Thursday, June 24, 2010

The ehome, a breath of fresh trailer -- MY REVIEW

ehome by Clayton from Green Otter on Vimeo.

(In the above video, for FULL SCREEN, click on the four arrow symbol to the left of the word "Vimeo" in the lower right corner. Press Esc key when finished with video to return to blog.)

NEW ADDITION: My Flickr photostream of ehome high resolution photos.

Here's Clayton's ehome Flickr set. You can see the light wood option, although note that the seamed wall version comes molding dropped from the ceiling edge. Some of these photos look "virtual."

The EHOME (link to official ehome website) is an affordable alternative to the ihouse, especially for a family who needs two to three bedrooms, two baths, with a fresh modern style, passive solar, for well under $75,000, which is only the starting point for a one bedroom, one bath ihouse.

There are three outstanding things about the ehome, especially for a house in this price range.

1. The fa├žade has got to be the best looking single wide ever made. It just looks great, no period of adjustment required to get used to it.

2. The basic passive solar design is excellent; few windows on the North, with most windows on the South.

3. The combination of transom windows and a ceiling that slopes down from the outside wall brings lots of light into the rooms.

In an ordinary house or double-wide, the ceiling is either flat or slopes up from the exterior walls of the house toward the center. In the ehome, the ceiling is highest on the windowed side and the light shines on a gently downward sloping ceiling. It is about 9 feet on the high side and 8 feet on the low side.

There’s more light on the ceiling than there would be on a flat ceiling making it a very light-filled house to be in. The spaces feel in good proportion and none of the bedrooms are tiny. The house comes with nice style window shades.

I toured the largest of the three models, the e1140, and they also make an e990 and two bedroom e900. (The number is the square footage.)

It had an upgraded master bath, a kitchen with sink in an island, a monster entertainment cabinet (optional) with stone surround where the TV would go, and be extra safe if it ever caught fire. Of course, the TV is the “electronic hearth” of this age, so maybe the stone surround is appropriate for such a thing.

This house was full of the optional built-in cabinetry in the bedrooms. It also had drywall, outside overhang over the front door, gas range, and 2 x 4” exterior walls (eeek). Pricing it on the ehome site, it ends up being about $85,000+ yet the dealer is selling it for $62,000, and that is negotiable.

The things the home didn’t have which you would want in your home are:

1. OSB wrap (OSB board under the siding, between the siding and wall studs.) This is a must-have option for people who don't live in areas which have high code standards and require it anyway, like California.

2. Upgrade wall construction from 2 x 4 to 2 x 6. (Cost is UNDER $900).

3. Upgrade insulation to R22,19,30 (or more?). This may come with the above or may be extra. Cost is around $400.

4. Wind and roof upgrades. Get the roof upgrade (rafters are closer together) if you have heavy snow loads, or just want a sturdier roof.

5. Get the drywall option. The model I saw had drywall. (It didn’t have drywall in the closets, which is of course, unnecessary there.)

The optional built-ins, like the entertainment center, might be a choice for people who are painstaking about matching woods and cabinetry. You can see from the price list on their website, they can add up. I wouldn’t get any of that stuff. However, I’m not obsessive about kitchen cabinets matching the entertainment cabinet in the living room, or such things. In this house there was enough matching going on just with the kitchen cabinets (real wood, everything else is laminated wood), moldings and interior window trim and wide-plank laminate floor. Too many matching matching built-ins would be overkill.

The particular home had the dark laminate (fake wood) flooring but they offer a lighter color scheme with lighter floors and cabinetry and I’d definitely get that!

Laminates in general, whether floor or trim, the medium and light colors look more real than the dark ones. Between the dark floor, the dark kitchen cabinets, the dark optional living room cabinets in the entertainment center, the dark laminate window and door frames, and the dark laminated crown molding...well, as I mentioned, I'd want to see this home with the lighter color package, of trim and floor especially.

