OXFORD — In a modular housing market dominated by custom-built designs, asking the people who build them what’s new this year gets a variety of responses.

“We’re seeing some trend toward more practical and smarter footprints, and not as elaborate as in past years,” Brian Cunningham of Ritz-Craft Corp. in Mifflinburg, Penn., said Saturday. He was attending the ninth annual Housing Capital of New England Spring Home Show at Twin Town Homes Inc. on Route 26 in Oxford.

“Folks are more concerned with heating and cooling, and having open areas, like one large gathering place for a living room, dining room and kitchen,” Cunningham said.

He said people designing what they want in a modular home are trying to keep things affordable.

“In the past, it was whatever they wanted, but now, it’s not so much what they want, but what they need,” Cunningham said. “The majority of the market is looking at what they have to have, and a lot of people are downsizing if they have a bigger house, and they want more efficient heating and cooling systems.”

Just down the road, Scott Stone of Schiavi Home Builders said there wasn’t anything new about modular housing this year.

“It’s really just the same old stuff. Nothing’s changed,” Stone said. But then, he quickly added, “We continue to create new products and new ideas, so what’s new really can be whatever anyone wants, but you have to show them.”

For example, one new idea is a two-story house delivered in two sections that resembles a farmhouse one might see along a Maine road.

Stone also said Schiavi has a new series of modular homes designed on the idea of the not-so-big house.

“In the early 2000s, it was all about big and elaborate footprints, but what we’re seeing now is granite countertops, marble bathrooms, tile showers instead of fiberglass, hardwood floors and electronic accoutrements all packed into smaller houses,” he said.

“We’re also seeing people spending more time at home, so areas like kitchens are more important for entertaining,” Stone said. “They want more of a kitchen where you can do a little more gourmet cooking and spend money on nicer groceries to cook at home rather than go out to eat.”

Farther down Route 26 at Turn Key Homes of Maine in Oxford, owner Todd Truman proudly showed off the epitome of “what’s new” in modular housing: a two-story, log-sided, steel-roofed chalet that Oxford partner Keiser Homes built in four sections and Turn Key installed and finished in 13 days on its lot prior to this weekend’s housing show.

“The myth that you can’t do this with modular is no longer true,” Truman said, stepping inside to point out tile floors, solid pine doors, big open spans, vaulted pine ceilings, two-tone maple flooring, a gas fireplace, and more. “This doesn’t look like the typical square-box modular with no character.”

“This has definitely been the showpiece of the show,” he said. “There’s been a ton of interest in it.”

The other side of “what’s new” with modulars, is that people are snapping them up, more so now than in past years.

“We’re up 75 percent in sales right now,” Truman said. “It’s the best spring Turn Key’s had in the 12 years we’ve been in business.”

Stone at Schiavi agreed.

“In the 14 years that I’ve been here, this may be the best start we’ve ever had,” he said, counting out 28 homes ordered so far on a production timetable in his office. Deposits on two more homes came in Saturday.

“2008 was tough; 2009 was terrible, but this is really moving in a good direction,” Stone said. “So I hereby proclaim the recession over, and further proclaim that modular homes are better than any stick-built homes.”

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.