Who is Jim Walter?

When Jim Walter Corp. was in its prime, the Tampa-based homebuilder built more than 100,000 homes a year and had sales of $3 billion.

However, that was before Jim Walter Corp. became Walter Industries and began to concentrate on building modular homes instead of stick-built houses. Today, while many other large homebuilders have faltered in the economic downturn, Walter Industries is in good financial health and still in a position to build a lot of homes.

Who is Jim Walter Homes?

Jim Walter Homes, founded by James W. Walter, was one of the best-known homebuilders in Florida until it sold to Jim Walter Corp., which began building modular homes and later switched its name to Walter Industries. When that company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001, it sold its assets to Beazer Homes USA.

Beazer continues building homes under the Jim Walter name in Alabama and Florida. That division is not connected with Jim Walter Communites LLC, which began building new homes last year on land it has acquired.

How much does it cost to build a Jim Walter home?

Last week, Jim Walter Homes held a grand opening of its new division in Plant City. The division will build affordable homes throughout Florida and the Southeast with prices starting at $119,900.

A quick scan of the available inventory shows 100 to 200 homes in various states of completion; about 25 in Plant City ranging from 2 bedrooms and 1 bath to 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. Most are in the 1,500 to 2,000 square foot range.

A quick call to the sales team at Jim Walter Homes (888-854-6484) puts that price tag into perspective. The cost of building that affordable home in Plant City is $67 per square foot, not including land, fees or taxes.

Is Jim Walter Homes still in business?

Jim Walter Homes, and now Jim Walter Communities, is very much alive and still building homes.

If you want a new home builds by the original Jim Walter Corp., so named for founder James W. Walter, you can find them in Alabama and Florida — but not in Tampa Bay. The builder’s name changed to Walter Industries as it shifted its focus to modular homes.

The homebuilder’s roots reach back to the post-World War II boom when James Walter began buying up small lots around Tampa and selling them in tracts with houses built by outside contractors. By 1958, the company had begun building homes under its own name in Plant City.

Is a Jim Walter home a modular home?

No.

Walter Industries, which changed its name to Walter Homes and then to Walter Communities in 2009, switched from building stick-built homes to modular construction about two decades ago for a number of reasons — some economic and others environmental.

About this time last year, however, the company began offering “Jim Walter built” new homes on land it is buying or has bought.

The single-story homes are being built on foundations, not the modular decks that characterize a factory-built home. They have all of the features of a new house, including central air conditioning and heating systems, Andersen windows, GE appliances and granite countertops in kitchens and bathrooms.

What can I buy from Jim Walter Communities?

Jim Walter Communities, which is building a home for this reporter in anticipation of my upcoming move to Florida, offers new homes on lots it buys or has bought. The single-story homes have all of the features that characterize a new house — including central air conditioning and heating systems, Andersen windows, GE appliances and granite countertops in kitchens and bathrooms.

Expected delivery is 90 days. Prices range from the low $200,000s to more than $300,000 depending on home size, lot size and location.

As of last week, homes are for sale in Plant City; Middleburg; Jacksonville, Fla.; Elba Beach, Ala., near the Ft. Rucker military base; and the Florida Panhandle, including Santa Rosa Beach.

Are Jim Walter homes energy efficient?

Yes.

As a builder of new homes, energy efficiency is a given because everything from insulation to windows meets industry standards. The homebuilder has an Energy Star label on some of its models, meaning they are 30 percent more efficient than homes built to code.

What do you call someone who build houses?

Their employees are often called construction workers, laborers or carpenters. The company itself is a home building business, house-building company or new homebuilder. Some builders specialize in particular types of homes such as modular homes or green homes that are energy efficient.

Do prefab homes hold their value?

The value of a home depends on many factors, including location, size and whether it is newly built or not. The larger the house, the more options buyers have. New construction often means better quality appliances and finishes than older homes can offer.

Some prefab companies claim their homes hold their value over time better than other homes because they are built to last.

Are modular homes harder to sell?

Modular homes can be harder to sell than site-built homes, but that’s because they are more likely to be built as the market changes. For example, modular homes were popular during the housing boom when homebuyers wanted larger square footage and developers were buying large lots of land to build bigger communities. Today, buyers want smaller homes with smaller lots.

How do you tell if a house is a modular home?

Prefab homes are often described as modular because they are built somewhere other than on the actual property, then hauled to their final destination. Like site-built homes, prefabricated houses also come in just about any size and shape imaginable. Whether the home is actually built on a factory assembly line or not is almost beside the point.

Do you see other modular homes near your house?

There are no official statistics on the number of prefabricated houses in any market at any one time, but estimates range anywhere from 100,000 to 300,000 nationwide. Most builders agree that it is more common for buyers to live close to another prefab home than not.

Who builds prefab homes?

Prefabricated houses are often called modular homes because they are built somewhere other than on the actual property, then hauled to their final destination. Like site-built homes, prefabricated houses also come in just about any size and shape imaginable. Whether the home is actually built on a factory assembly line or not is almost beside the point.

Are prefab homes better than site-built homes?

Prefabricated houses are often called modular homes because they are built somewhere other than on the actual property, then hauled to their final destination. Like site-built homes, prefabricated houses also come in just about any size and shape imaginable. Whether the home is actually built on a factory assembly line or not is almost beside the point.

Do modular homes have garages?

Modular homes are often built to the same standards as site-built houses. Some offer optional items, such as garages or pools, that must be installed at an additional cost.

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