DC startup building small, prefab homes for under $100,000

Dwellings range in size from 480 square feet to 1,440 square feet and come 95% complete. (Courtesy TOMU)

TOMU, a D.C. startup with a manufacturing facility in Frederick, Maryland, is building small dwellings designed for both private recreational homeowner use and investors looking for short-term rental use.

The dwellings range in size from 480 square feet to 1,440 square feet and cost from $99,500 to $259,500, not including include the raw land, site prep, foundation, utility and permit costs.



TOMU president Chris Osaka said those prices vary widely depending on site and location, but on average, could start around as little as $20,000.

Dwellings have 9-foot ceilings, full kitchens and spa-inspired bathrooms. Click to enlarge. (Courtesy TOMU)

Transportation costs would start at $5,000 for the smallest model delivered locally, to more for the larger dwellings. All can be delivered nationwide.

Buyers also pay for the contractor of their choice for final assembly and finish work, all which come with instructions from TOMU.

The dwellings can be completed in three to seven days, Osaka said. They are shipped 95% complete.

“With recent trends in the secondary housing market, we saw an opportunity to provide a more recreational-use option for buyers that would otherwise be competing with primary residence buyers over the already thin existing housing market,” Osaka said.

Osaka’s background is in marketing with Hilton. His partners include head of design Darius Kuzminckas, whose background is in hospitality architecture, and chief operating officer and head of marketing Malcolm Johnson, who has a construction background.

All of the dwellings, described by TOMU as Japanese and Scandinavian-inspired, have 9-foot ceilings, full kitchens and spa-inspired bathrooms with soaking tubs.

TOMU is taking preorders now, with first deliveries beginning next spring.

Another D.C.-based company, Minim Homes LLC, began producing small prebuilt dwellings in 2016 and now sells them worldwide.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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