For me, dark crown molding is too craftsman/tudor/colonial for a nice modern style like this home. However, it might look nice with some color on the walls. White walls do not look good in the ehome with the dark trim, except I liked everything about the master bath I saw, including the white walls.

The center panel of the kitchen cabinet door is translucent. That was a surprise. The cabinets are wood but the window trim, and crown molding is all laminated wood, which matches the cabinets.

From the outside, the house is so good looking, it made the two doublewides on each side look ugly. It would look even better with a block perimeter. However, like the i-house the back side is kind stark or characterless. (See my wobbly video. I show you the side the company won't highlight in their photos.)

The roof line is unique, in that it is an offset gable, one side longer. Coincidentally(?), many months before the ehome came out I suggested that as something to break out of the single-wide mold, in a post on this blog, although part of my reasoning was to create more roof area for solar panels. This doesn’t do anything for the solar panel situation, unless the roof can be reversed, which it can’t. Still, good passive solar design.

For people who may not have experience with laminate floors, they are rugged, and wear very well. If this floor hadn’t been so dark, the laminate itself might have been pretty nice. Like many of the recent laminates, it has a 3D grain pattern. That makes it less slippery for pets, children and old people.

A disadvantage of wood, is that people usually want to protect it in high traffic areas, with area rugs. You don’t have to do that with laminates.

Recently I watched some episodes of FLIP THAT HOUSE, and one contractor was putting laminate floors in renovations of $600,000 California homes. Usually buyers at that price level prefer “hard woods” and the green buyers want bamboo.

Clayton might be able to put bamboo or something else on the floor if you want it. An upgrade to stainless steel appliances is not mentioned on the website, but if you want them, just mention it.

I like the carpeting they used in the bedrooms. Nice neutral light color.

Unlike the ihouse, the ehome has no delivery charge and they are making them in many Clayton factories. The one I saw was made in Texas, by Southern Energy.

The ehome at this dealer had the “B kitchen” with the island with sink, with extended counters for eating, but no solid surface counter tops. The placement of the B kitchen with the eat-in counters looked nice, except this is the one kitchen configuration that cuts down on the dining area, making it long and narrow. Fine if you get a long, narrow table. Otherwise you might consider another configuration or, getting a regular counter instead of an extended one.

One of my friends who raised a family of 3 kids had eat-in counters (breakfast bar), they ate most of their meals that way. She loved it for serving, cleaning up, couldn’t live without it.

All the rooms had plenty of recessed can lighting with a CF bulb inside a diffuser that hid its CF-ness. Many lower end stick-built homes often ignore good overhead lighting, in the bedrooms especially.

The hallway to the bedrooms is wider than in the ihouse. Nice width, but looks narrow on my video for some reason.

The walk-in closet in the master bedroom was small and all the closets have seamed paneling instead of drywall. I have no problem with that in a closet.

It has a laundry area, near the back door.

There were nice faucets, tub/shower fixtures, door levers, cabinet hardware etc., but not quite as nice as the ones in the ihouse. Low E windows. Website says ehomes have vinyl siding yet this one had a combination of hard board, at the top half, and Hardie-board at the bottom.

The Karsten SF-50 makes a good comparison single-wide home, and in a few ways the Karsten, with a 9 foot flat ceiling throughout, had some nicer elements, like a big walk in closet, and a nicer looking master bedroom. At $52,500, the Karsten is about the same size as the largest ehome, and the interior finish may have been a little bit higher quality. I don’t mean the finishes, but the quality of the craftsmanship. The Karsten comes standard with 2 x 6 walls and R20, 19, 50. Of course the downside of the Karsten I’ve mentioned before, plain/ugly outside, not as good a passive design. I will be posting video of that within a few days. It makes a good comparison to the ehome, as the Karsten is one of the best of the more traditional single wide homes.

I liked the master bath in this particular ehome. I liked it because it wasn’t cramped, but it didn’t have a dance floor in the middle either. It had two sinks, but some people might think it didn’t have enough counter space.

