Prefab and Modular Home Builders

For the first time home buyer in San Diego (as I am), it can be hard to find a modern, energy efficient, single family home for less than $500k. Especially when you also want some acreage (as I do). So I’m considering having a house built, in a year or two. I want it to be energy efficient, possibly net zero, possibly passive, and possibly capable of being off the grid. I also want it to be somewhat modern, to look good, and be high quality. All of that is hard to find at a decent price. Which is why I started looking at prefab and modular homes.

My search started with Prefabulous + Almost Off the Grid, which includes lots of beautiful examples and plenty of references. Combined with my own research, I’ve put together a list of the prefab/modular home builders in the United States. I’ve included the location and year founded, when it was easy to find.

All of these are “affordable” to some extent. All of them have floor plans of at least 1,200+ square feet and I’m not including cabin kits or anything else that’s too small to be livable for a family of three.

This is a pretty exhaustive list, but if there are any I’m missing, please let me know. I plan to investigate these further, starting with their price per square foot and which options that have available.

Install Homebrew for OS X

After more than a decade of Windows use, I finally made the switch to an Apple. I started using a Macbook Pro at Rapid7 last year and although I was mostly using Ubuntu in a VM, I got addicted to the simplicity and power of these sleek machines. Since I had to give the company property back when I switched jobs, I had to buy my own. I figured it was a good investment, since I work from home.

One of the first things I did, in order to easily download applications like Node.js, MongoDB, etc. was to install Homebrew, the Mac version of apt-get (package manager). Here’s how to do it:

Open a terminal (use spotlight search to find it) and enter:

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.github.com/Homebrew/homebrew/go/install)"

from http://brew.sh/

7 Failures and 2 Reasons I’m Moving to Southern California

Before you read any further, I have a warning for you: this is a post about New Year’s Resolutions. Yes, in March. I failed spectacularly at following last years goals, only achieving 2 of 9. Fortunately, the two I did accomplish are huge because they allow my family and I to move back to California, San Diego to be specific. In order to understand why I failed the other 7 goals, and figure out how to do better in 2014, I’m going to review each one in detail.

1. read a book a month

Reason #1 I failed: I didn’t bother to keep track. Looking back at my Amazon.com orders, I only bought 4 books, which were all reference books that I certainly didn’t read cover to cover. I got a couple books for Christmas that I read and I bought a handful of computer books through work that again, I didn’t read cover to cover. This year, I’m keeping a strict budget (with the help of YNAB), including a line item each month for books at $30/month. That’s 2-3 books a month, so even though I failed to read just 1 book a month last year, I’m setting even higher standards this year at 2 books a month. So far I’ve done just that. Here’s what I’ve read:

  • The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need
  • The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
  • Early Retirement Extreme: A philosophical and practical guide to financial independence
  • The Dog Stars
  • Remote: Office Not Required

Revised 2014 goal: read 2 books a month

2. create a $50/month income stream

When I wrote the goal, I know I was considering this as a “passive” income stream like a niche blog or eCommerce site. I definitely did not do that, despite doing lots of research. However I think I blew this goal out of the water with a combination of raises and freelance work.

I did a freelance gig for $2,400. Spread over 12 months that’s $150 more than my goal. Success! The much bigger win though, is that I switched jobs and increased my salary by $40k (not including a bonus). That was in June, so in those 6 months I added $20k of income. Spread over the entire year that’s $1,666/month in extra income. Since I didn’t officially list “passive” in the goal, I’m going to call this a major success.

For 2014, instead of focusing on earning more, I’m going to try to spend less and save more money. More on this in a future post, but here’s my revised 2014 financial goals:

  • max out IRA
  • 6 month emergency fund
  • full month buffer in budget
  • increase net worth
  • decrease spending to 50% of take home pay

3. increase fiat500abarth.us income to $200/month

Major fail here. I didn’t really even try until late 2014 and it was a fairly feable attempt. I wrote up a post for hiring another writer but never posted it. My AdSense revenue and traffic has continued to decline. I might try selling this website in 2014, but I’m not setting any specific goals. Mostly I just don’t want to worry about it.

4. do push ups and sit-ups before every shower

Started off strong here but at some point I just stopped, probably after I sprained an ankle playing basketball. I never picked it up again. I’ve realized that I just don’t have the motivation to do strength training of any kind and frankly, I don’t need to. Sure it would impress my wife if I had bigger arms. It certainly would make some things in life a little easier. But, I’m realistic with myself so I’m not going to set a goal that I can’t accomplish.

5. stretch every night

Fell off the wagon here pretty quickly as well. My wife still stretches just about every night and it would be easy to join her. But I’m lazy and I’ve never noticed a benefit so it’s hard to keep at it. Dropping this from 2014 because again, I know I won’t keep at it so I’m not going to set myself up for failure.

6. exercise every day (run, walk, or play basketball)

I definitely didn’t do this everyday, but on average I would say I did something 3 days a week. Pretty good, but that’s over 200 days over the course of a year that I sat on my butt and did nothing. Common excuses: too sore from basketball, too hot/cold outside, and too late (it’s dark). Since I’m now permanently working from home, this should be easy to accomplish.

7. figure out how to move to San Diego in 2014

This is a big one and probably the most important thing I did all year. My wife and I have been wanting to move back to California for the past couple years. Texas just isn’t for us. While I was sure I could get a job in San Diego, I wasn’t sure if I could get the same salary. The “sunshine tax” is a common phrase in southern California that for employment, basically means companies can afford to pay less, despite the higher cost of living, because so many people just want to live there. Through a handful of interviews, I confirmed this to be true. Given another couple months I probably could have found something with at least equal pay, but late in the year I decided to up the ante by also making working from home a requirement. That opened up the job search to companies located pretty much anywhere in the world and in February of this year, I started work for RebelMouse as a full time remote employee.

This was perfect because now we’re able to live just about anywhere we want. Once our lease is up in May, we’re moving to San Diego. We’re not sure exactly where yet, but we’re leaning towards somewhere more rural like Fallbrook, Romona, or Alpine. It’s only been a few weeks, but I’m loving working from home. I can’t wait to do it in sunny southern California weather!

8. write 300 words every day

I gave up on this pretty quickly. I know I should write, I just never figured out how to make it a habit. It’s hard to write while drinking coffee and wrestling with a toddler, so first thing in the morning wasn’t working. After she goes to bed I usually try to spend time with my wife and get some reading in, so this is a hard task to find time for. Overall, it’s not important for my life and once again, to be realistic for myself I’m dropping it from my 2014 goals. I’d rather stay focused on other things.

9. publish a blog article every week

Since I didn’t write, it was hard to publish anything either. I only managed to publish a couple articles from freelance writers for my Abarth blog, well below my weekly goal. I’d like to setup an editorial calendar for my own blog, but I also don’t want to set myself up for failure here. I’m keeping a soft distance from blogging for 2014 so I can focus on saving more, spending time with my family, and reading. I think this is something I may come back to at a later point, maybe next year.

Full list of 2014 goals:

  • max out IRA
  • 6 month emergency fund
  • full month buffer in budget
  • decrease spending to 50% of take home pay
  • read 2 books per month
  • exercise every day (run, walk, or play basketball)