime at onthelevel@cox.net or you can call me at 760 815-6977
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 12, 2012
Awesome information. Thank you!
Flag Sun Dec 6, 2015
Dear DS:

There are two aspects to your question:

1. The vacant parcel

When looking to purchase a vacant parcel, you need to know the zoning for the lot to determine whether or not it is 'buildable.' Based upon my experience in working with urban homesteaders who are buying land and then adding a modular home to it, zoning and permitting requirements tend to be more lenient in Los Angeles County than in the City of Los Angeles and the City of Agoura EXCEPT for Malibu and Topanga where land zoning is subject to both the Hillside Ordinance and Coastal Commission review if your parcel is located south of Mulholland Highway. The process is time intense and costly. One of my clients waited over a year to get Coastal Commission approval to build in Topanga Canyon and finally got their permit with stringent stipulations as to how large the building footprint could be.

2. The Modular Home

The modular home firms with whom I've worked (e.g., BluHomes) include permitting and entitlements in their bidding/cost of construction. I would be very leery of any modular construction company that does not offer these services.

In terms of price per square footage for modular construction, you are looking at a minimum of $200 per square foot (including permits). This does not include land acquisition price.

Good Luck in your search. Please feel free to contact me if I can be of further assistance.


Meredith McKenzie
Urban Homestead Specialist
Podley Properties
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 5, 2012
Thanks very much for your information Meredith. I wondered if you are able to give me any more names of Modular Home companies that you feel are good to work with? I have looked at Blu Homes, Stillwater and Living Homes...can you think of any others? I had heard that DWELL do something, but can't find that. It doesn't have to be contemporary. thanks!
Flag Thu Dec 6, 2012
Dear Ds,
Before you look and before you buy...go to the city in each area and find out what is allowed. Just as in the UK you must have proper zoning in order to build.
There are many rules and laws protecting beach areas and you have to know how to work in those areas.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2013
Buying land and building a home takes a long time.
Now is a better time to buy Developed Real Estate because it has been depressed. It is already seeing a comeback.
let me help you find a nice home.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Feb 3, 2013
Hi Ds.

I came across your question looking to build a house in LA.
We are a group of architects and property developers with an extensive amount of custom home experience in Southern California.

Let me know whether you are still interested, we can help you find the property and develop it.

Kind regards,

0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Feb 2, 2013
It is best to contact a company who you planning to purchase modular house from - they should be able to tell you what kind of permits you will need in order to place modular house onto a land.
Most likely they can advice you on zoning and geological soil condition requirements as well.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 5, 2012
You'll need to check local zoning ordinances regarding manufactured homes. Parcels in subdivisions often prohibit manufactured homes.
Please contact me directly..I'd be happy to locate land and assist you in obtaining the information for a specific property.
Susan Bo'ur
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 5, 2012
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