The Karsten might be a better choice for people who live in a park or on a small lot, where they can’t take advantage of the solar orientation or the view possibilities of the ehome, or want a more private feel. The Karsten also might be better for someone who wants solar panels. Karsten homes aren’t available nationally though.

The sales manager of the Zia Homes lot where I looked at the ehome claimed that although it is offered as an option, the ehome hasn’t been ordered [anywhere] with a metal roof. He didn’t give me a reason why.

In the ehome, furniture is not included, but this home had some nice leather furniture and if you like furniture in a house, that is always negotiable, even if it is just one chair or the sofa you want.

The dealer had rocks in their lot and I got on my back and looked under the house. Looked well made. Bring a flashlight and don’t be afraid to look under a house if it is accessible.

The ehome is flexible downward on price. Did y’all know that? A dealer or salesman is given a price they can’t go below, but it is up to the purchaser to bargain for a lower price, and get closest to the dealer’s lowest price that they can get.

It helps to not get too emotionally attached to any salesperson or home though, and also to always have another home as a serious consideration, or at least be able to act like you have another home as a serious consideration, and not another Clayton home either or one that dealer carries.

It’s not like you have to lie-like-crazy to get a good deal. However, it helps to act with a little reserve, and not show that you are too crazy about a house.

Of course, I told this dealer up front that I was not a buyer, but just a blogger, and exactly what I was doing. My one experience in buying a manufactured home (which I pulled out of because my stocks crashed), was okay and all the salespeople at that place were easy going and laid back, which is the kind I like.

If you encounter a salesperson who seems irritating or promises one thing -- “we can get you the bamboo floor on this” -- but then finds out they can’t, and keeps stringing you along with things like that in order to get you to commit, just go to another Clayton dealer. It is not necessary that you find a person who knows EVERYTHING about a home, just that they are able to get answers within a day or two.

Don’t be shy about going to the sales manager if your salesperson doesn’t seem to know much about a home. The sales person learns from that too.

Since the ehome website is complicated, play with the configuration tool, make sure you are seeing all the options, and try to learn as much as you can about the home from that website. In that way, the salesperson can pick up on the fact, you know about this home, and they don’t have to “sell” it to you, but instead, just help give you what you want in the home.

It is okay for a salesperson to tell you that their model on the lot is a SPECIAL DEAL, but if you make it clear you want a 2 x 6” home, and the salesman persists in trying to interest you in a deal on the 2 x 4” lot model, just try to make it clearer you aren’t interested in it.

On the other hand, finding out how low they can go on the lot model, gives you some bargaining power for the home you want to order.

Take notes, and write all your questions down before you go into the dealer, on the 2nd time you go into the dealer. Look at a home two or three different times if you want, like different times of day. Many dealers are listing their lot inventory and some even show photos of each home.

If you have seen one ehome you like, but are near to other dealers with ehomes, call them up and go look at them if they have a different color scheme, size, master bath, or kitchen configuration. If you are near a factory, and have never seen how manufactured homes are made, call to schedule a visit for a tour of how they are made.

Unlike the ihouse which has modular zoning, and could be put in areas which do not allow single-wide homes, the ehome requires an area which allows single-wide homes.

Overall, given its low price, and discounts being offered because of the slow market, the ehome is a badly-needed modernization of the single-wide, something more manufacturers should be striving for in their low to mid range models, and to bring passive solar design into very affordable homes. It’s a nice improvement over the more standard single wide.

HERE are some more photos, of an ehome at a dealer's in Evans, CO, taken by one of my blog readers. I think it shows why just in terms of aesthetics, it is necessary to upgrade to drywall. The seams in the ceiling and walls are ugly and very trailer-like, along with the strange dropped molding, although the texture of the paneling itself looks nice.

Here is her 7-minute video tour of the model in Evans.

Clayton ehome with seamed paneling in Evans, CO from Green Otter on Vimeo.

Lastly, here is Clayton's promotion video that has a few nice shots of the home with the lighter cabinetry and floor: